Wednesday, December 29, 2010

...and a happy...

Well,  Christmas was pretty good.  I hope yours was as well.  I got to spend a lot of time with family and friends.  Spent Christmas day itself down in Uvalde with my dad's side.  We played lots of Wa(r)shers.  (I added the R for all the Okies out there) Everyone ate way too much, as per usual.  It was nice.  Still, for the last month or so there has been a keen sense of spiritual discontentment.  Something has surely been missing.  Throughout the entire holiday I have been praying and crying out to the Lord to open my heart to whatever His will is.  This morning it became clear!  I was praying, when, as happens, you can just see what needs to be seen.  Here is what I was shown... Last year I applied to be a part of InterVarsity's Campus Ministry.  Turns out I applied too late.  I needed to wait until this year.  In the mean time, I began to write and kept on writing.  I never thought I had it in me, but I am nearly finished writing my first novel.  So, for a year that has been my main avenue of ministry.  I have been pouring my heart and mind into this book in hopes that it will be read, and that once read, will prove a useful tool for the Lord's ministry.  So, this morning as I was praying for an answer to my heart's discontentment, "The Parable of the Talents" was lodged in my brain.  It didn't take long for me to see that I was not using my talents to the fullest.  I have been faithful in using my ability to craft and infuse meaning into narrative.  Yet, this has had me sitting alone in my room for hours and hours upon end, which is great.  But, God has given me many talents that I am not using in anyway at all.  So, I knelt down and offered my other talents to God anew.  What that means?  (Shrugs)  Perhaps I will try collegiate ministry again.  I don't know the specifics (apart from the more relational nature of ministry), just that I want to use every positive bit of me God has crafted to bring Him glory.  So, be in prayer, if you will?  2011 is looking to be a happy new year indeed!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Haunted by Greatness

I got to share some rare one on one time with my sister as we drove from Norman, Oklahoma to the ranch.  The conversation went deep and at one point we started talking about her upcoming move to Dallas from Austin.  Her heart was breaking because she didn't know what to feel.  In one since, she was extremely excited about the big changes.  All the things bringing her to Dallas are nothing short of exciting and great.  Yet, her heart ached badly to think of all that she is leaving behind.  
That's when I told her that the older you get, the worse that sensation gets.  You have more time to love more people and places.  The more you love, the more you will hurt, as you cannot be in more than one place physically.  Only in our hearts can we be in more than one place.  I told her how when I was in Northern Ireland I missed Texas.  Now that I am in Texas, I miss Northern Ireland.  It's just the way it is.  At this moment, most of my best friends live very far away.  New Braunfels, Nebraska, Colorado, San Fransisco, Northern Ireland... I am lucky to get to see them at all.  Yet, they are more a part of my life than hundreds that I see on a regular basis.  Those we love are our constant audience.  They are there in our hearts cheering us on, or admonishing us to turn around.  
We are always haunted, and not just by bad memories.  No.  The good ones haunt with a power that far surpasses the negative.  They are the only reason the negative even have any sting.  It is living pictures of my grandfather's face that makes his absence hurt.  It is the memories of trust and laughter that make not seeing my friends and family hard.  It is the twinkling memories of child hood Christmases that bring us back every year to try and recapture in some small measure the awe and wonder that filled our hearts.  It is the heart bending immensity of the Ocean that I recall long after I last looked into its expanse.  Same goes with the mountains surrounding Lake City.  Indeed, our greatest moments, people, and places never let us go.  They define us.  Their very existence can cause our hearts to ache for their replication or extension.  Yet, we may never score another winning touchdown, or we may never again in this life see a friend or relative, we may never return to the land of our dreams.  At first this sounds sad and awful in words, but not so.  Chelsea knew it.  I could see the comfort and peace fall on my sisters face as I told her it was not only okay to be haunted by hard and great moments, but it was good and right, for you don't really love someone or somewhere until you hurt for them.  Love is not replaceable.  How awful would it be to no longer miss those people, places or moments we love?  I can think of nothing more horrifying, or shallow.  Expediency and emotional efficiency is for the dead.  
As long as we are able to move forward in hope and courage in the Lord, and look back through His eyes, then there is no need to feel guilty for being haunted.  In Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven, he talks about how this life has both elements of heaven and hell in it.  Our lowest moments are the closest we will ever get to hell, and our best moments are the closest we will ever get to heaven.  In light of that, how can our greatest and worst moments not haunt us, as it only makes sense to run as far away from hell and as close to heaven as we can?  I know that, for me, I won't stop running from that which has brought me closest to hell, nor will I stop running toward that which has brought me closest to heaven... not until I get there.

Acts 20:24 NIV

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the LORD Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace

2 Timothy 4:7 NIV

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith

Hebrews 12:1 NIV

[God Disciplines His Sons] Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Lens

Our speech is so important.  Even the tiniest of words can be the difference in our ability to understand something correctly.  In my experience, I have seen this in Christianity a ton.  To be honest, I have suffered much misunderstanding due to half truths (or half understood truths) that have been implied or stated in the church.  I can only imagine how much of these half truths I have spread.  That is one reason we must always test what is said against the Bible, and grow in our knowledge of the Word, that when something is said that is not fully formed or understood, a red flag flies up in our minds.  There is a statement I have heard stated and implied throughout my Christian life, and that is that God is the only important thing.  All else is rubbish... our relationships, creation, everything.  For years I held to this only to find myself miserable as I tried to conform my heart to this idea.  It was awful.  It was untrue.  One word can change that entire sentence.  God is not the ONLY important thing, He is the ULTIMATE important thing, the sum total of all importance.    All else IS nothing... WITHOUT THE REDEMPTION OF THE LORD!   With the second two sentences we see things totally different.  Things are important, very, very much so, though they are so only BECAUSE of Christ.  For years I struggled to allow my heart to find value in human relationships, as I was constantly being told that all of that would only lead to disappointment.  And without God as the ultimate, they are right.  Yet, with Him as the ultimate, my perspective is different.  I no longer look for ULTIMATE satisfaction in others in themselves.  I look to Christ.  Yet, God gave us the need for others to bring us closer to Him.  Almost every command about loving God is completed through loving other humans.  It is my experience that, the closest I have felt to God was through loving others with Him as the ultimate.  We become like lenses to one another, each magnifying Christ for the other.  The more someone magnifies Christ for the other, the more satisfied our hearts will be.  How amazing is it to know that our relationships with others don't have to ultimately disappoint, if they are founded in the Father?  Moments of dismay will come and go as we battle our old nature, but if both are focused on Christ as ultimate, then the intimacy and satisfaction between two people is endless... just like the love and wonder of the Father!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The First Swing

Now that things have returned to normal a bit, and my little resurgent spout with depression has all but receded, I have been left pondering the battle behind and before me, and the battles of others.  My heart feels burdened for those who are struggling with depression.  I have prayed for a while now, asking God what He would have me do with what I have learned. I still don't know the whole answer, but one thing I know I can do is share what I can to encourage anyone who is struggling or loves someone struggling with depression.  After some thought, I have decided that, even though entire books could be written on what I will share, I am going to attempt (remember, I said attempt) brevity.

So, in the name of Jesus, may the Holy Spirit give me insight and clarity with what I share.  

I want to start by simply talking about words, and how they affect depression, and our discussion on it.  All you have to do is listen to someone who struggles with depression try to explain just what it is they feel.  It will sound contradictory.  I hated explaining my depression to others, though I longed for their understanding and empathy.  I knew I could not ever explain it.  When I tried, the usual response was a look of confusion.  I often felt that I had further distanced my self from them when I tried.  I now understand that is because their simply are no words for it.  Human language has many words, each word usually carries multiple meanings.  Yet, there are gaps.  All concepts are not covered.  For example, Japanese apparently has direct word for love.  They have honor, respect, etc., but not love.  We have love, but compared to Greek, that is still lacking.  They have multiple words for love, making the discernment between your love for your wife, and your wings even greater (there better be a difference (gives evil eye)).  Even the word depression is misleading.  Before I struggled with "Depression", I had felt "depressed" before, but they were two different things.  Both are painful, and deal with emotions, but they are not the same thing.  Between the lack of verbage, and the lack of shared experience, it is understandable that empathy is difficult, or it may even be difficult to believe (my brother thought I was faking my depression at first.  Only after a year was he then convinced I was not.) So, there's a start.  Recognize that just because you may not have felt anything like it, or that they can't describe it with words, doesn't make it any less real.  It is very very real, and you can help, more than you know.  

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Lightism

Ok.  A bit of explanation for my recent lack of posting and Eeyore-ish Facebook statuses.  We'll see how sharing this goes.  If you don't already know.  I suffered from what is called a severe depressive episode, only unlike "The Office", my episode was not twenty-two minutes long, closer to twelve years.  That being said, by the grace of our Lord I have been made victorious over that for a few years now.  Still, about twice a year it hits me for a few weeks, and I just have to grin and bear it.  In all honesty, it is a really beautiful reminder of a work God did in me that I am all too ready to forget about.  Now, thanks to the prayers of those who know me, this last spell ended today.  
What an intro.  Dork.  Now to my actual post.  Something interesting happened a few days ago, and it has not left me.  Kathleen was sharing stories about North Carolina, and how when she first moved to Texas from there, she hated the way we did Christmas lights.  As she put it, she was being "A Christmas light snob."  She went on to talk about how in North Carolina it just wasn't proper to use anything other than white lights.  She then threw on a southern accent and mocked them playfully saying, "Them colored lights just ain't proper."  Now, tell me your heart didn't pique just a little reading that.  She was talking about lights, nothing else, but being trained as we are today in matters of racism, I physically winced at hearing her talk about how colored lights weren't as good as white ones in North Carolina.  I don't really have anywhere to go with this story honestly, I just think it is interesting.  Maybe not.    On another note, Christmas lights are pretty wonderful, are they not?  I am glad to live in Texas, where some people have them up year round (wink).  I love that there are so many kinds.  I can still see the lights my grandfather used to put up.  They were all blue.  They were the big, glass bulbed kind from the eighties, (the kind you had to be careful with, or they would shatter and kill you) meticulously spaced around the trim of their house on Ward St. in Midland.  Then there are the rope lights Tanner and I used to line the toilet in our dorm room at DBU.  Laugh all you want.  Mock away.  You always knew where the toilet was in the middle of the night.  I am glad that the fad of using those lights that dangle like ice sickles has faded, not because I don't like them at all, but because for a while everyone was using them, and it just felt lazy.  Come to think of it, have you ever seen the multicolored version of the ice sickle lights?  Think about that for a moment.  Multi-colored ice sickles?  What kind of snow would leave such an ice sickle?  I don't even want to know.  

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Ministry of Prayer

Where would we be without the ministry of prayer?  Never mind the effect that other's prayers have had on my life, just thinking about having the ability to pray for others keeps me sane.  As the Holy Spirit draws me nearer, my joy in Christ grows, but so does my desire to glorify Him through service.  Christ identifies Himself with those who suffer, and thus, as Christians, our hearts constantly hurt for those in need.  If you could see inside my heart, you would see a battle ground.  I have never known peace on this Earth past that which is given in the form of hope.  But, as the moment, I see the battle and am swinging.  Yet, to be honest, I feel am mostly hitting nothing but air.  I long to be of service, yet how often do I manage to help anyone?  My wife assuages my fear daily, telling me I am of service, that I have served valiantly, that my fear is nothing but a lie.  When my heart calms, I can see that she is partly right.  But in part, my fear is true.  How much of my life have wasted on doing anything but those things that are of service to others, that profess love?  I am not even in contact with anybody but Kathleen on days when I am writing.  Hopefully my obedience in writing will be used.  So, what keeps my restless heart truly calm is prayer.  How incredibly amazing is prayer?  I can minister to your heart without being near you, or even knowing where you are.  I can but see your face and, whether aloud or in my mind, beseech God on your behalf, and effect your life, and you can do the same for me.  How amazing?!  So, as Paul said to the Colossions, "Devote yourselves in prayer, being watchful and thankful." or to the Philippians, "Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."