Friday, January 29, 2010

#4 following

As the oldest of three boys, I grew up calling the shots. Whether it was Legos, G.I. Joe, or He-man, whether we were going to pull a prank on the neighbor or sneaking on to the roof, I was the lead man. I was Hannibal and they were my A-Team.  This behavior, as it does with many oldest children, translated from childhood into adolescence and then into adulthood. My adolescence was filled with me roping many of my friends into making some pretty dumb decisions.  I recall one night pulling the red Ford Topaz back into my parents driveway at 3am, after "stealing" it for a couple of hours. The friend in the passenger seat literally burst into tears as the headlights shined brightly on a half naked, very confused father of mine. We were fourteen and grounded.
When it comes to the Gospel, Jesus makes it very clear to me that following Him is fundamental. When I decided to follow Jesus, I relinquished the lead role to Him. This is ridiculously hard for me. And the worst part is, that it's that I call myself a follower.  I'm a "follower", that because of fear of what Jesus might ask, 99% of the time does not follow. And I've figured out ways to make myself feel like I am, so that I can continue leading.

Here are just a few of the mechanisms that I've invented.

- Options (most common for me)
Jesus: "Follow me."
Me: "Okay. Can you give me some options and let me pick one?"
Jesus: "But, that would make you in charge. Just trust me."
Me: "What did you say Jesus? I'm busy praying about my options."

- Judgement
Jesus: "Follow me."
Me: "Sure thing Jesus, you want me to change the world for your Glory, right?"
Jesus: "Well, sure, but I just need you to trust me with whatever I ask you to do."
Me: "What did you say Jesus? I'm busy praying for all the sad sad pagans not doing your will."

- If/Then
Jesus: "Follow me."
Me: "I'm all over it Jesus. Now if you could just make it real clear for me."
Jesus: "I need you to step out into the darkness. Trust me, I'm right here."
Me: "What did you say Jesus? I'm staring at the Sun waiting for it to dance."

Whether you are the oldest in your family or not, chances are some of these mechanisms probably sound familiar. Chances are, just like me, you are scared to death of what Jesus might ask you to do. In my heart of hearts I really want to trust. I really want to obey. But, I choose to just "get by" on my own. I convince myself that I'm doing God's will, but I am really just doing my will with some Godly sweetener.

Lord, help me to trust you more. I know that you have my best interest in mind, because you are my Father. Teach me how to follow you.

Monday, January 18, 2010

#3 honor or emulate?

Today I rode my motorcycle over to the bank to cash a check, completely forgetting that the banks are closed on this national holiday. MLK is a hero of mine, but I forget that our country still honors him. Where hate speech and exclusivity prevails in most media and social outreaches, including churches, I tend to giggle when I think about our nation honoring Dr. King.  Until I can emulate his example, I really can't talk though.
I still hang out with people like me.  I give freely of my time and gifts to those who appreciate them.  I don't like to love people who misbehave, who are rude, or misinformed.  I'm easily annoyed with people who simply regurgitate, with passion, what they heard on a 24 hr news channel.  In my prayer today, as I remember Dr. King, I'm praying that I can love the abortionist as much as I love the innocent child, that I can love the fear monger as much as I love the immigrant. 
Lord, have mercy on me, a bigot.  Give me the grace to see how recklessly you love all of your children, and the grace to love them as you love them. 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

#2 is my gift enough?

I love Jesus...
When He's asked which [one] command was the first of all, He gives two.  One very lofty and ideal and one very practical and hard.  The second actually gives a hint at how "not easy" the first is.  Aka: if we love God, we obey His commands. 
In the synoptic Gospels, it's phrased something like this, "You shall love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength" and "love your neighbor as yourself." 
Love it! Actually doing this... of course, much harder.  If it wasn't, it wouldn't have made the list of Holy Irritations. 

The truth is, I love to give. I love the "feeling" of giving a really great gift. I love surprising folks with a thoughtful gift, or a gift that far exceeds their expectations.  It's also really cool to be known as a "good gift giver" or a "thoughtful person".  This Christmas, we and a couple of other families gave a dairy cow to a family in Africa!  It really was a lot of fun, imagining their faces when they saw our gift.  From an outsiders perspective, I look like a nice person, a good Christian, a person who is loving folks as myself. 
But really? As myself? Really. Really? 

I'm sorry, but I'm pretty sure loving folks as myself would mean I would spend just as much money on neighbors as I do on myself and just as much time praying for others as I do for my own intentions.  I don't ever recall looking at my budget or my time in this way.  I give mostly on my terms, and from my excess, not my need. 
What would it look like, if I were able to take this command seriously? What would me neighborhood or my home look like? Crazy.

This week I texted a word to a number and donated 10 bucks to the rescue efforts in Haiti. And it felt awesome!  Then I saw some more horrifying pictures from the tragedy, so I decided to do it again. This time I gave $15.  For some reason, it didn't feel as good.  Jesus was irritating me with His command to love more deeply.  Side note: If you didn't do at least this much, I'm not sure you can call yourself human. Unless of course you were totally oblivious to the situation over there.  
Giving a couple of bucks to the relief efforts in Haiti is the human thing to do!  That being said, I can't help being haunted by Jesus commands. "Love your neighbor as yourself." Is giving this amount of money, the Christian thing to do? Is this really loving neighbors as yourself?  

So as I'm sipping my coffee, clicking away on my blog, my neighbor is suffering, dying, without parents, without children, without hope, without a home... 

I'm irritated. Lord, give me the Grace to not only know what to do, but to do it. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

#1 starting it

Six years ago...

Me: "Man, I should really start a blog, or a book or something."

Jesus: ":) I agree. Tell them about me and all the stuff that comes with me."

Me: "I will. Soon. It seems like all speakers and preachers have one, and I feel left out 'cause I don't write. I also need something to sell when I go places. More approval, more money, did I mention approval?"

Jesus: ":| Nope. Not what I meant."

Me: "Okay. Yeah, your right Jesus. You always are. I'll start it soon... for you, of course."

At least once a month since then...

Jesus: "Blog, book?"

Me: "Sure. Soon."

Arghhh! What is it about getting started with the transformation that is so hard for me?  I'm reminded of Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 7 "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." I'm sure this will be a recurring theme here on this blog.

I've got a ton of aspirations and dreams, great ideas and goals.  Primary of these, is being holy.  (Secondary, is a disposable coffee cup that when coffee is poured into it, sugar and/or cream is automatically dispensed to your liking, eliminating the need for a little trash can for creamer and sugar packet trash.)  However, when I step back and look at all these great ideas.  It all just seems so daunting, time consuming and hard.  And sometimes, it's just the fact that I don't even know where to start.  Recently I read the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5 through 7.  And I can honestly say that there was not a single command, from the sermon on the mount, that I have been able to master.  "Let your light shine, love your enemies, be meek, give your extra coat, do not pray with empty phrases." FAIL. As I reflected on this seemingly depressing fact, I was struck with a couple of things.  First, that I really do have everything that I need to fulfill these commands, namely the Holy Spirit, who is our help and dwells in us that we might become partakers of the Divine Nature. And secondly, I just need to start hacking away.

The irritations are there, the failures, etc. I just need to start cooperating with what I have been given to find joy in them, to itch them, if you will.

Welcome to my blog.  I pray that together, we find Hope in our weaknesses.