Thursday, October 18, 2007

An Interesting Animal

Life’s an interesting animal. It’s interesting because it exists on so many plains. What do I mean? Think about it. Each day you and I wake up and start living in the second, the moment, and the hour. Our lives are a series of interactions between sleep cycles. The vast majority of the time we see our lives in the now. We live in the moment if you will. However, there are days when we make plans for the future, and days when we look to the past. These are the times when we widen the scope of out thinking and look at our lives as a whole, rather than the sum of its parts.

On a completely different plain exists other people’s perceptions of your life. For example, we all have people in out lives who see us up close and personal (spouses, friends, family, com-workers etc.). However, although they see our lives, they are not living them, they are only watching them. No matter how close someone is to you, they cannot live your life, because they cannot think your thoughts, dream your dream, etc (that’s kind of a big NO DAHHH). But, they can be affected by your life, and their life can affect yours.

On a third plain we see that our lives are truly global. Your life will inevitably affect the course of human events. How you ask? Let’s imagine together.

One afternoon you decided to stop by the grocery store to pick up some Twinkies and beer (don’t knock it till you try it). On the way into the store you reach into your pocket to find your wallet, and accidentally run into a man who is obviously in hurry and not paying attention to his surroundings. Through the process he drops his grocery bag and spills its contents all over the floor. You apologize and move on with your shopping.

Meanwhile the hurried gentlemen gathers his items and starts out the door, only to realize he set down his cell phone when he bent down to pick up his groceries. He returns to the place he last saw it, but it’s not there. Quickly running to the customer service counter he retrieves the phone, which someone had turned in, and sprints to his car. He breaks every traffic law in the book trying to get home in time to drop off the groceries, and then get to the airport in time to catch a flight to L.A. to meet with his long time girlfriend who seems to be having doubts about their relationship; namely his lack of responsibility.

In a panic he drops the groceries in the living room for his roommate to put away, grabs his suitcase, but once again sets down his phone and forgets to pick it up as he runs out the door. He arrives at the airport, but finds that his flight has already boarded and his seat was given to a standby passenger, forcing him to catch the next flight which leaves in 45 minutes. Reaching into his pocket to retrieve his cell phone and call his girlfriend, he finds that his phone is nowhere to be found. This is a problem, because his girlfriend has a new number which he hasn’t memorized yet, and the new number is programmed into this cell phone. He sits down and reasons that his girlfriend will just have to wait for him on the other end.

Two hours later, at the Los Angels airport a beautiful, young, female executive waits for her boyfriend. As an executive for one of the worlds largest oil transportation companies she is not accustom to being kept waiting, or dealing with men who have no concept of responsibility. Her mounting frustration over this relationship is based on the fact that her boyfriend always seems to have an excuse for his failure to follow through. She is ready to call it quits, but she struggles because she really thought that this might be “the one.”

As the plane unloads she realizes that he boy friend is not on it. She calls his cell phone, which of course he doesn’t answer (because it’s sitting on the dinning room table), she tries his home phone, gets no answer, so she walks away for the last time. She’s had enough. In her anger, frustration and hurt she decides to go back to the office and finish off some lingering work. As the V.P. of transportation and logistics she’s responsible to plan the shipping manifests and logistics of huge oil shipments across the mid-Atlantic and beyond. One small screw-up and there are major, major problems.

Sitting at her desk punching in some final numbers, her attention is drawn to his picture. Filled with emotions she loses focus on her work, and with one small key stroke accidentally reroutes an oil tanker. Little does she know that in 36 hours that oil tanker will run a ground in a shallow harbor, in the wrong country. Tens of thousands of gallons of raw oil will fill the harbor and kill a huge amount of natural wildlife.

Our lives affect the world. Granted, our little story is a bit extreme, but you can see how it’s possible for one person to unknowingly have a global impact. It’s actually kind of fun to think about.

Lastly, there is God’s view of our lives. I believe God sees our lives from every vantage point. He lives in the past, in the future, and in the moment. He see’s our lives real-time and as a picture. From his vantage point there are no surprises, because he has already seen it.

Why do I say all of this today? It’s simple. I’m beginning to realize that our lives have meaning. Whether we know it or not our lives are impacting others. Even when we feel at our lowest, even in the midst of depression when we feel worthless, our lives are constantly impacting others. If we show up we impact people, if we isolate we impact people, no matter what we do someone will be touched by our choices. Isn’t that a huge thought?

I’m starting to understand that I need to think about how my life is impacting others. I need to be sensitive to the people around me, and their perceptions of me. I have to ask questions about my choices and weigh the consequences. Even though I will never fully know the impact of my life, I need to own the responsibility I have in it. We all do. We need to think globally. We need to think locally, and we need to think relationally.

What would the world look like if we all started thinking about how our choices affect others? I don’t know. But what I do know is that my choices have hurt people. I’ve begun to think about all of this because in this season of my life, I’m a leader, and as a leader my choices will affect other people’s decisions. It’s a huge responsibility, but one that has to be thought through and acted upon.

Today I start thinking.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sinner, Saint Combo

I’m fat. Let’s just get it out there. Because of this fact I’m on the Atkins Diet. For those of you who have never had to diet (I hate you by the way), the Atkins is a diet on which you eat only protein (i.e. beef, chicken, eggs, bacon, cheese etc.). This diet works well for me, because these are the things I eat on a daily basis. You see, in addition to being fat I’m also a meat eater. On the Atkins I’m not allowed to have any carbs (i.e. sugar, bread, rice, etc.), so the meat is plentiful.

This diet is amazingly effective; I lost 14 lbs in my first week. This is my second time on the diet; the first time I lost over 70lbs. Okay so I gained back the majority of it, but that’s not the point. The point is that if I can manage to deprive myself of anything white, then I can loose weight at a rapid rate. It’s amazing, and it’s easy.

However, there are a couple of problem associated with this diet plan. The first problem is that of maintenance. In other words, in order to keep the weight off, one has to commit to living a low carb lifestyle forever. Goodbye Twinkies (damn it!!!). Secondly, the body can have a difficult time processing pure protein. Frankly, taking a dump is like an act of congress. It takes forever and nothing seems to come of it. Lastly, it can result in death. Yeah, that can be a problem. Then again, death is definitely one way to loose weight.

I’m not sure how I manage to find spiritual significants in things such as complicated bowel movements, and bread, But I do. I guess it’s a gift. The point to all of this is simple; I’m beginning to learn that a life that is not balanced is dangerous and can even lead to spiritual death. I’ve been designed to live a balanced life.

Those of you who know me know that I hate the word balance. In fact I have dedicated my life to extremes. I don’t live life in the grays; I function in black or white. I’m one of those people who either choose to do what is right, or I choose to do what’s wrong. I generally choose wrong, but I do so with the full knowledge of the possible consequences. Remember, I don’t do rules (see last blog). As a result, I find myself spiritually emaciated on a regular basis.

Because of all the drama that has been surrounding my life lately; I’ve had to ask some pretty serious questions of myself. Through that process of asking questions, I’ve begun to see a pattern in my life; a pattern that exists in the extremes. I’m either hugging Gods leg like a little child, or I’m in a fist fight at some sleazy bar in Enumclaw (a little hick town about an hour out of Seattle, for our international readers). I’m either kissing the cheek of Christ, or flipping him the bird, there is no middle ground.

What I’m beginning to realize is that the extreme that I am living in is a direct result of what I am taking into my heart. I don’t want to be cliché, but it comes down to relationships. When I am truly seeking to live in relational community with Christ and other believers I tend to do well in my spiritual life. When I isolate from my community (or tribe as we call it at Turning Point Church), I find myself belly up to a bar, or pool table looking for trouble. I enjoy both, but much like the Atkins diet, to much of one or the other sends me into the extreme margins again.

The answer is balance. Unlike most churches, and unlike most Christians, in my community we enjoy the freedoms granted to us by God. However, those freedoms can become a prison if they are not partaken of in balance. I have to learn to live in a state of balance. I need to be surrounded by my community of faith, but I also need some trouble causing time. I need to spend time in the scriptures, but I also need a good cigar and a drink from time to time. To much of anyone of these components and you loose the ability to process, and can even find yourself dying spiritually. There has to be a balance.

I’ve gotten lots of e-mails regarding my last post. Yes, the idea of a pastor sitting a field with a fifth of jack Daniels can be a little disturbing to some. I understand. But I also understand the need for transparency. Folks, I can give total discloser with my readers and over share, I can fane piety, or I can simply be real. I prefer to be real and I believe that being real provides the necessary balance. If you’re looking for sin free pastors, then I am not your man, and Turning Point probably isn’t your church. Granted, I may be a little more transparent that most, but it’s who I am. I share the same struggles, and the same temptations as anyone else. Every day I fight to be the man of God that I know I need to be.

Why do I feel the need to explain all of this? Well, I think it’s important that we attempt to see at the big picture. From time to time I post blogs that are abrasive, real and transparent. I do this because it allows the world to see me as I really am. It allows the people of our community to see that if their faith is placed in me they will be disappointed. And it reminds all of us that God and God alone is worthy of our honor. However, I also believe that I post blogs that are encouraging and testaments to my successes in Christ. I truly strive to provide a balanced picture of my world. With hundreds, if not thousands of readers passing through this blog there will always be someone who is blessed by its content, or offended, either way I’ve done my job. I want you to think. I want you to question your beliefs. I want you to laugh, and I want you to be pissed. Most of all I want you to see the real man behind the words, and understand that he is not God.

If I have offended you with my blogs, please accept my sincerest apologies. However, I will continue to blog in the same fashion as I always have, so you may want to remove me from your reader if you are continually finding the material offensive. I love you and I know you love me, but we will have to agree to disagree on this matter.

Keep the e-mails coming and keep passing the word.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Fifth of Jack Daniels, My Dog, and Someone Else's Life

For those of you who are wondering; 6 hours of sleep a week is not enough. This may seem physically impossible, but I assure that it is not. I’ve spent so many hours staring at the ceiling in my room I think I’ve counted every one of those little lumps. I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, and I can’t think straight, all of which are pretty important elements of my life.

Early this morning around 3:30AM I couldn’t take it any longer, so I got up, got dressed and started thinking through what sort of trouble I could get in at that hour of the morning. Unfortunately, in the community where I currently suffer, there are literally no options for trouble causing at 3:30AM, so I resorted to public intoxication. I grabbed my coat, what was left of my Jack Daniels, my dog Jake, and I set out to take a walk. I hate walking, but I don’t mind drinking, so I settled for walking and drinking.

Jake must have been as tired as I was, cause the exuberance with which he normally moves, was seriously diminished. I think this must have been a moment of sheer sacrifice on his part, the cold grass under his feet, and the bite of the early morning frost could not have been as inviting as his favorite blanket, and for that I loved him. Some how I think he knew my soul was in knots, because he stayed right by my side. Jake has never worn a leash so he’s used to freedom, but normally he walks a foot or so off to my right. Tonight, in his own way, rubbing my right leg with each step, he protected me from myself.

As we walked, my mind was filled with a million different thoughts. Countless ideas, memories, and questions spun through my head with in no particular pattern. But, through the mess of thoughts one question kept nagging me, “whose life is this, and how the hell did I get in it?”

Maybe I’m just going a little nuts with all the changes happening in my life, but I can’t help but feel that I’m living someone else’s life. Today I woke up a pastor. That’s right, A PASTOR!!! I’m not a pastor; I have no business being a pastor. I’m a late night drinking, tobacco chewing, flip flop wearing, bar room brawling, old hat wearing, small town living, loose cannon, I’m not a pastor. Everything I know, everything I’ve been, everything I do has had to change. Pastors are held to a higher standard, they are expected to follow rules, and enforce them on others. I don’t follow rules, I hate rules and the only enforcing I do is when someone spills my drink, or insults my mom.
This is not my life; somehow I must have switched lives with that other guy. The guy who lived with his mom till he was 35, the guy who folds his tighty whities, the guy who went to seminary for 10 years and has initials like PhD., MDiv., or ThD. after his name.

My life doesn’t look like this. My life includes a black haired girl, a good truck, a faithful dog, a piece of land, a couple of sons, and freedom. Like Rodney Atkins says in one of his songs, “it’s a man on a tractor with a dog in a field.” My life includes calluses on my hands, dirt under my fingernails, and watching my boys grow into men.

Somewhere along that road I took a turn and I landed here. I landed behind a desk at a church, and in an elementary school soccer field, with a half empty battle of Jack Daniels at 3:30 in the morning. Then it hit me. I feel like I’m living someone else’s life, because I am. I’m living the life of the guy that God wants me to be. At this season in my life, my dreams don’t line up with Gods plan for me and I’m feeling the tension of it. I’m fighting to hold onto what I know, and God is prying my white knuckles from around the flagpole of my desires. I love the church I’m at, and I love the people I serve, but I haven’t yet given into the reality of what God has for me right now.

Today I’m a pastor. Today I have the distinct honor and privilege of helping people learn about and receive the love of their creator. Today I sit in a seat that thousands for men have trained for and would die for. Today I study the scriptures and counsel people. Today I live in the suburbs. Today I follow the rules (sort of). Today I live the life of the man that God sees in me, and not the life I’ve designed.

Today I lay on my back in a field with my dog, looking at the stars, and I wonder what comes next. What comes next for this man I’m learning to be?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007' blog: i am a "gutless grace girlieman"

This a great post!!!! Check it out' blog: i am a "gutless grace girlieman"

Extravagant Love

This morning, with sleep in my eyes, I headed towards my favorite little coffee stand. Jake (my dog) and I are regulars, and Jake always gets excited when we pull up cause he knows he’s going to get a couple of milk bones. Today as I waited for my coffee I saw something that made me tear up a bit. I’m doing a lot of that lately; there must be a lot of pollen, or dirt in the air, or something.

Just ahead of me an old couple probably in their 70’s or 80’s pulled into a parking stall. I watched as the little old man slowly got out of the car, opened the trunk, and pulled out a wheelchair. He folded the chair into the sitting position and wheeled it to the passenger’s side where he carefully and lovingly helped his beautiful little wife out of the car and into the chair. It was cold out this morning, and the fog was still lifting, so the old man reached into the back seat and grabbed a little knitted blanket and tucked it around her shoulders. As he wheeled her away I watched as he leaned down and gently kissed her on the cheek. As if it was the first kiss of their life together she smiled, leaned into him, put her arm around his neck and hugged him tightly. As they walked off together, I was moved to my core.

As I watched I couldn’t help but think of all the stories those two must share. Stories of young love, country roads and an old Chevrolet, a white wedding, the birth of their first child, the day he went off to war, and the day he came home. How many moments of laughter, have they shared? How many silent glances across a room? How many tears?

People often ask me if I believe is the concept of “soul mates.” They wonder if love exists in the real world like it does in the movies. My answer is yes. Why? Because I see that kind of love extended to me by God. Scripture tells me that real love overcomes, real love gives, real love hopes, and that real love is selfless (1 Corinthians 13). Two people who decide to receive the love of their God and then extend it to each other have the capacity to love more passionately and more extravagantly than any movie ever made.

Love exists in moments. Moments like today when that old man kissed his wife, moments when we choose another over ourselves. I beginning to believe in love again, and today, in that moment, through the love of two old souls, God showed me that he still loves

Sunday, October 7, 2007


Today I’m angry. So angry in fact I’m having a hard time sitting still long enough to write this. But my shrink says I’m supposed to write instead of hitting people, or things. I guess that makes you all my therapy this afternoon. Apparently, fighting is not a socially acceptable form of anger management. Then again I’ve never really been a socially acceptable kinda guy.

In addition to having a tendency to fight, I also learned at a vey young age to compress my emotions to a dangerous level. As a child my Dad used to tell me to “control my emotions.” He didn’t mean that I should force myself not to feel anything, but as a child that’s what I heard. As a result, today I feel very little. Unlike most “normal” people, I only have a couple of primary emotions to serve as my filter. I don’t feel fear like most people, I don’t feel pain like most, and I don’t feel excitement or joy in the same ways you do. I never really understood this until recently and now, thanks to some pretty smart people, I’m finally dealing with it.

You see, I’m attempting to change the way I see the world. I’m trying to relearn how to process things and how to respond when my will comes up against society, and or, Gods. That may sound strange, but I have a “F@#k it” mind set, which means I do what I want, when I want regardless of the consequences. Literally for the first time in my life I’m attempting to follow the rules. You may not understand, but this is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Every cell in by body is screaming right now.

What makes this process so hard is that I’m doing it alone. Not in the sense that I don’t have people who care surrounding me, but I’m doing it alone in that the people I want near me through this aren’t around. To be honest I’m beginning to feel emotions that I didn’t know I could feel. Imagine feeling emotions for the first time at age 31. It’s a trip, believe me!

Today I’m angry. Not because I have anything to be angry about, but because I’m hurt and anger is one of the two primary emotions I use to cope. In addition, I’m not using anything to anesthetize the pain, which is a new thing as well.

In Psalm 86:11 David asks God to unite his heart. I’ve never really liked David all that much, because I could never really relate to his melancholy, moody, personality, but that’s beginning to change. These days my prayer is the same. I want God to put my heart back together again. I want to have a heart that is united under his control. The process hurts worse than I anticipated, but I know the end result will be wonderful.

Isn’t it amazing how far from God our heart can get without our knowledge?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Fathers Song

Wouldn't it be cool if life were set to music? You know what I mean, like in the movies. The moment you lean in for that first kiss, the Boston Philharmonic fades in with a beautiful string movement. What if every time you got in your car and rolled down the window, you heard Tom Petty singing, "Free Falling?" You would be a living, breathing episode of “Dawson's Creek.” How cool would that be? Okay, not so cool, Dawson's Creek was pretty lame. Not that I ever watched it. J

Have you ever thought about what the soundtrack to your life would sound like? I know it seems dumb, but it's an interesting thought. Would your life sound like a mixture of the "William Tell Overture" and Incubus? What about a hybrid mix of Bruce Springsteen and Enya? Undoubtedly, each of us would have a unique list of artists on our album, because we're all so beautifully different.

Sometimes I wonder if God sees and hears our lives set to music. Today as I was reading in the book of Revelations it struck me that God is surrounded by a myriad of angels who always seem to be singing. I know it's not a theologically sound idea, but it's kind of a cool one don't you think?

In the book of Zephaniah it says that God sings over us (Zeph 3:14-17). Have you ever thought of that? Did ever occur to you that the creator of the universe sings a song over you like a mother over her child? It's a beautiful thought. A comforting thought.

As God looks at my life today I wonder what that song would sound like. Would it be a song of joy, or a sorrowful melody that brings a tear to His eye? If I had my choice, today's song would be something slow and thoughtful; something that conveyed anticipation and hope, mixed with some loneliness. It would be a song that reminded me of friends and fond memories, some how it would say, "I miss you," or "remember that time when...?"

How about you? What does your life sound like today?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Then and Only Then

Remember what it felt like to watch your friend fade into nothing through the back window of your dad’s 1976 station wagon? It was on that day you pulled out of town headed to a new city where dad had the new job. How about the day you saw your best friend off to an out of state college? Do you remember how it felt? I do. I remember that sense of loss, the feeling of loneliness, the overwhelming boredom that quickly found its way into my life.

Researches have long said that many, if not most, of our deepest human needs are met through relationships. In other words as humans we need connections to other humans to function properly. I hate that. I know that hate is a strong word, but it’s the best word to describe how I feel about this. I hate that I have to be connected to feel normal. As a matter of fact, scripture makes the same assertion. We are all a part of a body, each of us place a specific part in a divinely appointed economy. If a single part is missing, the whole doesn’t function correctly (1 Corinthians 12).

Recently, I’ve become intimately acquainted with this truth. I’m the type of guy who chooses his friends carefully. The people that I allow into my inner circle, if you will, are people who I have first come to trust. My peeps are people who will speak truth to me, when no one else will. My entire life, I can only remember a half dozen people who were willing to look me in the eye and speak truth. For some reason people in my life are more prone to sweep my behavior under the rug, than call me out. I have a lot of protectors, but very few friends.

In addition to trust, my friends are people who I feel safe with. That may seem strange coming from a guy of my size and with my reputation, but even the most intimidating men are vulnerable at times. Vulnerability is not my gift, but when I am it’s like opening flood gates. In all reality, I can count my friends on one hand. I have thousands of acquaintances, and lots of people who would consider me to be their friend, but there are only five people in my world that I have given the title of “friend.”

This week one of those people was temporarily removed from my circle. I say temporarily, because that’s all I’ll allow it to be (unless of course God says otherwise). Although I know that my friend has not given up on me, I feel a sense of loss. I feel as though a piece of me is missing. Every day I fight the urge to get in my truck and bring them back. It’s like the shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the 1 that is missing. However, in this particular case, the separation is healthy. I hate that it’s healthy, but it is.

You see, sometimes we take what God intended for good and we twist it into something that becomes damaging to our souls. We become so dependent on another person that we lose our dependency on God. People are tangible, they feel with us, dream with us, talk to us, and share experiences with us. God on the other hand, although present at every moment, cannot be seen, heard, or felt in the physical sense. Our relationship with God calls us to live peacefully without the need for physical validation of the relationship. Damn that’s hard! I’m not the co-dependent sort, but invisible relationships are difficult nonetheless.

When a relationship with another person takes the place of our relationship with God, it’s only a matter of time before God presses the pause button. No matter how wonderful or meaningful our human relationships may seem, they should never be allowed to interrupt our relationship with Christ. When we make this mistake one of two things will happen, either God will allow us to wallow in our confusion for a season, or He will intervene until things are back on track between us and Him. I believe the decision he makes is based upon our response to his loving call in our hearts.

God is a jealous lover and the intensity of his passion for us in incommunicable. The relationship he desires for us places him in first place. When we put someone else in first place, he calls out to us. If we fail to respond to his loving call, His righteous jealousy prompts him to seek us out and restore order in our hearts. When things are back in order, then and only then can we be restored to our human relationships.

Today my heart hurts. It hurts because I feel the pain I’ve caused my savior, and it hurts because I miss my friend. My encouragement to all of you is this, love God first. No matter the cost; love God first. I’ll never give up on my relationship with my friend, but today I’ve learned the hard way that God will never give up on me. I find peace in that. Read Psalm 86:11

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pain is Pian is Pain.

A few years back a man came to me with a question that a professor had presented to him. The question was odd, but made some sense. The question was this; “which hurts more, the death of a loved one or the death of a loved one?” The students were supposed to think about the question and then present an answer to the class. I told the man asking me question that I would think about it and get back to him.

My conclusion was that the professor was presenting a statement regarding the nature of pain. In other words which hurts worse, pain or pain. The question made the statement that when you reach the place of true pain it’s the same in every language. Pain is pain is pain. The way the question was worded was kinda stupid, but the truth behind it is relevant.

Today I find myself in this conundrum. I have two choices before me, both of which are going to cause pain. The decision in and of itself isn’t difficult, but the reality that no matter what my choice is I’m still going to hurt, looms in the back of my mind. Either way it’s time to cowboy up and act.

Have you ever been here? How did you handle it? E-mail me some wise counsel.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Food for Thought

From one of histories most notorious sinners...

'And so he who would live a Christlike life is he who is perfectly and absolutely himself.... He may be a great poet, or a great man of science: or a young student at a University, ore one who watches sheep upon a moor: or a maker of dramas like Shakespeare, or a thinker about God, like Spinoza; or a child who plays in a garden, or a fisherman who throws his net into the sea. It does not matter what he is, as long as he realizes the perfection of the soul that is within him. All imitations in morals and in life is wrong.....There is no one type of man. There are many perfections as there are imperfect men. And while to the claims of charity a man may yield and yet be free, to the claims of conformity no man may yield and remain free at all.'