Saturday, November 21, 2009

Of Thanks

I've long believed that forgiveness is one of the most desirable qualities a human being can have. Whether in a friend, a wife, a parent, or whatever other crazy relationships we dream up, forgiveness just matters. Of course, a few of us just nod our heads at this concept, say "oh yeah, of course it is" but rarely do we look at the assumptions, the roots, the truth behind the thought. The reality of forgiveness is this - nothing demonstrates mercy and grace quite like it. I probably haven't rocked any worlds yet, but my most recent realizations have been tied to this concept:

Forgiveness is what you do when you are owed everything and freely accept nothing.

Consider all our petty issues as human beings. I'm frustrated with my job while children in Africa starve to death in numbers that I can't count every day. Girls are kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery in third world countries, and I am terribly concerned about how the lady behind my house parks her car so that I have to orchestrate an 18 point turn that begins with me backing out of the garage at a 35 degree angle to go grab some ice cream. We've all been guilted like this before, right? I have, and so have you... but try this one on for size, it might just really hit home.

How many times do we sacrifice an evening, a week, a friendship, over something that really didn't matter? I get an angry phone call at work and my day is ruined. I feel wronged by my friend so I cut them out. I feel like that guy who cut me off is an absolute jerk. We're all so entitled... so quick to anger. And we fail to realize that whether we are owed or not, our reaction should be one of grace, and in it strength. When we fail to forgive we admit that the size of our perceived offense is so much greater than us that we do not have the power to forgive it. I guess my reminder here is to remember - what really matters? Are you willing to sacrifice a relationship (friendship, marriage, or otherwise) so that you can let someone else know you were wronged? How many of the things in life that we feel are so heinous have we forgotten about within a week? (most) a month? (almost all) a year? (all). Why on earth would we be willing to sacrifice a lifetime of togetherness for something so trivial...

Because we don't have a proper understanding of our rights, our belongings, or what we deserve. All this talk of forgiveness leads to my real goal, given the season - Thanks. When we rid ourselves of our sense of entitlement, and pride, we allow ourselves a clear picture of what we're owed so that we can forgive, and what we have been given so that we can be thankful. Tonight at dinner I began mulling this concept when we all went around a table and stated what we were thankful for... I knew my answer was truly everything, but had no idea how to condense it into a sound byte... so here I am, correcting my earlier clumsiness. When I realize that I am owed nothing, that I exist for the purpose of expressing Christ, that come better or worse, I serve a good God... then I can be thankful.

I'm about to get a little sappy, I apologize. Skip a paragraph if you'd like - the next one will be back on task. I thank God for the people he has put in my life and I thank them for their grace, mercy, and strength. I have a dear group of friends that cares about me, puts up with me, and grows me for no other reason than it is at the core of their existence to. I have dear parents who would (and probably have) sacrificed anything that needed to be sacrificed for me. I have a life that anyone who wasn't self-absorbed would dream of, and sometimes I take it absolutely for granted - I care about you guys, and I am unbelievably thankful that you care about me too.

When we realize how little we've earned and how much we've been given... When we see the world as it really is, and see the people who care about us as they really are... When we see how much fortune has affected the good things in us as opposed to our own self gratifying greatness... suddenly the world changes. Suddenly we become powerful - because we are greater than the sins committed against us. We aren't victims any more, we aren't helpless any more, we aren't beggars any more. We give freely, and in that have power because our hand is never forced. Be truly forgiving this year. Be truly gracious. Be truly merciful. And, as the season so often reminds us, be truly thankful.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Nothing this week. Nothing at all. Ideas - but nothing I feel the need to post...

When this week is over though, there WILL be workouts of the week. posted. boom.

And there will be a post, a real one :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Of a Good God and All the Time in the World

Of a Good God and All the Time in the World
Workout of the week: None.
People surprised by this: None.


I'm pretty hopeful this week, so it's probably just going to be reflected here - no big surprises. The title of this one really says almost all I have to say, but I'll dig into it anyway because finding the assumptions that you have to buy into so that you can accept something is just as much fun as the something itself.

May 2008.
If you looked at me or my life, it was very clear where everything was going. I'll throw out the bullet list for those that didn't know me, or those that don't know me as well as they might. We won't go into the why's or any of that too much, I'll just present the facts so we can move on.

Dating Relationship
Present (at that time): Dating one of the best girls I've met, end of story. Had been for 2 years.
Predicted Future: Engagement a couple months down the road.
Reality: Broken up within 3 months.

Present (at that time): Just finished the Masters in Finance, held a pretty darn strong GPA, life is smooth.
Predicted future: Easy entry into the job market in a Dallas investment fund as an analyst.
Reality: Unemployed 9 months. Need experience.

Present (at that time): Had several offers and interviews on the table. A couple for analyst positions, a couple on the "retail" side of finance. Turned down a "retail" side position, balked at an analyst spot that would have been a good one to have due to qualms with the people involved and another due to its physical location, still had several fairly strong connections that could probably do me a favor.
Predicted future: Good paying job doing what I loved, even if I didn't make as much money as I wanted, I'd be in a good spot, no doubt.
Reality: Unemployed 9 months. Due to flood of people being let go every entry level spot suddenly required 2-5 years experience. Interviewed with prior connections on days when they lost 100 million plus dollars on a couple occasions. Told I was too ambitious for a couple spots I would have *happily* taken. Living off limited college savings.

Present (at that time... and still... sort of): Owned a house in Lubbock.
Predicted future: Sell the house for a pretty good chunk of change.
Reality: Several people interested... couldn't get loans. Still have the house - renting it out which is nice, but it will be in the way before long of me buying a house in Dallas :-p

Living situation
Present (at the time): Moving here with one of my best friends, share a room in an apartment with another roommate for 3 months.
Predicted future: Buy a house, move there, cycle roommates through, do whatever
Reality: Shared a room with said friend for 10 months. Enough said.

So - there's a quick overview of what brought me to this... :)
The quick reality in all of that is this. Over time I had allowed these things to really take precedence in my life - God was welcome to do as he wished, as long as my plans remained the same. The more money I made, the more I planned to give. The quicker I got married, the better the marriage would surely be. All things were to God's glory... but only after they were to my glory. Honor and obedience that were rightfully God's had been wooed away from him through manipulation and given to another. My salvation with God was his constant beckoning - Him saying "I love you, wake up" over and over, showing the mercy He's so well known for. My recent sanctification was God's justice... the crushing of everything I continued to choose over him. When I wouldn't choose right, choices quickly (and violently) disappeared. All this to say - I was broken. In each of those bullets above is a story that reveals my supreme faults and leads to some eventual growth but we'll stick to the big picture today.

Throughout all this, I said the right things. I had brief moments of light and clarity in a dark time, I'll say that, but the time was no less dark. Despite the fact that I said the right things, and semi-believed them, they never hit home.

One thing that constantly came out of my mouth was this - "I just feel like God's got great things for me, and even if He doesn't, I'm ok" This quote really was my mantra. I knew it was truth whether it connected with my real feelings or not - so it stuck. As this all went on I developed what I've termed the "reality plus" syndrome. I've always been pretty confident, one of my biggest struggles is pride, but at this point, everything I had was stripped away... I should have had nothing to be proud of. Instead of clinging to the only thing that gave me identity in life, I clung to myself. Sure, I'm good at a nice variety of things, but I wanted everyone to know just how good I was - it wasn't a false confidence (as much as any confidence not found in God can be real anyway) - it was "reality... plus" (thus the name). This was my defense mechanism. I'd found my identity in these things so long that when I was left with nothing, I realized my foundation was never built on something permanent - that I had no hope, no confidence, no identity. Again - that's another infinitely long story that I'm just touching on here, but some day later we'll get into it.

All this leads to a reality that I find more freeing than I ever imagined it would be. When things were going badly, when everything I found my identity in was stripped away, I found truth.

I serve a God that is good. Above all else. He's not good like I'm good (where we take the things in our life that are good and magnify them) he is the real, powerful, embodiment of good. He's not only greater than - He's other than. He is good - In and of itself - so lets remember here, my God is good.

The second truth was that with God, I have all the time in the world. When everything's going wrong. When all the luxuries I want are gone. When I've lost hope. When I won't make it til tomorrow... I've got all the time in the world. Because all things work for my good. Come what may - success or failure, riches or poverty, earthly fulfillment or daily toil, if my focus is on the only thing that matters (God) - none of my joy or despair is derived from these things. Do they make me happy or sad? Sure, a bit. But they can never touch my core because the truth is that at my core, they don't matter and in time, I'll just grow closer to the only one who matters as long as that's my focus.

Further on this, there is so much of a push to find your career, get married, buy a house, have kids, settle down, and all that - the truth is, I have all the time in the world. Does the universe change if I start my investment fund job at 26 instead of 23? No... no it doesn't. What about if my house doesn't sell for another 2 years? Nope. What about if (God forbid) I'm not married by 28? No - it just provides a longer season where I have more opportunity and less to worry about in going *where ever* I'm sent. So not only do I have all the time in the world from a spiritual perspective - the reality is... I have all the time in the world on every level... Spiritual, emotional, social, or otherwise.

So... all that to say this...
I serve a good God and We've got all the time in the world.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Of God's Mercies and My Troubles

A) Work out of the day (week?) - None. ;)

I've begun to realize that an enormous part of saving faith is that I have the assurance that I will still have faith tomorrow. It's a bit of a weird concept the more I think about it - I won't lie.

There are those days when the only thought that prevails on your mind is "I can't do this. I absolutely can not do this anymore. This is awful." Insert some stronger language if you'd like (most of my days like that I do, but usually only in my head :-p) and then repeat it over and over throughout the day. This thought has bludgeoned me at work, it's bludgeoned me in dating relationships, it's bludgeoned me in roommate situations, it's bludgeoned me in friendships, and it's bludgeoned me about my Dallas Cowboy fan-ship (but we won't get into that.)

I'm not sure if it has a set schedule, or if something triggers it, but some days I just do not have what it takes to accept my current position in life and all I have to say to God, myself, or anyone who will listen is "I can't do this any more, I have to find something else."

So - there we have it, the set up. Sometimes we have days where we all we can do is say "I can't do this one more day." Now, why?

One caveat I'll make here is that a while ago I was expressing such a situation to my father and he said "You know, some days will be like that, some times it is just a dry season and you just have to ask yourself - 'did anything change between yesterday (or whatever time you were ok) and today? Is this a real disgruntlement or just a temporary shift in my feelings'" - That's one of the best pieces of advice I have received on the issue, bar none. Monday, I'm fine at work. Tuesday I do the same thing I did Monday but my loathing for it has increased exponentially - nothing has changed other than that Tuesday I've decided things are hopeless. Come Wednesday, I all too often find that I am just fine again. So - point 1 - ask yourself what changed. If the answer is nothing... it's one of those days :-p

Secondarily, and back to the main point. I think this issue stems from the limitations and rules we put on our faith and God's grace. We feel like our reservoir of strength won't last one more day. Again - here's the twist... It won't. We try to mentally combat tomorrow's troubles with today's strength, even though that matches nothing about the way God moves through his Word or his people.

Deuteronomy 33 - "As your days are, so shall your strength be"
Lamentations 3 - "The lord's lovingkindess never fails, his mercies are new every morning, great is your faithfulness"
The story of the manna in the wilderness is another real fun place to look. Or about half of what Paul says in the new testament.

God's allotment of mercy today will NOT be big enough for tomorrow's troubles - but it will always be enough for today's. Our God is perpetually giving us just what we need and forcing a reliance on him. That's the story of salvation and it's the story of sanctification as well. When we feel like the strength given us for the day won't last til tomorrow... we're right. Just like the manna given to the Israelites in the wilderness - it will feed us today, and when tomorrow comes it will be gone - there was only dependence for them while they were in the desert, no storing up.

How does all this tie back into my original point that the assurance of faith tomorrow is a huge part of faith today? One of God's greatest mercies is that in that portion of mercy he gives us each day is the key to surviving the next. The faith that when tomorrow does come, and all its troubles with it, God's mercies come as well. At the end of the day, when I know that my strength is at an end, my despair only arises because I haven't used the last God-given resource for that day. The full knowledge that tomorrow God's mercy will be there once again, and will once again match my troubles. How tight is that? How often do I forget that? A huge part of saving faith is the assurance that I can once again have faith tomorrow. So when you have one of those days, try to remember that when troubles rise, mercy comes and that God's mercy today will cover my troubles. If you can't do it again on the strength given you today - don't fear... you won't have to.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Of Desire and Efficiency

Ok, so a week ago (yes, i know i promised to do better, get accustomed to blogging failure from me.) at the end of my post I said I hoped to touch on a disturbing trend amongst Christian males in the boy meets girl realm of dating... well here we go.

The men of our generation (and maybe every generation) have been bred to believe that results are almost all that matters. Results, I think, can be broken down into two chunks - what you got, and how you got it - or i might also call it getting what you want, and getting it as easily as possible. This has led to a bizarre form of results driven dating that is crippling the process of building real and meaningful relationships from both sides.

So lets start off with a little example from my life that I think everyone can probably understand and we'll go from there. I'm pretty good at math, let me just go ahead and tell you now, it will be important to the rest of this. Business calculus, Texas Tech. After the first class period I looked at the syllabus and said to myself "self, I'm pretty sure you can do all that, I think you should just show up for the tests and have at it" so I did. And you know what? I made an easy A in the class. From the outside, this sounds like a wonderful thing - but lets just take a quick look at some of the roots that go into it. In my actions I didn't demonstrate that my goal was to learn, to improve, or to gain applicable knowledge - I demonstrated that all I wanted was a grade and to move on. I slipped into results-driven class time. Do I feel bothered by that? No, but it's a really clear microcosm of my life at the time - and a lot of guys I see around me. We get we want (the grade) as easily as possible (the skipping) and move on as though it were a success.

Males are programmed to get what we want. Now, the skeptical girl (or guy) says "oh, we all know what guys want. Guys want to get some" But lets take a quick step off of that train for just a moment and look a little broader. Again, I'll probably just use myself as a focus point and suggest it applies to *most* males. Good Christian guys are looking for good christian girls. Standard practice. But I'd suggest there is an alarming lack of Christian male leadership in the church. Do I know several strong, firece, men of God? Sure. But they are in the vast minority. The majority of guys at Christian events are at best "neat christian guys" - either they have the heart, but a spirit of timidity, or they spiritually coast while they look good and do just enough to attract the Christian girls they "need" to - I frequently land in that second column so that's where this piece is going. I've always thought of it as guys who are pretending to be David (the Psalmist. Not anyone we know) but don't have the depth... or the courage... or the self-awareness... or the humility... you get the point.

Why have we developed this? For me, I know I want to marry a good (great) Christian girl. And, in an unexpected twist, that's exactly the issue here - I know you didn't see this moment coming. Issue number one is that what guys want is the wrong thing - I'm not sure if it's because of a perceived social pressure, stupidity, or that's just how humanity operates (a mix thereof). I want to marry a good Christian girl (make the grade) instead of build something that is really God-focused or truly God-honoring (learning the subject) so I do what it takes to date a good Christian girl - which due to the lack of competition on a spiritual plane, is really not much, pretty frequently. I go to church, I carry a Bible, a hold pseudo-spiritual conversations (even though I'd rather be proclaiming my own merits, I know this is a necessary step in the 'getting what I want' process), and eventually, I get a date, a girlfriend, a fiancee, and a marriage built on smoke and mirrors. Our issue is that we've lost our focus on being whole, and on being comfortable with who we are in God first, and that instead we've focused on things God can give us as the final goal. We want to be married to someone worth marrying, instead of being in a relationship that is undeniably beautiful in all capacities - spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, whatever-else-ical. So in lieu of doing what it takes to be whole, and to have what we really want, we skate our way through, avoid the obstacles that make us strong and real, and we accept a dim shadow of the glorious relationship that God has made available to us. Guys - figure out what you *really* want and then *really* pursue it. No more just trying to look good. No more feeling like you are good (because you refuse to allow yourself to be challenged). No more pursuing shadows when reality is right there. No more games. Find completeness, find what God really intended for you, and find something beautiful - it's the only thing worth having anyway. Girls - watch closely, push hard, and don't compromise. It doesn't take long to spot a fraud (wouldn't take too many hard questions to expose me most days of the week) and when you do - remember what they (we... I) are.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Of Love and Ease

There is a trend, mostly among the fairer sex of our American society. It is the trend of love easily won, the trend of trust easily won, and if you will - the trend of a heart easily won.

We're broken. We're all broken, this much I know. But for women reading this, I have a question - what are you so afraid of? Over and over again in our Christian culture we see girls who are far too willing to surrender their love (holy lust may be a better term), their trust, and their hearts to boys who have not yet done enough to prove they either desire or deserve it.

You hear the sad stories, heck, not a week goes by without you hearing them:
Everyone else knew [insert thing here] about him, but he never seemed that way to me. We started dating and were together for a couple months (a couple years?), and when we broke up, I realized it was a relationship I never should have been in.

From my stand point, very few things terrify me as much as the movement by Christian girls in our society to be too fast in giving their hearts away. Even in my own experience I've seen this over and over. You like a guy, he likes you, and suddenly, you completely skip any logical or biblical step, and you've invested all you have in him. A while later, regardless of exactly what time frame it is, things don't work out and you're crushed when the aforementioned issue has torn your relationship apart.

And you're hurt. And he's hurt. And your friends are hurt. And if I saw it happen - I'm hurt. Because once again someone very dear to me has thrown herself at a dating relationship with all she has, and it has fallen to pieces, blown up in her face, and wounded her as deeply as anything I've ever seen wound her.

Why did this happen? How do we fix it? The approach that gets taken is find someone who is better on the surface, that is more caring, and repeat the process all over again until the dating relationship reaches a conclusion - either marriage or another crushing break up.

The issue is, women of God, you're missing the point. The way that you're dating doesn't create several dating relationships that come to an end. It creates an (nearly) endless series of miniature divorces where a piece of your heart is lost and never returns. How can you live like that? How could a good God with a good plan put us in a situation to have that happen over and over again? The answer? He didn't.

Check out the Song of Solomon - "I will hide my heart in the cleft of the Rock" When you read through this series of verses you see that you don't give your heart away over and over in dating relationships to men who are pursuing YOU. You give it away when a man is pursuing God and in pursuit of God discovers a treasure he never imagined. Love and trust easily given to a man based on his pursuit of you is destined to fail, and destined to hurt - even if it ends in marriage it will never be what God intended for you. This might read to you like I'm saying you have to be cold and disconnected and untouchable - that's not true. I am saying though that a love easily given is a love easily wasted. And I am saying that if your focus is on God, he holds your heart. And if his focus is on God, then God holds his heart as well. Whatever a human being takes before God, a human being is destined to destroy - test it on your own life and see that it isn't true. Surrender your heart to the one who should truly hold it, let Him decide when he chooses another's hand to assist, and it will save you more pain and draw you nearer to God than you'll ever know.

There is another trend, mostly among the uh... not so fair sex of our American society. It is a trend of minimum effort, a trend of misplaced desires, and a trend that threatens the very nature of the Christian man's core. I'm going to spend the next week of my life asking some pointed questions about it, and muddling through it, and maybe (just maybe) trying to write an article about it. Still a little too big to handle today, and I just spit out a lot right there - so next week.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fear, Hockey Fights, and Good Old Fashioned Petty Theft

Workout of the Day:
None. Embarrassing, but you know what? I went to a hockey game. Boom suckah I watched other people burn calories - step by step. Secondarily: Girl + hockey jersey + petty theft + a beat down on the big screen where I pulled her jersey over her face and wailed on her while she threw measly punches = a pretty good time.
Some of the above may not be... quite true. But it's real close. Good work out. Good times.

Scripture(and Rant, look out.) for the day:
1 Peter 3:13 - Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what's right.
Long term, if you're perpetually pushing the envelope for what is right, and what is good, is anything that happens ever that bad? No, not really. There's a lot of interesting things that tie into this, if you want to take a minute to look at the assumptions. If you weigh your actions on a scale of what is right, and what you're willing to go through and always arrive at this piece of scripture in your conclusion, you'll live a fearless lifestyle. "Now who is there to harm me if I am zealous for what is right" - how freeing could that potentially be if we'd let it take hold? Further, when we demonstrate fear, we pay homage to the root of that fear. If I am afraid of the dark, I take action to avoid the dark. If I am afraid of people, I take action to avoid their ire. Fear makes liars of us all - as soon as we are afraid, our actions no longer reflect who we are, and even further, who we are in Christ.

(Serious) Thought of the day:
God blesses me. Abundantly. I have no idea why.

(Not serious) Thought of the day:
Nothing gets my blood pumping like a hockey fight. This need/desire just comes over me to scream "WOOO, beat that fool like he stole something" and other, much more vulgar phrases - I just go nuts. I like hockey fights. There is just no way around this. I'm going to buy hockey gear (and probably roller blades) for the express purpose of getting people to fight with me/eachother for my own personal entertainment. Stick dropping, glove throwing, jersey pulling good times.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Alright, fine.
I'll blog. I'll keep a track record of all the nitty gritty things I think about through the course of the day. I'll let you (whoever you are) read it. But I won't like it (really I will, it just makes me seem more manly to be "doing it against my better judgment").

Thought of the day (Maybe serious... maybe not... maybe 2 thoughts on some days - but don't expect too much):
Results are God's business alone.

Scripture of the day (Often gonna be linked to the thought, I won't lie to you.):
James 1:27 - Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to remain unstained by the world.

Funny how often we weigh our actions or lack there of by the perceived results. Don't give money to that guy, he'll just use it for drugs. Don't bother with that kid, he's hopeless. That's not our calling. We're called to obey and let God do as he will after that. If it weren't for our worldly/Americanized views that what really matters is the bottom line, we might understand this a little better, but what can I say - we're a stained people.

Workout of the day (No need to read this one, it will usually be blank):
None today. Really I'm just hoping that putting this up here will embarrass me into actually working out. Or eating right. Or lying and pretending I do. Or something.

Rant of the day (Just in case.):
No rant today, but I reserve the right to 2-3 rants per week, occasionally containing useful information.

So that's probably what this blog will look like more days than not... word.