Monday, January 31, 2011

No Excuses

One of my favorite ways to discover scripture is by going to, typing a word or two into the Bible search engine, and looking at all of the verses that use those words.  I find it useful in so many ways.  For one, it really reminds you to always search the meaning of the words you read, as every word carries a wide range of meaning (ex: run: to move at a speed faster than a walk; an attempt to move a runner in baseball to the next base; to fail to stop at a red light; etc.).  When I see God apply the different meanings of a word, it gives me pause to always consider how often I have misunderstood what He was trying to say to me because I was bringing in a certain meaning to a word without question.  It is shocking how often this has been true.  I digress, I didn't intend to write any of that.  What I was intending to share was what I found when I typed in the words, "Follow me".  In the New American Standard Bible, there are thirty-two verses that came up. What I focused in on was all the times Jesus said these words to specific people.  Here are some of them: 

Matthew 4:18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea ; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets ; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

Luke 5: 27 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me." 28 And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.

Luke 9:57
As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, "I will follow You wherever You go." 58 And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." 59 And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." 60 But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead ; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." 61 Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord ; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home." 62 But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

Luke 18:22
When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack ; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven ; and come, follow Me."

All week my heart has been burdened, just as one who misses a loved one far away, to be near Christ.  Just as someone who misses, my burden comes from the glaring distance between myself and God.  Yes, my salvation is secure, nothing can separate us (Romans 8:35-39).  Yet, my knowledge and intimacy with Him is not.  Some will throw crowns down at Christ's feet, others will enter, (1 Corinthians 5:10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man's work will become evident ; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss ; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.)
I want to bask in the only true joy, early and often.  So, as I read these verses, it is... eye opening... to say the least.  I look at how the first disciples responded.  They were called.  They responded, immediately.  Contrast that with the young man who in Luke chapter nine, verse sixty one.  (I had to read the commentary for this to be shown to me) He is not called, but instead approaches Jesus saying, I will follow you... BUT.  There it is, all of that build up and bad writing and editing to come to this one thing... the BUT.  This man has a divided heart.  At first Jesus just sounds harsh, as if His desire for us is to, upon reading this verse, run out of the house without saying a word to anyone, run to China, (yeah, I said run, what you don't have enough faith for that?), and preach the gospel until you die, no sleep aloud.  Sleep is for doubters.  (insert cliche record needle scratch) 
Jesus' ability to discern men's hearts, of course surpasses ours.  This man had a divided heart.  He was not all in.  The response that Jesus gives about turning from the plow is one that needs to context, as I have never plowed a field in this manner.  Apparently, it used to take an enormous amount of focus to till the ground properly.  If you looked about, your rows would sway and your harvest would be less effective.  Jesus at one point tells us in Luke 14:26 "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple."  This is one of those prime examples of needing to understand the context and meaning of what is said.  As a child, this used to boggle my mind.  On one hand God tells me to love everyone, then He tells me on the other to hate my parents.  It wasn't until I studied a bit of greek a few years ago that I came to understand that, not only do we contend with the various meanings of words, we contend with the awkwardness of translation (if you have studied another language you already have experienced this.)  We also contend with different cultural uses of words.  (I thought about how, if somehow the line of written history was broken a bit, thousands of years from now historians might tell their students that we ancients believed that computers were indeed living things, as when they turned off involuntarily, we used the word "died")  The word hate, at that time could be used in a way we don't, to draw contrast in our decisions.  Simply put, the definition of the word here is "to show favor".  In other words?  We are supposed to favor God over everyone and everything else, even family.  I was reading an excerpt from the book, "Heaven" the other day, and there was a quote by a missionary, and I don't have in front of me, but to paraphrase, she was asked how she was able to be so far away from her family.  She responded by saying that it was very hard to be apart from them, but that she would have an eternity to spend with them, and that there was kingdom work to be done right now.  (Head explodes from coolness)  Such a perspective.  All week long I have been praying about this, and been asking God to make me such a man, that I would be willing to obey God's call no matter what.  I wonder how many excuses I buy into in order to not do it.  "When I have more money I can...  Somebody has to be a banker... There's nothing wrong with being rich..." Whatever.  What I know is that the men we are to emulate most lived harsh lives.  I am not going to be acetic and look for such things, that is stupid.  Simply, I don't want to run from them, if God's call bids me meet them head on.  Anyhow, that was long.  Those are just some of my thoughts.  

By the way, I always get this uptight feeling as write these things, because I feel it doesn't truly represent the whole of who I am.  It might give an air that I am really "with it" or something, and that I am one of those people who makes you cringe after reading their stuff because they sound so blasted "spiritual".  This is just a very focused excerpt of myself, one that has been thought out carefullyish and edited.  Just be in the same room with me as I play XBox and you will see that I am very much pathetic like everyone else.  I don't want any pretense surrounding this or anything else I write or say.  I mean what I said above, but just understand that I struggle like crazy.  Probably didn't need to say that.  I doubt many of you think anything else. Just wanted to state it, just in case.  Hopefully my comments and thoughts have been of some benefit to you.  May God guide you in your searching of the scriptures.  Feel free to comment or to me.  I enjoy hearing from people.  May we both not reserve anything from God. May we both grow in knowledge and understanding of the Gospel, which is that while we were still sinners, God sent His son, Jesus, down to die on the cross as payment for the debt of our sins.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I have gotten to spend quite a bit of time over the last few weeks seeing people from my past.  Last night I got to enjoy the company of several dear friends from high school.  Being around people from your past always brings back emotions with them.  You recall feelings and memories not brought up in ages, and so on.  Anyhow, I was thinking about memories in and of themselves.  I was thinking about how powerful they are, and yet how vague they can be.  Few things move me more than the Ocean.  I have always felt close to God when I stand next to it, when I look at it.  It is so deep, so powerful, and so expansive, it is one of the few things that never fails to make me feel insignificant (in a good way).  How wonderful it is that I can recall some of those things.  Yet, it isn't the same.  Memories, as great as they are, and they are great, are just shadows of the real thing.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that I appreciate the perfect blend of memory that we are given.  Our memories serve to tell us who we are remind us of wonderful things, but also what we are missing.  Without them, we would leave the presence of someone we love being near, and they would simply cease to exist in our minds.  On the other hand, if memories were true and perfect, capable of capturing and keeping every experience whole, we would only need to experience something once.  Proximity wouldn't be necessary for us to truly experience someone or somewhere.  We wouldn't ever miss anyone.  As it is, we can recall to varying degrees our experiences, yet they leave us wanting more.  Even simple things, like the sound of wind through trees, can surprise me when I hear it again.  That's how it should be.  I certainly wouldn't want to feel like someone could be near me once, and never need to near me again to experience what it is like to be near me, and I most certainly wouldn't want it the other way.  I have a million memories of Lake City, Colorado.  The beauty of the mountains can be seen and felt, but only just enough to tell me I need to go back.  I need to be there again.  It is the same with those we love.  My memory cannot contain the greatness and beauty of my loved ones.  They tell me we need to meet again.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


There are so many facets to the pain of depression.  One of the darkest is simply the immense confusion that comes with it.  It is of little surprise, looking back, that so many people treated my battle the way they did.  Time and again I was looked at with disgust or confusion as I tried to open up and explain what was happening.  A few years ago, my little brother told me that, for the entire first year of my struggle with depression, that he didn't believe my pain was real.  My parents spent the first months placing the blame on other, more common things.  It was just me being a teenager, or something like that.  I quickly learned, and barely told a soul for the first three years, leaving me to shoulder my pain in the shadows.  Some high school friends just found out about my depression within the last few years.  They had no idea.  Even at college, where I was more open about my battle, most people just stared.

The most common response I got was that people changed the subject.  Some nodded their heads, but then promptly treated me as if nothing was wrong.  At no point did I get mad at them.  I wasn't mad at them, because how could I get upset at others for not understanding and being confused, when I didn't understand and was confused.

To this day I can not tell you what caused me to feel that way, just that the pain is very, very real, and fir me, far worse than I could ever begin to share.  It just hit, and didn't leave for the next decade plus.  The pain is so different from normal depression, that I didn't have any way to make it known what I felt.  It was so different from anything I had felt before.  It felt as if it was like trying to describe the color blue to a blind person.

This confusion opened the door for so many lies!  Satan had a field day.  Was I being punished?  Did God just hate me?  Did I have some kind of post traumatic stress disorder?  If so, from what?  I couldn't recall anything tragic beyond what was common to an American teenage boy.  I asked myself horrifying questions.  Did someone do something to me?  Did I do something horrible to someone else?  Something so horrible my brain was subconsciously trying to bury it?  I HAD NO IDEA!  I couldn't recall any such thing.  Yet, the pain was there, and entirely unrelenting.  But for a few brief moments, the pain held me nonstop for the entire decade.

I used to imagine what it would be like to have had a "normal" disease/problem/whatever.  People would get sick and everyone would empathize.  They would make cookies, write cards, preform acts of service, they would pour out their hearts to encourage a brother or sister in need.  I coveted that as I fought through a battle most were not convinced was real.  It was in the actions and love of a very select few that God held me together.  Looking back, seeing how confused I was, understanding the confusion of others, it truly marks those who were able to see me and encourage me through my pain, those who actually listened and hurt for me, it marks them with greatness.  Such actions could only have been afforded through faith, and not in God, who deserves it, but faith in me, who doesn't.  They took my word for it, and shouldered a pain they had not personally experienced.  I said blue, and they trusted that the color blue was real without ever seeing it.

Surely it is difficult, as you can't see it like you can a broken bone on an X-ray, but you must begin to believe in the pain of depression.  That is my prayer, and I pray it that those who are still fighting it, or are going to in the future, won't have to fight it in the shadows as has been done throughout history thus far.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Couch Potato in Armor?

I Corinthians 9:22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
I have been trying to prepare my heart for what is to come.  The moment that the Holy Spirit plucked the "You need to go take part in ministry" string, I have been that mix of good and bad excited.  On one hand I am eager to just see what God does.  He has been faithful to use me in weakness and in strength (sounds like a wedding vow).  On the other hand, I had become very complacent in my writing.  The voice in my head kept reveling in the brilliance of it, "I can minister to people without actually having to be around them!"  Don't judge me! (hangs head)  I know.  You're right.  It is sad that was such a tempting thought.  In reality it wore off very quickly.  

For months I have been off.  Matt Chandler speaks constantly about the infinite glory of God, and how we as Christians should always feel slightly discontented in this one area.  If Christ's beauty is infinite, why would we just stop short of desiring the fullest?.  Even if we never attain it, why would we stop trying?  Is there something better?   So, everyday as I wrote or subbed or photographed, I just felt like I had stopped fighting for more of Christ's glory.  I could see myself in my head, watching TV in a full suit of armor, sword ready at the hip, every now and then glancing at the window outside to see if there was still a battle to be fought. 

I have been afraid, but ready to battle, the fear of inviting people into my heart... strangers no less.  I think of the messiness of leadership.  I have been begging God to discipline me to give up anything that could hinder my ministry.  While I don't feel the need to be perfect by any stretch, I am  going to do my best to attain whatever it is God wants for me, and hope that He gives me the strength to do it, so the we don't look back on this little post and laugh or cry out pity.  In this spirit, things will have to change.  The desire of my heart has not changed and is razor sharp.  I will not be disqualified from the prize.

I once again apologize for being the most boring blogger... ever. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Constantly learning, we are.  I planned on finishing the first draft of my book over the holidays.  Wrong.  Sure, there was no "work", but I spent the entire time with people.  It was a blast, but there was nary a second to spare.  I envisioned sitting alone out at the ranch, drinking some tea, tapping away as a lone buck prances across the field in front of me.  Instead, I spent most of the time at the ranch working, hauling around hay or incapacitated deer.  Uvalde was more of the same.  We played washers incessantly ( a game I had scoffed at before trying.  Too "redneck")  Turns out tossing washers into a hole in the ground can be pretty entertaining.  This month isn't looking too much better.  I have confidence it will happen, as the Lord has answered a major prayer.  I wrote two hundred pages of the book in six weeks during the summer.  Once school started back up, and I began to sub, I found writing difficult.  I had the time.  The problem has been keeping emotionally focused and creatively free.  See, when I write, I have to feel completely free from worry.  My mind needs to be able to go wherever it needs to go.  Subbing on the other hand, because I intend to do my job right, involves my undivided attention.  Going back and forth has proven to be sticky for me.  I have only written fifty pages since school started.  So, I only need to sub three days a week, and have been praying that God would somehow help me finish the book.  A week ago I get a call from my favorite school asking me if I was interested in a long term sub job where I would work three days a week... Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.  Talk about an answer to prayer.  Not just three days, but consecutive days.  So, with your prayers, and Gods grace, I should be able to finish this first draft with strength, despite the fact that my brother, sister-in-law, and sister are all living with Kathleen and I this month.  HA!  Praise God!