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.

Dirty.

I grew up in suburban Charleston, with houses right next door and dirty city air.  My family often escaped to a vacation home my parents owned in North Carolina, and when we did, we found ourselves in wide open space, which is extremely exciting to a ten year old boy.

There was this time when my sister and I, as children, were riding bikes on my parent’s property in North Carolina.  A large hill emptied itself into a stream, and my father had cut out a trail on the hill: straight down from the top, into the puddles of the stream below.  


It began really innocently, fast and furious down the hill, through the mud, and back up again.  The mud began to accumulate, and when we came back up to the cabin on the property, my parents had to hose us off.  We were covered in mud.

There are moments in life where we’re reminded of how dirty we are.  Sometimes it comes immediately, but sometimes we’ve been playing in the mud for quite a while before we realize it.

Jesus calls us to be clean.  There is no doubt about that.  His standard is spotless.  His standard is perfection.  And we are faced with the reality that we are not meeting and cannot meet that standard.

Today is one of those days for me.  It’s not an easy feeling, or a pleasant one.  But, in the long run, this is one of those realities that draws me to Jesus.

I often think of this ride I took with my youth pastor several years after I had graduated.  My youth pastor, Jerry, was instrumental in communicating Jesus to me in a way that impacted my life.  I had never known Jesus before as wanting to change me; I only thought He was changing where I went.  Jerry was about as much like Jesus as I could imagine.  While we were riding Jerry sighed “You know, the longer I follow Jesus the more I’m convinced of how rotten and sinful I am and how much I need Him.”

I’m glad that I’m reminded of how dirty I am occasionally.  I’m glad, because it reminds me of how much I truly need Jesus.
_________________________________________

Listening to: Aqualung “Pressure Suit”

Cold Medicine.

Pollen is out in full force.  If you lived in the southeastern portion of the United States, you would understand this.  My black Volkswagen is now distinctly lime green.  This is quite troubling, especially if your nose doesn’t get along well with pollen, as mine chooses to do.  


I wish the two could make up: the nose could somehow make nice with the pollen, but inevitably it’s not gonna happen.  Every year when my car changes color, my nose gets mad at the pollen.  One would think that a nose is not quite picky about the color of a car, but apparently mine has such appetites.  

During the seasons where my car changes colors, I am forced to take cold medicine.  Cold medicine is something just shy of crack to me.  When I take it, it’s a crap shoot as to the effects.  I can be lightheaded.  I could be moody.  I might be really happy or unbelievably depressive.  Today, I am neither, a bit indifferent.

I was just sitting here noticing that I was feeling this way, and when I say feeling this way I am referring to a distinct feeling.  Have you ever noticed that your moods, attitudes, and even decisions are being motivated by your feelings?  I notice that frequently.  

A few moments ago I was going down this inward, depressive road that I can sometimes go, and I realized, “I took some cold medicine this morning.”  I was immediately relieved.  I was off the hook of that ugly depressive path.

It’s moments like these that I am reminded that we need to be anchored into something bigger than ourselves, grounded by something thats outside of ourselves, and guided by something with a larger perspective than ourselves.  

Yet again, another reason I’m thankful for Jesus.  He reminds me that I just took cold medicine this morning and I need to eat some lunch.  He reminds me that peace is not something I have, it’s something He is.  And He is with me.

So, I’m gonna straight up drink some OJ, take this cold medicine, and trust Jesus with it all.

Listening To: “Who You Are” The Cary Brothers.
Stoked About: Working on my book tonight.

the Elevator.

I’m trying to live life on the elevator.


Elevators are automated devises that carry you upward (and maybe downward once they have already delivered you to your prior point of interest). 


Once on the elevator, you don’t really do anything to move, except possibly press a button.  Upon pressing the previously mentioned button, you are hurled seamlessly in an upward direction with a distinct amount of force, thrusting you in the aforementioned upward direction.


Jesus is an elevator.


He does the work to take my life beyond what it is normally.


Grace is extended with each floor that is passed, with each victory that is won.


So … I’m trying to live life in the elevator.

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