Friday, September 26, 2008

The Real Deal

When I was in high school, I had really long hair, baggy and tattered clothes, a skateboard in the back of my truck and I played bass in a heavy metal band that was so loud we peeled the paint off of the houses in my neighborhood. I think most of the people who saw me thought that they had me pinned down at first glance. I was sort of automatically lumped in with kids who hated authority and loved marijuana. Of course, what most people didn’t see was the fact that I was doing pretty good in AP Biology II, was the president of FCA and an okay artist. I had a good relationship with my parents, I could sing every word of just about any Motown song and was pretty good friends with a bunch of old people at my church. I know it’s really stinkin’ cliché, but you can’t judge a book, you know?

Well, at some point in between the time when Christy and I got engaged and were married, I had a conversation with her dad about the first time I met him… It was after he spoke at our church one Sunday. I approached him after the service in my typically disheveled and grungy attire and shook his hand; and according to Bill, he wasn’t too pumped about me. Now, granted, I probably looked pretty shady, but I wasn’t really the kind of guy Bill always pictured would end up with his youngest daughter. Of course, we’re good friends these days, but at the time, he was just seeing the obvious: a hair farmer with clown clothes actively pursuing deafness.

One of the things I love about Jesus is that He sees right through everything superficial and knows who we are in the deepest places. He knows and cares about our real problems and needs. Like the time in Mark chapter 2 when some friends brought a paralyzed guy to Jesus and tore a hole in the roof to get him in because it was so crowded… Everyone could see the guy’s problem… it was obvious: he couldn’t walk. That’s why his friends brought him to Jesus. The whole room was waiting with baited breath for Jesus to heal his legs, but Jesus shocked them all by saying, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

It turns out his legs weren’t the problem… at least, they weren’t the real problem. Somewhere in the depths of this guy’s heart he was filled with guilt for wrong stuff he’d done in the past and Jesus saw that. But here’s the thing: Jesus didn’t just see it, but it was the first thing He dealt with. It was all He really cared about when he saw the man, and in an instant this paralytic was free from a burden that far outweighed the shackles of being unable to walk. John tells us in the very first chapter of his Gospel that Jesus came to show us who God is and what He’s like… how amazing is it to know that God sees past all the labels and clichés? He not only knows who I really am, but the stuff He cares about are all the things that really matter most to me. He sees and wants to deal with the stuff that nobody else knows about and He won’t waste time on the legs when the heart is the problem.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Lately Norah has seemed kinda zoned out. Christy thinks she isn’t getting enough sleep which is probably true because she and Anna in the same bedroom equals one mol of laughing, singing, goofing off and oftentimes crying until the parental police squad descends upon the room with swift and terrible justice… as a result, Norah is weepy, fussy and out of it during the day. I’ve watched her walking around the house dreamy-eyed, quietly humming an unknown tune while pouring apple juice all over every inch of upholstery. When I flipped over the pouring of the juice, she just looked up as if snapped out of a trance. I’ve watched her poke family members with sharp objects without any apparent intent to harm… like she was innocent and being mind controlled by Lucius Malfoy or something. Getting her to clean up at the end of the day has been almost impossible because she just can’t focus… it’s like she hasn’t a care in the world.

You know, being careless gets a pretty bad rap. On the one hand, it seems really irresponsible and maybe even selfish, but lately I’ve been thinking that in the spiritual realm, it might not be such a bad quality to have after all. I read a familiar story this week about a man who went out and scattered seed on the ground… some of it grew and produced a great crop, but most of it didn’t. I’m sure you probably know this story inside and out, but in reading it again and just taking some time to think it through, I realized something kinda cool that I hadn’t really thought about before. I realized that growth is all about being careless.

In Jesus’ story, the seed falls on different types of soil, which represent different types of hearts… He said that some seed fell on the path and didn’t grow because birds ate it up… see, the soil on the path was too hard for seeds to grow in. It had been walked on too much. Some people have been walked on too. The things that have happened to them in the past have left them bitter and angry. Their hearts are hard like the dirt on the path and so the devil steals the word before it takes root. Jesus then said that some seed fell on rocky soil and that although it grew, there weren’t good, deep roots so it withered when the sun came up. He said that there are people who believe the word but then can’t handle ill treatment and the persecution that comes. They whither instead of grow. Then Jesus said that some seed fell on soil that was crowded with weeds that choked out the word… these folks want to believe, but they want other stuff more… like money and the things of this world.

It struck me that these unproductive soils represent the hearts of people who have too many cares. Some folks care too much about this world and its stuff. Other folks care too much about what people think of them and still others care too much about the things that have happened to them in the past. Overwhelming cares leave a heart hard, shallow and crowded, but Peter said to cast “all your cares upon Him, for He careth for you.” It is not a bad thing to have a carefree heart… to let go of the past, to let go of trying to impress people and to let go of desires for things that are passing. That’s how you keep a soft, deep and un-crowded heart. That’s how you grow… letting go of cares you shouldn’t have and giving them all to Him. After all, He knows how to properly care for you. It’s not a bad thing to be careless.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Turning Loose

Today Anna started a pre-school program and next month she’ll be five-years-old. I’m smart enough to know what happens next: I turn around good and she’s off to college, an independent, grown-up, full-sized human… I know, I know, I’m overreacting. Look, it’s just that she’s going to school twice a week now for five hours at a time with a back pack, a lunch box and a binder filled with phonics worksheets! Today when she got home from school, she was so pumped… just flitting around the room like Tinkerbell and when I asked her for a hug, I didn’t get one… (pause for dramatic effect)

Sorry, I’m a bit emotional as I type this… it just feels like I’m already losing my little girl. I mean, she’s not so little anymore. She’s getting tall. She’s not so much adorable anymore as she is just really pretty. She has real-live knuckles on her hands instead of those little pseudo-knuckle dimples that babies and toddlers have. She’s got attitudes, opinions and tastes. She has favorite songs that are different from my favorites, and she has started to ask really hard and really awkward questions! I can’t believe she’s almost five! I just can’t believe it! Where did all those years go? And, did I do okay? Did I mess her up? Does she know how crazy I am about her?

I don’t have too many really clear memories from before Kindergarten, and now it seems that all those years from Elementary school through marriage just zoomed by so fast! How fast are these years going to go with Anna? Today, when I asked for that hug and didn’t get it, I realized something: For the rest of my life, I will be letting go. I am going to spend the rest of this thing turning loose of hugs and kisses, tickles and story time. Before I am ready I’ll hear that question dreaded by all daddies of little girls… “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” Whoa, I know I’m jumping the gun here, but hang with me…

At first, when faced with the fact that my baby is almost five, I freaked out, but I’m okay now because this is actually a good thing. It’s good and it’s right. I want her to grow and to move on into whatever is next. I am okay with letting go of this life. I am okay with turning loose my daughters’ hands, my metabolism and (maybe one day) my hair. Life is about letting go. For the Christian, life is all about turning loose. It’s actually how we gain everything. Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Real life comes from turning loose all the stuff that would keep me rooted in this world where I am just a pilgrim passing through… letting go of my pride, my rights, my love of things and my dependence on money… letting go of anger, fear and independence.

As scary as it seems, I think I’m ready to turn loose. I’m ready to let my little girl grow up, (as if I could stop her) and become the woman God is making her into. After all, in just a little while, we’ll all be letting go of this life to enter the eternity we were made for where I won’t really be Anna’s Daddy anymore… in those happy days, I’ll have the incredible honor of just being Anna’s brother, forever.

Well, at least one of 'em is still just a little baby girl:

Friday, September 05, 2008

Christy found a big canvas, so we went out in the back yard, loaded down with paint and collaborated on a homemade piece of art for the new baby... Norah mainly covered her hands in blue paint.


Have you been “rickrolled” yet? A few weeks ago my boy Graham got rickrolled while trying to watch a trailer for the new Harry Potter movie… by the way, if you don’t know, rickrolling is the ridiculous internet phenomenon whereby you click on a link you think will show you a certain clip, but actually takes you to the 1987 music video of Rick Astley’s song, Never Gonna Give You Up. The actual Harry Potter trailer wasn’t due out for a few more days, but Graham got sucked in by some all-caps title… “Exclusive Harry Potter Trailer” or something like that… One reason this rickrolling thing has become so big is that people want to be the first to see those movie trailers. I can remember being in college when the first Star Wars prequel was about to come out… I watched that trailer a kabillion times online, so excited about R2, Yoda, lightsabers and a young Obi Wan Kenobi!

Christy and I love to get to the movies early so we can catch all the trailers… although sometimes you can tell that the funniest jokes were crammed into the previews… and sometimes the trailers are way more dramatic and way cooler than the movies they advertise! I just love sitting in a dark theater and seeing that huge preview screen wash the whole room in a sea of green. Sure, it’s fun to go into a good movie with absolutely zero knowledge of what’s going to happen, but it’s almost irresistible to watch and get a sneak peek.

I was thinking about movie trailers because of something that happened in the first chapter of Mark. It’s a pretty familiar story… you know, the one where the guy who had leprosy came up to Jesus, fell on his knees and begged to be cured? He told Jesus, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was overwhelmed with compassion for the guy and touched him. He was immediately cleansed but Jesus wasn’t finished dealing with him… Jesus looked at the now cured and very excited man and said, “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Well, you know the rest of the story… the guy totally didn’t listen to Jesus. He went all over the place telling everything that moved about what had happened to him… but what if he had listened to Jesus? Why did Jesus want him to go through the old-school priestly rulebook anyway?

Well, it turns out that the sacrifice Jesus told this guy to offer is in Leviticus 14 and it’s really very cool. If you were cured of an infections skin disease, you were supposed to take two birds, a bowl of clean water, a scarlet string and a piece of cedar wood to the priest. The priest would then tie the string around one bird, binding its wings and kill the other bird, pouring its blood into the bowl of fresh water. Then he would take the piece of cedar and the living (but bound) bird and put them down in the blood and water. Then he would sprinkle the cleansed man with the blood seven times, cut the string binding the living bird and release it. The healed man would get to see that blood-covered bird fly off into freedom.

What an awesome moment that would have been for this guy if only he had listened to Jesus! It was like a movie trailer for all Jesus would do to set us free… like a not-yet-rated sneak preview of the cross… There is blood, water and wood. One is bound, the other is free. The free one dies for the bound one. The bound one is covered in the blood of the free, its bonds are cut and it flies off into freedom. Coming soon to a hilltop near you… You know, I bet there is so much freedom out there just waiting on us to simply pay attention to Jesus… so much He wants to reveal to us, if we’d listen and just do what He says.

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