Archives For Jesus

I am a recovering coward. Don’t believe me? Check out the caption below my picture over there on the right. It’s true.

And some days I still fall of the wagon and find myself subconsciously living the coward’s creed:

Indecisiveness is next to godliness.

(We’ve got t-shirts, bumper stickers, even a website in the works. Well, the ideas anyway. We’re too nervous to actually launch them.)

(OK, honestly, there’s not really even a club. We couldn’t figure out where to meet).

I hate making decisions. Making decisions inevitably irritates people. Making decisions creates conflict. Conflict means people may not like you. And people not liking you is painful. We instinctively avoid pain, because pain…you know…hurts and all.

The only problem? No one said following Jesus would be painless. Just ask, well…

Jesus.

Climb back up on that wagon.

Any other recovering cowards out there? What are you afraid of? Does it ever interfere with your ability to follow Jesus?

I’d love to hear from you. Maybe even meet for coffee (if we can ever decide on a location). Until then, the comments on this post may be a safe place to start.

I love Tom & Jerry. That playful cat and mouse bring back such beautiful memories of after school peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.

(Oh, and of course, gratuitous violence).

Remember those classic reels where Jerry would smash Tom with a hammer and a giant lump would grow out of his head? And then in a beautiful moment of animated realism, Tom would push the bulging lump back down into his skull only to watch it pop up again on the other side.

Watching these cartoons didn’t turn me into a violent criminal, but I wonder if I subliminally learned more from them than I realize.

As I wrote in yesterday’s post, we’re wired to build over the top of our broken places rather than dig them up from the roots. And just like Tom, we end up trying to push these giant, gaping wounds back down into place only to watch them re-emerge just as blatantly somewhere else.

We can put filters in place to help manage an internet porn addiction. But if we don’t dig up the root of lust, the issue will just find a new place to grow.

We can work through feelings of jealousy towards a friend. But if we refuse to address the core of our insecurity, envy will just find new victims to target.

Arrogance doesn’t always manifest as obnoxious overconfidence. Squelch it there, and it could find new expression in your piety. Spiritual pride is perhaps the ugliest mutation. Deal with it at the root.

What brokenness are you simply trying to manage? Find the courage to go back to the source. Dig it up. Or you may find yourself maneuvering around different expressions of the same root cause. Pushing down one cranial contusion only to find it popping up again somewhere else. Maybe somewhere you weren’t expecting.

Repentance is a beautiful thing. Jesus is ready to meet you there.

My calendar wasn’t lying. The appointment was there. Mocking me. The standard ding of my iPhone alarm became an ominous melody of doom (or was that just Black Eyed Peas halftime highlights?).

It was time to visit the dentist.

Twice a year, every year, for the past three-plus decades, I’ve been the recipient of the same dental speech. The proper mixture of conjured sweetness and implied judgment must be a pre-requisite for every graduating hygienist. It’s not a long oration. Less words than a Bill Belichick press conference, but equally as intimidating.

“Floss.”

Come on lady! What kind of super hero do you think I am?

But every six months I make another empty promise that lasts for exactly 9 days. And then the night before my next dental shakedown, I find myself frantically rifling through the cosmetic cabinets looking for a strand of that dreaded nylon string. I’m not really a flosser, but give me 10 minutes and a bottle of mouthwash and I’ll convince those professionals I’ve been rehabilitated. Surely they’ll never notice my swollen, bleeding gums.

Don’t you think we can do the same thing to God?

Fake it.

Put on the show.

Cram in some frenetic religious-type activity that makes us feel spiritual again, even if it’s making no long-term difference.

But Jesus longs to be so much more than something we go digging through a cabinet for the night before we need it. His words more than just screen savers, Twitter posts, or something we hear the pastor quote every once in awhile on Sunday morning. Here’s one of the things He had to say:

“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.
Mathew 7:24-27 MSG

While I’m at it, maybe I’ll go ahead and start flossing, too (OK, let’s not get carried away).

Mandy and I have been watching the Egyptian political crisis with extraordinary interest. Her name is printed on a plane ticket scheduled to leave all too shortly for this volatile area of the world, where military tanks roam the streets like minivans as protesters violently clash with the Mubarak regime.

Surreal.

When I think of Egypt, my mind effortlessly conjures up images of camels, pyramids, and Yule Brenner. But my wife is (was?) heading there to encounter the effects of extreme poverty. To work with people who have literally built a community among the city trash dumps. (This story may help you re-frame the romanticism and understand a small piece of the unrest).

Now it appears the only Egyptian flights any Americans will be taking are out of the country. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Admittedly, I probably understand as much about the Egyptian political environment as I do about fixing my furnace, and the last thing we need is another ignorant American spouting his opinions about a global crisis he only thinks he understands.

But something hit me square in the face as I watch this unfold. Something that hits close to home. In me.

Control, fear, and manipulation won’t work forever.

Yet our human nature is to control. To demand our way. To gain power and then preserve it. To manipulate the behavior of others from the outside-in.

We see it in governments. In businesses. In churches. In families. In every kind of human interaction.

What we’re watching unfold in Egypt is ugly. It makes us angry. And rightly so. But at its root is something that resides in us all. A sinful desire to hold all the marbles.

Which is probably why Jesus’ example is all the more mind blowing. That the Son of God, at the pinnacle of His earthly influence, would give up His power. Lay down His life. Relinquish control. In fact, it was in letting go of Himself that He actually changed the world forever.

Maybe Mubarak should learn a little something from Jesus.

Maybe I should, too.

Last night our furnace went out. Yep.

As Icemageddon, Snoprah, or whatever term of endearment you gave this September baby boom to be, bore down angrily on seemingly every poor soul in this great nation, my 11 year old furnace decided to be a quitter. To take its warm air and go home. Stupid baby.

And my testosterone levels began dropping with every degree of the thermostat.

You see, I likely know more about the governmental policies of Albania than I know about fixing a furnace. In fact, I don’t know much of anything about fixing anything in our house (except a pot of coffee). And my wife’s concern combined with my kids cold noses quickly began mixing into a toxic soup of self-doubt.

Why haven’t you learned how to do these things?

Your family can’t count on you.

Their impending frost bite is your fault.

Why don’t you ever remember to replace the filter?

And instead of wrestling with the real issue at hand, I quickly engaged in battle with my own insecurities. The focus shifted from helping my family to swimming around (or more like ice fishing I guess) in worthless self-indulgence. I was in danger of quitting just like my furnace.

I think this happens with God, too. I wrote about it in a little different way last week, and even talked about it at City Community Church this past Sunday.

I think one of the enemy’s greatest tactics is to get us engaged in the wrong battle.

Jesus came to mess with our normal. To disrupt. His words are often disturbing. Challenging. Meant to leave us questioning our self-driven motivations. Jesus stands in the road with His hand out as if to say, “You don’t want to go that way. Trust me. You want to follow me. There is more to this life than the pursuit of yourself.”

These are realities worth wrestling with.

But many of us choose instead to clash with insecurity. With shame. With comparison. With condemnation. Why am I not more like that guy? Why don’t I have those talents? When am I going to be that way?

And we become easily distracted from true Kingdom conflict. The kind of conflict that really matters. That can change us and the world around us.

Self pity wasn’t going to fix my furnace last night. A few phone calls, a creative wife, a vacuum cleaner, a courageous trip to Menard’s for a new filter, (an angry, ignorant smack on the side of the unit here and there), and a desperate prayer for supernatural intervention, however? That did it. That was the battle worth engaging.

Are you engaging the right battle? The one that really matters? Are you wrestling with Jesus words in your life or just your own insecurities?