Category Archives: Faith & Spiritual Drift

The Answer to Life? Just Be! . . . and Classic Rock

Did you draw the line
In the sand again?
Did you make a stand
Out on a limb?
Don’t be so hard on yourself
‘Cuz you can’t change the world
No, you can’t change the world alone
Just be . . .
(lyrics by Tommy Shaw/Styx)

First of all, thank you for making “Dear God, I’m Tired of Growing” my most popular post ever! Getting down in words the flood of emotions and thoughts I was having that morning seemed to have an almost cathartic effect on my psyche. Not only was it the biggest response ever, I had a great day.

Now, most of you will nod your heads with a shrewd little curl of the lip and say, “Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me. That sounds about right.” I know. When I told a few people about the day I had, and that I had the most hits ever on my blog, that was the typical response.  And I found this interesting if not a little puzzling.

Why?  Not why did I find it puzzling, but why would so few people be surprised at the way things turned out . . . almost as if to say, “What did you expect?”

Is it just general knowledge that “God works in mysterious ways”? Is it a karma thing? Kismet? The balance of the universe? I was honestly intrigued by the unanimity of responses I got: Which begs another question . . .

Why did it take me so long to get to this point?

Or two questions . . .

Why isn’t everybody doing it?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about giving up here. I haven’t given up.

I’ve given in.  There’s a difference.  It may be a subtle difference, but it’s there. And I’m not even sure what I’ve given in to.

Maybe it’s giving in to the pressures I’ve been putting myself under for these last . . . how many years? Not rolling under or being crushed by the stress or the day-to-day frustrations, but just letting them go. Or having them let go of me. Maybe it’s simply the realization that the stress I’ve been under has been of my own doing: with work; with home; with religion. I don’t know, and I may be completely wrong.

It just intrigues me that no one was surprised by the outcome, yet no one seems to be applying it within their own lives or situations. What gets in the way? What stops us from jumping off that cliff?

Is it the worry of what others will think? If it’s a crisis of faith, maybe you worry about what God will think, or what He will do. If it’s an issue at work, maybe you worry what your colleagues will think, or what your bosses will do. If it’s a family issue, maybe you worry about what your spouse will think, or how your kids will react; or your parents.

Those are some weighty issues and I’m sorry that I don’t have a lot of deep, pithy answers for you. I can only give you perspective from the stresses that I’ve heaped onto myself.

If you’ve asked God to lead in your life, you’ve got to trust that He is and that He’s a big enough God that he can handle your mistakes, your missteps, your anger and your questions.

If you feel overwhelmed at work, all you can do is your best, and give it 100%. It sounds cliche, I know.  Yet if you can’t get everything that’s being heaped onto you done, but you’ve done everything you can to the best of your ability, you’ve still done your job.

If it’s a family issue, it’s also a love issue. Everything said and everything done, as long as it’s done in love, is everything you can do.

But . . .

What if it’s not any of that? What if it’s the fact that we’ve been living life with this stress, or under this pressure, so long that we don’t even recognize the weight anymore? Or worse, that in a perverse way, it’s become a comfort to us; like an old worn jacket, or snug blanket. We wear it, defiantly almost, like it’s a badge of honor or achievement.

“My life is hell. I’ve earned this stress!”

This is the situation that I think may take the most time and patience; maybe the fine art of timing as well. I believe it’s going to take someone at the right time, under the right circumstances, to speak into your life something so profound; yet looking back on it, so simple and so obvious that you’ll wonder how you never saw the resolution on your own accord.

Life works like that.

Soon, you’ll begin to tell people about how you had to get yourself to point-X for someone to be able to tell you truth-Y and now everything is just hunky-Z. And the people you talk to will probably go, “Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me. That sounds about right.”

And that’s okay. Don’t be surprised, after all, they’re not.  And so it goes.

Look, nothing’s changed in my life other than my reaction to it; and it’s not perfect. I still get frustrated and uptight. I still get annoyed. I’m still human after all . . . and I still work in retail. But I can start to see it for what it is, or what it just might be . . .

Just life.

How do I choose to react to life in this moment?

Listen to a little Styx perhaps and “Just be”.

Faith & Spiritual Drift: Do Something Crazy

Matthew 14: 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said . . .

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I’m in
On to the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He’s holding out His hand

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again, “Boy, You’ll never win!

 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”   32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

(Text: Matthew 14:28-33 NIV. Lyrics: Casting Crowns, “Voice of Truth” Mark Hall/Steven Curtis Chapman)

I’m beginning to realize more and more that most everything in the Bible is there for a reason, even this little story of Peter climbing out of the boat and walking to Jesus on the water. Yes, it obviously shows Jesus’ control and mastery of nature. Yes, it shows Peter’s depth of faith to even attempt to get out of the boat. But I believe there’s an allegorical story in these few passages applicable to anyone “treading water” in their lives, jobs, problems or relationships.

First of all, to have enough faith—in yourself, or in your abilities, or in God—to do something completely irrational. Jesus said to Peter, “Come.” He literally meant, “Come to me out here in the middle of the sea in the middle of this storm . . . on the water.” And Peter says . . .

“Okay.”

Remember, the other eleven apostles were in the boat with Peter. How crazy must this have seemed to them? But he did. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. How cool must that have seemed: To be able to pull off something so physically impossible?

But then life happened.

He looked around.

He started paying attention to his surroundings and to his predicament; to the world around him. That’s when he started to sink. He began to fail—flailing and foundering—under the weight of his own circumstances. He started to believe he wasn’t supposed to be doing what he was doing instead of believing in himself, his abilities and his God.

It’s what happens when any of us step out in faith in a decision, be it personal, relational, or work-related. Sure, it feels good to make the decision. It may even feel good to begin the undertaking. But then life happens: something doesn’t go as planned and you start to doubt your abilities. Or worse, the world begins to feed lies into your ear that you can’t/shouldn’t/won’t.

Your beliefs shift. Maybe you really can’t do this. You begin to pay attention to the waves (the difficulties and obstacles), the wind (the fears and criticisms of friends and loved ones), and the sea (the time, effort and discipline involved to be successful). Your focus shifts away from what truly brought you out here; your faith (in yourself and your ability and/or in God and His ability), and it’s not until you reconnect with that that you once again begin to rise above the reality that surrounds you.

For Peter, stepping out of the boat and towards his Savior, mentor and friend just seemed like the right thing to do. His circumstances should have told him “no”. I’m certain his friends told him “no” and probably called him crazy. Yet, leaps of faith often look like that from the outside: There is no rational way you should be able to pull this off.

Do you have a situation in your life right now, a choice to make between a conservative action and one that just seems so . . . out there? What does your “gut” tell you? Listen to it . . . often, that “still small voice” is your abilities, or God’s abilities through you, telling you to take that risk.

Jesus reached out and picked up a half-drowned Peter. His journey wasn’t over; not even close.

They walked back.

To the boat.

On the water.

Together.

Faith & Spiritual Drift: Holy Wha….??

I have an ongoing debate with my father-in-law about the fourth commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it Holy . . .” You see, my family and I go to church, but we go on Sunday. My in-laws are of the Seventh Day Adventist faith, and go to church on Sabbath (or Saturday).

So, who’s right?

I joke that I would hate to be sitting in hell between Charles Manson and Adolph Hitler as one of them turns to ask me, “Hey, what’re you in for?”

“Uuhh, well . . . I went to church on the wrong day.”

Ouch!

Actually, I get along really well with my wife’s family. They’re very accepting of our differences and we actually have some lively yet productive discussions on faith as we sit around the dinner table. As it should be . . .

But what of those who don’t have such acceptance or, at least, tolerance?

What of those that truly believe “Sunday-keeping” is not only wrong, but we who practice it are an instrument of the enemy? What of those that believe the foods we eat make us “clean” or “unclean”? What of those that believe listening to a certain type of music or, God forbid, dancing, makes us no better than pagans? That any and all of these things are not only wrong for them, they’re wrong for everyone.

That’s unfortunate. (Anyone who knows me, knows that I use this term as the nicest, most politically correct way of saying that something, to me, is B.S.—see the difference?)

I love the book of Romans. Paul is very pointed in his outline of what faith looks like; the actions and mindset of a Christ follower.  In chapter 14 he makes it very clear how he feels about people’s judgements of one another over certain practices.  Here’s just a sample:

1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s (i.e. God’s) servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

In other words, you are accountable only to one, or One. And this is not a “live and let live”, nor is it an “anything goes” principle. To each person is the accountability to God for their actions; if you do something, you do it to the glory of God. Is drunkenness glorifying God? Is gluttony? Yet, is having a hamburger, a beer or glass of wine, or going to church on Sunday, or Thursday, preventing you from your ability to glorify God?

Of course not. Still, there is another side of the coin in Romans 14:

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.

Is having that hamburger in front of a brother or sister whose faith places dietary restrictions on them a “stumbling block”? Is having that beer in front of a recovering alcoholic a “stumbling block”? Is trying to convince a Sabbath-keeping believer that the fourth commandment isn’t that important anymore a “stumbling block”?

Absolutely: Because, to them it is important.

What’s right for one person is right for them. What’s wrong for one person is wrong for them. And to flaunt your differences or to condemn those who are different because they’re not “just like you” isn’t right for anyone. After all, you’re just as likely to trip on your own stumbling block as is your neighbor.

Ouch!

The Type of Christian That Christians Like

I love my wife! Let me just get that out of the way at the outset. She’s beautiful, vibrant, a wonderful mother and a cold slap of common sense reality when I need it.

Like today.

Well, like most days, but today in particular.

I was talking to her about a particularly bad day I had the previous weekend: You see, every now and then on my half-hour commute to work, if I’m not jamming on some obscure Pink Floyd or thinking up ideas for the next incredible blog post, I enjoy a little “quiet time”. It’s a time to reflect, to ease myself into (or out of) my day; or a time to commune with God. And that’s what I was on doing this particular morning.

I was asking God to take care of my wife because she’d not been feeling well. I asked Him to look after my kids so they behaved and didn’t cause mom any additional undo stress. And, I prayed that I might be an example of Christ to those I would come in contact with that day, both customers and fellow employees. Something to the effect of, “God, I would really like to be more of a light for You at work; to be an example to those who may be far from You.”

Then I added, “If need be God, if the right words don’t come, provide them by Your Spirit. Let them be Your words, not mine.”

I told her it genuinely confused me that, when asking that God use his Spirit to give me words should my words fail, I would have the type of day that I had. It was horrible. I was a real smartass. (For those of you who know me, even more so than usual.) I thought, where was God? Did I miss a busy signal in the prayer phone on the way to work?

“All lines are busy; please try your prayer again later.” *click* Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

You know my wife’s immediate reaction?

“Maybe you’re praying that God make you into someone you’re not meant to be.”

Say what?? 

“I think you have this mindset of what a Christian is supposed to be,” she continued, “But maybe that’s not how God sees you. You’re trying to be this prim, proper, hands-folded-in-constant-prayer kind of Christian you think you’re supposed to be. And that’s fine for people who are genuinely built that way. But that’s not you.” She laughs at this point, “That’s definitely not you!”

“You’re more blunt, honest,” she continued, “And yeah, you can be a smartass, but who’s to say God can’t use that? Who’s to say He’s not using you now? When He’s quiet like that, maybe He’s saying, ‘No. No, that’s not what I have in mind for you. That’s not who I want you to be.'”

“God wants me to be a smartass?”

“Well . . . yeah. Maybe. For now.”

I don’t know, but for some reason that clicked with me. I think I’ve been so wrapped up in trying to be the type of Christian that I see other Christians trying to be; the type of Christian that Christians “like”, that they’re comfortable with, that I forgot that maybe that’s not me. Maybe that’s not what God wants me to be. Maybe that’s not what I want to be. If we were all this cookie-cutter image of a “proper” Christian—you know, the pressed, white shirt, skinny black tie, high water pants, little gold halo, eyes looking reverently towards the heavens—how boring would that be? How boring would heaven be?

When I get to heaven, I want the angelic choir to be backed by loud guitars and a double-bass drum kit! I want clouds with bungee cords attached so I can leap off, ruffle some unsuspecting guy’s hair then snap back up into heaven as the guy whips his head around in a mild panic. When Jesus turns the water into wine, I want it to be REAL wine.

But that’s just me.

And maybe God’s alright with that.