Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Alright, well, I am going to be writing a bit differently than usual.  I don't have anything really profound to share, I think.  Today's post is going to be a bit more fragmented than usual.

So, to start, Kathleen and I moved this weekend!  We moved from the northernmost point of Dallas, essentially Plano, to Uptown Dallas.  All I can say, so far, is that it is pretty awesome!  Our world looks totally different.  We went from sprawling suburbia to high-rises (though we don't live in a high-rise).  

Our apartment in and of itself is beautiful.  Wood floors, directional lighting, just to name a few cool things.  

Then there's the complex, which is awesome.  We will actually swim in the pool.  The workout center is big.  There's a sauna, which is one of my favorite things in the world to partake of.  It's a beautiful complex, filled with really kind, sociable people all walking their dogs.  Our dog park looks out across the street to Victory Park.  The surrounding area is very urban, yet, the complex doesn't feel that way.  I feel tucked away, very calm, and very quiet.  All of it brings me to a heart of thankfulness and humility before God.  Can't help but say "thank you" again and again.

The surrounding area is just crazy to me.  Skyscrapers are everywhere.  In the afternoons, our apartment sits in the shadow of the W hotel.  At night, everything is lit up and going.  The Perot Museum for Nature and Science is across the street on the other side of us.  It looks as if the Cyborg Mother Ship landed across the street.  Our first night in the apartment, a Mavs game was going on.  Now, unfortunately, I don't like the Mavs, or I would be set.  Frankly, I hope they lose every game they play, unless they are playing the Lakers.  Still, seeing all of the people walking about was a lot of fun.   The Katy trail is just across the street.  Something we have discovered that is cool about being where we are, is that every road leads to you, so it doesn't take long to get almost anywhere.  Every major road intersects one block away from us.

All of this is a big surprise to me.  Frankly, I am not a city person.  I have always enjoyed the city, but have always leaned country.  I am a small town man.  Those of you who know me know this.  My dad raises deer for a living for crying out loud.  Still, I have never wanted to be one of those people who had to be in the country, or had to be in the city.  I want to be flexible, be open.  This life is short, and it isn't even really mine.  If it were mine, I'd live on fifty acres outside of New Braunfels.  That may one day happen, but that's up to God, not me.  I am pleased with this adventure God has me on.  He is surely good.

Speaking of New Braunfels, I am incredibly excited about my trip there this weekend.  I just want to be there.  Simply put, New Braunfels is my home, and when I say home, I mean, it is where I am from.  Dallas is home, in that it is where I live.  Dallas has also, oddly, become where most of my family lives.  All of my siblings have ended up here, completely on their own, and I could not be more pleased to have them near.  Still, home is home, and I can't wait to feel close to Home! 

I am looking forward to being in downtown New Braunfels particularly.  I want to sit at the gazebo and write and play my guitar and sing (poorly).  I always seem to leave and find a piece of myself there.  Gruene would be fun.  I wouldn't mind browsing through some antique stores, particularly the one that has that Red Rooster grill or whatever it is called.  I want to eat some hill country bar-b-que.  DFW bar-b-gue, in general, is sub-par for Texas bar-b-que.  Also, everything just feels different in the Hill Country.  It's more laid back than here, for sure.  

I look forward to seeing my friends.  Two of my best friends, Jason Lewallen and Andrew Traeger, are both in town, which never happens.  The three of us haven't been together in years, and haven't been together in New Braunfels since before Kathleen and I got married!  I am looking forward to getting to fly home too.  I love to fly.  I very much understand the physics behind flying.  I do, but visually there is something about seeing this huge piece of metal soar through the air like a bird that gets me.  Also, I just love heights.  It will be odd without Kathleen, but I am sure we are already planning to come down together again soon.

Lastly, the third chapter of Light Blue is being wrapped up.  It should be posted soon, possibly even as early as tomorrow!?  According to Kathleen, it is the best chapter I have written yet, (even compared to the fifteen I wrote for the rough draft).  Hopefully, you will agree.

All glory and praise be to God.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Satan will even use good things to get you to give up, to rob you of joy, to steal some of your time, your talent, maybe an opportunity, or anything good he can get.  In the midst of my depression, and other hard times, heaven, a very very great thing, has been dangled in front of as a means to get me to quit looking to the task still at hand, to the life here on Earth I still had left to live.  Whispers come saying, "This life is so hard.  Heaven is so great.  Forget about this life, just give up.  It's too painful, isn't it?  It is!  Yes, lie there in bed and stare through the ceiling.  Don't allow your heart to be attached to anything here." 

Ministry has been used as a means of powerful seduction.  What was originally intended as a good thing, can be used as something terrible.  Pastors, in many cases, can be notoriously distant fathers, as they can become overly focused on their ministry at church and so fail to engage their ministry at home.  We see it all the time.  People can use ministry to hide.  People have jumped into the mission field simply to get away.  It sounds to be a justifiable means of running and hiding in the eyes of others.  If you just left, people in your life would call you out.  Go in the name of missions, and people will struggle to see past the good in the action itself, to the heart.  

Even your affection for God can be twisted.  You may at first want to shirk at this, but I it's not because God is anything but perfect.  It is because you and I aren't perfect.  Our hearts are so wicked that even the greatest of things can be turned to harm.  Jesus is called the stumbling block for a reason.  It isn't because He is not perfect, but others aren't, and so many will see Jesus' perfection and it will turn sour in their hearts.  You can never love God too much, or even enough.  I know this probelm first hand, because I have hidden myself in God, not from satan, not from sin, which we should take refuge in Him for, but refuge from the hurt of loving others.  The Irony is that God Himself is the one telling me to go out.  I have used my affection for God as an excuse to disconnect from loving others, which runs counter to what loving God is.  Take the verse, "love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might," and you might think God is telling you to give the Heisman to the world around you, go on a mountain top, and meditate.  People have done it all throughout history.  Only things is, in the greater context of the Bible as a whole, we see that you cannot in fact truly love God without loving others.  He doesn't give us that excuse we long for to hide.  In fact, He tells us to not only love people we like, but even our enemies.  Think about that.  He is telling us we are to have an affection for people who hate us, who long to harm us.  He is telling us that it is going to be messy.  It isn't going to be easy.  We are going to get hurt, but there is no room for us to hide, certainly not in the name of God.

We also know that satan loves to use scripture.  He loves to twist God's word.  It was God's word that he twisted when he tempted Jesus.  Think about that.  Satan used scripture to tempt God!  The most powerful lies I have believed have been about scripture, hands down.

All of this to say... let us be on our guard against the lies of the evil one.  He wants to steal, kill, and destroy us all, and his main weapon is lies.  If he can't have us, then he wants to at the least hinder us.

All of these lies have been very present throughout my life.  We all hate the most that which once ensnared us.  So, as these lies have, and still sometimes do, ensnare me, I hate them all the more, and long to see you not succumb to them as I have.  

Fortunately, despite all this, we know that, "all things work for the good of those who love Him, and are called according to His purpose."  God is surely in control.  He is surely faithful.  If He is for us, then who can be against us?  Surely no one.  So, let us be bold with our affections, with our time, with bodies, with our gifts.  May we give them all up to Christ for His purposes, which we already know are to bring Himself glory through delighting in Him.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Should You Hate Your Mother?

I'll never forget the lesson I learned in my Greek class at seminary a couple years ago.  Me and my fellow seminarians were all trying to learn the Greek vocabulary we had been given.  So many of the words had multiple meanings.  The word for house would be the same as the word for helicopter.  Kidding, they didn't have helicopters.  Still, point is, we were frustrated with what we perceived to be Greek ridiculousness.  We voiced our frustration to our professor.  He responded by showing us that English, just as in every language does the same thing.  The word "pot" can mean "a clay container to hold a plant", or "a metal bowl to cook in," it can be a verb.  We can pot a plant.  It is another name for marijuana, as well, and there are more.  Not only did I learn something about definitions, but I learned that there are obvious things, things that we do, that, when other people do it, we don't see.

Comparative language in the Bible is one of those things.  What do I mean by "comparative language"?  Well, take the verse, 

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."  

Now, dictionary.com says that the word hate means, "to dislike intensely, feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest."  So, is God saying that you should dislike mother and father intensely?  Should you feel extreme aversion to them?  Extreme hostility?  Should you detest them?  Should I detest my wife?  Myself?

Matthew 5:43-44 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,"  

So, okay, that is confusing.  God is telling us in one verse to hate our parents, wives, and selves, to detest them, and in the other to love our enemy?!  No, and you know it.  We all know that in the whole context of the Bible, that we are to honor our parents, to love them, to obey them.  One of the Ten Commandments is to "Honor your father and mother."

So, what is going on here?  Comparative language.  When God says, "Jacob I have loved, Esau I have hated," He isn't saying that He loathes Esau.  Ancient Hebrew used comparative language heavily.  Many ancient writings outside the Bible show this usage.  It simply means that God favored Jacob, and disfavored Esau.  Now, before we go and think the ancient Hebrews were crazy for using such strong language, I challenge you to think about our own language.  You can hear the word hate spoken all the time, and ninety percent of the time, it has nothing to do with loathing.  Usually, we mean the same thing, we disfavor it.  

> Uhh, I hate this show.

< Really, you loathe it? 

> Well, no, I don't loathe it, but I certainly don't like it.  It's not my favorite or anything.

I hear Christians use it with people, particularly "public" people like celebrities.  

> I hate Christian Bale.

< Whoa, you hate Christian Bale?  That's really strong words.  Why?

> No, I mean, I don't HATE hate him, but I just find his Batman voice really annoying.  

Unlike these examples, God made no mistake in his language.  He spoke through men, who spoke the language they spoke.  He used poetry, historic language, and more.  I think it so huge to understand the use of comparative language in the Bible, as I have seen a lot of frustration and confusion in my younger life, as well as in lives of countless others because of taking comparative language literally.  When God says to hate your father or mother, He doesn't mean period.  He is comparing to how you should love Him.  AT first you may think this weird, but honestly, apply it to your life.  

I want you to think of someone you love most dearly.  Then think about someone you love simply as a human, an acquaintance.   You like this person, you enjoy seeing them, you hope for good things for them.  Yet, in comparison with that great love in your life, how do they stack up?  Would you not easily forsake the acquaintance for your great love?  For you mother?  Father?  Best friend?  Wife?  You would and we all know it.  If not, then there is something missing in your heart.  Comparison is essential to love.  If we all loved everyone the same, then nothing would be special.  It is the rarity, the choice, the hierarchy that makes it strong.  So it is with God.  God spends almost all of the Bible trying to get you to love each other, to honor your parents, to cherish your wife, be a dutiful and true friend.  He simply wants to be on top.  

Love You More by Alexi Murdoch on Grooveshark

The beautiful thing about this is, He isn't asking you to love others less.  He simply wants your affections surpass that which you have for all else, including your love for yourself.  As He is infinitely wonderful, there is an infinite amount of room for your love for Him to grow.  Underneath that, that also means that, because it is through Him we love, our affection for those other things that once got in the way will grow as well, higher than when we held it as an idol.  That's how great God is.  What else, who else could be on top?

Side note, I don't want to leave anybody thinking that God never uses the word hate literally.  He does.  He hates sin outright.  In the verse above where it is says that you used to hear it, "hate your enemy," that is literal too.   

Monday, January 23, 2012

Heading South

I am so excited to finally get a trip down to New Braunfels.  It will be weird to be going without Kathleen, but I am really looking forward to getting to spend some time with two of my best friends, Jason Lewallen, and Andrew Traeger.  The three of us haven't been together in the same place in years.  I am also just incredibly excited to be in New Braunfels.  Some people don't have a home, a single place that encompasses their growth.  I am thankful to say that I do.  I am going to be putting up pictures I took of New Braunfels for the next two weeks, as I get myself more excited to be there.  Click on the picture below to see it full size.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Being Small

We exhaust ourselves in our efforts to feel big, feel important, feel central.  The temptation is always there.  That's what makes the movie "The Truman Show" ring true.  Since we can only experience everything through our lens, at some point in time, our ridiculous hearts wonder, "What if all of this is fake?  What if everyone else is acting?  What if they are all puppets mean to..."  and then hopefully you laugh at how stupid you are.  We want to feel big, feel important.  Comes all the way back to the fall.  We want to be God in some way, to take our seat on his thrown, or at least sit in the seat next to His.

Yet, tonight I found myself watching Planet Earth, and I felt what I always do when I watch it... small.  The sheer magnitude of this Earth, and all that happens on it.  Not only in the lives of people, but in animals as well.  Seeing those herds of millions of caribou move across the tundra as they have a hundred times before.  They do it time and again with out knowledge of my presence.  Shocking, I know.  All of it let's me know I am not big, not central to this world.  I am important, but not on a global scale, not at all.  I am not important regionally, or even locally.  

The shocking part is just how wonderful feeling small feels.  I rather prefer not being known to the world.  It makes the affection I have received all the more sweet.  It isn't something that has to be, something unstoppable.  It isn't the false affection of fame, nor the false praise of a hero.  It is personal.  It is intimate.  It is about being known.  Just like anything else, it is the rarity that makes it precious.  So then is the knowledge of those I know, and their knowledge of me all the more precious, as few have it.  We truly are experts of one another.  It makes the unsurpassing knowledge our father has of us all the more bending to the mind.  The one is central to it all, the one who set the Earth on it's tilt, set it spinning, who built the need for those caribou to move into their very fabric.  It all points to Him.  It all screams His name, and He knows our name.  He knows the number of hairs that grace your head.  That God, the central being, loves us.  Being small is indeed wonderful.

Truman Sleeps by Original Soundtrack on Grooveshark

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Orange Sky

Orange Sky

Alexi Murdoch

Well I had a dream
I stood beneath an orange sky
Yes I had a dream
I stood beneath an orange sky
With my brother standing by
With my brother standing by
I said brother, you know you know
It's a long road we've been walking on
Brother you know it is, you know it is
Such a long road we've been walking on

And I had a dream
I stood beneath an orange sky
With my sister standing by
With my sister standing by
I said sister, here is what I know now
Here is what I know now
Goes like this
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, in your love, in your love

But sister you know I'm so weary
And you know sister
My hearts been broken
Sometimes, sometimes
My mind is too strong to carry on
Too strong to carry on

When I am alone
When I've thrown off the weight of this crazy stone
When I've lost all care for the things I own
That's when I miss you, that's when I miss you, that's when I miss you
You who are my home
You who are my home
And here is what I know now
Here is what I know now
Goes like this
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, in your love, in your love

Well I had a dream
I stood beneath an orange sky
Yes I had a dream
I stood beneath an orange sky
With my brother and my sister standing by
With my brother and my sister standing by
With my brother and my sister standing by

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Not You? Not Me? Then Who?

We love to take ourselves out of the equation when it comes to being a part of the problem.  We will go to any length to divorce ourselves of the blame.  No lie is unacceptable if it can make us feel that we aren’t the problem.

Let’s start with something innocuous and light.  Have you ever noticed that, if you talk to people, most people will lambast Justin Bieber, Nickelback, or Star Magazine.  “Bieber’s music is stupid, as is anyone who likes it.  Ditto for Nickelback.  Oh, and Star magazine is garbage.”  Yet, all three sell millions of copies of their product.  Either each one has one die hard fan buying up those millions of copies, or there are a lot of liars out there.  I sub Middle Schools all the time.  Nothing brings about a more passionately averse reaction that to mention Bieber.  The tweens will go to great lengths to outdo one another in showing their disdain for the Biebs.  Yet, we all know that they all go home, guys included, and jam out to “Baby”. 

We do it with politics too.  We will hold up signs and scream in public, waiving our finger in self-righteous fury at “the other side”, whatever that side may be.  Yet, the truth is that big business or big government isn’t the problem.  The problem is me.  The problem is you.  The problem is the human heart.  It is rotten to the core.  That’s how come people keep giving Communism a serious look, because on paper it sounds great.  Insert a bunch of perfect humans into the equation, and communism is bliss, right?  Only problem is that humans are not only imperfect, but are far, far from it.  This is why the cycle of disappointment continues for those who believe in humanities goodness.  They think, “If only the system were more like this…” and so they vote for someone who is also for that system.  Then, that person, being human, corrupts the system, as the system was never the problem.  If you or I were in office, we wouldn’t do much better.  Maybe better than some, but that’s like saying I am not dirty when only three quarters of me is covered in mud, as opposed to the guy next is covered head to toe. 

Yet, we don’t want to admit it.  This is how atheism has spread so well.  It points the finger at the God of the Bible and blames Him for all the evil in the world.  The argument goes something like this: God is supposedly good, yet there is all of this evil and suffering in the world.  God, therefore cannot be.  We then go on and try to find “our inner strength”.  We latch onto humanism, knowingly or not, and we cling our hope to humanity, or at the very least, to our own selves.  WE ARE GOOD.  WE ARE WONDERFUL.  Everyone else is to blame. 

We never seem to ask what evil is.  Isn’t the evil that we hate humans hurting other humans?  Is God trying to invade countries and rape people?  No.  People invade other countries and rape other people.  We murder each other.  We hate.  We malign.  We call names.  We do all this, yet in our desire to clear our own names, to make ourselves feel absolved we believe the lie.  It’s God’s fault.  It’s the Democrat’s fault, Republican’s fault, Communist’s, Socialist’s, or Capitalist’s, my mother’s fault, friend’s fault.

Well, I am here to tell you my problems are my own blasted fault.  I am neck deep in it.  No one has done more harm to me than I have.  No one has disappointed me than I have.  This isn’t another step of self-righteousness, where I am ahead of the curve and am looking back at people who still believe they are good.  I can’t, because here’s the truth.  I recognize the validity on some level, and I can speak it, and I can tell it to myself.  Yet, within the next twenty-four hours, something will happen, and even though I will be telling myself this very truth, that I am the problem, my heart will be screaming otherwise, and there’s a good chance my actions will follow the latter, because come on… I’m a “good” person. 

The beautiful thing is that the God of the Bible is all about saving imperfect people.  In fact, Jesus said Himself that He came for the sinners, not the righteous.  It is His righteousness, not our own that will make us clean.  Those who know Him will stand before God the Father, and God will look to His right, to Christ, in your stead, and will see no fault, no blame.  That is our hope.  Remember Romans 5:17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.  See that? Righteousness is a gift, and gifts are given, not earned.  Let us today recognize our part in the problem, and stop lying to ourselves about how great we are, how the problem is outside, is somebody else’s.  It is ours.  Own it, and receive the grace of God.

Temptation is Hard to Fight by Gregor McGregor on Grooveshark

Thursday, January 5, 2012

It was one of those mornings where the sun was glowing in through the windows, soft and blue. I had spent the morning fasting, taking to heart the scripture used in Matt's New Year sermon, Luke 18. It's another (there are more) example of God telling us to pester Him with our prayers. No, I am not paraphrasing. Read Luke 18, and you will see. So, I spent the morning pestering God about a great many things. Fortunately, to my joy, it was one of those times where I could feel His presence. Communing with God is such a joy. In this time, I heard something, I've never heard before. As I listened, God called me son. Now, He has probably said it many times, but you know, as per my confession, that I struggle with the lie that God merely tolerates me, and in no way delights in me. Yet, in that moment, I understood God as my father. As such, I could see His heavy hand how I see my dad's. My dad loves me, and I never doubt that, though his hand was surely heavy. Yes, I mean I got spanked a ton. For some reason, I believed the lie, and when God disciplined me, I didn't feel loved, but hated. And so, God in His faithfulness is answering my prayers, and yours, that I would no longer believe that lie. Praise be His name!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 in Review

What was 2011 to you? Would you call it good? Bad? Probably both, right? Good or bad, each year brands itself on us differently.

For me, 2011 was the year of death's return. Now, I am not being morbid, just keep reading. In my life, previous to 2011, there had been a huge streak of life for me and my loved ones.

My grandfather died of cancer when I was ten. Since then, the only death I had tasted, was that of pets. It was life in a bubble. No one is stupid enough to not recognize death's hold on humanity, its inevitability. It is going to happen. Yet, with such a bubble of life around us, with no death to remind, the heart can become dulled to the full truth of it. 2011 saw both my grandparents on my father's side die.   My Daddy Jake died in February, and my Nanna followed him in death a couple of months later.

The bubble has burst. This is not a bad thing. In so many ways, life is evermore sweet. Death refreshes the awareness of what we have, disallows us to take for granted that which we had before. You will look into your mother's eyes, read the words of a friend, feel the brush of your spouse's hand against yours, and the knowledge that it will end will electrify everything. Your heart will seek that which will not end over that which will.

That is the bright side. The truth is, my heart is now and evermore in this life arrested. It will never again beat the same, for pieces of it are missing. Those of you who read this as metaphor are missing something, for the heart of which I speak is not physical, but spiritual. I will never be the same. Tears will sit behind my eyes, as I miss my Daddy Jake and Nanna to death. I want them near me. I want to see them, hug them, hear their stories. That ache will only be assuaged after I myself die and join them in heaven. In turn, missing them has made me miss all those I love in a way that I had not before. My longing for their nearness is all the more great.

All this might lead you to believe me morose, or that I hated this year. Do not take it so. It was a delicate and sweet year, filled with much greatness and genuine love and affection. My family has grown close through our grief. My relationship with the Lord has been up and down, but always growing. There is a hope that I have not felt in years. The hope is that God is going to continuing to mold me in the truth. He is not going to let me go. 2012 is going to be a new year of hope. This year is the year that I really begin to understand that God does loves me, He delights in me, and not just tolerates me.  My hope for 2012 is as deep and as vast the Ocean.