Keep Calm and Keep Believing



We’ve all royally messed up when it comes to relationships. Maybe you’ve lost only a few friends along the way or maybe you feel like you’ve run everyone away. Either way it never gets easier when someone finally gives up on you.

It’s easy to become resentful and bitter, but in the long run forgiveness feels better than being weighed down by all that anger. So choose to forgive, not because the other person deserves it but because you need it.

Only forgiven people can forgive and only those whom God has forgiven can really and truly forgive those who have hurt them.

Of course forgiveness doesn’t mean automatic restoration of trust. That has to be earned. Some relationships will never be like they were before. But still forgiveness is always right and always good and always worth it.

I recommend eating something chocolatey after forgiving someone. It helps. Sorta like eating chocolate after fighting off a dementor. Yes, I just went Harry Potter on you.

You forgive because you know you fail. You know you will inevitably need forgiveness yourself from just about everyone you know. It happens. Treat others like you would like to be treated when you deserve rejection but find mercy instead.

Don’t forget the chocolate.

Bearded Brawny Men and Other Ridiculousness


Apparently, beards are in. I see guys wearing beards, growing beards, basically reveling in facial hair. I’m not so sure I’m a fan of it.

I don’t say that because my own facial hair is scanty. It takes me forever to grow anything close to resembling a beard, but I’m okay with that. I’m really not bitter about being beardless.

I just think it’s one thing to grow a beard and another to go for the Paul Bunyan look. I mean, what’s up with all the long scraggly beards? Is there a cult out there looking for another David Koresh?

I heard someone say that she was looking for bearded and burly in her men. I guess the blue ox and the red plaid shirt are optional. Hopefully the axe isn’t a requirement.

All that to say this. You be you. Don’t do something because everyone else is doing it. Don’t grow a beard because it’s suddenly fashionable. Life is way too short to live it for the sake of pleasing others.

If you really and truly want to grow a beard down to your knees, don’t listen to me. You go for it and you grow it. If you want to be clean-shaven, you do that.

I’ve been around long enough to know that these trends never stay very long. The more trendy you are today, the more likely it will be that your children will one day look at photos of you and laugh and say things like, “You actually went out in public dressed like that?”

So once again, you be you. Be yourself. In the words of one E. E. Cummings, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”

Don’t ever stop fighting to be you. Ever.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and the Struggle for Authenticity


I was deeply saddened when I read of the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the best character actors around. I like many of you was shocked to find out that drugs, and more specifically heroin, were the culprit for his demise.

I thought, “Why in the world would a guy as successful and talented as that need to medicate with drugs? What could possibly be so bad about his life?”

Then I read a blog or two about him that opened my eyes. I’ll do my best to simplify what I read there without plagiarizing anything or anyone.

Sometimes, character actors can lose themselves in their roles. They almost literally become the characters they’re portraying. Which is all well and good until it comes time to be yourself again.

I wonder if Philip had forgotten how to live in his own skin as himself? Or maybe he didn’t like who he was and preferred to live as someone else?

I know like so many addicts, he probably at some point chose the drug, but after a while it stopped being a choice. Unless the drug was the one who chose him.

I’m sure he hated the drug that he craved at the same time. Maybe he felt he was too far gone to save, too deep in his addiction to find a way out. Maybe he didn’t feel like he could let anyone into his battle with drugs and felt like he had to fight alone.

I’m speculating a lot here.

But I do know this. Jesus came to set the captives free.

He came for the addict. He came for the self-abuser. He came for those who don’t like what they see in the mirror and who don’t like themselves very much.

I’m not going to speculate as to whether Mr. Hoffman knew Jesus or not. Many believers get just as caught up in addictions and have just as many character flaws as anyone else.

I will say that God is close to the broken-hearted and those who are crushed in spirit. He’s near to those who cry out of desperation and deep need.

If you’re trapped in addiction, get help. Don’t fight your demons alone. And know that God is the champion of the downtrodden and distraught, the losers and underdogs, those who just can’t get their messes cleaned up or their lives figured out.

Last of all, remember that it’s only by the grace of God that it’s not you or me lying dead in a bathroom with a heroin-filled needle stuck in our arms. Only the grace of God keeps any of us alive and wakes us up in the morning.

Yeah, I still love the grace of God.

My two cents on spiritual warfare

A group of guys and I have been watching a DVD series on spiritual warfare by Chip Ingram called The Invisible War (and yes, that was a shameless plug). It got me thinking about the mindset of so many American believers (including me) regarding the whole topic of spiritual warfare. Plainly put, either most of us don’t believe there is an war going on with an enemy that is constantly seeking our destruction. If we believe, we sure don’t live like it much of the time. Again, me included.

The war is real. The enemy is real. In this world, we are not tourists on vacation, or passengers on some kind of luxury cruise, but soldiers engaged in battle. Our ignorance of the battle and our enemy can only do us harm. We need to wake up to realize that we are under attack. But here’s the best part.

The battle is already won. Chip Ingram said, “As believers in Christ, we don’t fight FOR victory. We fight FROM victory.” That’s the good news (which is why it’s called the gospel!). But there is still a battle.

We fight back by putting on the armor of God as described in Ephesians 6: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. We should pray these on every morning and pray these for each other on a daily basis. We should pray with eyes wide open to the spiritual realm, asking God to give us eyes to see the battle around us like the Elijah prayed for his servant when they were surrounded by the Syrian army. We should pray for discernment and wisdom. Most of all, we should pray at all times to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-controlled, taking every thought captive and submitting them to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

We must fight together. If you are fighting the enemy on your own, apart from other believers, you may succeed for a season, but you will ultimately grow weary and faint. You will stumble and fall. You need other believers praying God’s protection over you, encouraging you and keeping you honest.

We fight ultimately with one weapon– LOVE. Not as a feeling, but as a decisive act of the will. We fight by showing that Calvary’s love is stronger than hate and that love overcomes anything. Chip Ingram said, “Love is giving to another person what they need the most when they deserve it least.” Love is doing whatever you can, even to your own detriment, for the good of the beloved. It means dying to yourself and your rights and own ideas about how the world should work.

So live with eyes wide open, hands raised, side by side with your brothers and sisters in Christ. And remember that the battle is already won and that we have overcome!

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.