Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rules

Anyone who has know me for an  extended period of time knows that I have three foundational non-negotiable rules in life.  I came up with them years ago and it has been the source of much amusement for my friends and family. They are as follows.

1) Jay does not dance.

This one was mostly implemented as a safeguard for my pride but there was an additional element of safety for those around me. I am a giant and a misstep could crush a group of people in no time flat.All it takes is for one stray elbow to go wild and suddenly happy dance party has become a race to the E.R. ... or at least that is how it always plays out in my mind.

2) Jay does not share food.

I'm not sure this needs any sort of breakdown on it because I am pretty sure this is a man law. If I've got a plate, that plate is sovereign territory. Your fork is an unauthorized enemy aircraft invading the neutral zone and I am authorized to shoot it down and the incident will be seen as an act of aggression


3 Jay does not run.

I've hated running. It's awful. You intentionally get up and drain all your energy going no-place in particular. And you can feel it in your lungs afterwards... awful.

Or so I used to think.


I have these rules and I don't even follow them anymore. I was at a friends wedding and even though I don't know how to dance, I danced anyway with my sister in law. Sure there was alcohol involved, but it was a wedding celebration. I even got comments later on what a great dancer I was ( much to my shock.) There were other moments when the air was right, and time slows and you feel the moment. I dance.  That part of my old heart is gone and now I do it on occasion because I want to. ( and because occasionally alcohol is involved )

As for sharing food, something changed in me. What kind of Italian doesn't share food? I look back at that how far I have come from it. I see the blessings of sharing with others and feeding people what little I have to share. The fellowship of eating a meal together is a powerful moment of bonding. That part of me that says " all for me, stay away" has died so much. It isn't all gone but there isn't much there anymore.

But running...
Running..

I've always joked that I would rather punch a bear than run from it. In life I have had the notion that I cant think of anywhere that I would need to be in such a hurry that it wouldn't still be there when I got there. 
That part of my heart is still there, however there are cracks in the stone of the stronghold.

I know a woman who is a runner. Initially she started talking about running as her passion and I wont lie that my initial thought was something to the effect of "Pshhhh, good luck with that. I applaud you but I don't want anything to do with that" As I hung out with her, her passion was undeniable. It was something that she loved., LOVES. I would sit and think, why? How? how does someone love that?  It was a part of her that I didn't understand but, I wanted to. It aroused a curiosity in me about it. I'd ask questions here and there trying to get an understanding and just letting her know that even though this thing wasn't for me, I at very least respected it in her. I watched how dedicated she is to it. How excited she got about it. How much fun she has. How her life is when she can't go do it. I'm pretty sure all she saw was the blank bored look on my face that masked the respect and inspiration building behind my eyes. I listened to some things even though I didn't understand.  One day she was pouring out  her words matching the subject that is a part of her heart and as they splashed over me something dripped into the cracks of that stronghold in my heart. I remembered something that I had forgotten from when I was a young young boy. The freedom.
I remember i used to be so fast that the neighborhood kids would talk. I would run everywhere and I would climb anything and I swear to my young mind I was unstoppable. 

The life of this woman testified something to me. Her life testified of life.

I walked down to get my taxes filed today and on my way home I stopped over at a baseball field duggout where I tend to do some thinking and meditation. I thought about her, and my rules, and who I am and who I was.  I thought about what I want. 

That answer is freedom. 

With that answer I thought, I want to run right now. I looked over at the people playing soccer and  then over at the people running track and for a moment I paused. For a second I didn't want them to see me running. Some people have made fun of me before and I don't want them to look at me. I don't want this and I don't want that. But I want freedom. So, I ignored them all. The people, the thoughts, the insecurities. I just ran. I started slow and started a light jog. Then I thought, I want to run fast. So I ran fast. Then I thought, I want to run completely uninhibited and free..

and I did. It was awesome.

Sitting here writing all this I think about the commands of God. The rules.  "Pshhhh, you can not eat pork all you want. Good luck with that." Pshhhhh, you can forgive people all you want, i applaud you but that has nothing to do with me "  What if god set before us things and he says " this is freedom. This is liberty. " and we say in our heart, " I don't want anything to do with that."  Our Lives and our passions are testifying something. Our actions and the impressions we give, They speak louder than words. 
Are we passionate about the Words and the way of God? Do our lives proclaim that message? 
Are we willing let go of the strongholds of our demands, our set ways, our arbitrary rules.. and walk in the liberty and freedom that is submission to God.

Running.  







Who would have though I would have enjoyed running.  God can save us all.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Turd Faces.


Malachi 2


1
“And now, you priests, this warning is for you. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me. 
 3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD Almighty. 5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.
 7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty. 9So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.” 


John 9
 1 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” 6 When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. 8 Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, “Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?” 9 Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the one.” 10 So they were saying to him, “How then were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed, and I received sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is He?” He *said, “I do not know.”
Controversy over the Man
 13 They *brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they *said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?” And he said, “He is a prophet.”  18 The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, 19 and questioned them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?” 20 His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. 23 For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
 24 So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 So they said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?” 28 They reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.” 30 The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. 32 Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” So they put him out.
Jesus Affirms His Deity
 35 Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” 38 And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him. 39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.





I thought about writing out a blog, with heart and passion.. but the more I read these two passages.. the more I thought that it speaks for itself. It doesn't matter how high your position is... You can be a turd face, and it pisses off God. 

The thing that Got me was the assurance of the disciples of Moses. How many times are we being crap heads because we are so resolute in our interpretation of scripture that we miss the part that the Savior right in front of us is trying to let us see? So self assured that they had the grasp on the right way... they are the righteous ones, and let nobody come against that... even when their wrong.




Think about it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Illusions.



All my life I have tried to find measure between how the world sees me, and the way I see myself in the world. I, admittedly more than most men, have spent quite a fair amount of my life in introspection. I think about who I am as a man at minimum every other day. I wonder where I am going in life, or where I want to go and if its somewhere godly. I have nerdy hobbies that friends of mine make fun of, taking minor pleasures in the creativity of formulating a jab. I have some nerdy hobbies, but I wouldn't classify myself as a nerd.  I have a fairly strong work ethic, when I am at work. However, I haven't been to a nine to five job in a good six months. To most that looks like laziness. To me, this looks like the freedom to be able to work on things that I see that truly do matter in life. I have the freedom and the flexibility to show up at a recently widows farm and help lift heavy things in order to get help get her organized for an estate sale. It gives me the ability to drop everything and spend a week helping my eighty year old grandfather use the bathroom after his back surgery. That is the part that I see, where others attempt to define a person by a job. Labels. Tags. Titles and definitions.  How we read things. How we perceive things. How we see people. How we see ourselves.

As I sit here eating a handful of cashews I can't help but think of what the world would be like if people had a clear printed label. 5mg of trans-sarcasm. 20% of your daily value of negativity. Allergy warning, this person dwells in places with high concentrations of sin. How much would that suck! You may read that and for a second think, " That would be great, I could be protected from exposure to all kinds of negative influences and live an awesome clean life" but truthfully, it would be awful. What if your label read, " A significant source of pretension and condescension" 

Okay, I think I was starting to get a little lost in that analogy.

What do we see when we look at people? Are we angry, and fault finding? Are we blind to them completely? Do we only notice in others our own projected insecurities that make us either bond, or break communication? What standard do we hold others to, and is it different to the standard in which we hold ourselves? Should it be different? Should we demand things of children that we demand of adults? Flip it around, Should we demand of Adults things that we wouldn't ask of children?

What do we see when we look at ourselves and others?

IS your heart gripped with Anger, in seeing so much injustice?
Sadness for a perception of a vast majority of the hurting and the lost?
Are you in a state of bliss having never given any of these things a moments thought?
What about happiness when you see a child figure out something for the first time on their own?
Do we get frustrated when nobody seems to understand, and we haven't found the words to explain?


Illusions. I wonder how much of the way we see the world is just a mirage. Just because we see something a certain way doesn't mean that is reality. We paint these pictures in our minds of people and places, even events. Of how so and so hurt us, or how great such and such is. Occasionally inflating or diminishing the facts in the storage banks of our minds.  I think that we are all the same in this. I think most people are the same. We see people as the enemy often for how they are hurting, or we see them as defiant when they just do not understand something.  We see others as heroes when they are just as flawed as we ourselves, and we gloss over the shortcomings in order to maintain the overall illusion of perfection. Some people we are graceless with when they really need it. Others we are far far to graceful for when they have betrayed us.
These traits are in all of us. That is what I see. We are all evil, and through God all we who believe are Saints.  We all need empathy at times, and we all need to exorcize that for others


One of my favorite people in the entirety of scripture is Peter. My heart goes out to this guy. I see much of myself in him. A man who sees his a purpose as a watchman or maybe a safeguard for the faith. . He was a man of devout faith. Getting out of the boat to walk on water to reach the Messiah. Yet, catching so much flack from modern day believers because he became afraid and started to sink. A man so zealous for what he saw as true and right that he starting chopping ears when they sought to lay hands on the Savior.

This guy..

This guy became afraid.  This guy started swearing at people. This guy became ashamed. Embarrassed. This guy became broken inside. I often wonder what kind of struggle and inner turmoil he was fighting as his savior was dying. I'd bet that he was recounting every miracle, every sermon and every event that he watched and witnessed, and asking himself if it was all a lie. I bet his heart was a bloody mess. I bet he was in the illusion of hopelessness. He had denied the one that he was ready to lay his life down for just hours prior. Perhaps all he saw was his sin, and his abandonment of the one who was supposed to redeem Israel.

But...

The Savior lives, and what is one of the very first things that he says?
Go tell Peter.
It isn't , " That Peter guy is a sin covered ass that left me in my time of need. Let him wallow and let him fester." It wasn't "He deserves to be punished for denying me. He deserves the pain as part of his consequence" The savior didn't rise from the grave just to look down on people. He didn't appear on the road to explain what a major failure everyone is. He didn't pop out of the grave just to brag about how he knocked death out with a right hook to the face.


The first thing he did was care. He cared more about ending the suffering of Peter and the condemnation that he was probably heaping upon himself then anything else.  He knew that Pete would screw up. He knew that. We're all just like Pete. We all have denied the one who paid the price for our life. We all have sinned. We all still struggle with sin. We all have our prejudices. We all have our interpretations of who we are, versus how the world sees us, versus the way we really are.

We are all Peter.

and our Choice is this...

We can either focus on the fact that we screwed up in regards to being there for God...
... or we can graciously accept the fact that he came after us to let us know that we have been forgiven and it is time to keep moving forward as a redeemed people.

He didn't focus on the failure. He mended the wounds of a man and sent him to mend others.
Don't get caught up in the illusion that you are without worth. Don't get stuck in the broken part. It may seem like the full scope of reality, but right beyond that is the first step in walking in the knowledge of forgiveness toward righteousness.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fear.


Tonight I went out in the night air and just walked for the first time in a while. I set out of my apartment with no particular destination in mind because I just wanted to go, and do, something. With my ipod in pocket and my boots tied I set out down the stairs of my ghetto neighborhood and descended into the darkness of our poorly lit complex. As I walked I noticed the stars out and the perfect temperature for this time of day. I noticed the trees and rocks and the strange burning plastic smell of my complex. Tonight, for the first time in a long time I wasn't packing a .45, or a .357 or even my tactical .22. I wasn't thinking about a what if scenario, or how I would react in a certain situation. I wasn't recalling the time that I got mugged when I was fourteen in my own neighborhood back in Grand Rapids. I walked forward without an ounce of fear.

Fear.

I used to have a Karate instructor who would repeat over and over that we do not use four letter words. That one fits the mold. Take a second, and think about it. How much of your life is under a fearful subjugation? In this day and age you cannot turn on the television or pick up a news paper without and laundry list of fear proponents:

"The housing marking taking a turn for the worse!!!"

"Senate  Democrats blame republicans for ruining the economy; Reps say "NO, YOU!!!""

"Possible threat of Iranian nuke causes surrounding nations to step up action"

"Think your kids are safe at school, think again: we'll tell you why at 11"

"Think your kids are safe at home, think again: we'll tell you how tiny bacteria found only in your house is trying to kill you."

"What if the coca cola company never decides to bring back Surge"

"What if I lose my Job"

" What if I get sick, I don't have insurance and I can't afford it"

" Adam Sandler makes another movie like "funny people""

Here's one...
"What if they find out my sins."

"What if they don't like the real me"

You get the point some big fears, some little ones. We live in a world of alarmist. Everything can kill you, and everyone is is out to get you. That is what is perpetuated by the media, our society, ourselves.
I don't know if its just to sell stocks or duct tape and bottled water or what. The reality is that this isn't a way to live. What does it profit? This subject is something that God has been showing to me over and over again. Worrying about things leads to insanity and heart problems. It causes sleepless nights and tired days. Why worry about the things that I cannot change? The big things, the ones out of my control. I don't have communication with attack subs. No, I can't directly tell the government to stop trying to spy on me through my computer. Why is there so much fear? What is fear?

Fear is a reaction to a potential loss.
Loss is measured in what can be taken from you.

So where then,  is freedom?

The Bible talks about fear, and worry and how it doesn't work well. An old pastor used to say its like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but you don't go anywhere.

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." John 14:27

 There you have it. The entire thrust of this post. Fear not. Stop being afraid of things that you shouldn't be afraid of. Fear is a reaction to a potential loss, and loss is what can be taken from you...  I ask again... what is freedom?


Ironically, the answer is surrender.  Surrender of control to God is the most liberating thing in the world. What can you lose having given everything over to him? What can be taken from you, when you have given everything to take?

"Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it" -The Messiah. The Savoir of the World. Luke 17:33


It comes back to trusting God enough to handle whatever is going on. Be it a job, a significant other, the country, bills, justice, injustice, food, shelter, love... LOVE, peace, acceptance, what ever  the case...

...are you afraid of what will happen if you don't have control?
I think we should be afraid of what happens if we keep it.

Fear not.... for he is with us.