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.
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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.

When McDonalds Makes You Feel Important.

I knew that I had received GREAT customer service at that moment. There was something about that moment that spoke louder than that. It was more than customer service. There was something about ME involved in all of that.
I had nothing. I got everything I asked for. I paid nothing. It was all on the house. I didn’t deserve it. I deserved to be hungry.

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White Station Wagons and Tractor-Trailer Trucks (or Trippin’ with Jesus)

As I drove to work this morning I passed by a little boy going to work with his mother.  He was sitting next to her in the front seat as they cruised down the interstate toward their destination.  He was staring in wonder at the other cars on the highway, especially the tractor-trailer trucks.  He was simply in awe.
This little boy wasn’t satisfied with just watching, he wanted to encounter the trucks, so he was making motions directed at the drivers of such trucks.  I’m sure you’re familiar with these motions. I did them when I was little.  Most of us did.  Let’s repeat the motions.  Take your right arm and form a right angle at the elbow with your hand facing the sky.  You must have the correct hand posture in this motion; nothing less than a fist would do.  To begin the motion, maintaining the angle at the elbow, pump your fist up and down violently and repeatedly.
Apparently this motion summons a sound.
The sound of the horn.
The sound of the horn is a coveted sound when you are five years old.  Especially the sound of a large motor vehicle.
I sat watching this young boy repeatedly, and without success, pump his fist at the large trucks that passed his mother’s car.  He was pouring affection and energy out on these large motor-driven contraptions, entranced to somehow provoke a response.
He forgot something.  Maybe he didn’t realize it.  Maybe he did, but he just didn’t care:
The car he was driving in had a horn.
Yes, three feet away from where this five year-old boy sat was a button that was controlled by his mother that fired their very own horn.  All he has need to do is ask, and there would sound the horn.
Forget they were driving a small, white station wagon[i].  Forget that tractor-tailor trucks are second only to Jesus when you’re five.  Forget all that.  His mother controlled a horn, and for some reason, that wasn’t enough.  His affection was being poured out on those who were oblivious to him.
I feel a little bit like the boy.
We all make a journey in life.  And we’re all making it in some version of our own small, white station wagon.  I find myself way too captivated by what appears to me to be large tractor-tailor trucks making the journey around me.  And all too often, I find myself pouring out my affection on them.
Really, affection is quite a commodity isn’t it?  A highly coveted commodity by God, himself.  Jesus longs to be the central object of our affection.
And yet, I realize that my affection is often spent in manipulative ways.  I spend it in other places somehow hoping that if I pump my fist long enough and hard enough, that those other trucks might blow their horn back at me.
My affection has become a commodity spent to get something in return.
That’s pretty sick.
A favorite writer of mine once said that love is not economic[ii].  You don’t spend affection expecting to get something in return.  That’s manipulation.
Jesus was once asked what the greatest commandment in all of scripture was[iii].  There were a lot to choose from.  Some say He had command of thousands of different scriptural commands to pull up at that point.
Jesus simply responded with “Love the Lord with all your heart”.  He tacked on a second one “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  Then Jesus concluded his answer with two different responses “all the law and the prophets hinge on these two commandments” and “do this and you will live”.
Now, we are obviously called to love our neighbor.  No doubt about that.  But, what does Jesus begin this answer with? “Love the Lord”.  Loving God is primary command of the God of the Bible.
To live we have to love who is inside the car first.
Jesus highlights a significant truth in His answer: that how we distribute our affection affects every facet of life.  When God is not the primary recipient of our affection, then we are not really alive. When are not making Jesus our central affection, every other relationship becomes infected.
Let’s not forget that we are journeying with the Lord in our car.  To begin to live, to really live and not just breathe, we need to start looking at Him and letting Him be the central object of our affection.
Too often I feel like my affection has been spilled out of the window towards what appears to be a tractor-trailer truck journeying somewhere near me.  Too often Jesus has exactly what I’m hoping to get from them.
I think God wants to take a road trip with us.
The best road trips I took in college were incredible, not because of where we went, but because of who was in the car.  During those road trips, my friends and I loved each other through the journey.  We laughed, slept, and ate in the car and it was beautiful.
It was life.
And life begins when we realize that our car has horn, that all that we’ve longed for and needed can be found three feet away in the other seat.
That’s real life.

Heaven Is A Lot Like Sex and Chocolates

When everything around me sucks I like to think about Jesus.  When I’m not so consumed with the things around me that are sucking, I normally like to think about Starbucks or video games or some new album I purchased or something I have to do or somewhere I want to be.  Some times things suck, and some times the sucking is relegated for another moment.  When life sucks, well … it sucks.  I should know, I am a connoisseur of things that suck (I stole that term from a friend, but I like it so I’m making it mine).
I have been reading a bit of the brilliance left in the wake of C.S. Lewis.  Lewis is brilliant.  Brilliant enough to write a book that made it to the top 100 books of all time, as listed by TIME magazine.  Brilliant enough that that book was a children’s book.  Lewis has been talking to me about heaven.  Did I tell you he’s pretty smart? Well he is.
I think we need to think about heaven more during Christmas time.  It’s amazing that this portion of the year dedicated to celebrating Jesus distracts us from anticipating our reunion with him.
This morning I logged on to my favorite “stuff” website to see that the little guy on the homepage had a “photoshopped” santa hat on.  I regret to inform you that holiday shopping season is upon us.
On my morning drive to work I go past a Best Buy Electronic Store.  Tonight atmidnight the stores are selling the PlayStation 3 for almost 500.00 or more.  There were about fifty people camped outside to get one.  In the rain.  It was such a brilliant display of materialism.
I want a PS3, but back to my conversation with Lewis this morning.
Lewis was talking about chocolates this morning.  It was funny actually.  A bit perverted too.  He was really talking about sex and chocolates (I just realized I can’t spell chocolates very well, it brings up the spell check every time).  Lewis was English.  I guess they talk about sex and chocolates more than we do in the “colonies”.
Lewis said that if you told a child that greatest thrill in life was sex, he would ask you “Do you get to eat chocolates with that?”  Then Lewis said if you said “No, you don’t even think of chocolates when you’re having sex” then the child would walk away thinking that “sex cannot possibly be the greatest thrill in life if it doesn’t involve chocolates.” (reference a)
Did I tell you that Lewis was brilliant?  He still is, even though that seems incredibly perverted.
We only know what we know.  We approach everything with some sort of background knowledge.  See, if I was talking to you about the Cathedral of St. Kilian you may have an appreciation for my words and the imagery that I could convey as we talk, but you most likely would not have stood atop the mountain in that ancient church that overlooks Wurzburg, Germany.  I was blessed to go there, twice, and I can tell you that those moments cannot be expressed completely through language.  They were beautiful and sacred and meaningful.
When God talks to us about the life that he wants us to live that, too, is something that is so foreign to us that we walk away with appreciation, but often with sincere questions that say “life without that cannot possibly be the best life for me to live”.
When God mentions heaven, eternity in the presence of God and His Son, we like to think of it in Hollywood language, because we understand mansions and gold and diamonds and crowns.  Yes, we understand more stuff.  Heaven for most believers can be consummated with this: “We win and we get the most stuff”.  I don’t think we get more stuff in the end.
Lewis said something the other day is thought was pretty cool.  He was talking about heaven and the lives that we lead on earth.  We all use our life as a template for what it will be like in heaven, just a lot better.  Lewis said he thinks when stand in the full glory of the eternal presence of God that somehow this life and this earth most likely will seem like some form of hell.  I think he’s right. (reference b)
Some times we get small glimpses into exactly how broken our lives are and how whole and complete God is.  I think Lewis sees that, even if he can be a bit perverted.
In a book of the bible called Romans (in Chapter 8), the writer, a guy named Paul, talks about how much this world sucked after sin entered it and how there is a longing within us to return to wholeness of our created intentions.  (reference c)
I guess it’s on those days when everything sucks relentlessly that we are reminded that this world is not enough.
This holiday season you will have a few moments that suck.  Count on it.
Perhaps you will get that lime green sweatshirt with “St. Paul Minnesota” written on the front that you’ve always wanted from your grandmother.  It might be worse. You might get a fruitcake (I think I’m the only person alive who thinks fruitcake is good gift material).  Or it could be a real tragedy.  Some of the people you love will spend their first Christmas without their father, their mother, or someone they care deeply about.
When those moments come, realize that you are eating chocolate.  That you live in a world and lead a life that, no matter how hard we struggle, is a faint glimmer of the world and life that we are destined to in Christ as His follower.
One day we will see clearly.  One day we will be revealed.  Until then, we eat chocolates.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Reference A – C.S. Lewis “The Great Divorce” Preface.
Reference B – C.S. Lewis “Miracles”
Reference C – Romans 8:19-23

Bad Chairs. Hurting Butts.

My chair has no padding in it. Literally, I’m sitting on cardboard. Seriously. I think we bought this chair a year ago. Who knows. I like it. Its a good chair. It doesnt have armrests so I can play guitar without banging the guitar up. But it has no padding, which is a necessity for a chair, in my opinion. You know what I mean, a good chair has good padding. It’s supposed to. You sit in it, and it’s: “ahh, I sank for minutes”.

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