Any Questions?

I, like many parents, have learned so much from my kids about who God is, and perhaps more specifically, who we are to Him and how He views us. This morning, on our way to church, I got an unexpected lesson on trust, mistrust, questioning God, and debatable interpretation. Yep, all of that in two minutes. Kids are handy for that — the Spirit: irreplaceable.

We were discussing the issue of what paint to use on the birdhouses we were constructing. Washable paint was out; watercolors, no. “How about the paint in the closet?” someone suggested.

Four quarts of oil-based paint have been sitting in one of our closets since we moved in. “Yeah,” I said. “Those might be okay, but there’s only brown and tan.”

Instantly, a debate broke out. “Aren’t there six cans?” “No, there are four.” “There must be more than two colors if there are more than two cans of paint.”

It got very loud very quick, to the point that I couldn’t even answer there overlapping questions through all the noise (even though, I had really already answered their questions before they had asked. “There are two colors: brown and tan.”).

Admittedly, I got frustrated. “There are four cans! Two have brown paint! Two have tan paint! That’s what I said! That’s what I meant! Why can’t you just take my word for it!?!”

It wasn’t a huge explosion, and it blew over pretty quickly, but here’s the root of my frustration: I really wanted them to trust me, even though it didn’t quite make sense to them. Two of them can’t read the label. The other one hadn’t bothered. I had. Why couldn’t they just trust me? Instead, they disbelieved me and argued amongst themselves — all for nothing.

First, let me say that God’s patience with us is far greater than mine with my kids. Which is good, because we can be sooo childish sometimes — and in the very same way. There are things God has said that we don’t fully understand; things He’s done that don’t make sense. It can cause us to not trust Him. It can cause us to argue with one another about what He meant. I, myself, love to dive into issues of premil, postmil, amil, pretrib, posttrib. I wrestle with questions about hardening Pharaoh’s heart, the slaughter of the Canaanites, and why Balaam was judged harshly even though he refused to curse Israel. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with questions. The danger lies in how we act in those debates, and where we take our questions.

So, here’s the twist. Because if you think I’m about to say, “Trust Him explicitly regardless of what you do or do not understand,” that’s not so. I say ask. Don’t ask your heart. Don’t ask your mind. Ask Him. Seek His answers. Knock until He opens. I promise He won’t get frustrated. Perhaps in His heart He will say, “I know this is complicated, but I wish they would just trust me.” But He will never say, “Just shut up and take my word for it!”

Having said that, if you can bring your questions to Him with trust in your heart, it will make it easier. Just sayin’. Because here’s the thing: Even with 66 books in our bible, “we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12)

The book of Proverbs exhorts us to seek understanding diligently, like a treasure to be highly valued. I believe that the pinnacle of understanding…is understanding that you don’t have to understand. I know…that’s explicit trust, and it’s just my opinion, but it does help soften the blows.

Nevertheless, questions are great. They’re how we dive below the surface with God. Ask questions. If you don’t have any questions, find some. Trust me; they’re there. I’ve found stuff that made me literally throw my bible across the room.

Sometimes doubts, misunderstandings, distrust come because we can’t read (understand) the label (the bible). Or perhaps we know how, but haven’t taken the time go into the closet and take some inventory. Take that time. Learn to read. Ask those questions. Seek those answers.

I pray that God will bless you with many more difficult encounters with Him and the complex magnitude of who He is. It’s outlandish. It’s unpredictable. I can even be infuriating. But it’s so worth it. He’s worth it.

 

 

Hello Hurricane

Right now, we’re in hurricane season, and the Caribbean and southern U.S. are getting ransacked but, to be honest, this doesn’t have much to do with real life storms–or maybe it does (more on that later). For now, it’s about bees.

My daughter was about six when she made a life-altering decision. “My goal in life right now is to not be afraid of bees…for at least one week.” All my kids have gone through phases of being absolutely terrified of bugs–especially bees. They panic, cry, and flee to the refuge of the inside world.

Whenever I saw the frozen face of terror and heard the trembling words, “Daddy! There’s a bee!” my response was always calm, dismissive, and probably a little out of place. “Did you say hello?”

No. I’m not a tree hugger or an insect preservationist. My seldom understood lesson was simply this: don’t panic. Whether the issue is a hurricane, a capsized canoe, a choking toddler, or a bee, flailing around in panic is only going to make things worse–it’s just gonna get you stung. Staying calm in an emergency is the best way to avoid making things worse, and get yourself and others out of trouble.

So how does this apply to real life and metaphorical storms? Enter the song “Hello Hurricane” by the band Switchfoot. The first verse and chorus go like this:

I’ve been watching the skies. They’ve been turning blood red.

Not a doubt in my mind anymore. There’s a storm up ahead.

Hello hurricane. You’re not enough.

Hello hurricane. You can’t silence my love.

I’ve got doors and windows boarded up.

All your dead end fury is not enough.

You can’t silence my love.

We all face storms in our lives–trials, adversities, hardships, and setbacks. We’ve faced them before and we’ll face them again. These can be great times of leaning on one another and sharing one another’s burdens. These times can bring out the best in people. They can also bring out the worst. And the ones closest to us can often be the ugliest. Spouses, children, and parents can be horrible to one another if you add a little stress to the mix–much worse, a disaster.

When the flood waters subside, the shelters are vacated, and the cleanup begins, it’s a process. You might all be living in the same room, dressing from your suitcase, working, and repairing your house with every unclaimed moment.

When the credit card is maxed out and suddenly you add an unexpected E.R. bill to the mix. When you’re down to one car and two people need to get to work. What about the kids’ dentist appointment? If we cancel, they’ll charge us, but we only have one car, and we have to work to pay for the appointment that we can’t cancel! Ahh!!!

And that’s when panic sets in. We start to make poor decisions–often lashing out at one another, blaming one another, yelling, cursing, hurting–tearing down when we most need to build up. 

Proverbs 17:17 sets a pretty clear standard. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Simple, but not easy, I know. ‘Cause we’ve all been there. It’s so easy to get caught up in the storm, but remember, Satan would love to take an external storm and turn it into internal one that tears apart loving relationships. Don’t fall for that. Tell him, “you can’t silence my love.”

And if a loved one is falling for that, let this verse encourage you. “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Col. 3:13).

Storms can come up unexpectedly and catch us off guard, but as soon as you realize what’s going on try this: take a deep breath, look at the clouds–or the bills, the stress, the court date, or the warm fridge full of spoiled food and simply say, “Hello Hurricane.”

My father’s Father’s son

“Daddy, who do you love more, us or Jesus?” The question came from my six year old daughter as I sat with her and my younger two at the dinner table with the most coordinated meal I could come up with, a hodgepodge of soup, hot dogs, peaches, and chips. Mommy was grocery shopping.

It came at the pinnacle of a type of would-you-rather game they had come up with as dinner conversation. My four year old son had already answered his tough question: “What do you like more, Jesus or peaches?” His answer of “peaches” bothered my daughter, but I assured her that he would come around.

I couldn’t help but think of myself when I was young. I was told that I should love God more than my earthly father. I had a great dad, and it was hard for me at the time to conceive loving a God I had never seen or heard more than I loved my dad. And yet I was sometimes convicted by this expectation. Years later I would find that preeminent love for my Heavenly Father and, in so doing, find that I had become my father’s Father’s son.

This question may actually be the continuation of a test that began last week though. My boss is utterly convinced that a certain fixture he added to our product is making all the difference in the world. We’re not convinced. When he’s not in the shop, we often list to each other all the reasons that it’s completely ridiculous, a waste of time (lots of time), killing the company, and absolutely devoid of any proof.

One of the guys (I’ll call him JW), finally confronted the big cheese about the year long rabbit hole…and got a lecture that lasted nearly as long. Now, JW grew up in church, but he would tell you that he would feel hypocritical to call himself a Christian at this time. I like JW a lot. He’s a natural born skeptic, hence his debate with the boss and hence his occasional debate with me on religion. And skepticism is great; it can protect you from a lot of things. Unfortunately, it can also protect you from the truth.

So it came in the aftermath of the debate with TC that JW should ask me a very clever question. “Chris, you’re an intelligent guy. You obviously have faith, but you’re down to earth and not so dogmatic that you can’t consider evidence around you. So I guess I’m kind of asking you to witness to me a little. Does your faith run so deep that it causes you to trust in God beyond what you see?”

He got me. It was so well phrased, so well timed. But I didn’t even realize until later that night where this was coming from. Which made my answer strictly Spirit-led (I had prayed for the words as he asked his question). All at once he complimented my pragmatism and compared me to someone whom I myself had ridiculed for shunning reason in favor of blind faith in his product.

And he didn’t say it in a condescending or confrontational way. Rather, he asked it with sincerity and meekness. But whether his motives were pure or meant to trip me up, my answer would have to be the same.

So what would I say? Would I straddle the fence and say that the bible has a lot of great lessons, but science has clearly proven an old earth? Would I say that I’m a Christian and I’m just gonna to keep doing what I’m doing and find out the answer when I die?

This is what I said: “I believe that one day science and the bible are going to be reconciled. All the evidences that science has produced will be explained; they don’t bother me at all. Scientists do a lot of great stuff, but they weren’t there. They think they know but they just can’t. God created this earth; I don’t know exactly how that looked, but I’ll trust him above them any day. Because unlike the scientists who believe so whole-heartedly in what they see, I’m coming from a place of ignorance. Because just like them, I wasn’t there. Unlike them, I won’t claim that I understand how it all works, but the two will be reconciled.”

Ken Ham is one of many great scientists who are also creationists, and I hope they don’t find my answer too lacking. But here’s why I believe this was the exact right answer for this particular guy. I said thanks but no thanks to his compliment of intelligence and pled ignorance. This separated me from my boss who would sooner become a toad than let anyone think he might be wrong. It separated me from scientists for the same reason and likened them to my boss instead of me. And it unabashedly fastened my faith to the Creator I adore.

This is important, because if you question any part of the bible, you question it all. In fact, you question God himself. If you’re not sure about the seven day creation, you’re not sure about an omnipotent God. If you’re not sure about Adam and Eve, you’re not sure about Luke in chapter three of his gospel. You’re not sure about Jesus in Matthew 19. You’re not sure about Paul in Romans 12. All of whom believed that God created Adam and Eve, the first humans. If you don’t believe in the flood, you are not in accord with Jesus in Matthew 24 or Peter in both of his epistles.

 

Call me crazy, but I really believe the world that desperately proclaims how much they want to see Christians compromise on science, on the bible, and on definitions of morality, deep down they don’t want compromise at all. Whether they know it or not, all their questions and objections come from an inner longing for absolute truth. If not, then why do they ask? Why do they care? They’re begging us to be the proof, not just with our answers but with our faith, not by our ability to compromise but by our assurance that there are some foundations that just…don’t…move.

So, back to my daughter’s question. And I confess, I often wonder if my kids could be an idol in my life. I wonder if I have consecrated them and their well-being completely to God, or if I really want to control their safety and, later in life, their will. Because on the one hand I want them to fall completely in love with their Savior. On the other hand, I really don’t want to see them follow Him to Sudan, or Syria, or Libya. See what I mean?

These are the precious angels I tuck in at night, and we go back and forth saying things like, “I love you more than the sun loves to shine.” “I love you more than ninja turtles love pizza.” “I love you more than the stars love to twinkle.”

I looked her straight in the eye and I said, “Jesus.” No justifications. No qualifications. Just Jesus. Would she be disappointed? Would she be hurt, confused? Would she cry?

Her eyes got big. She smiled. “Wow,” she said.

Dinner continued. The game continued. We said silly things. Then, unsolicited, my son said, “Daddy, I love Jesus more than peaches.” And just like that, in a simple, childlike way, my little boy took one more step toward becoming his father’s Father’s son.

 

 

All-Nighters

Have you ever pulled an all-nighter? Maybe you waited until the last minute to start on that thirty page Economics paper. I know people who have done that. I’ve known kids who stayed up until dawn playing a video game. Maybe back in your wilder days you stayed up for the party that just wouldn’t stop. I know people who have done that…..and then killed the neighbor’s chicken and roasted it over a fire for breakfast. (Not kidding).

Whatever your experience with all-nighters, you know the feeling; it’s not very pleasant. It feels like regret mixed with deep weariness, combined with the solemn vow, “I will never do that again.” And then there’s that dry, heavy feeling in your eyes, as if sometime during the night they transformed into Lincoln Logs set on a foundation of salt blocks.

Now, imagine it was your job to stay up all night doing nothing but intently watching and waiting. I’m talking about the night watchmen of ye olden days when castles and walled cities were guarded by these resolute observers. Imagine standing out on the wall all night long, no matter the cold, no matter the rain, scanning, straining to see the horizon for any sign of trouble. Was that shadow there before? Did something just pass between those trees? Was that a falling leaf or the flicker of a hilt. Your only hope is in the sun severing the darkness with its unpromised return.

And this is the feeling the song writer was referring to when he wrote Psalm 130. In verses 5 and 6 he says, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than the watchmen wait for morning, more than the watchmen wait for morning.” Oh, to have that longing and desperation, not only for the peace and reassurance that the light of His presence affords, not only for the safety provided by His hand, but simply for His presence, to want to have God near to us. And, Oh, for the wherewithal to realize our position of vulnerability and our dim vision and poor defenses against unseen dangers.

The psalmist appears to be writing from a place of repentance. And maybe that contrition is where you are, or need to get to. Or maybe you’re coming from a place of spiritual dryness/darkness, where God seems very distant no matter how hard you’re trying to get to him. Maybe deep down you know exactly where God is but you are the one who is distant. Or maybe you’re doing all the right things and God even has you in an influential role, but it’s been a while since you’ve felt the desperation you know you should feel toward your Rescuer and Redeemer.

Can I encourage you to meditate on the position of the watchman? Imagine yourself in the cold rain for hours on end. Let yourself feel the discomfort in your body, your eyes, and in your soul. Recognize in your surroundings the dangers, the fears, and the uncertainty of life. If you don’t think imagining will cut it, try it in real life. Stand on your deck all night watching the tree line, guarding your home from who knows what. Then let yourself let yourself begin to hope for the dawn, for that first ray of light, for the comfort, for the warmth, for the peace. Hope for His return, like He said He would, like you know He will ever more than the unpromised return of the sun.

In the end (verses 7 and 8) the psalmist likens himself to the watchmen both in darkness and the feeling of separation, but also in the hope of God’s return and redemption. After 10+ hours of this incessant angst, the comfort and reassurance of daybreak must have felt like Jubilee for the watchman. “Finally, I can see clearly! Finally, I have confirmation of our safety! Finally, I feel like I can let a smile break across my face!” Like a watchman waiting for the sun to rise and bring an end to his fears and uncertainty, the psalmist waits with hope for God’s return and redemption. As the watchman waited anxiously for sun of our galaxy, so we wait with anticipation for Christ the Son of the universe. But we don’t have to imagine because this is exactly where we are no matter what position we find ourselves in. We are in the dark; we are in danger; we do need mercy; we are desperately searching. We need His light and His presence more than anyone can ever express.

Indistractible

Have you ever been on your way home from work, making the final turn onto your street and realize…”Wait, how did I get here?” You remember leaving work, but you don’t remember the 15-20 minutes between then and now. You don’t remember taking the familiar turns or if you went too fast through the speed trap a few miles back. Did you even stop at the red lights? You were distracted, probably just listening to that ADD dialogue in your head. Or maybe you actually have something important to analyze. For me it’s usually the ADD thing.

So here’s my confession for the day…for the year: I’ve been letting myself get way too distracted with idle things. Sure it’s good to have some down time, but I had crossed over into idleness. Instead of using the small amount of discretionary time I have to press in toward God, or engage my wife, or at least some worthwhile hobby, I was vegetating. I was convicted of this at one point. After having the dream I told of in my last post, I put down my main vice for a few months only to find that I filled my time with something else to distract me. For me it was more than an addiction to a particular vice (a game on my phone in this case). I had a spirit of distractionFor many it’s busyness, but for me it’s distraction. And I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one.

Just like there are a million things to busy ourselves with and stray from our first love as Martha did, there are a million things to captivate our attention that are not sitting at Jesus’ feet like Mary (Luke 10:38-42). I’m going to briefly name a few, although I’m sure you know what I’m going to say.

1. Social Media – The average US consumer spends 2.75 hours per day on mobile devices (Adweek.com). 968 million people log on to Facebook every day (Facebook). The average time spent on social media in general is 1.72 hours per day (Global Web Index). 50% of users 18-24 log on to Facebook when they first wake up (The Social Skinny). Ever heard of no Bible no breakfast? How about no Bible no Facebook?

2. Television – Just one stat here: The Nielson report states that the average American watches 5 hours of television a day (David Hinckley, NY Daily News). Have you noticed how so many shows end each week on cliff-hangers? They’re making sure you wouldn’t dare miss next week’s episode. And many of us have one or more of these shows for each night of the week.

3. Video Games (including mobile app games) – Dr. Douglas A. Gentile studied over 3,000 children and found that their average weekly consumption of video games was 20 hours (Addictions.com). But if you think it’s just a kid thing, 68% of gamers are over 18 (bigfishgames.com). And there are 100+ million mobile gamers in America (skillz.com). The next one is hilarious: Free-to-Play games account for 90% of the mobile game industry’s income (skillz.com).

Here’s the good news, the antidote for the sedative, the key for the captive. It’s what I imagine Mary would say. Are you ready? The cure for distraction is attraction. 

Psalm 42 describes attraction for our Creator like this: “As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God” (NLT). I love that the psalmist uses a deer in the first verse of this Psalm because a deer, like any other sensible animal, thirsts for only one thing…water. It doesn’t want soda, or wine, or orange juice. I wants water; it needs water. What if we had that kind of focus, that for us there was no substitute for our sustenance other than God our Father?

Now, this may be the last place you’d expect a Tom Cruise quote, but here it comes anyway. In “The Last Samurai” Captain Nathan Algren said this of the Samurai people who had taken him captive: “They are an intriguing people. From the moment they wake, they devote themselves to the perfection of whatever they pursue. I have never seen such discipline.”

What if the outside world saw that kind of focus and devotion in the Christian population? It would be amazing! Not only to see what we could accomplish, but for the fact that people would not be able to deny their draw toward this intense and peaceful people group. Because deep down, deeper than how badly we want to know who’s going to win the game tonight and what each player’s stats are, more than we want to know what our 433rd Facebook friend said about our 627th Facebook friend, we want to experience devotion leading to excellence.

I also like that the psalmist notes the hart’s preference in the type of water. To reach the streams, the deer must leave the expansive but brakish bay, pass the murky lakes and ponds; it must go through the river valleys with their predators and hunters, and it must ascend into the hills toward the source of all water, to the mountain streams where it can drink the pure, cool water to which there is no comparison.

The psalmist turns the corner in the narrative to confess that his soul thirsts for God in that same way. “For the living God,” he echos. And because He is the living God he also gives life. Our idols are not alive and they do not give life. It seems like they do because there’s quantifiable interaction with these distraction idols. We “like,” “share,” “post,” “comment,” get “liked,” get “poked” (does anyone still poke?). We push a button, swipe the screen, get four in a row, detonate a doughnut, upgrade our town hall, gain a level. But none of it is alive; none of it gives life. It’s just a distraction, just a deception, just another nail in the coffin who’s resident is still technically alive. What’s missing? Attraction is missing.

So how do we develop attraction for a God that we know to be exciting, inspiring, and beautiful but who often seems too dimly revealed to us as such?

1. We need to confront the lie that God is boring, uninspiring, or uninvolved. Confess that He is far more beautiful a Creator than our dim, distracted eyes can see. We know it’s true. And we can start our prayers with exaltation, praising Him for His glory, His majesty, His goodness, and tell Him how much we adore Him. Do that now in your own words.

2. We need to cut out the weeds and their roots that are constricting the life out of our spirits and masking God’s pursuit of us. Jesus said to cut off your hand if it causes you to stumble (Mark 9:43). In other words, take idolatry seriously. Take a break, put it down, turn it off, or give it away. We may need to give ourselves a period of sobriety. If a season is not enough to center us, make it forever. If it feels like a sacrifice, praise God!

3. We need to pursue God willfully to know and follow hard after Him. Here are some reading suggestions:

a. The Psalms

b. “The Treasuries of David” -Charles Spurgeon’s exposition of the Psalms

c. “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan

d. “The Divine Romance” by Gene Edwards
-Understanding God’s self-abnegating pursuit of us is a great catalyst for our own pursuit of Him.

If we do these things consistently “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” (Helen Lemmel).

Please like, share, comment, follow…you know, all those things I’ve been ragging on. But…..be indistractible.

Dream of Dying

The following is a dream I had recently. The interpretation God gave me follows.

I dreamt that I was going to my funeral at a large estate on a hill. I had married into the family who owned the estate and I passed by the cemetery on the way in. Just a little further on, an old man waited for me. He was to administer the euthanasia shot so that I would die and my funeral would follow. I didn’t seem to be too old, but I was no longer useful, so I was to be put down. And I was more or less okay with that. I sat down beside the man on a large stone. I was now on the lawn of the estate. A large mansion was behind me and I was looking out from the hill. The countryside surrounding the estate was obscured by dense fog. Across from me, but not near, was my mother, the only person attending my funeral. She seemed a little sad and regretted that my father and brother had not made it. She stalled a little which annoyed the old man. He seemed anxious to get it over with. Mom suggested calling them to see where they were, but the man impatiently jabbed the needle into my hand and depressed the plunger. “It’s too late, Mom,” I said. “It’s already done.” I drifted to sleep.

Within the heavy sleep of death, I suddenly felt that I did not want to die. Feeling more tired and weak than had ever felt in life, I attempted to lift my head. Deprived of all strength and energy, it took every ounce of will power to wake myself. But I quickly drifted back to sleep. Again, I forced myself awake again, but this time I awoke in a stuffy, cluttered, little room. There were thousands of Christmasy nick-nacks and ornaments on every mantle, shelf, and table. They were flashy and gaudy and absolutely everywhere. I fought hard not to fall back to sleep, to death. With all my strength I willed myself to stand and falter toward the door. When I opened it, a young woman, nicely dressed, stepped inside and began talking to me about how rich she was. She rather admired the tacky decor in the room. She pointed out one piece in particular, a Christmasy colored plush cross with tassel balls hanging from it. I started to tell her that I had made that one, but then noticed the tag saying that it had been made in another country. I sat back down and began to nod off as I listened to her boring discourse of self-pomp. Again I forced myself awake, this time waking from my sleep.

Interpretation:
The family I had married into was the body of Christ and the estate was heaven. The old man was probably death himself, although the impression of the dream was that it was the will of the family leadership (God) that I should be put to death because I had rendered myself useless, even at a young age. I just wasn’t effective in life. Although this sounds absurd (God doesn’t just “off” people who are ineffective in the kingdom), the point is to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” Phil 2:12. And be good stewards of the time we’ve been given. I had been careless with my time.

The fact that I initially resigned myself to this fate is disturbing, although my change of will after death is encouraging and resulted in a supernatural resistance to death. I wonder how many of us have resigned ourselves to spiritual death without realizing we’ve made that choice (hence the fog).

The supernatural will to live/resurrect speaks to the redemptive power of Christ in seemingly impossible circumstances. Just like Jesus raised Lazarus from physical death, he raises us from spiritual death every day.

The fact that my mom was the only one attending my funeral speaks to the natural fear of dying alone, unloved, and without significant accomplishment. As Stephen Covey puts it, we need to “begin with the end in mind,” and nourish our relationships, persevere in love, and not waste time on finite things. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” 2 Cor. 4:18. The Israelites, when they were fighting for the promised land were commanded not to take for themselves anything that was “devoted to destruction.” When I look at my life, I can see many things that won’t make it past the threshold of eternity. They are devoted to destruction, and I need to leave them be.

The stuffy little room with gaudy Christmas decor represents the commercial church filled with nominal Christians. It is gagged with show and pomp, but no more effective than Santa Claus. My surge to leave the room was to try to leave spiritual death and empty religion. I can still feel the debilitating exhaustion I felt, and the rugged determination it took each time I pulled myself out of that sleep, out of death. It took all my will and strength to do it. Likewise, it takes effort to pull ourselves out of spiritual death into a right relationship with Christ where we can become effective for his kingdom. He does the metaphysical redemption, but he will not remove the distractions that we have set up in our own lives, and he will not force us to open his word. We must do those things. And it will take effort.

The young woman was sent by the enemy to distract me from leaving. Notice her timing was impeccable. Have you noticed how distractions, temptations, and frustrations are so incredibly well timed? I see it all the time, especially when I’m about to make progress in my spiritual walk. I have to wonder how many times I’ve been distracted before I even caught sight of the door. She was there to distract me, lull me back to sleep, and perhaps tempt me with worldly wealth. None of this impressed me, however. What kept me in the room was first my wanting to impress her. I fell into the comparison trap. She was bragging about herself, and I wanted something to show off too. I don’t think we realize how debilitating that trap is. We can pour a lot of time and energy into keeping up with the Joneses. Second, I didn’t want to offend her. She was boring, arrogant, and wasting her life on temporary things, but I couldn’t tell her that. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. I’ve got plenty of regrets, but most of them are because I didn’t say what I should have said. I should’ve called her out.

In the end, I surged one last time to wake myself from death and woke from my sleep and from the dream.

I’ve always liked the following verse but wanted it to affect me more deeply than it did. I could sense its depth, but I had trouble feeling it or applying it to my life…until now.
“‘Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’
Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most out of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Eph. 5:14-16.

This dream was like a mirror. It showed me my lack of intentionality and drive to make every moment count. I have a lot of important roles–husband, father, and son of the Most High God. And I wasn’t taking them seriously. I was living unwisely and ignoring opportunity–oblivious to the evil sedative of complacency.

Just like the dream I posted about the keeper of the forest, this dream was about something God was trying to get my attention about. But I have no doubt that they can bring unique perspective to others who may read them, and that’s why I post them. And I don’t care what anyone might think of me, as they are confessions of sorts. My hope is that it provokes others to love and good works.

Thanks for reading.

Innocence

I want to take a break and share something with you that I love. It’s music. I’m no closer to getting a record label than I am to getting a publisher, but I’ve written some songs that still inspire me and I really feel like they would bless others as well. So I want to get them out in some form. Here’s one of my favorites; it’s called Innocence. 

Do I hold my innocence tight to my chest
Do I speak in self-defense but back down for less
Do I say that I’m weak but pretend I’m strong
Do I realize what this could mean
And are the thoughts inside the hopes that cry
“Tear down my outer walls
Make the inhibitions, big suspicions
Stand down to honesty
If the things I do invalidate my words
Let them all pay penance to You”

And I owe my innocence to You
And I breathe to make you known
But you know

Are my self-breathed convictions true to your word
Do I self-inflict descriptions despite what I’ve heard
Do I say that I’m right when I know I’m wrong
Do I realize what you could do
To trade my fickle eyes and harbored lies
For truth and eternity
To the one who cried, the one who died
To wear my iniquity
If my sin-scarred hands try to take your praise
Just remind me that vengeance is yours
And I’m yours

And I owe my innocence to You
And I breathe to make You known
But you know

Do I hold my innocence
Do I hold my innocence
Am I breathing
Am I breathing