Thursday, June 30, 2011

I was thinking about all of the writing I have done.  I can remember being in second grade, and being given the assignment to write an entire page.  I remember thinking, "Are they crazy.  You can't write for a hole page!"  As it stands, I have written a novel, dozens of short stories, blogs, articles, paper for every level of school, and so on.  Yet, I have only written one song.  I need to start writing more songs to accompany my growth as a ukulele and guitar player. 


The Million Dollar Dog

Read  my article The Million Dollar Dog at www.puppy-dogs.com.
This article was written by Dallas Photographer Nicholas Laning.  You can find more articles by Nicholas at www.laningphoto.com.


Alright, which one?
Both are pretty abstract intentionally.  The first one reminds me of clouds in a light blue sky, or of a stormy ocean, both of which are important to the story.  The second one is a bit darker in feeling, which fits as well.  Both are ominous, which is absolutely necessary.  What do you think?  Which one?

Oh, and did you find it?  If not, go back to the post again for help.  There will be no doubt if you find it.  It is simply hidden.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Another Possible Cover?

How about this one?  I have yet to get any feedback.  I would love to know what you think?
 Thank you to everyone who wrote me today.  I have been in very good spirits despite the news.  I have been very confident in God's plan, and at peace with His will, whatever it may be.  I attribute that in large part to the enormous amount of prayer you have been giving.  I believe greatly in the power of prayer.  I have been strengthened enough to be of some comfort to my dad, whom I think was hit hardest by the news, probably more so than even my Nanna or my Uncle Buck.  I was able to remind him that our days are ordained by God before we are even born.  We had a good laugh as I shared the analogy that I like to use to think about our time here on this present Earth.  It is this, that you can almost visualize our time here as a progress bar on a computer, there is a set end, and the bar is filling up.  The only problem is we can't see the bar, so we don't know how full it is!  Could be that my bar is only half full, or ninety percent full.  I don't know.  Either way, that bar is set. 
I write theologically, and can sometimes sound academic and cold.  I don't want that here.  I will try to talk as normal as I can.  I just want to say thank you.  Your words really do mean a lot to me.  They have magnified God, much like a lens. 

Living in Dying World

Just got a news that is not pleasant.  My Nanna is so frail that she has had her shoulder dislocate, and one of her ribs crack, simply from being picked up to be taken to the bathroom each day.  I also got news that my uncle has cancer of the bladder.  I don't know any details about it yet.  I don't know at what stage it is, or what the prognosis is.  It may be like Mr. Browne's cancer was, still serious, but treatable, and (as far as cancer goes, cancer is always scary) relatively mild.  Or, it could be like that of one of our pastor's at the Village in Dallas.  He has stage four brain cancer, and could die at any time.  I don't know.  I then got on to talk to my Uncle Kyle over in Volgagrad.  He was telling me about how his hearing is deteriorating, and about his struggle to be angry over it.  He has been ministering his whole adult life, and it is still hard to resign yourself to the trials that God has for you.  I have have suffered through depression for well over a decade.  Though I wouldn't say I am depressed, I surely struggle from it's lingering effect.  I am yet whole.  I have only felt so but for a stretch of time, only to have fallen back.

All of that is to frame my heart, where it is coming from.  There are so many paradoxes to behold, so much balance.  It has me thinking and listening to people talk about life.  I have heard people who sound less like Christians, and more like Buddhists.  Their reaction to pain is one of distance.  They cling to the future glory of heaven so tightly, that they are unwilling to open themselves up to any present joy.  This is very tough, as the immense amount of self discipline necessary to get this way breeds pride and sounds very lofty and holy.  Only, God's word tells us that Jesus wept.  he was involved in the moment of His people's suffering, and He knew, even more still than us, that all the crying would soon be turned to joy upon Lazurus being resurrected.  Our greatest commandment is to love, and love has feeling.  I am not saying it IS a feeling, I am saying feeling a part of love.  You cannot love without involvement.  To cut ties with what is going on cuts our hearts away from the very suffering we are told to comfort, "Mourn with those who mourn, rejoice with those who rejoice."  Does it not?
On the other end are those who run to the moment.  They seek to capture it so much that they are willing to sacrifice the future for it.  Yet, we are to have self control, patience, courage, hope.  all of those things involve the future!  Self control is when we stave off our momentary desires to achieve a future intimacy with God.  Patience, where we wait for the future with grace and dignity of heart.  Courage, where we fight through our current fears for the future glory beyond.  Hope, where we believe we will receive the good that we currently do not possess, but long to have in the future.
As is almost always true, the end truth is found in both seeking the future "Keep your mind on the things above", and that which is present, "Love the Lord your God...", "Love your neighbor as yourself.
As for me, I am fighting for joy.  Everyday is a battle against eh lies that have and would continue to entangle my heart.  I cling to the cross.  The law exists to show us that we need Christ, that we cannot make it on our own.  God yearns for me to cling, so I will cling.  I will live, though sometimes I think, like Paul, that to do is gain.  So, if to live is Christ, that is whom I shall live for.

I long for wards of comfort.  I long for scripture, but also for your own words as well.  When I think of it.  We long to hear the heart of God directly, and we also long to hear it though the changed, struggling hearts of the saints in the trenches around us.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ministry Envy

I use the word envy in jest.  In reality, it is just one of those days where I can't help but burn to love and minister.  I listened to a sermon by Matt again today, and was just so richly blessed.  It was all I could to but cry out and ask that the Lord would use me one tenth as much as He has Matt.  I think of all the people.  I see all their faces, and I just want them to know the joy of the Lord.  That they would be freed of whatever it is that holds them captive.  I like to think about worship as a goal.  Worship is something done, in truth, by only those who love God.  So, I like to think about those who don't know God now one day standing next to me in genuine worship, the kind that only comes from a knowing heart. 

May God use you and I (though we are broken and bent) to share the love, joy and peace that is His  Amen

Saturday, June 25, 2011



They have done all sorts of landscaping there since I took this pictures.  They have put in all of this retaining walls and done a whole bunch of xeriscape landscaping.  Just to the right of the path between the curb and the stairs, at the base of the tree, they have these, big, white, round stones all around the trees now.  They are quite beautiful.  They looked heavy, so, from where I stood on the path, bent over, and picked one of the almost football sized rocks at the base of the tree up that was just on the other side of this green plastic lid covering some pipes or something under ground.  

Anyhow.  It is an odd thing to note, for sure, but when you have been to someplace so many times, every little change is magnified, kind of like how there used to be big tree on the north side of the little park.  It got cut down in the mid nineties.  Funny thing is though, the tree's "footprint can still be seen, because the grass grows poorly there still.

Quick to Answer

I woke up this morning after yet another nearly sleepless night.  I could here my sister, Chelsea's voice, coming from down the hall.  She has been the videographer at TBarM sports camp down in New Braunfels.  She is up this weekend to shoot a friend's wedding.  So, we went out for breakfast at a nearby la Madeleine's.  As I ate my salade, cream of mushroom soup, and my strawberry's Romanoff, Chelsea and I took turns fielding question about what each of us has been up to as of late.  When it came to my turn, she asked me about why I hadn't been sleeping well.  Without thinking I told that there had been some serious spiritual attacks going on.  I told her that I had barely slept, that I have been pounded from almost every direction possible.  I cannot think of single area that has been left untouched, unmolested with lies.  Usually they come a bit at a time, or it will be one or two things at a time.  This has seen me battling, worry, lust, anger, faithlessness, self-righteousness, joylessness, and more.  Yet, as I spoke to her, I could feel the clarifying touch of the Holy Spirit move through our talk.  She asked what I thought my be at the root of it.  The second she asked me, I told her about Light Blue, how I was waiting for the last bits of feedback on it before giving another once over.  For the last three weeks, I have been pondering what to do next, now that the writing portion of Light Blue is coming to an end.  As I have mentioned in an earlier post, I have pondered sharing the story of my struggle with depression.  The very instant I even pondered such a thought, all of this hell storm came down on me ever since.  I already had the thought it my head, and Chelsea voiced it.  Sh said, "Sounds like you really need to write that book then.  Sounds like satan knows that a lot of good will come from it."  My heart rang true with that.  Everything that has been occurring made sense.  All of it came together.  I am going to write it.  God can do nothing or everything with it, but it will be written, lest God should take me home before I can.  The tide is turned.  My face is set, and it is towards God's glory.  Even those struggles that I have had, they have been useful in reminding me of important elements of depression long forgotten by a mind set on moving forward.  For one, it helped clarify the intent of the book.  It is not to heal, for that I cannot promise, but to enrich and embolden and encourage the lives of those struggling with depression, that they might be triumphant in the face of adversity.  That their faith would remain intact, and indeed grow.  That hope would abound, and joy be found once again.

On another note, I read that it is good, as an author, to create a cover for your book.  Supposedly it helps you remain focused on the hope of what could be.  I  have to admit that I found the practice very inspiring and encouraging.  Here are a couple of examples.  Let me know what you think.  I know that is hard to do without knowing what the novel is about, but there isn't much that I can say about it at this time.  It is fiction, if I were to classify it, as best I could, I would simply say it would best fall under the tag of suspense.  That's all you're getting for now, maybe I will divulge more later.





Confession

Simply put, I need prayer.  For whatever reason, these last two weeks I have struggled more deeply than in a long time.  My heart has fallen prey to old lies, and I now find myself in the wilderness.  I have turned back, and am God is faithfully leading me out, but I am still in the thick.  It makes me weary being so broken.  If not for the promise of God working it for the good those who love Him and are called to His purpose, I would find it too much to bear.  Please pray, for though I know the way, I still feel lost.  It is a bit like moving a pile of bricks, I think.  It can be moved, but not all at once.  It has to be moved a brick or two at a time. 

Here is my prayer:
Oh Lord, forgive me for trusting myself and not you to be my guide, for taking even the tiniest thing for my own.  Father, help me back to you.  May your arms hold me tight once I again, how I long to feel that embrace.  May your will be done in my life and in the lives of my family, my friends, and all the saints around the world.  May you use this broken mess to glorify yourself.  Make much of yourself through this.  You are it.  You are everything wonderful.  All other wonders point to you.  They but reflect, or magnify your glory.  Thank you for all that you are, for your provision, my friends, family, health, abilities, and mostly for the continuous mercy of the cross that covers this very struggle of mine.  Praise your name, that you choose to look upon your son's payment for my sin instead of my sin.  Glory be your name!  Glory!  Amen!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Machiavelli & Ministry

We are all about grace in our ministries.  Right?  We are busy about reaching out to the poor when no one else will.  We as Christians even receive ridicule about how evil our belief is, though it is that very faith that has Christians and not atheists, all over the globe.  Grace takes us far from our homes, sometimes to places where our faith is a death sentence for holding.  Billions of dollars are spent on grace to meet the needs of the less fortunate, to send out missionaries, to bring clean water. 
Our ministries are built to exude grace, BUT, only to the outside world, to those who don't yet know.  Anyone who has ever been involved in ministry for any length of time, or has attended a church long enough will know this truth… that ministries are some of the most ruthless places to work for. 
You read the word, and it talks about the enormous harvest, so you get excited.  You think, I don’t know much, but I am willing.  You are ready.  That's enough right?  So you go look up what it takes to be involved in ministry, and your heart sinks.  Unlike the very Christ whom we are trying to emulate, there is no room for the imperfect. 
So, Peter, son of Zebedee…  how are you today?  Good.  Okay, well, I am just going to jump right in here.  Let’s take a look at your resume here.  Says you have no formal education in ministry.   (Winces)  Your previous position was what?  Fishing?  Like, for actual fish? How does that translate to ministry? How many people have you led to Christ?  How have you shown yourself to be a leader?  You caught fish?  Um, okay, let’s try this instead.  What would you say is your biggest weakness?  You have a bad temper and are prone to violent outbursts?  Whoa!  I am going to just be upfront with you here. We only really take on people whose flaws are like, “I sometimes study the Bible too much, so other things don’t get done,” or, “I am just such a perfectionist that I can sometimes drive myself too hard.”  You know, things like that.  We are looking for someone who has a good record of leadership within the church, someone who we can see has had a real impact on peoples lives.  That’s the kind of person we are looking for.  Frankly, we don’t have a place for you in ministry.
The Peter that dropped his nets and followed Jesus would probably have no place in almost any modern ministry that exists, but this is what Jesus chose him, and had this to say about him. 
Matthew 16:18 ESV  “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” 
Jesus isn’t talking about “A” church, like, “hey, you are going to plant a church over in Bethlehem, start thinking of a catchy name, maybe ‘St. Peter’.”  No, he was talking about “THE” church, like, all of it.  (Pauses and blinks for dramatic effect)
That above passage was said before Peter betrayed Jesus three times.  Betrayed him!  Did that end Peter’s ministry?  No.  Peter gets reinstated, and goes on to carry out the ministry as was said.  Some of what he wrote is now a part of the Bible.  Can you say that about you, or the people that work around you in your ministry?
It is even more than we can handle, as Peter didn’t even apply for his job in ministry.  He was chosen!  Can you imagine a ministry just seeing someone with a heart for God, raw and unrefined, and saying, “That’s who we are looking for!”  Then spending the time and effort to lovingly and patiently walk with that person, see them grow, only to have that person betray the ministry, then you forgive them upon repentance, and walk with them still, and they bloom through the grace you have shown, becoming the backbone of your ministry?
Yeah right!  We would have excommunicated Peter right out the church, and we would have used scripture to justify doing so.
He isn’t the only such example at all.  God chose some severely broken people to pen the Bible.  Think about David, a “man after God’s own heart.”  Adulterer, and I am not just talking about Bathsheeba. What about the vast polygamy?  Oh, and he put out a hit on the man whose wife he stole that would have made Don Corleone proud. 
Moses?  Murderer.
Noah?  Found drunk in his tent.
Samson?  Had sex with prostitutes.
Paul?  Tormented the early church with his zealous brutality.
Even John the Baptist, the man that Jesus said in Matthew 11:11 “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John Baptist.  Yet, the one who is least in the kingdom is greater than he.”), doubted while in prison.  Matthew 11:3  “and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
Just think about it.
A few months ago, I was lamenting this serious weakness of ours with my little brother.  He is a very wise man, who just recently graduated with his MBA from Oklahoma.  Just a few months into his job, he reminded me of something.  He talked about how serious people are about work in general.  He pointed out his bosses, telling me that they are totally different people outside of work.  A few times they have gone out for drinks after work, and his bosses, to his surprise, were fun people.  They exuded life, and energy, and humor.  Yet, day in and day out, these people are all about getting the job done.  “People are just really serious about their work, add in deep religious conviction, and people are bound to go overboard.” 
He’s right.  I have seen it time and again.  Almost every ministry I have been a part of, and I have been part of lot them, have been all about the end means, no matter how it is reached.  Eployees of ministries are expected to go above and beyond.  I have seen the name of Jesus used as whip, invoked to squeeze more out of already overworked staff.  Again and again I have seen disregard for those sharing the gospel, all for the sake of those they are to.  I have seen someone get pushed out of a ministry because their spouse left them, and having a divorced person on staff was deemed embarrassing.  I know someone who got fired from a ministry after two days of working there, all because they couldn’t type as fast the ministry wanted.  This person quit their old job to be a part of this ministry, leaving them high and dry, only to be condescended to with scriptures about comfort while being fired, then dropped off at a nearby Starbucks to be picked up.   
All of this was done for Jesus?  I don't think so.
Those is just two of a hundred such stories of how we treat each other when we get together to proclaim the gospel of God’s what?  His GRACE!!!!  Grace means we had nothing to do with it.  Romans 5:8 ESV  " But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  We are to be up front about our brokenness, and lean on God, and each other.  Perfection isn’t possible, the Bible itself tells us so.  We are to engender affection toward God in ourselves and toward one another through such knowledge, and that knowledge will result in our continuing sanctification (which is also brought about by the Holy Spirit, not you or me)
Almost Machiavellian.  Almost.  In reality, the Pharisees are who come to mind.  The one group of people that Jesus called names.  Matthew 12:34 ESV  “You brood of vipers!  How can you speak good, when you are evil?  For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."
The Pharisees, like most ministries, were consumed with moralistic deeds.  No room for brokenness.  It breaks my heart that it is so.  Though it doesn’t absolve them, it does give many enough room to try and excuse to choose separation from Christ, or at least the church.  How many have quit on Christ from looking at Christians?  Does the Bible not warn of causing others not to stumble?  Yes you say?  But, are you thinking that because someone isn’t perfect, that the visibility of someone’s sin is what will cause the stumbling?  You are wrong.  It is the lack of grace that will cause them to stumble.  They will look into the soul of your ministry, see a lie, and move on to find the truth.  Maybe they will find it.  Maybe not. 
Now, I hate this because I know I have been part of it, and will continue to struggle with it.  I am not speaking as one who has merely suffered under, and not been accomplice to such self-righteousness, such mercilessness, such brutality.  Not at all.  I recall a friend of mine in junior high sharing his excitement about Christ with me.  He was sharing his feelings and thoughts, and referenced a song that had the word “damn” in it.  When he said the word, I stopped him and admonished him.  Hurt, he tried to say he was just trying to share his thoughts and feelings about where he was coming from, expressing his gratitude towards the freedom he saw in Christ’s death and resurrection.  I gave him an immediate dose of cold water.  I can still see the rejection in his face.  He never shared his zeal with me again.  That, sadly, is only one of a hundred such stories.
May the God of all Grace reveal to you and I what the title, “God of all Grace”, even means.  Amen.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Path

Where do we go?  What do we do?
When I was a child I thought these were questions that only consumed children.  Now that i am nearing thirty, I see that to be false.  Everyone I know is asking themselves this question, from age two to ninety.  Every adult I know is wrestling with this, even the ones considered successful.  It is the nature of this life.  We are never done.  Not ever.  Those who love God will always be battling this, because the battle isn't over until we are dead.  We will always ask, how can I love more?  What can I do better?  I have few things that God has had sitting on my heart.

But first, I want to recall the main point of the gospel, and that is that it is not about what anyone but Christ has done.  In that there is peace.  I remember hearing this quote, though I cannot remember it fully, nor could I find it.  It goes something like this, "Christian, now that there is nothing left to do, what are you going to do?"  Now that you are free from condemnation, and cannot earn God's favor, how will you respond to such a wonderful act.  Surely not out of fear or worry, but with joy and boldness.

I must confess I have been tangled up in a bit of worry as of late, and it has brought nothing good to my life.  It has only made me feel more like I am god over my own life.  I have been faithless and arrogant.  Only this very morning, after much meditation on some scripture, did the Holy Spirit reveal what had been going on inside me, that I had taken all these wonderful things God has given and swept the joy out of them by thinking them my own.  My own to cling to and worry about.  Idiot.  But, God is ever faithful, and I has given me not only momentary victory, but has given me more perseverance against such a lie, more joy in the face of such a lie, more mercy to those who struggle with such a lie, and more love to Him for bothering to even show me it was a lie, for He certainly is not bound to do so, accept out of the love of His heart.

Now that is said, I will throw out where I have gotten in my pursuit of wisdom in this area of knowing what to do and where to go.  As always, take it with a grain of salt, and take it to God.  I am simply sharing.

One thing I have seen is that God's will for our lives is very much hammered out in how we are to be.  We are to love greatly, and with great service and self sacrifice.  We are to obey His commandments, knowing that they will bring us joy though intimacy with Him.  Yet, specifically, the Bible is not specific, in that it doesn't tell me what exactly I am to be, and where I am to go.  At first glance this may seem frustrating, but over time, God has shown me the absolute glory and wonder in how He has chosen to do things.  Christianity is not a religion, it really is a relationship with the God of the universe!!!  You want to know what you are to do?  There are no hard and fast answers, but there is a living God who has not only welcomed, but commanded you to come to Him with your needs and wants!  I can't access president Obama, but I can access the God of the universe for my every petition.  The Holy Spirit dwells within us to move our hearts, to guide us.  It is mysterious, and that can be frustrating, but it only so because it takes more control of our lives out of our own hands!  Trust in the Lord you God.  When you fall, ask for forgiveness, turn, and run back toward the Lord your God, and repeat.  In the end, it is such a mystery that will speak the truth of God's existence and love into your heart.

I have also gotten this piece of wisdom from others.  At first, I got listening to someone speak to singles about how to find a mate.  In the same way, there is actually very little written about how to do so.  There is only one clear cut rule for dating, shared faith in Christ, not to be unequally yoked.  That's it.  It surely isn't perfection, or no one would get married.  Well, no honest people would.  Yet, something that we know is that God exhorts us to pursue Him outright.  If the greatest commandment is to love the Lord you God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, then all others fall underneath it.  So, if you are looking for a mate, or job, or a place to live, the question can always be asked, "What will bring me closer to God?  Which choice will help me love Him more?  Which one will help me love others more?  Which one will end with me most serving?  Most giving?  Most dying to self?"  Such a question is surely answerable.  God is faithful in hearing our cries for more of Him.  He withholds no blessing, pleasant or not.

Lastly, I read an article on crosswalk.com about callings, and the way the author defined a calling was amazing.  it was simply, "What do I have to give others?"  That struck me as particularly wonderful, as I had always been much more selfish in my approach, thinking, "What can I do that people would pay me for?"  The slight variation in the two questions is immense in outcome.  My way was ultimately about me.  What can I do that I can get stuff from people for?  Awful.  On the other hand.  The question, what do I have to give, is focused on loving other people!  What talents do I have, abilities do I have, strengths do I have, that I might pour them out as a living sacrifice daily?  That I might become nothing.

May God grant you and I such a heart.  May we yearn and burn for His glory to the point of giving up our every physical comfort if it were called upon us.  May we look to our gifts in humility of origin, and yet boldness in application.  May we not be tepid with what is perishable.  May we live lives that seem mysterious to the world outside, that they are lived with such abandon for Christ, and subsequently for others.  May all praise His Holy and wonderful name!  In Jesus' name, amen.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Writing about depression. The decision.

Now that my first novel, Light Blue, is almost finished, I have been beginning to think about what to write next.  For years I have been talking about writing about my battle with depression.  Time and again God brings it to me, depression, in others.  I am honored to be helpful in any way I can.  Time and again people ask me to write about my experience, to encourage others.  But, here is the truth.  I am terrified.  Even with the distance I now have, I can only handle so much being in it.  This tells me why there are no books written by people who have survived it.  I used to wonder.  Now I don't so much.  The scars recede but never fully fade.  I keep trying, but whenever I invest in it, when I let it soak in, I change.  I start to fade a little.  After focusing on other things, it changes, and I come back.  So, I don't know what to do.  I want to help.  I want to share.  Maybe I'll have to pull a C.S. Lewis when he wrote the Screwtape Letters.  He wrote it in seven days due to the nature of the book.  I really don't know.  My heart is torn.  I want to tell it.  I want to do something, anything to help others fight the fight.  I hate depression.  I HATE IT, and I have tools to fight it.  I have fought it, and due to the grace of God, I am victorious.  But, I am scared, and rightly so.  So, I need your prayers.  I need courage.  All glory be to God.  I will do whatever He wants.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

On: Bad Christian Art

http://www.crosswalk.com:80/culture/the-arts/bad-christian-art.html?ps=0


Descent from the Cross by Rembrandt, 1634



Does this ever strike a chord.  Reading this made my heart sad and glad all at the same time.  Sad that it is so true, glad that it is recognized and being fought against.  Modern day Christians, for the most part, make bad artists!  I would pretend to not know why, but I do, at least, I think I do.  


Most people who call themselves Christians want morality, not Jesus.  


I struggle with this constantly, I do mean CONSTANTLY.  My desire to be God of my own life wells up within me, and tells me I need to... whatever it takes to earn... favor, righteousness, good standing with God, praise from men, "self esteem", i.e. the usual.  Though such a heart only takes me farther away from what I want, which is more of Him.  He came for sinners, and rebuked the Pharisees.  Think about that!  Recognition of brokenness is necessary for salvation, for intimacy with Christ, not just once, but period, always.  


I love what the writer said about calling things wholesome.  How he runs from things that are called such.  It is so true.  


Take Christian music for example.  I am going to be honest and say that I feel more worshipful when I listen to Coldplay or Jonsi than almost all Christian music.  Part of that is because Christian music seems obsessed with happiness.  Even when songs are about being broken, the vocals, the lack of bass, the poppy beat in the back, all seem to say otherwise.  We are afraid to acknowledge our weakness in any real way.  It just seems to come across as lip service when I hear it.  The whole experience of seeking Christ is not revealed.  Are there not other emotions in the Christian spectrum?  Is it somehow a sin to acknowledge weakness?  Or sadness?  



  • Luke 19:41 ESV

    [Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem] And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,
  • John 11:35 ESV

    Jesus wept.


     Corinthians 2:3 ESV

    And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,


    2 Corinthians 11:30 ESV

    If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.


    2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

    But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.


    Romans 8:26 ESV

    Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.


    Psalm 13:2 ESV

    How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?


    Psalm 88:9 ESV

    my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O LORD; I spread out my hands to you.


    Job 7:6 ESV

    My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle and come to their end without hope.

    All ends in goodness for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, but along the way, there is strife.  We suffer, and it is my hope that we as Christians will stop being moralistic and share our real hearts, both the rejoicing and the sorrowful, period, but definitely through art.  We need art so badly.  It is so important.  We wonder why we have lost so much of the battle for the hearts and minds of the world, when we have left the most powerful emoter that exists.  It is too wild, too open, too grey. 

    The movie that changed my mind about a lot of these things was "Saving Private Ryan."  It is rated R.  I remember watching it and thinking, this is bad, right?  They shouldn't show such violence, and the cussing is bad.  After more thought, it hit me, it had to be violent, because, it was violent!!!  Some might say, well you don't need to see that!  I disagree.  Watching that movie made me aware in a way otherwise I would not be able to, the amazing sacrifice made.  If it were made without honesty, without the cussing, without the violence, it would have meant nothing.  It is a clear portrait of a broken world.  I argue that it screams for the need for God more than any g rated cartoon out there.  

    We are told to guard our hearts in the Proverbs, the question no one seems to ask is, from what? 

    Violence in art, our books...?

    Judges 3:21And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly.22And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out.
    I dare you to top that in terms of shock and gore.  The real question is about intent and outcome  I think.  Is it meant to move you away from sin and toward God?  If not, then run.  I understand there is much grey.  
    That is just one example out of many many.  The Bible tells stories that would make Jerry Springer blush.  All of it is meant to show the story of fallenness and redemption.  You can't be redeemed if you haven't fallen.  Can you?
    I simply long for more heart in Christian art.  I wish I could hear a song by someone who loves the Lord with all their heart, just sing there brokenness out.  Let the guitar stay untuned a bit.  Let the sadness not just be in the words, but in the music itself, in the vocals.  We need that!  Can you imagine singing a song based off of some of the scriptures I posted above?  I long to see paintings such as what were, where men expressed things words cannot.  Books and movies where the characters long for Jesus deeply and madly, but also struggle with lust, greed, and selfishness.  Not ones where the protagonists are so perfect that their need for Jesus is in question the entire time.  Through such art, through the lens of a fallen world, we will really see the glory of Christ revealed.  Otherwise is Christ even needed?  Are we then vainly singing to our own ability to do good?  May it never be.  
    As always, these are just my thoughts and opinions.  Go to the scriptures.  Go to God.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cussing from the Pulpit

I say the main reason, because there are many, mainly, that I have not been thus far called to do so.  That's a pretty good reason.
But, this comes to me all the time because this is how I process things.  If I have thoughts in my head, I process them by imagining having to speak them in public.  The pressure is clarifying, that you would have to make clear what God says is a scary proposal!  Right?  It is.  I am actually not scared (relatively speaking) scared of talking in public.  Yet, I have a big reason why I would fear preaching.  HA!

The main reason is because I don't think I couldn't cuss while doing so.  I know, I know.  I write all of this very pure sounding stuff, but don't let that fool you.  I have stated once, and will do so again, that I those are excerpts, highly edited and thought out.  I am a fallen person just like everyone else. Hallelujah!  I have been saved because I am awful, not because I was good.

So, whenever I preach or teach in my head (as a means of processing), I say things no pastor could EVER say.  I do it before I even no I have in my mind.  I can just imagine myself up there trying to teach someone about the gospel, it gets to some part where admonishment is needed and I say, "Just #$^%$^ stop it."  Tactful right? (Moron)  Or talking about some false doctrine, "It's just bull#$%^."  I can't help but laugh and weep a bit as I confess this.  It is pretty absurd, and absurdity is funny.  I listen to Matt Chandler on Sunday, and I think, "I could never say that without, in the moment, getting excited and dropping some bomb."  Especially the "lesser cuss words"  such as, crap, sucks, fricking, etc.

I don't want to get into the area of word meaning.  I have heard all the different rationalizations for saying every word possible, and you know what they are all bull... I mean, they are left wanting.  The heart flows out of the mouth.  Slowly but surely, God is faithfully sanctifying me in this manner.

If you are wondering why I bother to share this.  For one, I hope that you will find it funny.  I am about sharing my walk toward Jesus, broken and busted up.  I want to share the walk, both victories and losses.  Also, I feel that after writing a few really nice sounding posts, I feel the desire to make sure that I am not a part of a Christian culture that perpetuates the lie that Christianity is about being perfect.  It isn't.  It is about Jesus loving me and you despite my being stupid and awful.  Amen?  


Laning Photography.  Check out this new album! 


Saturday, June 11, 2011

One last comment on...

I know that I have commented on this subject several times, but that is because I am still recovering from believing lies surrounding the issue.  I have already confessed a struggle with being open to loving others, that my actions may be ones that are loving, but that my heart has lacked in affection.  There are surely several reasons for this.  One of the biggest is simply that I have believed that in order to love God as I should, I need to be very cautious, if not stingy with my affections toward others, for fear of idolatry.

I don't have anything new to say, apart from simply a new way been helping me to overcome this lie.  It is this: It is not a comment on God's worth if we love other things.  I fear that I have looked at the situation and thought, "Man, I need to love God, and others can be a hindrance, or even an idol, so I will withhold my love from them."  It's as if I am afraid that if I love others I am somehow taking away from God.  Yet, God is the one who tells me to love.  And hear this, it is a popular belief that "love is a decision."  No.  There is surely a decisive and devotional quality to love, but that is not the sum total of what love is, any more than I am a hand.  I have a hand, two actually, but that is only a part of me.  You will not understand me if you simply focus on my hands.

I think we want this to be simply because it takes the mystery out of love, and puts it into our own hands, and by golly aren't our hands the best???  Nope.  God's are, and He tells us to love.  In my studies of the word love, there are those qualities of decisiveness that push us through hard times, but there is no way to separate the mysterious and emotional side of love, that is just as big a part.  I have become fond of using the word affection.

I have prayed and begged God for a response, that He would show me what it means to love Him, that my heart was fading under this lie.  He has been faithful to answer.  I now see that the God chose to have us love Him, and that a part of that is through others, and thus you cannot fully love God without loving others, or indeed His creation.  It isn't that doing so lessens God, it is simply that He chose to do it that way.  We don't need to love other things because God isn't enough, He is more than enough.  We need to love others because that's what God wants us to do.

A similar analogy would be God's might.  he has infinite might, but willingly chooses when to use it.  He hasn't withheld throwing Satan into hell because He can't, He has chosen not to for His own purpose.  If we take the analogy to our own lives, we can see that we do the same.  I almost never exercise the full extent of my own strength.  That would be weird if I did, wouldn't it?  Constantly crushing coke cans when I tried to drink them, sending coke everywhere.  Ha! 


So, I now know it.  Loving others is one of the ways God has chosen for me to enjoy Him.  The freedom I now feel to fully enjoy His people and creation is immense, and it has made me soar to Him with thanksgiving.  So thankful.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Post my link, and get a free, original, full-size photo of Ireland!

I could really use your help!  I you do, I will give you free copy of one of my photos!
We have finished our new website.  Now, what we have to do is get the website visible, and the quickest way to do that is Google.  Our goal is to come up on the first page when someone types in the keywords: “Dallas” and/or “Photography, Photographer, or Portraits.”  
So, this happens mostly by one thing happening.  LINKS!!!  All you have to do is put my link up on your Blog, facebook, youtube, wiki, whatever!  You:
  1. post the http://laningphoto.com/ and:
  2. write two to three sentences using those keywords “Dallas” and/or “Photography, Photographer, or Portraits.” Or just copy and paste this: “Laning Photography is located in Dallas, Texas.  Professional Photographer that specializes in documentary style Wedding Photography, and creative Portraits of all kinds: Senior, Pet, Maternity, Newborn, Professional, Architectural, and more!”  
Do that, and then email at laningphoto@gmail.com or message me the link.  Once I see that you did it, I will email you a full-sized photo from my trip to N. Ireland from this page: http://laningphoto.com/#/northern-ireland/.  Share this offer, and let your friends enjoy a free copy of my photo as well!