Grace. [period]

Below is the best short film I’ve ever seen.  I encourage you to watch it … all fifteen minutes of it.

It’s a true account out of one of my hometowns, Summerville, SC, that contains all the elements to make it remarkably meaningful to me: story, adversity, a sports team doing something that’s never been done, and commitment to a vision that was bigger than anything they’d ever believed on their own.





When I watch this film I’m reminded of what brings about the life of Jesus inside of us.  It’s not our worth, because we have all fallen hopelessly short of the best Jesus wants for us.  It’s not our efforts for good, because even when our efforts seem to be at the best we most often become infected with a pride about how right we’ve become. 

It’s obviously not something I’ve done.  It’s what Jesus did, the most simplistically complicated truth in all of human existence: that a Savior gave himself over to a cross to bear the weight of all the sin of mankind and that, somehow, that work alone is what makes me good.

When Jesus looks at me, much like the fallen coach Mulkey who constantly believed the impossible and improbable, he sees the best when I can sometimes only see my worst.  I look at myself and call me “sinner”.  Jesus looks at me and calls me “clean”.  

That is grace. [period] 

Itchy [part 3]

My face is itchy.

I haven’t shaved in a week, and I have significant amounts of stubble on the surface of my face.  The stubble is uncomfortable and rather vindictive.  I find often that it tries to tangle itself in zippers and Velcro to which I come in contact with.  All of this is surprising to me, as I am in an unplanned, unanticipated process of growing a beard.  


Giving birth to something is painful and costly.  

The beard is costing me itchiness and discomfort.  It is constantly costing me focus as it offers me a bit of distraction.  It is costing me something, but hopefully the cost will give birth to something.

In the same way, there is a cost associated with following Jesus.  Its difficult and trying, however, there is reward as our following Him does produce real and authentic life.

So if you’re itching … just know it might mean you’re growing and changing (or you might just need some lotion).

confessions [round 1]

1.  i made and ate four fried bologna sandwiches for lunch.

2.  i haven’t mowed my yard in two weeks. (my wife said “its been longer than that”)

3.  i enjoy beverages too much.

4.  i still haven’t found what i’m looking for.

5.  i miss my friend josh baldwin.  he’s been recording a cd for the past few months.

6.  i use those moist wipes to clean my butt when i go number two.

7.  i still think bathroom humor is funny.  i got in trouble for that when i taught middle school.

8.  i am now thirty years old.  statistically, life is almost half over.

9.  i hate grammar and all its conventions, and i hate people who correct peoples grammar in casual conversation.

10.  i miss coaching football.

11.  i love playing video games.  tonight it was bowling on the wii sports.

12.  i got so sunburned at the beach a week ago that i literally peeled all the skin under my shirt.  that was itchy and gross all at the same time.

13.  i want to look like mike barrett when I grow up.

14.  there are only two television shows i’m fond of: house & the office.

15.  my dad is still one of my heros.  i painted a wall and framed pictures of my heros to hang on it in my office at work, but it’s incomplete without pictures of me and my dad.

16.  sometimes i’m amazed at how far i’ve come.  most of the time i’m frustrated by how far i still need to go.

17.  i think my wife is absolutely beautiful and i really want to be the best husband i can be for her.

18.  john piper wrote that every moment is an opportunity to look backwards at your past with thanks and forward at the future with faith … i think i look backwards with regret and forward with worry way too much.

19.  our cat scoots her butt on the ca
rpet after she goes number two.

20.  i’m thankful that i met jesus, that he’s leading me, and that he’s kept me.

Agree to Disagree.

I have been meeting together with a few friends of mine for the past few months and processing together what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  We have all studied and prayed and fought through the resistance.  We have all wanted to stop and quit, but most of us have persevered.  In the end, we’re better for it.

Last night in our time together one of my very thoughtful friends asked about submission, a very central Christian discipline.  She asked about the difference between submission and obedience, which I think is such a central question to me, personally.

As followers, we are called to be submissive ultimately to Jesus.  Life on the elevator is all about following Jesus and not me.  Submission is the central recognition of that truth and practically works out through me following Jesus in every area of life.

But there is a difference between obedience and submission.  The difference is agreement.  I obey when I agree that the request is good.  I submit when I follow even though I don’t agree.  

I’ll let you in on a little secret about me: I follow really well.  I really don’t struggle with obedience; when I agree … it’s easy.  However, when I don’t agree with Jesus, there’s something broken within me that fights against following.

I love the TV show “The Office” that stars Steve Carell as Michael Scott.  Michael is an overbearing, arrogant, insensitive, and socially-awkward manager of a regional office products sales force.  In one very hilarious show, Michael is confronted about his often over the top jokes and how offensive they are in an office environment.  He debates back and forth with his manager and a lawyer and finally concludes “Agree to disagree.” He walks away unfazed and continues in his tasteless behavior.

So many times I find myself in a debate with Jesus.  I know my inclination and know his mandate.  I know that as Lord, I am supposed to give the authority to run my life over to Jesus.  I know this in my head, but something fights against that.  All too often my behavior declares: “Agree to disagree”, as I move on to do my own thing.

Submission is for moments when we normally would “agreed to disagree”.

As followers of Jesus we are called into places where we will not agree with Jesus, where our experience and our inclination will lead us distinctly away from the path He holds for our lives.  

It is in those places where we are called to submit our wills, our hearts, and our lives to a Savior whose work liberates us from not just sin and death, but all too often, ourselves and our way.

anxious.

I normally like to start these with a cool story.  When I do it makes me feel better about what I’m saying and it helps me remember something that happened to me in a new light.  I normally like to do that.  Not tonight.

So let me start this one in a very conservative, bible-teacher, kind of churchy way; let me begin this conversation with a scripture:

Philippians 4:4-9  “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

You see, my friends, today I feel anxious.  For some seasons in life my mind does a bad job managing stress.  This is one of those seasons.  Every little thing is a new reason to worry.  My email wont work … worry.  I can’t get ahold of this company … worry.  I get fearful that all those crappy thoughts and fears in my head will be exposed … worry.

My dad used to worry a lot about me.  I can’t blame him.  I got hurt every five minutes.  If I was running in the street and he yelled out “Don’t run in the street … you might …” I had already fallen.  But his worry was pervasive.  It really encompassed everything about me.  I know it was because he loved me, but it was often overbearing and controlling.  Again any father who saw their child suffer the way my father saw me deserves the right to be overbearing, but overbearing it was none-the-less.  

You see when I read the scripture above I’m reminded why I am anxious.  Its a problem that permeates my life.  I’m not in control.  

You see the writer says “don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  That attitude represents distinct trust in Jesus.  It recognizes that we, no matter how hard we try, are not in control.

So tonight … I bow my head humbly to the Lord Jesus Christ and try to give these cares and worries over to him.  Tonight I can be thankful that I don’t have to worry about it, because Jesus does the work of redemption and these light and momentary afflictions are gaining a great harvest of righteousness for me.

This is a testimony of my brokenness, which, in turn, is a testimony of Jesus’ completeness. 

And tonight … I fix my thoughts on Jesus, who is noble, righteous, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.  

And tonight, I’m thankful that I get to go through this.  Life could be easy, but what would the sunshine mean without the rain.

Itchy Part II

Several blogs ago I posted the now infamous “itchy” blog, a short and sweet analysis of a common, pervasive situation we all face.  It was meant to set up this discourse.  So, please read on.

While the “itchy” blog was a bit gross and humorous (if only to a small segment of the population), the comments I’ve received personally in response to it go to prove my point: there are ugly things inside all of us that we don’t want to talk about or have known.

We all have itches.  Most of us choose to hide them.

Thoreau wrote once that “all men lead lives of quiet desperation” (Walden, 1854).    The paradox of community, commonality, and corruption is that most of us share the same burdens.  If we chose to walk through them together, then the burden would be lighter and the path to wholeness shorter.  Those who have went through AA or Celebrate Recovery can testify to this.  But for those who only bear their sufferings quietly in solitude, life can be relentless torture, filled with longing and desperation for wholeness and intimacy.

There is a book in the bible entitled Deuteronomy which was written to the whole of the nation of Israel with the sole purpose to remember their journey together under the direction of Moses.  It was about their common experiences: their rescues and their failures.  Somehow, in the commonality of the book, the community found wholeness and redemption.  The book ends by recording Israelites preparing to capture, together, what they failed to accomplish in the beginning of the story … the promise of God.

We all have itches.

If “scratching only makes it worse” (Josh Baldwin), then let us be reminded that the best remedy for our ugly sores is nothing more than exposure and light.  

We are reminded in the last book of the bible how we overcome: 
1.  Through the blood of the Lamb, the work of Jesus on the cross
2.  And through the word of our testimony (Rev. 12:11).  

We all have itches.  Don’t be ashamed of yours … it is your testimony.

Willie Nelson's Guitar

I openly admit that I love Willie Nelson.  He is iconic.  Although Willie’s life personally stands for sustained, open rebellion, his artistry is vast and significant.  His music is simple, typically a simple acoustic instrument: either a piano or an acoustic guitar, a few rhythm instruments (some drums and a bass), and a simple melody instrument (my favorite is the harmonica in Willie songs).


I particularly like watching Willie in concert.  Willie has this archaic stage presence.  He’s not quite as shaky as Ozzy, but he’s definitely become a little more frail through age.  Willie’s band is an unfortunate gig, since Willie is the main attraction.  He definitely steals the stage with his long hair and obnoxiously wide guitar straps.  Willie steals the stage with his guitar as well.

Willies guitar is iconic too.  Many of you know it when I mention it.  His guitar is gaped with holes from wear and tear over the years.  When Willie takes the stage, this guitar defines him a little more clearly, this guitar with worn holes and obvious defects.  It’s amazing that such a great musician, with vast resources (even though the IRS obviously took quite a bit of those resources) would choose to be defined with an item that has such wear.

The other day I looked down at my guitar to notice that it too, has started to show some of the wear that Willie’s guitar has.  I do not have holes in my guitar yet, but the years of use are definitely wearing on the guitar.  

Life does that to us, doesn’t it?  Over time, without notice or awareness, life just happens to us.  We look down one day, and we notice that which was new and pristine has tarnished and is now used.  

Sometimes the wear is because of abuse.  My guitar has nicks and damage from times when I’ve abused it.  Some of us have nicks and damage from abuse.  Some of the abuse has been what other’s have done to us, but if we’re honest, most of it came from what we choose, when we abused ourselves.

Sometimes wear is natural.  Some of the wear on my guitar, you can notice, is wear from use.  Life by it’s very nature requires energy and investment to proceed.  This investment will wear you down.  

Some times when we step back and we see ourselves as we truly are, we realize that we’re playing life with Willie’s guitar.  Some of us need rest, some need recovery.  All of us need Jesus; because he makes all things new. 

itches.

do you ever have itches that are annoying, persistent, moist in nature, perhaps located in unsightly, inconvenient places? …….. well, apparently i’m not the only one.

shrubbery

Today my father drove three hours to plant some shrubs for me.  He worked hard in the South Carolina sun for over six hours planting them (almost twenty shrubs in all).  He dug the holes by hand, no modern machinery today; my dad’s always been that way.  He dug the holes, planted the shrubs, and taught me how to take care of each one (his college degree is in forestry).


He always amazes me in times like that.

Seriously, if you met my dad, you’d probably think that he is an butt, because, well, for the most part, he can be.  Often he’s rude, insensitive, impatient, overbearing, and just plain old grumpy.  But, to me, his son.  There’s a whole different person exposed.  He caring, considerate, helpful, giving, and most of all … he’s loving.  My father is loving in ways that I can’t really express; he hugs me and he’s never been too much of a man to tell me that he “loves me”.

Its funny how words like “but” change everything.  

I was living a very typical life, chasing everything the world values and holds dear. But then …  but then Jesus happened to me.  Until then, Jesus seemed distant, obscure, and difficult, but then I met Him.  My life seemed pointless and meaningless, but then Jesus gave life purpose … purpose in everything from checkout lines at WalMart to the way I drive my car.  

If you look hard, sometimes you can find Jesus in the shrubbery and “buts”.

tidbits

I totally love roast beef sandwiches with cheddar cheese on some wheat bread.

I am diggin’ on the new Generation Unleashed worship CD.

I’m feeling refreshed after a very productive day out of the office.

I love how clean my carpets are.  I’m kind of a neat freak.

I’m planting new shrubs with my father this Friday in front of my house, a very ambitious undertaking.

I’m trying to plan our summer vacation and it just isn’t falling together easily.

I like Led Zeppelin.

I enjoy coffee way too much, especially espresso made on the stove-top.

I’m kinda tired of guessing how cold or hot it’s gonna be each day.  I want to wear shorts and flip-flops with confidence.

I have a tooth that hurts all the time.  I need to get that looked into.

This weekend, we’re doing a drama at church that should be amazing and emotional and I have to sing all the way through it.  I’m afraid I might cry.

My parents are amazing.  My mom came to visit this past Sunday.  Some blessings can never be over-stated.

I started eating Peanut M&Ms the other day, after I committed to not eat any sweets for three months.  I had to get back on the wagon … it was a difficult climb.

I love the TV Show “House”.  House is a jerk, a horrible boss, an addict, a manipulator, a pervert, an atheist, and everything else that’s bad in the world except … he’s got remarkable conviction.  I wish I operated with that kind of conviction in Jesus.

I love sunny days with no clouds in the sky … the sun makes everything feel ok.

I love it when my wife gets home … how she still has to kiss me first, even if she has to pee really bad.

I love it how, in small ways everyday, I’m reminded that Jesus is all I really need.
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