Archive for March, 2009

Well-Intentioned Dragons part 1

March 26, 2009

I’m in the middle of reading a book by Marshall Shelley called “Well-Intentioned Dragons”, and I have to be honest about the fact that some of the stories make me down right angry. The book presents its readers with several real-life experiences that a few pastors have had with those people in their congregation who, while seemingly want to do what is right, end up sowing discord and anger. The book refers to these people as dragons, using that analogy throughout the book.

These stories make me ask myself “How fine is the line between dedication and pride, between unwavering faith and arrogance?” While I will be the first to admit that I am a fairly prideful person by nature, some of these experiences, such as the one involving “Dwayne and Virginia” (both false names btw), make me want to ask if they have ever of the concept of love and mercy. They seem at peace spitting venom and fire over the wisdom and practices of a group of godly men, the elders of their church.

These two people anger me; my initial thoughts are of telling them to either sit down and shut up or just leave the church entirely.  But my own thoughts make me wonder; don’t I do the same thing when I strongly disagree with something? Love, grace and mercy are what we are called to even when it’s tough to be that kind of person. I wish though that everyone in the congregation would remember that same thing.

 

“I’ve given a lot of thought to the nights we used to have…”

March 26, 2009

It is sometimes very hard to place your faith in God’s plan. I think everyone, whether saved or lost, could agree to that statement. Men in particular find it very hard to just let go of something and let it be handled by anyone else. We are, after all, the hunters, the problems solvers and the least likely of the genders to seek help on any given task or problem.

Men are, by nature, visually based; We are driven be what we see right in front of us. As the old saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”, even when promised by the Lord of all creation that nothing can pull us from His hand and that He has a plan of happiness for His children. It is very hard for us to not try to fix the problem that has been thrust into our oncoming path.

Another of man’s ageless opponents is my own worst enemy: man pride. I often joke that many great tragedies in the world are the result of man pride; the sad thing is that I am, however, not really joking. Society’s attempt to turn every man born into an island unto himself has made the majority of us so unwilling to accept help or even ask for it, that when we do we feel like we have been defeated or need to take on some long march of shame.

I say all of this to say that when we men have something bad happen to us, we tend to shut up, neither wanting to talk about it or accept help concerning it. We would rather suffer silently that try to come off as weak by opening up about our struggles, even with someone as loving and powerful as God.

Even right now, I know there are things in my life that I just need to let go of and let God handle them. Father, help me to be less hands on in my own life, and live more by what you want me to do.

“I thought that I was all alone, broken and afraid, but you were there with me…”

March 19, 2009

I experienced something yesterday that I know I will never forget. It has taken some time for me to let it sink in to the point that I can write about it. I experienced the very real presence of God in a place.

I visited my grandmother at Palmyra Nursing Home here in Albany, GA, my home town. It had been some time since I saw her last, and since my last visit home, her health has deteriorated. Now mind you, my grandmother has been sick for some time, but over the last year we have all begun to think of the limited amount of time we have left with her. To put it nicely, she is in the twilight of her years and as with most people who are getting closer to death, conversations of the afterlife and of God are becoming more common.

I’m in school to become a minister; I am a Bible major at a private, Christian college with the deliberate intention of becoming a “man of the cloth”. As such, many people have turned to me recently and asked me questions concerning everything from life and death, health and wealth, and purpose in the things that we go through. One of the people who have been asking questions lately has been my mom. She has asked me everything from, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” to “How do we make sure that we go to Heaven?”

Questions like this come from fear and pain, both of which are completely normal human responses, and I think it was out of fear that yesterday my grandmother made a strange request of me. Grandma’ has problems completed her thoughts and often struggles to communicate with anyone about anything, so I was a bit confused when yesterday she began pointing and my necklace, a small coin chizzled into a cross, and started mumbling. After a moment, I took my necklace off and asked her if she wanted to keep it, to which she very clearly replied “No, I want you to pray with me.”

I was a bit surprised that she was so clearly able to tell me what she wanted, and I was happy to oblige. We prayed for about ten minutes; I didn’t pray for healing, but for strength, and I didn’t ask for a reason for her sickness, but I thanked God for the time He had blessed us with. To be honest, in that moment, it never occurred to me to pray for healing or understanding because I felt the overwhelming love of God Almighty in the room with us, whispering the entire time that everything was in His hands, that neither I nor my grandmother had anything to worry about. I was moved to tears, but I managed to fend them off until I got into my car some thirty minutes later.

We often forget that God is with us, which is easy to do because He is not visible to us in the physical sense, but I promise that yesterday He was in room 73 at Palmyra; He was there long before I walked in.

“You say you want a revolution, well, you know…”

March 17, 2009

 Not long ago, I had a very much needed conversation with my friend, Jim. Jim is one of the many people that I have met since moving up here to Nashville and I have been delighted to find in him someone that I can have meaningful, in-depth conversations about life, spirituality and philosophy.

Several of the guys I know here at Lipscomb joined me, and after everyone except Jim and myself had left for various reasons, I found myself needing to vent about something very personal that happened to me back in July. Jim is a second year grad student working on a Psychology degree with a Counseling minor, he also happens to be a fellow brother in Christ, which makes him very easy to speak to about things that are very personal to me.

I subscribe to the old saying that “I am my own worst enemy.” I sometimes convince myself that the emotions I feel are stupid and not worth giving genuine thought or attention too. Jim helped me understand that grief is different for everyone, but that no one should be fine and dandy only months after something heart breaking happens to them. He said, “I would be worried if you did act okay.” I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear that until my thoughts became reality via his words.

Jim let me know that it is okay to hurt and to take time to heal, no matter how super-hero like I try to be by acting like I am invulnerable. While I usually think I’m pretty good about being open with what I’m feeling and what’s going on in my life, I think we all sometimes hide things because we are afraid to admit that they hurt as much as they do. We drag the past around like a bum leg, limping around, being reminded with every painful step the memory that caused  our pain to begin with. Praise God that one of His many names is the Great Physician… Mark 2:13-17

“I never saw it coming; I should have started running a long, long time ago…”

March 17, 2009

Do you ever have those days when the little things of life that we would normally let go irritate you and get on your nerves?

I had someone tell me recently that we often try to replace faith with rationalization; I have since come to wonder if we don’t replace justice with patience. True, we are supposed to be patient, Scripture does command it, but doesn’t it also say to do the right thing? We are to stand up for good and to be light in this world, a city on a hill as it were.

The things I would normally let go, like men and their arrogance or women and their elitism, are really getting on my nerves today. The stupid things that people do without even thinking, the things that belittle or hurt people and inconvenience others are making me want to scream at the top of my lungs. Why can’t people just live without all of the junk? Why should I suffer the slings and arrows of their outrageous behavior? Why does God? Why does God tolerate the stupid, sinful crap that I do? The answer is mercy.

I’ve said before that it is often God’s grace that I’m most thankful for, as He has given me many things in my life that I haven’t earned and don’t really deserve. I am missing though, the idea of mercy, in that He doesn’t give me what I do deserve. I should forgive as I have been forgiven and let go the things about other people that bother me.

How easy it is to only see and feel the things in the here and now, it makes me wish I could see the things that God sees and understand us they way He does, then maybe, just maybe, I can let go of my irritation with this generation. “Give me your eyes so I can see everything that I’ve been missing…”

“There’s a candle burning in the world tonight…”

March 9, 2009

Why is it that one of the most relaxing things in the world is driving on a long, empty road singing old songs at the top of your lungs? Is it the chance to, if even to only yourself, be the front man in a band? Is it being able to totally empathize with what the person is singing about? Maybe it’s that the tone and melody of the song have somehow given form to your thoughts and emotions or possibly it’s the isolation of being able to sing at the top of your lungs with no one but God in Heaven able to hear you. I like to think it’s a little bit of all of those things.

Aerosmith is the reason I got into music. For me, hearing that band is just as nostalgic as hearing a lullaby from your childhood and as soothing as a warm bath after a long day. One of my first and most fond memories is riding in the car with Mom listening to the Toys in the Attic album. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I understood the musical genius that is Joe Perry and Steven Tyler. They are the reason I love to sing and the reason I picked up a guitar for the very first time. I like to think that my own playing style emulates their work, a mix of blues measures with solid rock n’ roll roots; just showing all the more influence that their music has had on me.

Today I took a slight detour on my way back to Nashville from spending the weekend in Cincinnati; now just to clarify, by “detour” I mean “I got lost”…On the long drive, I had time to kill and sang along with my iPod to all of my favorite Aerosmith songs. It was a much needed chance to sing along and shout it out. “Life’s a journey, not a destination, and I just can’t tell just what tomorrow will bring…”

“Detox just to retox…”

March 9, 2009

Matthew 17:19-20

This week here at school was Facing Hunger week, where people were asked to fast to help raise hunger awareness. I, myself,  don’t often fast…I find that statement somewhat humorous, as we all know that I love a good meal and I certainly don’t look as though I have ever missed an opportunity to have one =)

Seriously though, I don’t often fast because I usually don’t feel lead to. It isn’t really required per say in the New Testament, more encouraged if something is weighing heavy on you. The truth is, Jesus gets on to people for publically fasting more than he does commission us to do so. However, on occasion, I feel the need to reset my bearings and screw my head back on straight by taking time off from the often overlooked luxuries of everyday life.

In a way, cutting out the things I take for granted in life, bathing, eating, shaving, etc, remind me to get back to the basics of life. I often feel like this life is way too crowded and noisy. It is kind of like that scene from “I Am Legend” where Anna (Alice Braga) tells Robert Neville (Will Smith), “The world is quieter now. We just have to listen. If we listen, we can hear God’s plan.”

 Taking a day off from the routine helps to focus back on the important things in life, and it helps me personally see how much time I waste doing something meaningless, like trying to figure out what I want to eat, when I could be doing something else, like trying to figure out how to feed those that have nothing to eat or water to drink. Matthew 25:35-36

“this is side one, flip me over…”

March 1, 2009

I’ve been studying and wrestling with the idea of church liturgy lately. I’m not really opposed to liturgy, but I don’t really buy into the idea of it being part of regular services either. I have never been a big fan of routines or doing something in a set way just because that is the way it has always been done. To me, this is the way of Pharisees, blindly following something down the road of legalism, devoid of any heart or emotion. I have found however that I like some of the liturgy I have been reading. The ceremonies I have been reading on are marriage, baptism and funeral services and to be honest, I am kind of attracted to the idea of having a set way of presiding over these most precious traditions. In a way, I feel that they kind of point back toward Heaven, back toward God, because I, nor the person using their long written text, had anything to do with the creation or inception. They are timeless, much like the rites they are being read in service of.

I do have to admit though that I am a bit hesitant at some of the language used and how solemn liturgy can make something seem, especially marriages. Funerals should be handled with a fair bit of humility and respect, but marriages and baptisms should be things of great joy and celebration, not necessarily somber toned settings. I guess over all I would say that to me liturgy is like anything else in the body of Christ, it is a resource given to us to use as we need, much like songs and music and talents. If liturgy works for you, praise God, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that every church needs to start using it in its everyday worship.