I was told today that I should write a children's book, so that all of my creativity didn't go to waste. I took that idea, and this is what I came up with. This will be the first of many :).
When you are serving God together, you are attacked spiritually. You get drained, and tired, and you need those around you to strengthen you when you get weak. When someone mentally and spiritually checks out of church leadership, it is devistating to everyone who served with them.
I think of Band of Brothers when I talk about this. I imagine being in a foxhole, much like the Bastogne foxholes, knowing that the enemy isn't going to let up, knowing that there is still a long fight ahead. I am already tired and trying to fight the fear inside of me, when I look beside me...
When you commit to be a part of a family of believers, a "Band of Brothers," you forfeit the right to hold anything back. This IS warfare, and the danger from the enemy is real. Being in our clean, over-sterilized world has made this harder to comprehend, and this is why the church is failing to gain traction. Too many soldiers in the Lord's American Army are too busy looking out for themselves to be of any use against the enemy. They are more liable to point their guns at their fellow soldiers than at the enemy. When the battle gets tough, they either make it tougher, or simply walk away.
The saddest thing is, by walking away or making the battle tougher, they just bring more pain upon themselves, and those who dared to consider them brothers.
To love a stray was to love an imperfect creature, a creature who may one day make a mess somewhere you didn't expect, who may carry the fear or anger of a past attack or abandonment for years. My grandmother wasn't very good at this. Dogs would suddenly be gone from our house, simply because they had ripped up a plant or barked at a cousin. Grandmother would allow these dogs to live within her gates because they were free, and because the pleasure she got out of them was worth the scraps of food she gave them.
God, thankfully, is not like my grandmother. The Bible shows us a God who prepares a feast for us, even when we don't even deserve His scraps. The Word reveals a Savior who will never turn his back on us or give up on us. We are shown a God who loves us despite the messes we make and the anger and fear that shapes our actions, indeed a God whose very love is the antidote for whatever aims to harm us.
This is the most beautiful news that a world full of Strays could hear. There is a God who will love us unconditionally, who prepares for us a feast and a new, beautiful life. All of the fear inside of us, from the pain and crushing heartbreak we've been through, is healed by Perfect Love. All of the anger that makes us lash out... this is the most beautiful part, because we have a God who holds us through our darkest night, with our teeth biting at air and biting at Him, our paws straining to escape what will surely be more pain...
I know this because I'm a stray. I still need a God who will hold me through my dark night, who will love me even though I just barked at his kid and pooped in his grass.
This one is for the strays.
Yet, when I really let myself speak to God, and when I lay my heart and soul to bear, I realize that there is something much more to my prayers than a "yes" or "no". I realize that there is a relationship I've been missing out on, one where I can laugh and cry with the Creator, and realize that He is listening. Answers to prayers come in their own time, but the answers are rarely the point.
It is during these times that I realize just how much we treat God like those "Magic 8-Ball" toys. We ask him a question, and do whatever it is we think is necessary for him to answer. Then, the first thing we see or hear must be the answer to our question.
We're adults. We realize that we can't base our lives on a children's toy. Aren't we setting ourselves up for failure and pain when we treat God like this?
both fearful and lovely
Brighter than the dawn
louder than the oceans
Your voice is sweet music,
a song I have missed
and Your words are
the cure for my pain
the answers to my questions
the comfort in the chaos...
I ache for Your song
to be heard on my lips
I yearn for Your will
to be done through my hands
I cry out for help
and I pray that You hear me.
I can't do this on my own.
I struggle with the balance between adventure and responsibility. I worry constantly, that I am either being too responsible and not taking the risks I should, or that I am being too adventurous and putting myself in unnecessary situations. I remember moving out here to Arizona, I had a constant conflict for the first few months, about whether I was being responsible coming all the way out here for only an internship. I remember feeling so alone those first few weeks, and wishing I'd stayed in Dallas with an apartment full of friends. Yet, when I was in Texas, I longed for the day when I'd be doing something great in some strange place.
Now I am on a bigger adventure, about to start my life with the woman I was made for. I wonder how we will find the balance between the magic and mundane. I wonder how I will fare as a leader, being so prone to moving and leaving, so used to a life in flux. I wonder how I will provide stability for my family, when all I've known is seismic shifts and periodic eruptions. The desire of my heart is to be a responsible, dependable husband and father, but I worry that I will forget what adventure means, and what a daring life feels like.
There is worry in adventure, and that leads me to believe that perhaps this will be the biggest adventure of all.
There are many ways to excuse your propensity for drama, many socially acceptable disguises for the fact that you either can't or refuse to control your emotions. "I'm passionate" they might say... but I've known very nice passionate people in my life. The only thing dramatic people are passionate about is obtaining and keeping attention on them. "I wear my heart on my sleeve" is another one... but if that is your heart, perhaps it is better to keep it hidden.
I've heard countless stories, and been witness to several epic displays of dramatic selfishness. The person who refuses to let the wedding day be about the bride and groom... the "friend" who tries to get people to go out with her because she is bored, instead of celebrating a milestone with someone else... that person who seems one wrong word from losing control at any moment... the person everyone is counting on, suddenly deciding that they are going to become cold and selfish and undependable.
Stupid, Stupid, and Incredibly Stupid. There is no excuse for the selfishness that is inherent in dramatic actions. Drama, by it's very nature, is a cry for attention. No person deserves unmerited attention at the expense of others, but some just don't get that. I am sure there is some sort of deep-seated emotional issue driving each of those actions, but I still bristle at the thought of even acknowledging this possibility because of the attention these selfish people may derive from it. I'd rather just stick to the surface level, and call Stupid when I see it.
I suppose I'm very frustrated with the drama I see in my life, the drama that hurts those I know and love. I wonder how much more joy could have been had in each moment, were those instances of selfishness replaced with selfless love and support. I've always loved those people who refused to let drama get into their life, those who know how to be selfless and loving... those who look at dramatic people, shake their head sadly, and move on with their lives.
If you are one of those selfless people, there is probably a reason you are my friend. If you are a drama queen, or whatever the male counterpart of that is... you probably don't want to hang out with me any time soon, because I'll probably call you out, no matter where we are.
And knowing you, that will probably just cause more drama. :-P
Sometimes I wish I wasn't ashamed to tear up at movies and TV shows.
Sometimes I wish I knew where a money tree was.
Sometimes I wish I was a pilot with an awesome plane that I could take anywhere.
Sometimes I draw airplanes at work. I'm 26.
Sometimes I make up games to pass the time at work. I'm 26.
Sometimes I wish I was the person my mom thinks I am.
Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and live life more awesomely.
Sometimes I wish I was already a father.
Sometimes I wish my car was a Transformer, so that in traffic, I could press a button and have my transformer start running down the expressway. It's probably a good thing I'm not a father yet.
Sometimes I wish I knew the difference between "fine" and "fine". Since I've gotten engaged, this has become a more pressing wish.
Sometimes I wish I knew when to be quiet.
Sometimes I wish I knew when to speak up.
Right now, I wish I could fall asleep. I'll probably go try again.
Now, when I was there I had a lot on my mind. I had just graduated college, and moved up there to work and/or attend seminary. I was actually working at Starbucks, and had signed up for seminary classes before I ended up out in Arizona.
I had a lot of friends back in college, and having been there six years, I always knew someone and had somewhere to go. That wasn't the case in Dallas. I tried to get to know people, but it was hard, and I spent a lot of time in the apartment watching Hulu and playing guitar. It was only in the second month that I began to feel more at home, and then...
Well, then the news came, that I was going to be leaving, and for the next two weeks I got closer to my new friends and explored my temporary home city. It was then that I lived, that I was actually LIVING IN DALLAS and not simply sleeping over. We went to concerts and diners and coffee shops, went on random drives to random places, met people at a bunch of singles groups (Dallas is supposed to be the most awesome place for young single people, and I was one), and generally had a great time. I wish I had lived that way for the entire two months.
I think there are a lot of times that change is the norm, that we all have transient seasons. Mine found me in a two bedroom apartment with four other guys, sleeping on a bottom bunk and waking up at 3AM to make coffee for a bunch of rich people. It isn't a life I miss, but it is a life I wish I'd lived better.
Wherever you are, be there. Whether it be somewhere you've always wanted to be, or somewhere you never thought you'd end up, be where you are. Find the things that people miss when they leave, and the people you'll tell stories about 10 years from now.
And while we're on the subject, what's awesome about the East Valley that I haven't seen yet?
I remember back in college, when the Baptist Student Ministry was pretty much a bunch of guys and my friend Sunday (a girl), and then a rotating cast of guests. One of my friends was named Jonathan, but somehow he got the name "Jonatello", and then it was shortened to just "Tello". He was 26, the age I am now, and when he would hang out with us, he would be hilarious in this semi-creepy way. We began calling him "Creepy Uncle Tello"... I forget the exact moment, but it always made me chuckle.
Now, whenever I hear the word "Uncle" or the name "Jonathan", I think of Creepy Uncle Tello, and smile.
I can think of a thousand more important, more memorable things to be nostalgic. Yet, it's the stupid stuff I remember most, like the way my friend Steve would refer to flirting with a girl as "reaching out", and how we still refer to each other as "Mr. Reach Out" or "The King of Reaching Out", even though back in college we were pretty much perpetually single (I think we each had girlfriends for a couple of months at some point during my time in college, maybe).
Or even the memory of waking up at my friend's apartment with a cat in my face, or the time we put a temporary tramp stamp on another friend of mine at their apartment. Or all the times I'd have foam noodle wars with the youth group I led, and destroy them even though it was 4 or 5 on 1.
I feel like I did more important stuff, like this stuff shouldn't be what sticks in my memory. I played music in front of thousands of people, and saw kids give their lives to Christ, and graduated College, and did a bunch of other important stuff that should stick in my head. I wish I could remember that other important stuff, but I can't. I'm too busy remembering the time a little girl named Heather sat on me, and the other kids there asked me how that made me feel, and I told them it made me feel "a little under the Heather".
Nostalgia doesn't make any sense. That joke was freakin perfect though, you should have been there.
The world is wrong. The world wouldn’t exist without the grown-up dreams of those who came before. The world is in the poor state it is in because of the childish actions of the past and present generations. There is something to be said for maturity, responsibility, and following through on our actions.
I see so many people waiting for something to be handed to them. I talk to them every day at my job, and as I hear their voices, they sound like children who have been disappointed by their wish not coming true, children who are still holding out hope that a shiny new toy is waiting in shiny wrapping paper on the other side of the door. I made fun of them when the only one of “them” I knew was my older stepbrother, who still can’t hold down a job and is probably still expecting that call from Disney’s graphic design office, because they once sent him a shiny pamphlet.
We try to hide it, but most of us are still waiting for that shiny pamphlet that will lead us to prosperity and happiness (ever wonder why credit card offers are printed on such shiny paper?). We have the world at our fingertips, and we are provided with everything we need to change our lives, but we are still trying to “figure things out” before we start to move in any direction. I talk to potential college students all day, providing a way to get a college education while still living their “busy” lives, and providing all of the information they could possibly need online, through our website and government websites. Yet, the biggest copout I hear is “Can you just send me some information? Is there something written down that I can look at?”
Is there a shiny piece of paper that I can hold in my hands, look at for hours, and pretend that I’m doing something meaningful?
The generations before us knew what they wanted. They didn’t have so many options, so the choice was a bit more simple, but there was still a choice to be made. There were six women their age in town, and they chose one to court and to marry. There were three job choices (family trade, military, or clergy), and they chose the one that made the most sense. If there was an opportunity for more education, they took it gratefully.
Now, we have 100 choices, and we can’t make one. We are taught that the world exists for our benefit, and we are still operating under that assumption. We never reach our dreams, because we never dream grown-up dreams. We dream of saving the world, but we don’t dream of becoming a policeman or a pastor, for the most part. Thankfully, the world I speak of is mostly confined to the insular western world.
Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t more hope for the
There are these inner battles that you seem to fight endlessly, against that part of you that just can't change, or can't trust, or can't love, or can't help breaking under pressure. No matter how hard you fight, you just can't help screwing things up in the same old way. You begin to wonder if there is any hope at all, or if you are simply irreparably broken, with no hope of being made whole.
This is the reality of life in a fallen world; life as a broken and dirty person, in a land of broken and dirty people. We are inspired by change, because we know there is something inside of us that needs change more than anything. We are inspired by revolution, because we know the tyranny that rules our daily lives. We cry out for something to make us whole, to make us new and take our pain.
It sounds trite to throw the God card in this situation, but how else do you explain this universal deficiency in our souls? We are broken and fallen people, in need of redemption and a healing love that can ultimately only come from something bigger and more perfect than ourselves.
I use these big words and abstract thoughts to universalize what is going on in my own heart right now, because sometimes we just need to know that we aren't alone, that we aren't the only broken ones out there.
This one's for all the broken people out there... we have a hope. He is risen, indeed.
P.S. This is the only version of the song I could embed from YouTube, so don't look at the lyrics... they are horribly misspelled :-P.
But the ground is squishy, like jell-o. One false step, and... stuck.
It's like I don't know what the next step holds. I am trying to be this grown-up, to not make silly mistakes and not look completely lost, but it doesn't always work. Sometimes the ground beneath my feet is enough to hold me up, but other times, I fall. I don't necessarily fall on my face, but I lose momentum and I feel like a loser.
It's like my failures aren't enough to make me fall, just enough to make me doubt. I've had a lot of these little failures lately, at my job and with the new apartment and a bunch of other areas. I'm not doing horrible, I'm just not doing as well as I had planned. I'm not a complete failure... but I'm not the expert I thought I'd be, either.
That's what these first steps into married, corporate, grown-up life feel like. It's like the first 25 years were training, but reality isn't quite as simple as it seemed before (when I was simply training for it). I am thankful for what I did learn, and thankful for what I am successful at, but still...
I thought I'd do better than this. I thought I'd be strong, sure, and solid.
Squishy was never part of the equation. It's hard to sleep when your life is squishy.
To tear me apart, what am I to do
What else can I do?
So sing me a song, and let me hum along
at the top of my lungs, while I come undone.
What else can I do?
What can I do?
-David Crowder Band
It's amazing how life can so easily stress you out. I never thought I could get tired of people, but I'm getting pretty close. There is so much going on, and nothing ever works out the way you expect it. And what's funny is, there isn't anything huge to point out and say "THERE! That's why I'm stressed out! That's what has my stomache in knots!"
No... it's just a cacaphony of little noises, a collage of tiny bits of chaos, that combine to overcome me for the moment.
For the moment. That's the key. The key is to remember that every trouble is light and momentary, and even when we have no words, we can still hum a tune of triumph. What else can we do, but remember that life has it's ups and downs, and we are simply strangers in a strange land?
tried so hard but lost to God.
This time next year I´ll be married
this time next year I´ll say sorry
but Jesus stole my girlfriend.
I thought you´re my friend. I´ll guess again
I look to the clouds God gives me a frown.
This time next year I´ll be married
this time next year I´ll say sorry
but Jesus stole my girlfriend.
Try to talk to me again.
I´ll never even sing or do anything.
Jesus stole my girlfriend.
I used to hear "You'll understand someday" a lot, because there were things I hadn't experienced yet. I had never been far from home with no expected long-term return (an hour isn't far). I had never been in love (real, messy, beautiful love). I had never considered marriage in any concrete terms, only in theoretical.
Lately, I've been having a lot of those moments. Apparently this is "someday" for me. I am halfway across the country from my family, in love and engaged. I never would have guessed this would affect the way art spoke to me, and the way God speaks to me. The depth of this new beauty is amazing, alarming, and quite unexpected.
Do you get what I'm saying? I feel like some of you will totally relate to this, but if you don't...
I rarely hear people speak fondly of blinders. We want to believe we are limitless, although our existence proves otherwise. What could happen, though, if we embraced our limits? What more could we do if we realized what we DON'T have time for? How much time do we waste on what might have been, at the expense of what is?
What if, for just a little while, we put proverbial blinders on, and made the absolute best of what was in front of us? I'm not saying to settle for less than the best... just that eventually, you will have found the best. Here's hoping you have the good sense to settle for the best.
Most of us would rather be able to say "Make me a sandwich!" and have a sandwich in our hands within a minute. We are selfish like that.
But God's idea of leadership isn't like that. God doesn't want us to use our leadership for our own gain. He doesn't call us to the pride that says we are better than others, or the selfishness that tells others how to serve us. He calls us instead to the love that seeks to serve others, knowing that our authority comes from God. If you want to be a leader, you can't cater to your insecurities by needlessly asserting your selfish will on others. If you want to be a Godly leader, you need to be secure enough in your leadership to spend your time serving others, even when it comes to making decisions.
Of course , I'm here to help you start living this life. You can start by deciding to make me a sandwich.
In a nutshell, I've become average.
I am no longer a worship leader by trade... but I am still a worship leader (yay DHC!).
I am no longer a church employee... but I am still a leader.
I am no longer a student, no longer a leader of my own band, no longer a youth leader, and no longer single.
My life has changed, and it is good.
I am still creative. I am still talented, still personable, and I can still make people laugh. Who I am on the inside has only changed a little, just enough to shift my focus toward my upcoming marriage and the life changes that will entail.
As I sit there in my little metal box, waiting at that red light with the hundreds and thousands and millions, I am still me. I am still unique...
I want to be more balanced, more consistent... I suppose, more average.
We live in an age where the world is at our fingertips. In a few keystrokes, I could apply for jobs across the country or across the globe. A few more and I could be talking to my friends in Texas, or my friends in India. We have opportunities our parents and grandparents never had, and those opportunities come with a purpose.
I'm not saying you will know that purpose, now or ever. I am simply saying that it exists. There is a reason your life is going faster and faster, and there is a reason you always seem to be able to take more than you thought you could. You were made for this world, and you were created for speed.
I know the speed is scary, but slowing down is a much more dangerous option. There is beauty in the almost reckless pace of our lives, and we'll never see it if we are constantly trying to find the brake pedal.