Twinkle, Twinkle, little…Supernova? Thoughts on worship and perspective

I have a five year old daughter, which means I’m bound to look at all young men suspiciously for the rest of my life. It also means that I’m usually covered in glitter. My nemesis. I have no idea where the stuff comes from. But I’ve got this thought about glitter, which is this: Glitter is like sin. Easy to apply to your body, but VERY difficult to remove.

Having a five year old daughter also means there are a handful of songs that we sing together on repeat. Obviously, there’s the song “who shall not be named.” For those of you without young daughters, I’m referring to the main song from a movie that rhymes with “Frozen.” You’ll get yours, Disney. You’ll get yours.

But there are loads of great songs we sing as well. One such song is, “Twinkle, Twinkle, little star.” This, in addition to “Jesus loves me,” “Somewhere over the rainbow,” and “Somewhere out there” are on the list of our most frequently sung bedtime lullabies. One night as we were singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, little star” this thought occured to me.

In the span of the whole universe, our sun is only an average sized star. It’s 93 million miles away, burns at 27 million degrees Farenheit and can fit 1.3 million Earth’s inside it.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star?

Perspective is everything. You wouldn’t sing “Twinkle” while standing in front of a supernova. It’s the same with our worship. Our distance to the object of our worship determines our perspective, which dictates our response.

I’ve often wondered how we can sing the songs we sing on Sunday mornings, without being wholly moved to our core in worship. Unfortunately, I’m guilty of this most days, not just Sundays. I stand there, sipping my coffee, critiquing “the experience,” wondering what I’m going to eat for lunch. I’m realizing that there’s a fundamental disconnect between my perspective and reality. There’s too much distance between me and the One I worship.

This is one of the great mysteries of our faith, that:

“He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in” Isaiah 40:22

And yet, He still wants intimate relationship with us. This is the reality we live in that, if seen in the right perspective, should change everything:

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” — Ephesians 2:1

I’m learning….albeit very slowly, that the closer I become with the Lord through times of prayer, reading the Bible asking for revelation, and worship, that my perspective changes — the sun closes in. The songs I sing begin to come alive — stirring my heart to worship appropriately. Not “twinkle, twinkle, little star,” but rather,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

Treehouses, Dreams and Solid Foundations

Last summer, I decided to build my kids a tree house. They don’t spend much time outside, even though we live on acreage. My wife and I grew up on or near property, so living this way feels normal to us. We’ve got a dog, chickens and tons of space for the kids to explore. But they’re totally content in their 10′ x 10′ bedrooms, incessantly asking us to get them “this” or to get them “that.” My hope was that a treehouse would give them their own space outside, and would give us some small, but glorious, quiet time.

Problem with the treehouse is, i’m not very handy. Let me give you an example. I’ve got this truck. It’s a ’92 Ford F-250. It’s a man’s truck.

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One day, it just wouldn’t start. So I did what most men would do…I “popped the hood.” I found myself staring at a bunch of metal and wires that I had no business messing with. After much Googling, I decided that the problem was either the battery, the starter relay, or the starter itself. I figured that since the lights were working, it wasn’t the battery. I tried bypassing the starter relay, which didn’t work, so my next guess was the starter. I learned that if you hammer on the starter, it can loosen whatever is inside and it will work again. So I grabbed a hammer thinking that, if this works, it’s the simplest fix. There was only one thing wrong with this plan. I had no idea what the starter was or where to find it. I decided to do the obvious thing and just start hammering random crap around the engine. I did this for a few minutes and then tried to start the truck again. You won’t be surprised that it still wouldn’t start.

In the end, it was in fact the starter, which I eventually found and replaced myself. Truck works fine now, and I feel slightly better about my manhood, but the point of the story is just to say that building a treehouse myself is ill-advised and will undoubtedly result in someone getting seriously injured. But I decided to build it anyway.

I found a tree on our property, shaped like a cobra about to strike. It’s a great treehouse tree because you can literally walk up the trunk and into the treehouse. Check it out…

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Cool, huh?

Because the tree is on a hillside, I needed to anchor the treehouse with 4″x4″s, two of which you can see in the picture above. That’s the back of the treehouse, where you enter.  The front two 4″x4″‘s were much longer because of the slope of the hill – about 25 feet long. There’s about a 15 foot drop from the front of the treehouse to the ground. Seriously dangerous. But they’ll be walls and stuff….what could go wrong, right?

After I installed the four 4″x4″s, I took a two month break. Those of you who have kids know how hard it is to get home improvement projects done. So there it sat, just four posts sticking out of the ground. But after my hiatus, I was onto the next task of bolting 2″x4″s around the posts, making a square which I would attach the floor joists to. I made quick work of that, and then took another break. This time only one month. I was getting quicker each time i picked up a hammer!

Next was attaching the floor joists, then I would install the floor, the walls, the roof, and then i’d slap a coat of paint on it, send the kids up and see them next for high school graduation.

I began installing the hangers (metal thingys that hold the floor joists for those of you who aren’t badass builders like myself). The treehouse is 8 foot by 8 foot, so it was going to take about 6 joists (2″x4″s). I was able to get the joists attached on the outside, but then I couldn’t get to the middle ones because the structure was too tall and my tallest ladder was too short.

So i decided to put a half sheet of plywood across the edges of the outside floor joists. If you can’t picture this, just think….dangerous. Then, multiply the danger by 10. This is what it looked like after I got all of the floor joists attached.

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As I laid on the plywood, 20ft in the air, trying to nail in the last of the floor joists, after months of working on this stupid treehouse, I found myself wanting to be done with the floor so I could move on to the walls and the paint and then celebrate the accomplishment. Laying there, hanging over the side, I had the all too common experience of trying to put the screws in the wood, only to have them fall to the ground before they caught the wood. I must have done this about 20 times. Grab my screwdriver, grab a screw. Hold the screw with one hand and the drill with the other. Press the screw to the wood, begin to drill….screw drops 15 feet to the ground. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. The ground below the treehouse was starting to look like a minefield.

I also had a pencil in my ear to mark where the hangers were supposed to go. In between dropping screws, I dropped this. Every time something fell, I got up off my stomach, walked down the tree, down the hill, picked up the screw or pencil, walked back up the hill, into the tree, back onto my stomach and began dropping crap again. Finally, I accidentally knocked over my tape measure, which was resting on one of the joists. I had had it. The words I was saying were not blessings. As I was making my way down the tree for the 20th time, I felt God say something to me, which was

“Spend your years on the foundation, not the walls.”

Now, I’m not sure what your walls are specifically, but it occurred to me that our walls are the things that people see. They are the outward manifestation of our inward desires. Our walls can be things like influence, beauty, security or fame. They can be tangible as well. For me, they are writing a book, recording music or speaking to the church.

I should say that I don’t believe these “walls” are bad. Just the opposite actually. I think we fail when we deny the authority and mantle that the Lord has given each of us. We all have talents and abilities that are unique – that should be fostered well and shared within the sphere of influence God has given us. So let’s not get confused that pursuing the dreams that God puts in us is selfish, or means we have bad motives. It’s just that our walls are the by-products, the output, of what should be our primary pursuit. See, once you’ve got a solid foundation, the walls come up easy.

Proverbs 9 says that as we plan our course, the Lord establishes our steps. Do you know what “establish” means in that verse? It means, “to institute permanently by agreement.” We set our course, based upon our abilities and desires. Then, upon agreement with the Lord, they are instituted permanently. Permanently. It’s so important that we understand the implication of this promise. See, our problem isn’t that our dreams are too big – it’s that they’re too small! I don’t know about you, but i don’t want to look back on my life and see nothing that I couldn’t have done on my own. I want my life to be marked by this agreement – planning my course and then….step…..step…..step….each step instituted permanently. Each step leaving a deep mark in the soil of my life through partnership and agreement with God. I want to build permanent walls, as high as He’d have me build.

But here’s the thing – the quality of your foundation will determine the height of your structure.

Have you ever played Jenga? Good, so you understand that as you pull those wooden pieces from the bottom, you weaken the foundation and the tower begins to wobble. It’s only a matter of time before it crumbles because the foundation can’t support it. The quality of your foundation will determine the height of your structure.

In 1 Kings, chapter 6, Solomon begins building the Temple of the Lord, to house the Ark of the Covenant. The stones used to build the foundation of the temple couldn’t be cut at the temple site. They had to be prepared in the quarry by craftsmen and brought, finished, to the temple site. I won’t go into the history of this requirement from Solomon, but it’s a throwback to a command by God in Deuteronomy 27 not to use any iron tool on the stones of the altar on Mount Ebal. Can you imagine how much work this took?

Just to give you an idea of scale, the quarry (under Mount Moriah) is 330 ft wide and 650 ft deep. That’s one football field wide and two football fields deep. Solomon hired 80,000 stonecutters and 70,000 carriers for the stones. No heavy machinery. They had to go into this quarry, cut the stones and then haul them to the site of the temple.

Solomon didn’t care how many people, or how long it took. The stones used for the foundation of the temple had to be the best sourced and crafted that he could find. It took him seven years to finish the temple. The thing that amazes me is this. Chapter 6, Verse 18 says, “The inside of the temple was cedar, carved with gourds and open flowers. Everything was cedar; no stone was to be seen.”

Solomon used the finest materials and laborers he could find for a foundation that would NEVER be seen.

So my question for us is, are we willing to spend our years on the foundation? Are we willing to spend our time in the quarry, honing our craft, deepening our relationship with the Lord? My hope is that more of us experience this upwelling of dreams that can’t be done outside of agreement and partnership with God – that our steps towards those dreams are established permanently, and that the walls we build are worthy of the One we build for.

Cursors & Creativity

Cursors are so annoying. As if you didn’t put enough pressure on yourself to create, there’s that stupid, blinking line, always one stroke ahead of you, just….waiting. Did you know that cursors blink at the same rate as the Jeopardy song? Seriously, I checked (120 bpms for anyone that cares). I mean, I’ve got a job and taxes to deal with. The last thing I need is the universe trying to be cute.

But I digress.

Hi. You’ve found me eleven days into the New Year, trying to make good on a resolution. I’m not usually a fan of online social platforms used almost solely to talk about trite, personal ambition. But then again….Facebook. So, I thought I’d use this space to fill you in on what I’m hoping for in the new year. It’s going to be a biggie. I’ve got two goals for creative work for this year:

  1. Start a business
  2. Write a book

I know, trust me. Getting one of those out of the gate would be huge. However, I tend to feel ambitious in January. Oddly enough, the cold weather is really inspiring. I tend to get depressed in the summer, which I know is backwards.

One of the deep realizations I had at the end of 2105 was that I have to create to feel healthy. If you’re reading this, maybe you feel the same way. If not, now is a good time to stop reading, as the rest of the post will be of no value to you.

Creativity is (in my mind) the output of ability, time and inspiration. You’re born with the first, manage the second and partner with the third. For the last few years, my creative output has been at an all-time low. I can’t overstate the negative impact this has had on me. Most regularly, I’ve blamed a lack of time. While a common justification, it’s also irritating to hear others complain about how “busy” they are, so I cringe every time the words leave my mouth. Also, many people have done more with less, so I decided that lack of time is a mental construct. For me, I have to wake up earlier, go to bed later, or better yet, manage my days more effectively. So if it’s not time, and if it’s true that I was born with the ability to create, it leaves only inspiration to blame.

I’ve found inspiration to be tricky. It’s like a building a fire. You have to tend to the flame or it will self-extinguish. Creativity without inspiration usually results in bad art. The problem is that inspiration won’t come to you unless you’re prepared for it. For me, that means making “space” in my head. Busyness of mind is a killer. I’m not sure how else to explain it, but I know that it’s active and takes discipline. Trying to force creativity without inspiration is like letting down the sails of a boat, only to realize that you’re stuck on the reef at low tide. Inspiration is the water that lifts the boat. But then the real work begins.

When all three elements are working in unison (ability, time and inspiration), you’ve still got do something with the spark. This (I think) is where many creatives stop; the purgatory between ability and output. It’s the hard, hard work of making good art. Learning to manage time and tend the flame. But like C.S. Lewis says, “let choirs sing well or not at all.” So this year, for me, is about creating. Creating to feel healthy and creating because it’s what I was designed for. Here’s to what I hope will be good art.

Where did all the sinners go?

“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30)

There aren’t enough left-handed, one-eyed sinners in the Kingdom.

I’m fairly certain that Jesus doesn’t intend this to be taken literally. I think we would all agree that the root of sin is in our hearts and minds. Further, the thing that we call “sin” is often the manifestation of the thing itself that is killing us. It’s a bit like the chicken and the egg problem. Which comes first? Which is more destructive? Is it the lying or the selfishness that needs to be dealt with – the second look or the lust – the abuse or the pride? I would argue that while both are devastating, dealing with the root is far more helpful that talking about the rotten fruit. We Christians love to talk about the manifestations and not the sin itself. Probably because it’s just easier. Also, we can hide sins that don’t manifest themselves physically. Unfortunately, Christians have become experts at concealing sin. I’ve meet so many (myself included) that love to point the finger at folks dealing with big, “external” sins relating to sexuality and drunkenness while never dealing with the pride and selfishness inside our own hearts that can easily lead to the sins we convict others of.

Honestly, I’m just tired of hiding. I want to deal with this stuff and I believe the only way we will be successful is if we are honest with a small, trusted community around us that can hold us accountable.

So, because we need to deal with the root of sin, I think it’s interesting that Jesus is talking about plucking out our eyes and cutting off our hands. At first I thought that it was related to output. We kill with our hands and lust with our eyes. But I’m becoming convinced that Jesus is talking about input. How sin enters the body. There’s definitely a cancerous element to sin. What enters through the eye infects the whole body. Disease spreads through touch. In that sense, quarantining the infection site might prevent death to the whole body.

But who are we kidding? Sin is part of our nature. We’re born sinners, so what chance do we have? Even if I’m a deaf, blind, quadruple amputee, I’ve still got a heart that is prone to wander from God. It’s depressing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll continue to fight sin with all of my might. But maybe we’re missing the point. Maybe it’s not the act of gouging out an eye, but rather, the willingness to live with the scar? The truth is, we all have them anyway. We all bear the weight of our fight with sin. Just because you don’t see the scars doesn’t mean they’re not there. Maybe we need more outward expressions of our fight with sin? Christians aren’t different because we are more holy in and of ourselves, but our pursuit of holiness should show the difference. We should wear the road on our bodies and in our conversations and attitudes towards others. Maybe that’s what this passage is about. Putting our sin on display so that we can’t hide it anymore. Understanding the cancer and taking drastic measures to make sure it doesn’t spread. Mostly about humility towards our “Great Physician,” who will one day wash away our disease.

I think this plays out in honest dialogue with those that we would otherwise condemn. Maybe we start by being truthful with ourselves in our churches and home groups. Because the reality is, we’re not going to stop sinning. We can’t expect the message to those outside the church walls to be, “stop!” We can’t even do it ourselves. The message isn’t the sin – it’s the Savior.

The Pegasus and the Palomino

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become…..different?”

In explaining what happens through salvation, C.S. Lewis uses the example of the horse and the Pegasus. He says that it’s not as if Christ made a new breed of horse. He made a winged horse. A Pegasus is a completely different creature – a new type of creature that does not exist in nature. Me? I live like a Palomino. I might be a different color, but I’m still a horse. Do you ever feel that way? Why is it that so many of us forget about our wings? Maybe part of the problem is our trying to make Christianity accessible – and with making Christians the access point. On our own, we are incapable of the kind of transformation that salvation manifests. At best, we can get ourselves and others to walk the walk and talk the talk. But make no mistake – we’re still horses. When we believe that Christ came into nature to create something new, we also understand that Christ alone accomplishes that work.

“In a sense, the change is not “Evolution” at all, because it is not something arising out of the natural process of events but something coming into nature from outside” – C.S. Lewis

The most fundamental truth of Christianity, and the most difficult to accept (and by accept, I mean that acceptance causes a behavioral change) is that Christ did the work to set us free from sin. There’s nothing that any of us could do to earn salvation. Basic, right? We all say it, but then live differently. Often, I forget that truth and attempt to go at it alone. I forget the complete transformation I’ve undergone through Christ’s work on the cross. When I become the access point, I try to convince people that we Christians aren’t much different than the rest of humanity. You don’t have to stop drinking, smoking, cussing or watching R-rated movies to become a Christian. I want to make it easy for people. I can’t change their hearts, so I try to change their actions. And let’s be honest with ourselves. Sometimes that’s all we want – a horse of a different color. We are more comfortable with those that act the part while far from Christ, than those who are rough around the edges but love Jesus with all their hearts. When we attempt to do the work of the Holy Spirit, this is as good as it gets. It’s a change, not a new creation.

In some ways, it’s true that we’re not that different, but then again, “different” isn’t what we’re going for, is it? Saying that a horse isn’t that different from a Pegasus is mostly true, except that you miss the most critical feature. Likewise, believers aren’t that different from non-believers, as long as you don’t account for the wings.

So maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe it’s not “how different are we,” but rather, “what do we do with the transformation…with the newness?”

It goes back to the access point. It’s Jesus that begins and ends the work. We have a choice in accepting salvation, but our decision is dependent upon the position of our hearts. Christianity is a choice like grabbing for a floatation device is a choice to a drowning man. What causes action isn’t seeing the floatation device, it’s realizing that you’re drowning. A humble heart sees the decision as an easy one. The difficulty comes later, when we ask ourselves what I believe is the right question. “Now what? What will I do with my wings?”

The fact that Christ has made you a new creation will only move you if you understand the discrepancy between who you were and who you are being made to be. This is the beauty of what Jesus did. He came into Nature. The light shone into the darkness. It shot through the cracks and gave hope that soon, the dawn will turn to day.

If we believe that the “difference” is darkness to light, blind to sight and old to new, it changes our belief in the work of the cross, and hopefully, the position of our hearts towards God. It changes how we live and how we interact with each other. If you’re like me – if you feel anything less than gratitude, awe and reverence towards God….you’d better check your wings.

Progress

It’s strange how you can look back on the past year and realize that the things that held the least value were the ones that took the majority of your time. How does that happen? Is it wrong, or is that just the way life goes?

As I’ve grown, I’ve seen men become shadows of their former selves – devoid of any passion for life. It’s like they just got…stuck or something. They were doing life, but not really living it. I would later attribute this to a loss of purpose, but would describe it as a conscious decision. It wasn’t like flipping a switch though – it wasn’t just one decision. I’d see men walking around like robots who, when they got home from work, didn’t have anything left for their families. I knew that this didn’t happen overnight. I knew that it was the result of hundreds of decisions they had made every day.

When I was in college, I was really living. Weren’t we all? A normal day entailed waking up around 9am and going to classes, then journaling at a coffee shop downtown for about six hours, then going to worship practice, then to a Bible study. I never felt more alive, and I swore nothing would ever change, because in my mind, it wouldn’t need to. I knew that I would have a job and a family and stuff, but how much would that really change? It’s the kind of naivety that causes married people to think that after they have children they’ll still be able to stay out until 10pm or travel or eat nice meals or drink their coffee while it’s still hot, or hell – even shower. Life was easy in college. I could taunt life because I was in the shark cage. I vowed to never let life steal my passion. And it didn’t – until a few years ago.

Turns out I wasn’t even wrong. I still believe that we have conscious decisions to make every day in order to keep our passion. I still believe that we have to be purposeful. What I wasn’t prepared for though, was the struggle. I’ve realized now that robot mode is our default setting, and it takes deliberate effort to avoid it. I’m not saying that’s how God created us or anything, just that it’s the path of least resistance. I fell into the trap partly because I got so caught up in doing the daily activities that I forgot the larger picture. I brought a knife to a gun fight.

Granted, there are things we have to do. However, there are also things that we need to do, and unfortunately in my case, they were the first to go. Usually, we end up doing what we have to do, followed by what we should do. If we are lucky enough to have some time for what we NEED to do, it usually ends up futile. Take me for example. I ended up staring at a blinking cursor on those occasions. I didn’t have anything left. My priorities were all out of whack and it was seriously affecting myself and my family. Recently, I’ve made a decision to get more deliberate about my life. It’s not going to get any easier, and since I’ve tried to handle it myself and failed, I think it’s time to surrender. Leave it to Jesus to make surrender the one sure way to victory.

I’m going through this great exercise over the next eight weeks or so, which should reveal a lot about my attributes and characteristics, giving me some insight about myself so that I can have a plan for my future. I’m curious to see if my strengths and weaknesses are what I think they will be. Whatever the case, it’s going to be progress – and that my friends, is something I’ve been waiting for.

When the black sheep is the most holy

If you ask me, one of the most intimidating verses in the Bible is Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” This is especially frightening to me because I seem to have made a hobby of picking fights. If you’ve read this blog lately, it seems to have become a forum for challenging the thoughts and positions that Christians hold most dear. This is a change I’m actually happy to accept. It’s not because I think I’ve got all the answers. To be honest, on a good day I’m likely half wrong, and completely off base on the others. Which…brings me to my next question.

In 1 Timothy, Paul talks about the qualifications of deacons and bishops. I suppose you can argue about whether this is or isn’t for the modern church, but my personal belief is that it is. Maybe we don’t have deacons and bishops in our local church, but I think we can accept that church leaders need to be appointed by the church, and there should be certain criteria by which they are chosen. The interesting thing is that most of the requirements given to either position are outward actions (i.e. the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, not double-tongued, etc). Because leaders are typically appointed by members of the church, how else are we supposed to choose the right candidate, except if we use actions to determine the position of the heart. This is where the slippery-slope begins. How do we choose the right leader when outwardly, he could be blameless, yet on the inside, he’s full of pride? On the other hand, what if someone doesn’t exactly “fit the mold,” but is the most righteous?

The bottom line is that we do the best we can, but ultimately, we don’t know the condition of a heart. My concern with how we hire the typical church leader is that they seem too good to be true. The problem is two-fold. First, when the church finds out that they are actually human and capable of mistakes, it sets the leader up for a massive fall and the church up for undue disappointment. Secondly, it creates a sense in the general congregation that, should they as a layman fall short of this example (which is hardly ever the reality of the person in the leadership role) they aren’t a “good Christian.” I should say that I’ve had the privilege of knowing many local pastors who make no qualms about their humanity. Bryan Stupar, Ron Salsbury and Paul Sisemore, just to name a few, are completely imperfect, and they’d be the first to admit it from the pulpit.

That said, here’s a question for you. Would you hire someone who smokes, drinks and curses, but absolutely loves Jesus, as your pastor? Most churches would say absolutely not. It seems to fly in the face of what we consider a good witness of the gospel of Christ. Or does it? What if I told you that man was C.S. Lewis – a man guilty of all four offenses? This is the disconnect; that if you asked a church if they would hire C.S. Lewis as their pastor, they would undoubtedly say yes. But if you simply looked the outward actions, without knowing the man, you would never consider it, which begs the question – is C.S. Lewis not qualified to be a church leader, or are we looking at the wrong criteria when making our decisions? It seems as if Christians put a lot of stock in what not to do. So much so that my fear is that it outweighs the question of, does this person love Jesus? Personally, I refer to Matthew 7. I don’t know the condition of the heart, and many times, the outward actions are not an adequate representation of the position of the heart. To be honest, I’m more afraid of the “too good to be true’s” than the “C.S. Lewis’.”

The real question is, what makes us clean? Ultimately, it’s nothing external – it’s Jesus. If this weren’t the case, we’d all be screwed, right? But the beauty of the Christian church is that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be effective. Our witness is that Christ came for sinners, of which we are king. So, given that we are all on the same playing field, maybe it’s time that we reconsider how we choose those responsible to lead us. Since we can’t know the condition of the heart, we are limited to external markers. Just make sure that the external marker you are judging someone by isn’t trumped by your internal sin.

Ultimately, I don’t have an answer to the question of criteria. I’m not sure how to choose the right leader for your church. I’m just saying that we should be careful – because it might be that the black sheep is the right one for the job.

A Tribe of Nomads

A few weeks ago, I heard that my generation is referred to as the “Joshua Generation,” by some in the Christian camp. Most likely, the title was bestowed upon us by our own, which is hardly the way to claim a such a thing. I’d never heard of the term “Joshua Generation,” but when I dug a bit deeper, I found that it’s referring to Joshua 6 where, under the leadership of Joshua, the Israelites claimed the city of Jericho. It’s a great story and one that a generation would be glad to claim as their own. It’s a story of dedication and victory, and of God’s promises. Someone was bound to claim this story at some point – might as well be us. Interesting how no one has claimed the story of Job yet. Guess the themes of suffering and faithfulness aren’t quite as popular.

Back in the day, us twenty and thirty-somethings were lucky enough to be part of an outpouring of God through worship that was rich, intimate and seemingly worldwide. It lasted years and years, and then, it was gone – like God went silent. The power left the room and all of the sudden everything felt so….hollow. So many of us believed that we were promised the world. That we’d see a revolution in the world like none we’d ever seen before. It was an exciting time and we were full of hope and confidence. But then the well went dry and we were left wondering what happened. Eventually, the crowd scattered. Prophets became plumbers and worship leaders became salesmen. We entered the desert and became a tribe of nomads. It’s been nine years since I joined the tribe. Nine years since God stopped speaking. (I know some of you are shaking your heads, saying that God never stops speaking. I respectfully disagree. I absolutely believe that He is constantly speaking indirectly, through the Bible and those around us. But for a while, there was a tangible sense of God’s presence. We heard the voice of God in those days. Even in the Bible, just as the Lord chooses when to speak, He also chooses when to silence Himself).

The thing about the desert is that it always lasts longer than you think it should. You begin telling yourself that this is just a season. You tell God that you’ve learned your lesson. In my case, I told him that I’d been broken, that I was made humble. Now I was ready to run, ready to conquer the world, ready to become famous and “just like the moon, I’d reflect the sun.” All that crap. In the desert, you remind God about His promises. You grumble and complain and walk in circles. It’s boring and you feel useless. This is my problem with the “Joshua Generation” tag. It sounds all privileged and exciting, but everyone forgets the 40 years spent in the desert by Moses and the people of Israel prior to bringing down the walls at Jericho. An event that even Moses didn’t get to witness. Forty years is a long time to wander in the desert for a six day event. Which one of you would take 40 years in the desert for 6 days across the Jordan. Or spend 30 years preparing for a 3 year ministry like Jesus? No one wants to be the “Desert Generation.” We’ve all got it in our heads that we spend 3 years preparing for a 30 year ministry, which seems to be counter-biblical.

So, do I think that God is done with us? Not at all. But I think He’s made us nomads for a reason. There is something that happens in the desert that doesn’t and cannot happen anywhere else. You are exposed in the desert. You’re just out there – no where to hide. Completely exposed to the elements. There is no culture or promise to hide behind. But I’ll tell you something that is absolutely true. You will find yourself in the desert. When you’ve been beaten down and hustled enough, you’ll realize that you’re not as strong as you think you are. You’ll discover that you don’t care for who you’ve become and then you’ll realize that who you’ve become is who you’ve been all along – you’ve just lost the fig leaf.

For years I asked the Lord when He would let me leave. These days, I’ve stopped asking. Partly because I’ve just lost the drive, but mostly because I’ve gotten used to the heat. You will never leave the desert until you’ve learned to live in the elements – until you’ve traded your clothes for camel’s hair and your caviar for locusts. Recently though, some of my friends have left the desert. They’ve begun hearing God again. The transformation has been exactly that. Something akin to a butterfly emerging from the cocoon. They are different people now. With an authority and passion that only God can birth. But they know that their home is in the desert. That in time, they will return to their tribe and begin another season of challenges and growth. But for the time being, they are giving it all they’ve got, taking hold of God’s promises and seeing them become reality.

You can call my generation whatever you want. I’ve gotten used to the sandals and I’ll wander around wherever He will have me.

Domo Arigato….

8am conference call, then 3 hours of sales, 2 hours of administration and 3 more hours of sales. Repeat.

These have been my days and weeks.

I remember telling Jenn, shortly after we were married, that I refused to become a man who came home from work lifeless and went through the motions with his family like a robot. I refused to give work the best of me – the good stuff that belongs to my family. I saw it over and over again, men who took jobs they hated to provide for their family. And while providing for their family, they lost themselves, and ultimately – their families lost them. The men who lost their soul in the pursuit.

Six years later, my determination hasn’t wained, but the fight has left me black and blue. I now respect the men I used to pity. Putting your own dreams and ambitions on the back burner to serve your family is admirable. Doing what is necessary is respectable, not cowardly. Jenn deals with the same thing as a mother. Mothers lose so much in the transaction. Every time I want to complain, I remember what she sacrifices daily. Then I sing “Eye of the Tiger” and tell myself to stop being a sissy. Although I struggle, I realize that this is life. It’s much harder and much more complicated than I ever thought it would be. But the tougher life gets, the harder I fight. I fight for my boy and my wife. I fight for what I feel defines me. My friend Cameron posted this on his Facebook. “The busy life murders our hearts.” That’s exactly what I’m talking about. I’m fighting to retain my heart.

I fully believe that while we provide and sacrifice for the ones we love, we still need to pursue what we love. That’s what this blog is for me. What is it for you?

The Bird and the Open Cage

An old man sits in a worn out recliner, looking out the window to a world that has long since forgotten him. The ten by ten room he occupies contains all of his earthly possessions. The home belongs to his children, to which he is grateful for the space and patience. A birdcage sits atop an old wooden bookshelf, and much like the man, the bird walks the walls of a cage with an open door. Neither are bound by desire, only by circumstance. The world has grown too large for them, and these days, one open door surely leads to another closed door.

As I walk into the room, the gentleman stands up, using the arms of the chair to leverage his old body against gravity. This time, he wins, and reaches out to shake my hand. “What’s your name, son” he asks with a gentle smile on his face. I answer and notice a large bible on the table next to the chair. After we talk over some particulars relating to his medical condition, he asks me a question. “Have you found a church young man?” “Yes Sir, I have” I answer. “That’s good. That’s good,” he replies. “We need each other more than we know. Need to encourage one another to love and good deeds.” I realized this was a rhetorical question, but still answer, “Yes. Yes we do.”

“How I’d love to get back behind the pulpit,” the man explains. “I can’t anymore because of my breathing,” he says pointing at his chest. “My wife and I had the privilege of starting many churches across the country, and worked with a lot of young men just like yourself. I lost my wife two years ago…” The old man looked down at the floor and shuffled his feet a bit. “Sixty-five years we spent together, son. Sixty-five glorious years. You see, my wife worked with the youth. She loved working with young men and women like yourself. Loved to see what the good Lord was doing in their lives.” He looked down again, trying to gather his thoughts. “I’ve preached hundreds of funeral messages, and you know what I’ve learned?” “What’s that,” I asked. He answered, “I’ve learned that it’s a whole lot easier to tell someone that it’s going to be alright when it’s their wife that’s gone and not yours. You see, it’s easy to trust God when things are good. But these days I just miss my wife something awful.” “Anyway,” he said. “I’m glad you’ve found a good church.”

“I’m going to a church up the road now,” he said. “Beautiful property….and paid for. Oh, we’ve had a rough time until recently. We’re a small body of believers, but we’ve got a young pastor now and I’m excited to see what he does. If you’re ever in the area, will you come?” “I’d love to visit your church,” I answer sincerely. “If you come, will you and your family sit next to me?” “Of course we will,” I respond. “Oh, to get behind the pulpit again,” the man said emphatically. “I’d love to preach about hope and faith. We’re in troubled times, aren’t we son? But Jesus is alive, and he’s sittin’ on the throne. And that’s good news for us, isn’t it? I tell you what, son. If you and your family come to church, would you pray with me? We Christians need each other badly, don’t you think? In fact, why don’t we just pray now.” The old man reached out and covered my hands in his and began to pray.

“Lord God Almighty. We come to you this morning and thank you. We thank you for your many blessings. And Lord, I pray that you would be with Travis and his young family. Lord, protect that two year old of his and give Travis the wisdom to raise him up in the ways of the Lord. Do not be far from him oh Lord, and cover him with your mercies, won’t you. All these things we pray in Jesus’ mighty name.”

“Amen?” he asked.
“Amen,” I answered. “Amen.”