Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Then God spoke..through Lady Gaga & Woody Allen

So there I was on my knees, weeping in a hotel room.
It was a completely unexpected moment, and it wasn't on my to-do list.

I had twenty-four hours, kid-free, with my wife, to celebrate our anniversary.

We had it all planned:
Go for a a great run,
eat a great meal,
watch a great movie,
and most importantly- sleep in!

We had checked almost everything off our list. After watching a bit of the Woody Allen film, "To Rome with Love," my wife had decided she wanted to get outside and run. I voted to stay in bed and finish the rest of the movie.

Now this was a very rare morning. Actually odd. Not just that I lounging in bed watching a movie at 10am, kid free, in a random hotel in luxurious San Jose, but just an hour earlier, when I woke up, (ah what a gift to sleep in until 9am), my mind was singing the chorus of a Lady Gaga song.

Now, before you roll your eyes...

I am not above Lady Gaga. I may have trouble admitting singing along to Justin Bieber, but not Lady Gaga. So scoff if you want, but this was something supernatural.

Really.

And yes, it was a bit perplexing to acknowledge that God might speak to me through a scantily clad, raw meat wearing, artist.... but he did.



So how you ask? Listen to the song. And I stress the word LISTEN. For some of you may need to  not watch, if you have issues with a Gaga's tight, leather-wearing, dance moves as she straddles everything in sight.

But don't be distracted from the truth at hand.

I experienced God in a deep way, and to this day, when I hear this song. I'm able to find hope in God's presence with me. See the lyrics here, and focus in on the chorus:

I'm on the edge of glory
And I'm hanging on a moment of truth
Out on the edge of glory
And I'm hanging on a moment with you
I'm on the edge with you.

Could it be possible that God's love might pour through someone that doesn't even realize it? By all means, I believe so. I woke up that morning with a sense of God's incredible closeness, because of a pop song, that honestly,
-- I had never really listened to fully before.

With that song, I was affirmed that God had always been with me all my life, all my years of marriage, and that we are always living on this "edge of glory."

Every decision made, every problem that needs to be solved, every dream that is being pursued is an opportunity to experience God, to experience his glory.

God is right there, in every moment, with truth, doing something, something that could only be explained as GLORIOUS.

The ironic part of this experience  was that in this season of life,  it felt anything but glorious.

If you've read my posts (from grief to disillusionment), this season has been hard. But God was saying in the difficult moments: THERE IS GLORY. 

Glory to be had and glory to come. 

Let me TRY to define what I mean by glory.

 It is both a noun and a verb, a feeling and a truth, both the embodiment and culmination of: everything praiseworthy, wonderful, beautiful and majestic. It is great gratification and exultation, the height of prosperity and achievement.

Yes, words limit this definition. But GOD IS GLORY, gives GLORY and somehow IN EVERYTHING.. HE DOES defines Glory and makes EVERYTHING Glorious.


So this Gaga song is stirring in my head as I'm watching Woody Allen's film. And it all collided together for me. I had a supernatural moment of hope and life!

 I don't have time to philosophize on Woody Allen film theory, and I'm no Roger Ebert.

But here's what I know. On the most basic level, this goofy guy, with a messy personal life (just like us all), who's been around Hollywood for the longest time, knows how to tell a good story, (usually with very quirky and unique characters).



Woody's films explore humanity's deep questions.

Why do we exist?
 What is life all about?
Is there a God, and if so why so much evil in the world?

 Almost all of his movies ask these (and many more) questions.

And in this particular film, set in my most favorite of all places, ROME, his characters go through some interesting conflicts in relationships and with fame. Both Woody's character in the film and another main character point out there stance on God. (One declares his atheism, and another declares he doesn't know if God exists and  people react negatively toward him).

But the crux of the story for me?

Who knows me? 
Who loves me? 
Who will be there for me when relationships don't work like we want themto and fame doesn't satisfy like we thought it would? 
What happens when people don't give us the credit we think we deserve?

Good questions.

So there I was. On my knees. Weeping. And celebrating the answer to those questions.

On my anniversary, I could celebrate the love of my wife and the great years of marriage.
I was reflecting on my life, my questions, my disappointments, my unanswered questions, my dreams, life and death and everything in between.

And all I could do was thank God. All I could do was acknowledge something GLORIOUS, something good, something meaningful was happening.

I thanked God for choosing me, knowing me, being with me, providing for me, guiding me, and putting loved ones in my life. 

And I thanked God for using what is important to me (music and film), to give me his truth in a meaningful and compassionate way.

Thank you God.
Thank you Gaga.
Thank you Woody.

2 Corinthians 3:12-18
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read, it has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.  Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.






Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Suicidal Thoughts Part 2

Interruptions are good and necessary parts of life.

Children in our bed at night, unexpected visitors, housecleaning.

Sometimes the interruption of life is death.

It seems weird and twisted to be writing about death, especially suicide, on the eve of Thanksgiving.

But it's necessary.

For one, I have to finish this post.
I gave some thought to not writing a part 2, but since I started a "part 1,"
And number two, I want to follow through because it's part of my reflection/grief process.

So, it's been five weeks. Thirty five days since I got that awful phone call. Since the shock of death by my beloved Grandma's own hand (still hard to say/write). (BTW if any readers want to ask questions, talk about it, I welcome it).

I'm still finding myself in a weird fog. Some days I'm too tired to even think about "it," and other times I just don't. I've got meetings, tasks to complete, and kids at my heels.  But occasionally the fog lifts abruptly and awkwardly like a mom pulling the blankets off her oversleeping teenager.

I'm interrupted with having to think, having to grieve.

I saw this (sorta cheesy), picture frame in a store and got choked up. ** Interruption.**





 On Halloween I was eating some candy corn and remembered how since I was a kid (up until last year), she would call/leave a message on Halloween saying, "I VANT to suck your blood, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ehhhh," in a "Transvlannian accent." ( I loved it!).  ** Interruption.**

And then in random moment, one of my kids will casually and uncomfortably ask,  "Who's going to die next?" and it's over. **Interruption**

So in one sense, I just want to be DONE with the sad interruptions that nip at me like a mosquito.

And go back to being normal. But then, I realize this could be the new normal.
 I'm finding these little biting reality checks remind me I'm human. Maybe they're actually more normal, and life-giving,  than not. (Because let's be honest the "old normal," could have just been a lame routine oblivious to things God wanted to see).

 I need to learn to be present. I need to choose to breathe and breathe deeply and see those interruptions as opportunities to have Holy Spirit experiences.

 It hit me walking through some construction in Redwood City. I recorded some thoughts on a  VLOG here.

God is ever present with us, with you,  with me. He's fully in tomorrow, next week, and every decade from now and forever. But somehow a lie creeps in that if I can just get to some magical place, that's not this moment, that it will all be OK. I'm learning, and trying (not always successfully), to welcome interruptions and actually linger within them, knowing that I'm on a journey with God. He's with me.
 (Which leads me again to plug one of the best encouraging daily reading books called, "Jesus Calling."  Here's a page that gave me perspective this week.




One clarification. I do think there's a difference between God's interruptions  (to speak, heal, make us aware etc), and a distraction of temptation and lies.
I''ll write another post about those distinctions some day, in the not so distant future.

For now, I just need to be present...and thankful.

(And trust God will do his thing. This (overplayed) song often interrupts me emotionally, too, and I can't hold back the tears.  He makes all things good. He makes all things new. He makes all things beautiful).

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bridesmaids, groomsmen, kleenex and dog movies

Gonna take a break and write part 2 of this post after I gush about love!

I'm a sap. This was true even before I was married and had daughters. I've been known to hide kleenex in my pocket in order to get through most Pixar movies. (Or any films about fathers, kids, or where the dog dies..or almost dies. Yes, I'm talking about Homeword Bound).



And being a dad of three girls, whoa, I can cry you a river. So, it should go with out saying that weddings, a good wedding where you just love and trust that the two saying "I do" are in it for real and for God, touch me. (My daughters are many decades away from weddings and I choke up even thinking about walking them down the aisle some day).

This weekend we'll celebrating a PCC couple loved by many, Kristin and Victor, the future Hernandezes (Nice ring to it. Seems like a long last name, but my alas last name is still longer).
 See their website here:
http://www.mywedding.com/victorandkristin/gallery_669003_1.html


When I was looking over their wedding website,  I loved clicking on the link for their wedding party and reading about their friendships (the bridesmaids and groomsmen). They chose people to not only stand up and support them on their wedding day, but to lift them up their whole marriage through. What I loved, was that so many of their friendships were forged in Jesus, and many of them from their church (PCC) community. What a cool thing. I appreciate this and pray that the Church, and our community, continues to foster AND model the beauty of these types of relationships, so that we can love each other well. And so we can see many, many lives changed through the process and ripple effect... and many, many dogs living long, happy lives. I better go, I need some Kleenex.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Suicidal Thoughts Part 1

 I'm glad Halloween is over (I'm done with the trying to explain/shield my little ones from bloody, hanging faces on on porches), and I'm glad that the salted, caramel mocha is not offered at Starbucks anymore (I was getting way too much sugar and calories from that thing). And yes, glad the election mud throwing is over, too.

In general, I'm glad we're in new month!

Thank you November for showing up. Thank you daylight savings for making my 5:30am wake-ups a wee bit easier. And thank you Starbucks for the Peppermint White Mochas. I simply needed the change, the change of season.

October felt like a fog, a deep heavy, wet, dry, hazy, month. Yes, all in one.  It was tough.

I'm not trying to be all dark and "emo,"but I am still in process (and may be for some time) over the recent tragedy in my family that marked October for me. (See my last post).

Let me take it back, in this first of two posts, on what I experienced.

About four weeks ago I walked passed a group of kids. Third graders. They were doing what eight and nine year old boys do. They were climbing trees and throwing rocks. Not a big deal, right?
And I was on my way, somewhere, to do something important, at least I'm sure that's what I thought at the moment. When in a matter of twenty seconds something else became more important.



I heard one of the boys causally say, "Ugh, I'd rather kill myself ..then play ...(something about a game suggested by one of the other boys, etc)."

I didn't even catch the rest of what he was saying.
 All I heard was, "I'd rather kill myself..."

Now, I didn't call the suicide prevention hotline or run to his aid and hold him in the fetal position. I knew he was just using a "figure of speech." Something many of us say on a regular basis say and mean nothing by it. It may hold the depth of equivalent to asking someone, "How are you," as we quickly pass them by.

Some of us even pull out our fake finger guns and pull the fake trigger to our heads when we describe our days. "Hey how was your day?" Cue: 

This trivialized piece of our culture hurts me. Now more than ever.

And some reason on this day in early October, it hit me in a powerful way that I believe now has impacted me forever.

As I walked by those boys, in an instant I was having flashes of faces and experiences. My mind filled with experiences from my past where I had experienced first hand people who actually did kill themselves. Thankfully the number was low. Three to be exact. One was my good friend's father, and another was a good friend, someone Ia spent a lot of time with. This someone I had shared life with and prayed with a lot. Then one night he didn't show up to a normal hang out time, (which honestly, he flaked a lot so I didn't think anything of it). But the next morning I got the phone call no one ever wants to get. It was over 12 years ago, before I had a cell phone or texting abilities, but I still had that question in my mind, "What if I would have reached out, or called him just one more time?"

All these memories flooded back. I remembered where I was when I found out, what kind of day it was, what smell was in the air. It was overwhelming.

So I simply began to pray. I prayed for peace, and I prayed for people I hadn't prayed for in a while. People who might be still in the process of grief. People, who I'm sure, choke up at the sound of their loved one's name.

 And then I felt God lead me to pray for others...others who might, at that very moment, be considering taking their own life. 

Wow.
Unexpected interruption of my day.
It was deep.
It felt odd, but not unusual, actually right, and comfortable.

God has lead me to pray for people I've never met many times. Kids in Africa, nameless slaves among the twenty-seven million, celebrities, etc.

But in this way, I thought, "Wow, Lord! Could I actually be praying for someone I know, or that I might even pass by today, who will preserve their life because you have intervened through your Spirit?'

It got me thinking, it got me excited. So, I simply prayed.
I had no idea what God was preparing me for......
 
1-Have you ever looked around and prayed for strangers?
2-Have you ever thought about the pain and heartbreak of those you live, work, and worship around?
(Those who look like everything is great on the outside, but might be dying from within?).
3-What if you let God interrupt you more, made "those" phone calls, and simply trusted God could work out his goodness in and through you no matter what?

Part 2 soon.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Good Grief?

This past week our family has had to deal with the unthinkable.
Just saying the word causes me to have chills.
I don't even want to write the word.

Suicide.

Yes. Awful. Sad. Heartbreaking. Confusing.

Needless to say, it's been an incredibly difficult week.
My eyes hurt so much from crying.
No one is ever ready to deal with death, even when we all know it's a reality of life. But death of this kind makes the whole process loaded.

"Normal death" comes with sadness, expectations lost, questions, confusion, family hardship, and different coping mechanisms.

This kind of death jacks up every one of the elements, sending them whizzing around in a completely different direction.

My only hope, my only sense of peace and stability in this situation has been God.
 (Jesus wept, snarled, when he encountered the death of Lazarus).



So, during the past eight days, I've simply practiced what I believe. Death was never God's plan for humanity. We have an enemy who's mission is to steal, kill, and destroy God's people and goodness in the world. God created us to know him and live in Him. God created a way to live an abundant life. God is not only near, but within. The same Spirit that resurrected Jesus from the grave, lives in me. Therefore, I can go on. I can live, with hope.

*******************

Comforting people through death can be awkward and difficult.

Words are never enough and sometimes they are just not even right response. We don't know what to day and sometimes we say too much, weird stuff, and random things.

Silence.
Hugs.
Tears.
Presence.

That is what been the most comforting for me.

Honestly, I'd rather not even talk about it, let alone post about it via social media.

But in the spirit of authenticity, I'm trusting in what God has been preparing in me the past couple weeks (speaking out), because others need to hear this story.

I avoided posting anything this week except scripture and most amazing readings from the book, "Jesus Calling." It's how I've found any ounce of hope and rational thinking.

As well as playing lots of music like the new Bethel album, "For the Sake of the World."

When I spoke at my Grandma's memorial, one of her friends approached me afterward. Both her husband and her brother took their life. She has been under a cloud of sadness, and after hearing the hope of Jesus, she found encouragement.

I spoke about how NOTHING can separate us from the LOVE OF GOD.
Romans 8.
Not life, death, suicide, nothing.

My Grandma was sick. She was bedridden and unable to take care of herself and her bodily functions. She was extremely sad, steeped in grief from my Grandad's death in April. I loved her immensely. We had a great relationship. I prayed with her many, many times, even dealing with her desire to end her life before. I tried to remind her of the value of her life, God's love for her, and that God had a purpose to go on living. But She was, in Martin Luther's words, "overcome."

Here is what Luther said:
“I don’t share the opinion that suicides are certainly to be damned. My reason is that they do not wish to kill themselves but are overcome by the power of the devil. They are like a man who is murdered in the woods by a robber. . . . They are examples by which our Lord God wishes to show that the devil is powerful and also that we should be diligent in prayer. But for these examples, we would not fear God. Hence he must teach us in this way.” [Vol. 54:29].


 What has give given me hope? That Jesus hated death and gave his life to conquer it and connect us with God the Father. And God is a great father. A lover. A hope giver. Even though feelings, and circumstances are painful, I believe and trust good will come, because God is good.

I'm letting myself feel sad when I need to feel sad. I'm letting myself be quiet when I need to be quiet.  And I'm letting myself cry when I need to cry (holding my kids and listening to certain songs has been doing it).





And all the while, I'm embracing God's love and presence with me, and for my family. I will not let the evil one win. I reject his work, because I know God redeems, God wins.

Lamentations chapter 3. Words from one of God's own, his prophet, Jeremiah, have helped me during this dark time.
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”
 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
 it is good to wait quietly for the Lord.
So......prayer for me and my family is greatly appreciated. I AM grieving. And trying to find the good and healthy way to do so. And hoping I can help my family (and others), do so, too). The experts say, even though work gives you three days to grieve, realistically the process will take three months to three years. I'm grateful to walk with Jesus, the creator of the universe, giver of life, and conqueror of death, through it all.  Grief can be good.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Shut up or stand up. Part 2

Two weeks ago we heard a challenging message. Over 7000 people groups in the world have never heard the name of Jesus. (Listen here). It makes me want to just yell! NO WAY! Why aren't we doing anything about it? 

It seems that way about a lot of things, and it can be overwhelming.  We hear stats revealing that there are over twenty million human trafficking victims and over one hundred and forty million orphans in the world. And we clam up, ignore it, or just excuse ourselves from not doing anything because ___________________ (fill in the blank). It's too big of a problem, it will never change, my life is already busy, I have my own kids/problems, and on, and on, and on it goes.

In my last week's post, I started to share about the opportunities to stand up God was giving me. My sabbatical gave me ample time to relax, enjoy my family, and dream dreams for my life and the ministry he entrusted to me. I returned energized and ready to make some change. But within a week, and on and off all month, I found myself discouraged and ready to go back to life as normal. ( As normal as it was in May before I left). Why the quick turn around? It was little things. Little lies I believed about myself (my calling and abilities), people around me, and lies about God. Yes, lies I chose to believe about God's power to change things, and to change people. 

Many people say the season after a sabbatical is often very challenging and my circumstances were "normal." But I noticed my normal was a temptation to apathy and business as usual. But God's thoughts are always greater than our thoughts and his ways greater than our ways. God gave me every encouragement and opportunity to stand up, instead of shut up! (Take that Devil!).



So, there I was, walking in all these intense thoughts about doing great things with God. Sure I had some opposition, and some things didn't look as exciting as I thought they should be, but I was doing what I thought was my best. 

Cue "inciting incident. " (If you've never read Donald Miller's: "A Million Years in a Thousand Years," do yourself a favor!).

 I was volunteering at my kid's school. I was the new dad on campus. It's our first year being in the "school system." And it's a public school. So we view our involvements as opportunities to serve, bless, and share Jesus with kids and staff. So, one day last week I'm walking to the bathroom during a parent training. I was on a little break. Minding my own business, ready to check Facebook and post a little nugget about my P.E. training. When all of a sudden, I get a bomb dropped on me. I just happened to pass a teacher disciplining one of his students. It was obvious there was a behavioral issue in question there. But in the twenty seconds I "happened" to pass by, I heard the teacher say something that sent chills down my spine. I'm not going to give details, (and it wasn't a profanity, or racist comment), but it was shaming, hurtful, and inappropriate for anyone, let alone a seventh grader. 

So there I was, accountable. I had a choice. Shut up or stand up. Ignore it, make an excuse why I shouldn't address it, or face it head on.



I continued on my way to the bathroom now with my mind spinning. What I thought was going to be a little break, ended up being an intense dialog with God. It actually started with, "God, really? Now? Here?" I hadn't planned on having to confront a teacher, one that I don't even know. I pictured myself saying, "Um, hi. I'm the the father of a KINDERGARTNER, who was eavesdropping on your conversation for a wee twenty seconds and I want to tell you that what you said could have been said different." And blah blah blah, I had to fight the lies and dumb insecurities. 

God kept calling me up and out. I just witnessed an injustice. I just heard a child have to defend his family, even internally have to question his value by one shaming statement.




I knew I had to go and talk with the teacher. I knew I needed to speak truth. And God was very clear. This teacher wasn't the enemy. I didn't need to be mad AT him. He was a created being of God. He was loved by the most high. He also needed encouragement. Teaching is hard. Public schools have ridiculous ratios and underfunded programs. 

I'll cut to the chase. Two hours later during the lunch hour, after my volunteer training,  I searched out this teacher. I introduced myself and told him what I had overhead. I told him I assumed I didn't know the extent of the situation, but humbly wanted to share what I thought I heard and say. What I heard was a statement that would shame any one. I suggested some other ways to express what he wanted to say. He was so humble, and acknowledged in the heat of the moment he could have used different words. He even thanked me. We shook hands. It was amazing. I left there so encouraged. 

Crazy thing, turns out I've seen this teacher a lot more since. As we share some mutual activities and common life intersections (I'll leave it at that). Was it awkward the next time I saw him? Yes. But so worth it. So worth it to have the ability to be free from carrying the burden, judgement,  or bitterness that I might have had. And, I know God did more with it than I was even aware of. IN ME..and I hope in that teacher.

Read Hebrews 12 about how God loves and disciplines.

Want to hear another funny thing? A few days later, someone came to me to confront me about something I posted on Facebook. And right then in there, in love, I had the opportunity to listen and humble myself. I had to thank the person and consider what I had said and how it might have been taken out of context, and how I might have said it differently. I just pictured this same person going through exactly that I went through in order to STAND UP and not shut up. Grateful for life learning lessons.

Wow. God you are amazing. Thank you.

Now, is there anyone, for any reason, that you need to speak truth to? To encourage? To call out and affirm, or help? Don't allow lies and excuses to prevent you. This person could be an unreached person across the globe, a family member, a co-worker, a stranger you overhear, or someone hurting someone else. Be aware of God's voice leading you in paths of justice. 

Be Bold. Stand Firm. Speak out. Dispel injustice. 
Do it all with the grace, love, and power I have for you.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Shut up or Stand up! (Part 1).

Be Bold. Stand Firm. Speak out. Dispel injustice. 
Do it all with the grace, love, and power I have for you.

(To get the most out of this post, click the orange links for interactive media). 

Some time in the spring I was driving to Roosevelt Elementary School. This is a school near our Church's campus in which we will be serving this weekend. On this particular day I was teaching an acting group for fifth and sixth graders. As I was driving down the street, I noticed a crowd of pre-teen boys harassing an elderly woman. Yes, harassing. I did a double-take. Waving their hands in her face, "pretending" to kick her, and getting in her way with their puffed out chests so she couldn't move past them, caused this sweet grandma to shirk in fear. Was this really happening in broad daylight at 3pm in the afternoon? The woman was trying to shield herself from their taunts as she ducked from their teasing jabs and name calling. 

I had no time to plan. I parked my car in the middle of the street, (in front of the public library), swung my door open, and made a B-line to the situation shouting, "NO!" Terminator style I strutted to the crowd of boys yelling, "No! No way! Stop!" 

Then I went all Clint Eastwood on them and said, "Not in my city, you don't."



Honestly, I have no idea where this came from. I was as if I couldn't control it. It was as if I had quickly mutated into a member of the X-Men. 
(Do you see how my mind works? I've seen a few too many action/superhero movies but I want to be clear here. This is not my natural first response. This is a product of what God is doing within me. And it is humbling).

The woman walked passed me as I hovered over the boys.  
They were frozen as deers in headlights. 
I looked at each one, I could feel my heart pounding double time, and my ears were steaming like the cartoons. I recognized two of the boys from my acting class, and my heart broke. 

In a split second, I understood what Jesus might have felt to love the very people who hurt him. 
Then compassion flooded within.  I was mixed with grief, sadness, and frustration. I just looked at them and I knew God was about to speak through me. 

"You are better than this. She deserves better than this. That woman is some one's mom, some one's grandma. It's up to you, to us, to make this city a better place." 

Whoa, now I'm Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Silence. 
Heads down.
Eyes averted.

I looked around at each one. That's when I realized the woman was no where to be seen. I didn't even get a chance to see if she was OK. I didn't know her name or what happened to her.

"I don't want to shame you. I just want you to rise up, to be great. That woman deserved to be treated with respect. I love this city and our city deserves better."

Cue crickets. One minute. No one said a word.

That minute seemed like an hour. The oldest and tallest boy, the ring-leader, never made eye contact with me. He just looked away, the whole time.

I asked them all, "How do you feel right now?"

Then one brave little boy broke the silence. "Sorry."
Then another one chimed in. "Me, too."

The others were silent.

At that moment I wished I could have hugged all of them, but what would Clint Eastwood do?
(Just kidding, I didn't think like that, come on, I'm a WWJD bracelet kind of guy. No joke, is this commercial for real???).

I knew they weren't "bad" kids. They were just like sheep, who were were lost
They needed a shepherd. 

As I walked away, I felt amazing. 
But I knew, that this incident meant something bigger. It was part of a bigger story God was calling me in to. 

It was indicative to what is true on a daily basis in our world. People are harassed, and no one, including me, is dong anything about it.

This is post 1 of 2. Because this theme came back this week in a powerful way.

God has been giving me these words, (over and over).

Be Bold. Stand Firm. Speak out. Dispel injustice. Do it all with grace, love, and power  I have for you.

This week, I saw something happen. It was different than in the street, but similar because I had to choose action. I was either going to shut up and let an injustice take place, or I was going to stand up and speak out. I'll blog more about it next week. 

Until then, ponder this:

* Is there someone in your life who is being treated unfairly?
* Is someone treating YOU in a demeaning and hurtful way?
* Are YOU treating someone unfairly?
* Have you witnessed racism, inequality, sexism,  or any other injustice to defend?
* Is there a situation in which God is calling you to speak up and bring change?


As I posted last week, where do we need to be intentional and engaged with God and others for authentic conversations and go deep in real life issues? (Men? Join in the adventure).

Thursday, September 27, 2012

...and then Jesus farted.


The following observations are not just true of the social media world, but real human conversations that happen daily. I'm noticing Facebook and twitter interactions are generated easily on topics of kids' quotes, creepy-lazy-eyed naked dolls, foodie delights, every and any sports topic, entertainment of all kinds, and farts. Yes, farts. Did you just smile like a 5th grader, or scowl like librarian? Because I have this huge grin right now. I'm fully smiling. I just say the word, "fart," and have to smile.
(Pray for me).

Now, smelling them is a completely different topic. I will admit I have actually vomited due to a hand full of farts. Well, two farts to be exact. And yes, one of them was my own, but I won't go into detail unless I get a resounding bunch of feedback to do so. Which, based on this post, could just happen. (Ladies, wait! Don't click away in disgust, yet, it gets better. Men, this is what drew you in, wasn't it?).

I digress.

Well, no, I don't.



We all know how funny, (most of the time, and at least for a few moments before the stench kicks in), those God-created, floating air biscuits can be. Especially when they come out of the bottom of a kindergarten child in the middle of "circle time." See my status from September 20th, here.

And let's be honest. When you wanna get a laugh, or a good reaction, break out the fart jokes. Tell a good self-deprecating story of a fart on a first date and you're the hit of the party. (Check this blog story out, you will pee, and fart, yourself laughing). Status updates about farts, sports, entertainment, and witty rants to the unknown person, (Dear Lady who cut me off), will always get lots of likes, "lol's", and Haha funny!" Both in real and virtual life.

Consider me guilty! I love all that stuff. (and will continue to generate such content:)

But when you want to do the exact opposite, when you want to completely stop a conversation (online or in real time), elicit comments,  and initiate the immediate chorus of crickets chirping, say something about Jesus.

Cue crickets: ....Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.


Ok, that may be extreme. Or is it?

Let me just say,I'm so glad for those that regularly comment, and share stories of their experiences with God (along with witty postings discussed earlier). I also love engaging with others online who aren't following Jesus, but are interested in a genuine dialogue about God based those postings ( I love how social media can be used like that).

But it might just be me, but I notice a lack in these types of postings since returning to Facebook after my sabbatical. Obviously from my last post, I've been in a different place so maybe I'm just especially sensitive to these things.  But wouldn't you agree that posts we poke fun at life are a lot more interesting to the facebook world then posts where people people ask for prayer (unless a person or pet dies, that people come out in droves), post scripture, or try to be vulnerable? Maybe it's just because that's what's really on our mind most of the time, so we post what's on our mind? (I don't really believe that).



I see a few people regularly write out scripture in their status updates. The comments are usually few. The equivalent of crickets in my opinion.  So,  intentionally I've been commenting and interacting with such posts. because I know as someone who posts similar things, it can be really encouraging to be on the receiving end of even something as small as a "like."



But, I admit, it's easy to pass those posts over scouting out for something juicy funny like those "Some E-cards." (How hilarious and right on are those at times?).


Because, come on, it's just easier, and safer, to not only post the silly stuff, but troll around for the comical comments and pictures.



It just may be too risky to post something deep, or take the time to comment on some one's spiritual authenticity online.  For what if I comment get linked into something I'm not willing to be associated with? We may not post meaningful or spiritual updates for fear our boss, neighbor, or politically minded relative might get offended.

All too often I've thought, if I share my opinion, or detail what God is doing in my life,  I get pigeon holed, or worse yet, what if someone deletes me because I virtually O.D. on God in my postings. (Some of you maybe be fully over THIS blog for that reason).

This type of sharing is risky, and requires a bit of commitment, boldness, and acceptance of what may come.

Otherwise it's just easier to refrain from saying anything at all.

Isn't this true in real life? What if I say too much about God? What if I get mocked for having my Bible in my cubicle, or get rejected trying to initiate prayer or talk about my church?

I've been so convicted both in the real world, and in the virtual world, with wanting to make the time to go be intentional about engaging with God, and engaging with others. And, this comes at a price.
 
What if we interacted intentionally MORE in real life AND in social media about real issues? What if we saw every conversation as the potential to go deep? Then what great stories we could share! We'd probably see a whole lot more interesting updates to comment on...........or ...not.

Ok, another online and real life observation.


One day, in a "Usual Suspects" kind of way,  I noticed most of my posts' comments were all of the female species! I often notice that those willing to interact, share honestly, initiate prayer, and post about deep things are women. To date, all of the people who have come up to me in person to converse about my blogs, are, you guessed it, ladies! (Most of them are related to me, too. Thanks mom and mom-in-law).

What would I do with out you fanatic stay-at-home moms and smart phone working women, taking the time to shout out and share your  responses online. (You obviously have the unfair advantage above men considering that you are so good at sharing your feelings and multi-tasking!).

 But I must admit, one day, hovered over my laptop, I started having doubts about my manhood. Maybe I should be posting about bad referee calls, UFC fights, and monster trucks more or something.



Not sure what to make of it.

Or maybe I'm making a plea. Men? Please! Please?

Join me.I  want to be a man of God, and join other men of God in this interaction. I welcome feedback from you men, and I expect it from you women :)!


So, what are you feeling right now? Are you are uncomfortable, ticked off, annoyed, bored, or even tickled (who says that besides my grandma?) reading this post. If you are any of those. Keep reading. I have one more thought.

How awesome would it be if the the apostles' writings would have included a fart moment with Jesus?

Yes, I said it. Fart and Jesus in the same sentence.

 Ok, now I now I've lost some of you, and others are ready to write a letter to get me fired from PCC.

HERETIC!!


Simmer down, Pharisees, I'm just having some fun.
(And go and read my last post at the bottom # 10). 

I mean, come on! You've never thought about it?  Jesus was human. He got tired, he cried, he bled. I always wonder what it was like for him to deal with bathroom issues, especially in the 1st Century.

 I think about it a lot. And I thank God for toilets and toilet paper.

TMI? Sorry.

Because if those moments were in the Bible, they would solve all my online comment insecurities and  problems. And more men would be posting scripture! Think how many comments those postings would get? Luke 9:75..."and then Jesus farted."

 Just imagine, Peter, John, and the rest of the twelve praying around a fire. Poor guys, it already smelled bad back in those days without deodorant and CK1. They had eaten their fill of fish and bread and Jesus would be teaching them about true discipleship, when all of a sudden he lets a huge one rip. Bartholomew begins to chuckle. James shoots him one of those "Sunday school teacher looks." Peter tries to hold it in but he can't help but burst out in laughter. Then Jesus would smirk, shrug his shoulders, and point the blame finger toward Judas and all the disciples would crack up! Judas would whine, "It wasn't me, everyone blames me," and he would storm out all mad. Jesus would say, "I'm just having some fun," and wink at the other disciples. He'd chase after Judas saying,
"Let's talk about it, Judas! We are men! We were meant to talk about these things. We can joke around AND be deep, too . "

Let the comments, or crickets, begin.



Thursday, September 20, 2012

I want to be dangerous

It's almost been three weeks since returning from Sabbatical. I, now, know why it is so easy to have those momentary "spiritual highs," or mountain top experiences, on retreats and such. We go away, have uninterrupted time with out distractions and busyness. We experience God in extraordinary ways, eat good food (usually), laugh like crazy, re-energize, and refocus on what's really important in life.

It's during some of those defining moments, where we truly believe life was meant to be lived in such intimate communion with God. But then those retreats, mission trips, or sabbaticals, in my case, have to end and we have to return home. We have to go "back to the grind," and "back to reality." And then we forget. We find ourselves in the same ordinary routine, rut, or schedule we were before. Others can't relate to our experience, or aren't even interested in hearing about it. We forget the fun, the freedom, and those moments of laughing until milk comes out of our nose. And sometimes, or maybe most of the times, we forget what God said to us, we forget the closeness we experienced, and we forget what happened wasn't just meant to be a week-long/end experience or three month break. What if, what happened in those moments, when God had our full attention and spoke to us in intimate ways, was the life pattern he intended. I believe he means to speak to us ALL THE TIME.
I wonder, though, what would happen if we really believe that?

This past Tuesday, our young adult community kicked-off with the reminder that following the way of the Rabbi, was meant to be NATURALLY SUPERNATURAL. Ordinary, compartmental, average, and nominal are not words in which would ever be described of Jesus and his early followers. In the book of Acts, I was brought to my knees this week. Like I said in my last post, I was reading of the disciples courage to speak up and live such lives that all who saw were either disturbed, filled with awe, or afraid to join them for fear of dying (See Acts chapter 5 and make sure to read verses 12-16 below).
Acts 5:12-16:
The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade. But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them. Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women.  As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed.


That's radical and different! That's dangerous! This was the Church that Jesus was starting. A movement, and collection of radical followers willing to give their lives and take beatings for the name of Jesus. (Sound like your Church? Sound like a Church you'd want to be a part of?).  His people were never meant to be limited to one day a week, watching someone else worship, and constantly checking their watch so they don't miss a football game.
When people think of the Church gathering today, most,  (including followers of Jesus), picture something else way different that what we see in the book of Acts. And sure, some people have their excuses, or can intellectualize away why things today will never look they way they did "back then."

I cannot accept that.

I must be a part of this kind of community we see modeled through the scripture. This is the WAY it should be. Yet, if this is going to happen, it will require a radical re-shifting of our time, thinking, and the way do things. (I'm curious if any body would like to contribute boldy to this conversation in the comments. What would this look like? How would things have to change?)

When we believe the love of God is so real and his power is already at work within us, we become changed people and people's lives are changed around us. (This is actually PCC's mission).  In fact, people will either run to join us or freak out and NOT want to join us for fear of losing their lives like in verse 13 (IE because of Ananias and Sapphira read the whole chapter for context).

So, my readers, my friends, family, fellow followers of Christ. We have something to live for. We have a God who is alive and loves us. And this life is too short to forget his goodness, to short to settle for the ordinary and the mundane, and too short to think that it's only possible in short weekend or sabbatical experiences. So we, I, must remind myself of those truths and moments when I experienced God and knew his truth, so that ordinary moments are recaptured back for the holy moments they were created for!

So, as I say goodbye to my summer sabbatical, I choose to remember and reflect. So I never forget. Here's some truths and experiences that shaped my summer and gave me passion for the future.

1-God is here. Now. I don't have to pray he shows up. I have to show up. I have to choose to be present, and help and teach others (discipleship) that this is true, also! He is with me everyday, with all of his followers.  Matthew 28:20.

2-My wife is amazing. She serves our family day in and day out. There's just not enough words, flowers, or diamond rings that could ever fully show appreciation to a woman, a mom, who gives her all. Any mom that is home with three (any number of) kids daily, deserves a life-time supply of massages (and/or mani/pedis (yes, I know what those are), girlfriend time, and just the luxury of sleeping in)! I love her and grew to appreciate her in ways I never have. She deserves so much more than I can give her. I got a true gift in my marriage to her. Proverbs 18:22
.
3. Not wearing a watch is one of the best things ever.. I think of Jesus who just went about his day doing good as it came along. No appointments to rush to, days free of meetings, and open to healing people daily. Acts 10:38.

4--I love being a dad. There's nothing like it to humble someone to how selfish one can be, and nothing like it in the world that helps one understand the love of God. Proverbs 3:12.

5-God is not limited by our limitations. Summers are a bit challenging financially for us as we can make extra income through the year as my wife substitute teaches. This summer, with two big road trips, and two big airplane trips, we had a lot of extra expenses than normal. God provided all of our expenses in completely unique and supernatural ways. People who just gave because God told them, and God opened doors of blessing to make ends meet! He always provides. Philippians 4:19.

6-I grew more love for my family, near and far as we traveled to Illinois, Tahoe, and Socal. We spent a lot of time with family both in Chicago and locally. Family may be the best relational gift of this Earthly life time, as well as the best way to gauge if our love for others is real. There's no one who can see us for who we really are than those that have seen us over a lifetime.

7-I grew to enjoy an"American past-time". I've never really been into the 4th of July. Sorry, fireworks, parades...never been my thing. But, like I said in #2, #4, and #6, because of family, those moments are more than just holidays or traditions. They are opportunities to create cherished family memories. One of our favorite summer times was in the backyard of my brother's house, on a sweltering hot Chicago night. We sat there drinking iced tea, watching our kids run around with sparklers, and lighting off fireworks. We wanted to freeze that moment in time. It was perfect. Almost. We just thank the Lord nothing was set on fire, and all the neighbors were physically, unharmed. Emotionally scarred, maybe, but absolutely no blood was shed.
 spark!!

8-It's important to laugh at the craziness of life. It's important to expect your one year old to urinate so much in her diaper that in leaks all over your lap, within the first five minutes of a five hour plane flight.

9-This life isn't a game. It's a mission. And Jesus isn't so concerned with us being nice, safe, or comfortable. If we want to really follow Him,  and experience the Holy Spirit, we must expect the unexpected daily! This will either result in awe and wonder, and/or opposition from the Evil One and disgruntled people as we read and experience stories from the Bible (see #11) This is life! Ephesians 6:10-18.

10-Which leads me to my next take-away. Pleasing God is a much more fulfilling life goal than trying to please people. We must get over wanting people to like us and not being authentically who we are in Jesus. We have to be willing to led God really live through us, and make us dangerous. Take some risks. Pray for strangers, initiate spiritual conversations, prayer walk, stand up for truth, initiate change, call out apathy, and be willing to obey what the Spirit is leading. It might not make you popular, (even within the church), but you'll experience God! Galatians 1:10.

11-Although the Bible is a book, with  intellectual and literary value, it's much more. It's a collection of life-changing truth and stories meant for us to know God resulting in a heart experience with who he really is, not just words to enhance our heads and knowledge. If we miss this, we miss God, and we miss LIFE!. John 5:31-36.


I could go on an on. But, let me just stop here, get off this computer, and get on with being dangerous.
(BTW, that'd be a great name for a church).
 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Being human can be hard, being fish is harder

It's been twelve days since I returned from my sabbatical. Twelve days of transitioning back to a routine, wearing a watch, and wearing more than just a swimsuit 24/7.  I wish I could say it's been easy.

As I shared in my last post, I experienced a lot of humbling moments this past summer. Particularly in June. My three month sabbatical started in the first month of summer. For the past fourteen summers, those three months have the most amazing and busiest times of my life. The reason? Because the church that I get to serve with has a life changing internship for young adults, lots of great programs, and a pool. Which means lots of great activity with lots more great people around. So, to have some rest from all that, for the first time in fourteen years, is truly a gift. But the first few weeks of my "rest," were not restful at all. It was the opposite. I was restless. I didn't know what to do with myself. I was totally removed from my weekly regimen, cut myself off from email and facebook, and was on a week-long road trip with three kids five and under. MERCY! I felt like a fish out of water, a bit like I had to find who I was again. How do I be me without doing all the things I love to do, in which I also make my living?

 I had many obvious moments in June were God fathered me. He spoke to me to let go of my expectations. These three months, each and every day of summer, belonged to Him. He had plans for me that I couldn't even fathom. I kept getting the image of opening my hands as I prayed and processed my feelings. God wanted me to let go of my expectations. Unbeknownst to me, I had brewed a list of (selfish) expectations of what I thought my sabbatical should entail. He spoke very clearly to me about this one night through my wife. She just repeated back to me things I had said to a few people, when I was asked  how things were going on sabbatical so far. (Keep in mind this was two weeks in to June). When I heard her words, I was so convicted. That person sounded so entitled, so unhappy. That's not who I am, or who I wanted to be. I knew I  needed to change ASAP. I needed to renew my mind. Everywhere I read in the Bible during that time, God affirmed my identity as his Son, his loved one. That's where the devotional, "Jesus Calling", was so amazing. I read it daily and found myself so quickly! (This will always be the case when we live God's word). The beautiful thing about this devotional book is that it uses God's word to create a first person type reading (from Jesus). Through it, I remembered instantly who I was. I am God's, his son, and I can trust him to lead and provide everything I need (beyond my expectations). He showed me my sabbatical, was not just for me, but for my whole family. So I am so happy to look back in awe (especially of July and August), when our family really hit a great stride, I was relaxed, and at a beach or pool daily. We had so many amazing trips and times together, with no agenda other than to be together. It was unforgettable on so many levels.






So, now I'm I have no issues and every thing is perfect. Not quite. The crazy thing is, it almost feels like September may be another, "finding myself again," month. I came back so excited, refreshed, energized, and defined in my passions. And guess what came along for the ride? Expectations. How did that happen? I thought I was done with humility? Gone are the days of open schedules and long walks on the beach. And I guess I had plans for what I thought September would look like, and God simply says, "Keep your hands open." Once again, I'm a fish. Not so much out of water, but in new water, different water. Or maybe it's the same water, but the fish is different? I'm not trying to be all poetic here, but I do know that transition is upon me, again. And so I get to re-learn, or remember what I learned just a few months back. What a great adventure. As followers of Christ, we share his identity and to truly live into that, we must keep our mind in God's truth. Tonight, I had one of those "collapse in the arms of Jesus" moments. It was beautiful. I was reading the Bible with my kids in their bed, and then we prayed together. God used their words like a healing salve to my soul. I realized that I allowed restlessness to creep back into my heart. Silly things like worry, I easily allow access into my life. Why? How quickly I forget the truth. God always provides financially for us, he brings peace to crazy schedules, and will let nothing prevent his will from being done. God loves his children to have faith. And God satisfies us. Jesus said, He gives peace like no one and nothing else (John 14:27).  Through the words of children, my children, I was brought back to the simple pleasure of being God's child, with nothing to worry about, safe in his care. I was holding back the tears as I laid with my kids in their bed. After all was said and done I tip-toed out of their room to leave them to fall asleep, and just fell to my knees in gratefulness and adoration. God is so good, so true, and everything we need. Regardless of what kind of fish I am, or what kind of water I swim in, I rest in the truth that I am created by God, and for God, and that's enough.

Next time, I'll blog about other learning moments from the summer, share some video highlights. and more on transitions.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

As Jack Nicholson would say...



For some reason I can't say the words, "I'm back," without picturing the movie, The Shining. Creepy, right? So although I don't want to produce nightmares for anyone, I do want to jump back into life (and the virtual life of social media) with a bang, (sorta)!

Speaking of social media, probably one of the weirdest things about my sabbatical was #1-the weird reality of being disconnected from knowing what's up through status updates and pictures (I have no idea who's dating, engaged, or pregnant right now) and #2-the realization that checking status updates and pictures actually results in disconnection from reality. Probably not the most profound ah-ha moment but something I'm hoping will look different in my "post-sabbatical" life. With time on Facebook I had time to do many other creative things (which I will share in the coming weeks as I blog).  It's September first and I haven't logged into Facebook, yet. I'm still going to give it a few days. I'm considering some margin around how I utilize Facebook in the future, but still haven't come to any conclusions yet. However, I've jumped back into Twitter, it's much more low maintenance, as I expected, and I like that!

That leads me to my next realization from my summer off. Sabbatical was NOT what I expected. I thought I had no expectations, or tried not to have any, but I guess subconsciously I had a huge list and it quickly became evident that God was leading me in a different summer than the one I had in mind.  I learned an incredible amount about myself and life as a husband and father. I had an amazing time with my family, and had major moments of experiencing God on the way. I especially experienced a lot of humbling and conviction. look forward to sharing those lessons learned through out September as I wade back into life in Redwood City and with our PCC family.

So, unlike Jack in the Shining, I'm not going to be yelling and screaming my way back into community, but I'm taking my time to find my place again. It feels like the first day of school. I have an excited "butterflies in my stomach feeling," craving to hear how every one's summer went, and wishing I had a new backpack. So if you see me around let's swap summer vacation stories and get stoked for what's upcoming on the our fall syllabuses, or syllabi, whatever you prefer.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Sabbatical

I waited tables for about a decade of my life and I loved it. Not just because I got free food and loved getting tips, but when I left the restaurant, I was done and work was over. There were clear boundaries. I didn't worry about sending emails to customers about soda refills, or have answer  calls on my cell about menu complaints, or have to text my wife that I'd be late because a customer stopped me on the way out to talk about the soup recipe. When the apron was off, my time was mine. I have found that one of my biggest challenges as a pastor is to figure out my time, and how to draw good boundaries outside of "work." (And really what is "work" and what is not. Not an easy answer for me). It's been a life long issue. It's a hard one because even though all followers of Jesus are called to do what pastors do (pray, serve, give, counsel, help the poor, share Jesus), I'm privileged to serve through the local church and have my family supported by ministry. So because of this, I often find myself in challenging situations where I don't make much time to rest. This is particularly just a weakness of mine because I love what I do. I love ministry, being creative, and packing my days with the nonstop action  and messiness of meeting with people. I love getting coffee, praying, and engaging in crazy discussions about life, like the Big Bang, sex, the Bible, marriage, and if aliens exist (not all in the same order).

Some days this ends up backfiring because "one hour" meetings never just go "one hour." When I'm backed up, then I'm running late to the next meeting which I usually always schedule just minutes after my previous appointment. Another thing I need to learn is giving myself space, room to breathe, and even saying no to good things. I'm prone to do, do, do, and go, go, go. It energizes me to take on multiple projects at a time, but is it the right thing for me to do? I really love meeting with people even when if it seems they just want to complain (not my favorite thing, but it's a part of the job and it can lead to great prayer and conversation). I enjoy solving problems, fixing things, and seeing people change, and seeing miracles happen. But this can be a dangerous passion.


There are times when I don't give myself enough space to relax. Sometimes I feel like a slave to my  text messages and voice-mails. It's like a sick competition with myself to see an empty inbox, and this can be draining. I feel accomplished and burdened at the same time trying to cross off what seems like a never ending scroll of a to-do list.


When I'm home I'd really like to kick my feet up and just chill, be with my wife, and engage with my family. And there are times when it is hard to be present in those moments knowing that  emails and Facebook messages are piled up. It can easily justify jumping on the computer because it's getting ahead on the next day's work. So I'll cheat myself from resting. And I'll cheat my family. Not good. Don't get me wrong I'm not some psycho blue tooth wearing vigilante who is considering a chain for my laptop to attach to my belt, but I DO need to tackle these issues WWE style. When I take my kids out, I deliberately leave my phone at home so I'm not distracted or tempted to answer a text. When I come home from work, I'll sometimes leave my tech stuff in my car so I won't be distracted. And I LOVE not even looking at my email when I have "days off." The more I do it, the more it becomes habit. Although, it still seems that when my email goes untouched for days, eventually I lose a few (or twenty) of those emails because I rarely seem able to answer them all.


They just end up getting lost in cyberspace. Which can damage communication and work flow, but it just might be the necessary collateral damage for being a healthy person. 


So with all this said, I am immensely thankful that PCC has seen fit to give me a three month sabbatical. About eight months ago I started the process, applied and was granted three months of sabbath! That word simply means REST! I've been with Peninsula Covenant Church since I graduated college fourteen years ago. And I am so blessed to call this my home church family. The important part is that I've been telling myself that I have to sabbath NOW! I can't just go, go, go until June 1st and then all of a sudden expect to start resting and have it feel normal. So, I"m starting to scale back because come June 1st, I won't be at any of my meetings, normal ministry activities, or on email or Facebook. It's going to be a very different summer for me. Abstaining from social media is going to free me up, mucho! My goal for the summer is to take time to be a husband and father, to listen, pray, read, and create. I have some writing projects I'm excited to work on. Our family of five will be taking multiple vacations to get away, play, and be with extended family. When we are in town we'll be joining other local churches for worship gatherings. I'd love any suggestions for good books to read and podcasts to listen to. And, I'd appreciate prayer as God speaks to me. I expect, because he's already started, that I'm going to learn a lot through conviction and encouragement in his Word and by his Spirit, and realize the good changes he wants to make in me. June 1-September 1 is going to be a great time!

Ahh...rest. Hebrews 4.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

He asked for prayer to "get laid."

A story from prayer walking in Redwood City.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Dog eats sandwich = a choice to be made

On Sunday night, I was eye to eye with a "brother" of mine, pleading with him to let go of all his hurts, grudges, and anger toward people in his past, the "system," and basically the world. I stood there feeling quite helpless.  He knows all the right answers and basically understands that he needs to change the way he thinks to align up with God's love and truth, (and to first receive and believe it is for himself), but he felt it was too hard and overwhelming. After thirty minutes of using all my pastoral strength, seminary taught listening skills, and scripture quotes, I told him I didn't know what else to say. We just needed to pray. A few others and I prayed for him declaring that God's love and power was enough. I wish I could report there was some miraculous change in him, but as we prayed I felt a block.  It was as if he wouldn't budge. He'd rather choose to be angry and hardhearted. He was actually making the choice to see his life as a sh*%-hole (his words). It was almost as if we were praying for a statue. I'm glad God is bigger than what I can see. I keep praying, and believing that God will chip away at his heart and he will respond so that he can see how God sees him and his life. But honestly, I felt mad, not at him, but mad at sin, mad at Satan.


Then today, while playing with my kids at a park the story continued. My oldest daughter was sitting on a picnic blanket eating her sandwich while I spoon fed our nine month old, and my three year old was on a swing. In an instant, an unleashed dog ran up and snatched my daughter's juicy tuna sandwich. I turned my head to see it snarfing it down while my daughter was looking on in horror and shock. All I could say was, "It's eating your sandwich!" The owner then grabbed her dog and said, "Yep," while she dragged her pooch away. She didn't apologize, discipline her picnic intruder, or acknowledge that only crumbs were left from our once existing tuna sandwich with the edges cut off. It was so weird. So there I was left trying to console my daughter, who already had dog fears since she was little, while assuring her she could just eat her sister's sandwich. (Thankfully our three year old doesn't like tuna that much). Other protective park moms were jumping to rally and console us. "How could she not say anything? How rude! Report her! Are you OK? (etc)."  In reflecting back, I wasn't scared that the dog was going to hurt my daughter, or mad at the dog, (who could blame him for helping himself the great taste of tuna), but I was just put off! This interrupted and inconvenienced my life! We were now down one sandwich, and the owner had, in all definitions of the term, trespassed (literally), upon me and my family.

See- there is a sign at the entrance of the park that clearly states why this shouldn't have happened. Now, to all you dog owners, please know, I LOVE dogs. I'm counting the days until we can have a little, fuzzy, flea motel in our house! And I'm not against taking your dog of leash (even in areas where you're not supposed to), but geez...take responsibility! So in the matter of minutes I found myself trying to interact with the protesting mob of moms telling me to report the owner, and caring for my kids' questions. "Why did that dog do that? Why didn't the owner apologize? What if it bit us?"(Among many more curious "what if" questions).

Then it hit me.

I had a choice, right in that moment. I know this may seem small, but it was a reality of a bigger issue in my heart. I could continue to build the list in my head against this person and store up a bunch of anger toward this nameless person who now was "in debt" to me, or I could take her off the hook. I could forgive. There I was, in the same position as my friend from the other night. I could enslave my heart as victim of trespass, or could choose to use my "the mind of Jesus." I had to give this person grace, and at least- the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that dog owner didn't see what happened. Maybe she was going through her own personal issues and this trespass was not about me at all. Maybe she felt so much shame she couldn't even open her mouth to apologize. Whatever the reason, (and even if she meant to trespass and didn't care), it was worth it for me to forgive and let it go. For me and my kids. But let me say I had to tell myself that this was the better choice (with thanks and help from the Holy Spirit). So as we drove home from the park, the kids and I talked about how Jesus teaches us to forgive and not focus on how we feel so upset (or what could have happened), as if we need to demand retaliation. What good would that do, anyway? Because we follow a savior, a rabbi, a God who was led like a lamb to the slaughter. He showed us the way to love, the way to let go. It's the way to be free. It's not the easy way, but I know it is THE good way, the right way. And when I get past all the excuses of how "hard it is," it really feels good, too, to forgive. I know this was just a "tuna sandwich," and compared to all the other trespasses/hurts in the world it might not measure up, but it was real for me.  This was a timely circumstance for me this week. And I hope this becomes THE way of our kids, also! I hope it becomes THE way for you, too. However you have been trespassed upon, I know it isn't easy to forgive the number of heinous, sinful atrocities committed against people, but it is for our good (and God's kingdom), that we learn to forgive.

When I was talking with my friend the other night I shared this with him, and God reminded me of it today.

I know God will never have to apologize to us, because he never sins or intends sin upon us. But I do think when face to face with us and all our hurts/wounds/and anger he would say, "I'm sorry that happened to you. I'm sorry you were treated that way. I'm sorry the people I created sinned against you. I'm sorry you were __________, that was never my intention."

Happy Easter
Jesus gave his life to love and forgive you, so you could forgive others.