Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Own Worst Enemy

A couple of weeks ago Christy had to run some errands, which meant that I was going to be with the kids, making dinner and cleaning up. I wanted to keep them occupied and interested in something while I made dinner so that they didn’t just trash the house, so I came up with the idea of having them write and illustrate story books for Christy. First of all, let me say that in my extremely biased opinion, both of these monumental works should be published. Norah wrote a story about a butterfly and decided to employ the very Avant-Garde technique of using precisely the same illustration for every page of the book. Anna wrote a book about rainbows which is very informative and entertaining and uses the correct color order on every rainbow.

The thing that surprised me in the midst of all this creative output was Anna’s attitude toward her own book. During the process of writing and drawing, she kept looking over at Norah’s book and encouraging her. She would tell Norah how much liked the butterflies she was drawing and how pretty it looked and then she would follow up by bashing her own drawings, saying things like, “Norah, your book is really beautiful, but I think my book is just really ugly.” Now, you may be thinking, “Well, she was just fishing for compliments... she just wanted to hear someone tell her how awesome her book was.” And maybe that’s the case, but I don’t really think so. When she’s pumped about something she’s done, she’s not afraid to say it. In this case, she seemed to be sincere. I encouraged her a ton about her story and her illustrations, which were really, very cool, but she was convinced it wasn’t very good.

I think most folks do this kind of thing to themselves constantly. I know I do. We don’t see what we’re good at, we don’t know what we’re doing here, we want to be used by God, but don’t really know if that’s happening. If you’re like me, you may even catch an occasional glimpse of how God is using you, only to think, “Yeah, but I bet He’s settling. I’m pretty sure He’d rather use someone else for this...” What I’m talking about isn’t just low self-esteem, it’s spiritual self-sabotage. I look around at other folks and see God at work in their lives, but then I look at myself and see mainly my failures, struggles and doubts. As Mike Mason said one time, if I had any friends that spoke to me the way I speak to myself, I’d fire them as my friend!

In 1 Peter 2, he says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” In Colossians 3, Paul calls us, “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.” You see, the solution to this issue is not about having more self confidence... it’s simply about believing God! He says He picked me. He says I’m different than other folks to Him. He says I’m one of His people. He says I’m holy and dearly loved! He says He wanted me because He loved me.  When it comes right down to it, I don’t have the right to make more of myself than God does, but at the same time, I don’t have any right to say anything less about myself than God does either. If He says it, He means it and it’s true. I’m lovable, useful and special to God, and so are you.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Some pics of Norah reading with Abby this week:

Doesn’t it seem like a lot of our lives are devoted to waiting? Think about it... in the morning, we wait for the water to heat up, wait for the toaster to pop, wait for the bathroom to be free and wait to find out if it’s a snow day or not. We wait for the kids to get their socks and shoes on, wait for a good song on the radio, wait at the red light, wait for coffee in the drive through and then wait for that guy to take his sweet time pulling out of our parking space. We wait for that lady to read the nutrition label on every single can of soup twice before making a choice so we can grab the one we’ve been staring at for 27 minutes and then we wait for that same lady to be the only human being on planet earth who still writes checks.  We wait on prescriptions as well as roller coasters and we can’t wait for our favorite movie to be released. In the late eighties, some of us were even “Waiting on a Star to Fall.”
By the way, has anyone found the loophole when it comes to the waiting room at a doctor’s office?  I mean, some people say you have to get there 15 minutes early or you’ll have to wait for an hour, but I’ve arrived over 30 minutes early and had to wait longer than an hour. On the other hand, I’ve had times where I’ve arrived right on time or a couple minutes late and by the time I’m done with the co-pay, they were calling my name! It doesn’t even help to sit down in the waiting room and count the people who were already there, mentally blocking the ones who arrive after you to figure out when you will go, because they skip the line half the time! Then there is the awkwardness of all the other folks in the waiting room... do I talk to them? Do I pretend they don’t exist? Do I try to become friends or simply refuse eye contact? Do I tell them their kid is cute even though mine is way more cute? I mean, what in the world are we supposed to do during all this waiting?!
This morning I read a really cool couple of verses in Luke 23. This was right after our Lord was crucified. Luke says, “Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.”
The thing that really struck me about this passage was the way Luke said Joseph was “waiting for the kingdom of God.” Usually waiting means doing nothing... I would have thought waiting for the kingdom of God might mean sitting around on your hands just waiting for God to make this thing happen, but that’s not the way Joseph waited! Luke says that his waiting involved a whole lot of action! He stood up to the rest of the Sanhedrin when he thought they were wrong. When Jesus was dead, He stood up in Pilate’s face and asked for the body. Then he tenderly wrapped the body and placed our Lord in his own brand new tomb. 
It turns out that the Greek word we’ve translated “waiting” is used other places in the New Testament and the other times it’s used, it’s translated “looking for,” “accepting” and even “receiving” like in Luke 15:2 when they criticized Jesus because they said, “This man receives sinners.” It’s the same word! Joseph of Arimathea wasn’t just sitting on his can waiting for the kingdom! No, he was looking for the kingdom, accepting what the kingdom means, receiving what kingdom folks have to go through! He was standing up for what’s right even though people didn’t like him because of it! He was tenderly showing love to Jesus when no one else was looking and even when no one else was around. I want to be like that! I want to wait like he did!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Something to Sing About
Lately, whenever I write praise songs, I write them with my brothers who are in jail in mind. I think it’s because their issues and struggles are so clear and easy to pin down that the lyrics just flow naturally. All I have to do is just think about Unit 2 at the Anderson County Detention Facility and imagine I’m in there... I think about what I would need to hear, what I would need to sing about and what I would need to hold onto in order to stay encouraged and loving Jesus. I think about what those guys share and what they have to go through and the songs just write themselves! The great thing I’ve learned from doing this is that these so-called ‘jail’ songs work just fine in our worship services at Christ Community with folks who have never been within a mile of the lockup! In fact, these songs (which are often lyrically more direct than other praise songs) have been absolute home runs with our church people and I think it all has to do with the fact that incarcerated or not, we all basically have the same spiritual struggles and needs! 
We all need to be reminded all the time that Jesus still loves us and wants us, no matter how bad we’ve been. We all need to sing about the fact that not only is it okay if we can’t make it on our own, it’s actually better that way! We all need to be told daily that we are weak and completely needy. We all need to be singing about the fact that Jesus didn’t just halfway save us from some of our sins, but He set us free completely from all of our wrong, past, present and future! Our newest praise song for the jail is called “I’m Going Home” and it’s all about heaven... man, you should have heard those brothers singing that song in Unit 2! They had never heard it before, but they brought it like it was their job! Not only that, but we sang the song at CCC on sunday morning and they brought it too! 
Tom and I were at the jail one day and one of the brothers told me that the previous Friday marked his third year in Unit 2. Whew... I couldn’t handle that information. I mean, it’s a rough place to be for one hour a week. I can’t imagine three years there with a wife and a little girl on the outside. I asked myself, “What would I be desperate to know and sing about if I had just served my third year in this place?” ...and then I remembered the words of Jesus in John 14 where He said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” I remembered the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4 which say, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
I would want to sing about heaven! I would be ‘loving His appearing’ and dreaming about that Great Day! Over and over again in the Scriptures, the hope of the Gospel is the hope of heaven: that we have a home that is not of this world - that we have a place we were truly made for where there will be no more pain, sorrow, sin or death ever again - that Jesus Himself is coming back for us to take us to be with Him forever! Oh man, if that’s true, then I can make it through anything! If heaven is real, I can make it through the tough  and confusing times, the sad and hopeless times and really whatever kind of times come my way! If this life is short and then at the end, (because I have believed in Jesus) I get to be with Him forever in endless joy and sweet, ceaseless fellowship with everyone who loves Him, well then, I can make it through just about whatever... Now that’s something to sing about!
Isaiah 25 says, “O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago... On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."

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