you got a little something right there…

i was thinking about judgment yesterday.

we all judge even if we don’t want to admit it. we look at people and make calls based on what we see. we listen to conversations and critique even though we really don’t know that person or their heart. or we look at a “sin” and immediately in our heart we say, “i’m not as bad as they are”

so like the Pharisee who prayed out loud in the temple, we look at others and give them a grade based on very little information. it’s judgment, but very poor judgment.

it is something i fight almost everyday. i try and remind myself that i don’t know the rest of the story, but it just comes up.  to quote Peter Cetera and Chicago it’s  a “Hard Habit to Break”

so what got me moving in this direction of thought?

i was remembering a conversation i had with a friend about the movie “Gladiator” several years ago. now this friend didn’t go to R rated movies, or at least didn’t admit to going. but they went to see Gladiator because the R rating came from “necessary violence”. so that was the first qualifying remark so that no one would judge them. and that’s the way it is with our media, we can justify something if it’s violent, but not if it has sexual or lewd content. God forbid any people in church actually admit that they like SouthPark or Sex in the City.

i’m not advocating anything, i just think if we were honest about who we are and what we do, then there would be a lot less judgment. i mean i don’t care that my friend saw Gladiator. it’s an awesome film with a great story. i don’t care if people watch South Park, it’s funny and honest. i don’t care what you have on your iPod, well i take that back i will judge you if you have Lil Wayne or Justin Beiber, but that’s just a quality issue. i’m saying just own it. don’t apologize for it. don’t try to sneak into the back of the theater when Hangover 3 comes out.

so i’ll finish with this passage from Matthew where Jesus is talking about judgment.

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5 NLT

that’s how i try to deal with judgment. i try and remind myself that there is a huge telephone pole in my eye and it blurs my vision just a little.

which way

i think we’ve all asked the question…

what is God’s will for my life?

He says He has a plan. why can’t i have a copy of it?

and all kinds of people have answers. most of them clichés.

i’ve heard them all.

“well if you knew the shortest way from point A to point B, you wouldn’t need God”

“it’s selfish to ask about His will for YOUR life. His will is His will”

“just let go and let God”

one after another ad nauseum. i know that people are well intentioned, but sometimes it’s ok to just not have a pat answer for everything. and yes when i say people, i mean me too. i’ve been guilty of pulling the “Christianese” answer. sometimes we just think we need to say something. i know that we want answers. we want to know why. but i think sometimes what we really want is God to conform to our will rather than us conforming to His. we make plans and want God to put His stamp of approval on them as His will. our plans, as well intentioned as they may be, usually involve a path of least resistance that will bring glory to us. then we get frustrated when things don’t go our way and like an overgrown child we sit on the floor and throw a tantrum and ask God why. then it comes back to that question. what is His will for my life?

Celebrate always, pray constantly, and give thanks to God no matter what the circumstances you find yourself in. (This is God’s WILL for ALL of you in Jesus the Liberator) 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 The Voice

i love that. maybe if we looked for that will of God and lived our lives in thankfulness, we would begin to see where He works to grow us into who we are in Him.

the passage continues

So now, may the God of peace make you His own completely and set you apart from the rest. May your spirit, soul and body be preserved, kept intact and wholly free from any sort of blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus, the Liberating King. For the God who calls you is faithful, and He can be trusted to make it so. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 The Voice

i’m going to try and walk that way today. my prayer is that you can too.

there is only one you

Romans 11:29 says

The gifts and callings of God can never be withdrawn.

dwell on that today. 

know that what He has given won’t be taken away. people take things back all the time, but not God. so if He has affirmed something in you, if He has gifted you, then move forward in that gift. people recognize and affirm our gifting, they can also deny and try to shut it down for whatever reason. but the gifts of people can be taken back or returned. the calling of man can be removed or disposed of. but not God. if He calls you, He also gifts you. and that is your portion. you have a uniqueness that the world needs. only your DNA can fulfill that calling. 

so recognize who you are today. realize that you have specific God-given skills and talents. believe that He has a purpose for you. go and live. don’t let others define who God says you are. 

So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. James 1:16-18 NLT




wherever two or more are gathered…

i continually wonder about the presence of God. He promises to never leave or forsake us, yet sometimes it seems like He is distant. i know the clichés like “if God seems far away, it’s you who has moved, not Him.” ugh, i hate clichés.

i realize that sin sometimes is a barrier for us. nothing is a barrier for Him. I can see how we put on our fig leaf and try to hide. i just wish sometimes i would hear Him say “where are you?” maybe i’m not listening. maybe life is too loud and it drowns out His voice. maybe the shame is so heavy that it dampens the calling. whatever it is, to be honest, sometimes i feel alone.

but my feelings will betray me. if i do the things i feel like doing, then i am not living in His will, i am dwelling in mine. i’ve found that my will, even with temporary moments of pleasure, does not bring long term peace or satisfaction.

i was reading this morning and came across a prayer. i love Paul’s prayers for the people in the new testament churches. this one was for the church at Ephesus.

Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen your people. Fill their souls with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Liberating King will reside in their hearts. My love be the rich soil where their lives take root. May it be the bedrock where their lives are founded so that together with all of Your people they will have the power to understand that the love of the Liberator is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God, may Your fullness flood through their entire beings. Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus, the Liberating King, from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:16-21 The Voice

he addresses the very thing i’m feeling, so i suppose the Ephesians struggled with the presence of Christ too. he talks about it taking root so that they and we would know that Christ’s love surpasses anything that we can understand. so maybe instead of seeking the presence which is already there, i should ask for the fullness. i should seek to be filled. i should request the power to understand.

also this prayer does not say i pray that this individual will see these things. it says they. we were not meant to grow outside of community. maybe sometimes the reason we don’t feel the presence of God is because even when we are around people, we isolate ourselves. He wants us to practice His presence in the midst of others. He wants us to see His power in the lives of others. we grow as a body. He promises to be wherever we gather.

do you struggle with believing that God can do those awe-inspiring, immeasurable things? well, then let’s get together and be for each other as He is for us. let us dream big and see what He can do. are you ready?

vaLENTine day

today is valentines day. this is my third year in a row without a valentine. i even joked with people that i was celebrating Single Awareness Day. 

but that is silly. it makes me that much more aware that i am most certainly not alone. i have great friends, and i should spend more time with them. i have an amazing daughter who lives with me and  3 more wonderful children that i get to see several times a month (not near enough). i have parents and family that love me. i also have a God who calls me son and friend, and i daily have to remind myself that He is more than enough. if everything else fades away or disappears, He is still there.

 so i will not be S.A.D. today. i will be thankful. 

 today is also the second day of the lenten season. i decided to go to an Ash Wednesday service last night. i went to the church of my high school friend Cynthia Kepler-Karrar. she’s the pastor of Memorial United Methodist Church in East Austin. it was a beautiful service. her joy in prayer, scripture, and preaching was contagious. i was so very happy and proud to see her in her calling. i’ve always loved confessions and benedictions. and here is the confession from last night.

Face yourself, your life, your brokenness,

Face the wrongs you treasure, the anger you hold dear, the hurts you preserve

Face the darkness that holds you back.

Linger here for a moment, look in the nooks and crannies and the hidden places

For it is in those places that our most stubborn sins hide.

Face even those as God reveals your sin to you.

Then step forward in faith, through the darkness

See all of life, all people and see as God sees

See yourself in the light of God.

Allow God to claim your life, all of your life.

Your humanness, your gifts and your limitations.

Understand the truth of these words:

“In the life, death and resurrection of Christ, you have been offered forgiveness”

And then, allow yourself to accept that forgiveness and live freely in Christ once more.

 once more. that means i have lived freely before and i’m probably gonna get bottled up again, but i have been offered forgiveness and so have you. i hope that you see yourself in the light of God today and know that you are loved. every part of you.

we run to the shadows

i’ve really been thinking of this idea of shame lately.

i always used to joke with church friends about denominations, and my catholic friends would always talk about the guilt the church put on them via confession, etc.

i got to thinking about my own church experience (i always say i’m a recovering southern baptist) and i just look at the immense shame that was loaded onto us as kids and teenagers.

there was this moral code that we had to live by. not that a moral code is bad in and of itself, but it wasn’t holiness. it was more like a checklist of things so that we could make God happy, at least that’s the way i received it.

if i messed up and did something wrong i surely didn’t want anyone to know, so i became really good at covering it up. i only cursed around my non-church friends. i attributed my virginity through high school as a pursuit of purity when the truth is i was too nerdy for any girls in my small town to sleep with (i sure did try)

this shame led to a dual world in college. i had my church friends and my other friends. my church friends had no idea of the life i lived outside of their presence, my shame wouldn’t let them. i wrote the other day how my parents didn’t really shame me, but others did, so i learned how to hide and lie.

so why? why do we continue in this pattern of shame when true freedom lies in confession. we’re so afraid that someone will reject us because of what we’ve done. it’s because it has happened. people judge and walk away because of actions.

but God is so much bigger than that. i hate that i project on Him the way people act sometimes. He says His ways are higher than our ways, but we think He will treat us like they do. we can’t fathom this  idea of grace that would reach down into our shame and pull us out of it. so we try to hide yet again. problem is you can’t hide behind a fig leaf. God sees it all. He sees it all and He still loves us. wouldn’t that be amazing for us to get? to see people for who they really are? no masks. no lies. no shame. no judgement.  just love. i realize that is not a human tendency because of our own brokenness, but if we could let God live through us? the old version of me is dead. i now live in Him. He lives through me. and the more i embrace that, and Him, the more the old dead stuff will fall away. i won’t have to worry about shame and the list because my heart will be far from those things.

the bible tells in Matthew that we are the light of the world. we can’t be hidden. we don’t hide the light under anything, yet when we are ashamed, we try to do just that. but the light always  reveals what is true, that’s why we sometimes try to stick to the shadows. the true Light shows us the way.

His breath filled all things with a living, breathing light–light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazing through murky bottoms. It cannot, and will not be quenched. John 1:4-5 The Voice

even in the darkest place, a glimmer of light will be seen. and His is no small flame.

let us walk out of shame and into His light today. are you with me? it isn’t easy, but it will bring us freedom and rest. i see the light, lets walk toward it.

on repeat…

last night i had a thought go over and over in my head.

“whom then shall i fear?”

i knew it was from a song, but the next lyric wouldn’t come. just over and over “whom then shall i fear?”

i knew it was in reference to the 23rd Psalm, and the bible verse that says “if God is for us? who can be against us?” popped up in my head for a split second.

but it kept repeating. it’s like a record that was skipping. it was on loop in my brain.

i could even sing the tune, but the chorus of the song was eluding me.

so i dwelt on that. i mulled it over. whom shall i fear? i sang and said it over and over. i thought this isn’t how i talk, it’s almost antiquated language with the whom and the shall. the question morphed into, why am i afraid? who and what am i afraid of?

this morning as i woke and was beginning to write, it hit me. the next lyric.

Oh no, You never let go

Through the calm and through the storm

Oh no, You never let go

In every high and every low

Oh no, You never let go Lord,

You never let go of me

it was just there. but i think God wanted me to focus on the first lyric last night. it’s like He was asking me, “what are you afraid of? I’m here.”

i think so often we avoid doing the things we need to because we are afraid. and that fear overwhelms and cripples us, but we are warriors who serve a God who is like a lion. He is for us, and even though it scares us, we have to step out and believe that.  quite often what we are afraid of is a lie. i’ve heard if you name it, the truth comes out.

i’m afraid of these things. i’m afraid that i will never know the true love of a woman. i’m afraid that my bills won’t get paid every month. i’m afraid of being lonely and alone. i’m afraid that my children will be damaged by divorce and separation. i’m afraid that i will run to things that are temporary fixes. i’m afraid that i’m not seen as a man. i’m afraid that who i really am will be exposed. i’m afraid of failure. i’m afraid of success. i’m afraid of losing everything.

why am i afraid of those things?  they are all lies. i claim to trust God, yet i’m stressed and worried over things that may never happen. or i’m worried about things that happened in the past that color today or the future. and when i do that. when i live in that place of fear. i miss the moment. i miss the right now.

so, whom then shall we fear? God is for us. He is for us. He’s not in opposition. He’s the best player on our team. we need to make sure the playmaker has the ball.

so don’t be afraid. live today. i’m sure going to try. i pray that you do as well.

don’t dwell in fear because He never lets go.

i’m responsible…

last night i went to hang out with my acting friends at Gateway Church. it’s a little “drama club”. we do scene studies and monologues.  it’s a good place to go and get critiqued on your work and just generally a hotspot of creativity. i went last night to help brainstorm some writing, and to have them chop my monologue that i’m doing for an audition i have today.

we were brainstorming a certain idea, and i came to a realization…

i’ve been a victim far too long. or at least i’ve played that role really well. there are things about my circumstances that i can blame on other factors, but at the end of the day, the reason that i’m in the situation that i’m in is due to choices that i have made. 

my financial problems may have started with the divorce, but i’m the one who wasn’t a good manager of money after that. my relational issues may have started way back, but my pattern of pride has exacerbated many of those problems. 

i just had this realization last night that i’ve been searching for this “change”, and yet i’ve been making excuses because of outside factors. i can quote all the bible verses in the world, and read all of the greatest advice from all of the most godly people, but until i purpose in my heart to change and take responsibility for my contributions to the turmoil, that transformation will not come.

so i’m here to tell you. 

it’s me. it’s me who overspent and overspends. it’s me who is graceless and unforgiving. it’s me who is prideful and angry. it’s me.

but guess what? in the same breath, that is not me because i serve a gracious and glorious Savior who is bringing my wants under control. who is teaching me to have mercy and grace. who is walking me through humility and peace. because i want to be like Him. 

because i refuse to be the victim anymore.

ready or not, here i come….

when i write, i just really write what’s on my heart. it is basically stream of consciousness thinking, but with punctuation and hopefully correct spelling. i know that my English teachers would bemoan my style of not using capital letters, but i’m not really worried about them grading this blog.

so what comes out of this blog is who i am. oh, don’t get me wrong, you don’t see all of me. that’s because i’ve learned to hide certain parts of me really well. even if you have sat and had a beer or coffee with me, you don’t know the real me. you have a good idea because i am authentic to a point, but due to a lot of hurt and shame, i’ve become really good at hiding the parts of me that i need to protect. it’s called a shame suit. it’s basically some massive armor that often keeps bad stuff in and good stuff out.

i was realizing this the other day when i wrote about the enemy being the father of the lie. i thought, “i’m a pretty notorious liar, but who knows it? and when did i become that way?” i was thinking back through my life and i realized that i didn’t lie to my parents all that much. we lived in a small town and i would’ve gotten caught. i know i stretched the occasional truth to seem important, but i didn’t fabricate that many stories to hide my sin. because my parents didn’t shame me. oh, i got in trouble, but i wasn’t shamed and my mom and dad extended grace to me.

it was when i began to be shamed by others. when i was up against a community of judgement that i really learned to lie. i learned to put on the masks that others expected of me. it compounded in my relationships within the church and ultimately with my wife.

i don’t know that we ever truly knew each other because i was always afraid of being judged and letting her down. i was ashamed that i had lust issues. i was scared to let her know the true me because she might not love me anymore. let me share with you that is no way to live. to hold secrets and then when you do decide to be honest, it is too late.

so i will be as vulnerable on here as my level of trust will allow. i will tell you what i think is safe. i think we all hide parts of ourselves. we’re human. but i want to know that i will receive grace. and although i can hide lots of things from you, i cannot hide them from God. He knows. funny how i project how i’ve been responded to by people onto Him. He does extend grace and He knows what i’ve done, yet i still try to hide.

i was watching my boys play hide and seek the other day, they would count to ten and shout “ready or not, here i come!” and the one looking would always find the one hiding and would chase him back to base. i was the base. i was the safe place.

much like in the game even if i hide from Him, He knows where i am. He is going to find me. He knows what i’ve done and who i’ve hurt and yet He still loves me. He pursues me.  in fact He says if we want to hide, we should hide IN HIM!  He is the ultimate hiding place and He is the safe base. He is a place to rest from all of that. and in that hiding He teaches us grace and mercy that we can extend to others so that they won’t be ashamed.

what are you hiding behind today? a shame suit? i hope that you can take that off and stand before God in all of your broken nakedness today. it’s what i’m going to try to do. and i’ll try it again tomorrow, and the next day. and i’ll try to tell you the truth, even if i can’t trust you to have grace and mercy on me. we are in this together, and He is for us.

Romans 8:1-2

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

what i get to be a part of…

as i was glancing over twitter and Facebook yesterday, i noticed that lots of pastors talked about the prodigal son. our pastor did as well, and he said something that stuck with me that i hadn’t realized before.

he said that when the son asked for his inheritance, he was saying to the father, “you are dead to me. i don’t need you anymore”. then he proceeded to take and go, and live his own way.

the funny thing is, he had everything already. all he had to do was listen to the father, but he, like us, wanted control.

how often are we like that? we have everything of the Father’s. one of my favorite lines from a recent song says, “He lavishes. His love upon us. He calls us all. His sons and daughters. He’s reaching out.” that is a beautiful word picture of exactly how He is.

so why do we continually demand to have our way? are we spoiled? why do we think He deprives us when actually it’s the opposite?

you see, we are messy and broken. we are ashamed and the enemy has convinced us that the Father could never love the junk in our lives. we are far from Him in that pig pen. we have to make the conscious decision that it would be better to be a servant in the Father’s house than to continue to live in this mess, so we turn our face towards home. something has to change, this isn’t ok. God knows what needs to change and when we turn to Him, He gives us that gift. we aren’t hiding anymore. we aren’t trying to manage the messy and broken. we turn our energy and focus to the One who can pull us out of the mud and slop.

and He sees us coming from a long way off because He has been watching for our return. He runs to us and rejoices. He welcomes us back as family and we celebrate. will we leave again? probably, but we hopefully won’t spend as much time in the pig pen the next time. and eventually we will just look in its direction, but not go. then someday all thoughts of the pig pen will cease.

so today i pray that your focus will be on the One who longs to bring true redemption into your life. He is the Redeemer. stop focusing on what is wrong with you and what you want to get rid of, and focus on what is right with Him and what you get to be a part of.