Just Ask

“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?” (Luke 11:13 MSG).

I wonder how many times I’ve used prayer as a last resort.

How many times have I obsessively worried about something and tried to figure out ways of handling it myself and it never even dawned on me to pray about it?

You’d think for as long as I’ve been a believer that I’d be quicker to prayer than I am.

I’m guessing you feel the same way.

I think it points to a lack of faith. It says that I really don’t believe that God can handle my problem. Oh sure, He can deal with everyone else’s issues but for some reason in my own mind, my circumstances are different.

I look at it this way. If God can raise Jesus from the dead, He can handle pretty much anything I’m ever going to throw at Him. He’s not going to be shocked or surprised at the needs I lay before Him.

I keep up with Ann Voskamp, a fantastic writer who also happens to put some of the best posts out there on social media. She usually ends them with the hashtag #preachingthegospeltomyself. For those who are unskilled in reading hashtag-ese, that means “preaching the gospel to myself.”

A lot of what I write is me reminding myself of what I already know. Scratch that. Nearly all of what I write is me preaching to myself and stirring memories of times before when God was faithful.

All it takes is the tiniest yielding, the most hesitant agreements, and God can show up and do what He does best– amaze.

 

Authenticity

authenticity

I did one of those personality analysis tests and was not too surprised at the results. Basically, it turns out that I’m an idealist who wants to make a difference in the world around him. I pretty much knew that.

The test also said that I am drawn toward authenticity.

I think there are few who wouldn’t want some kind of authenticity in their lives, to be in a place where they can truly be themselves. Not only that, but a place where the people around them are just as genuine.

Ideally, the Church is just the place where that should happen.

Sadly, that’s the last place you find true authenticity these days.

These days, especially in the American Church, most believers feel they have to wear the “super spiritual, got it all together” mask and act as if their lives are perfect. Very few feel comfortable being open and honest about their struggles, addictions, and fears for fear of being judged and condemned.

That’s sad. That’s also not at all the Church Jesus had in mind when He prayed that they be united and one just as He and the Father are one. That’s not the Church portrayed in Acts as sharing possessions and helping out the less fortunate.

That’s not the kind that will draw the hurting and helpless, the kind Jesus told us to reach out to.

Pretending to be perfect is a damaging facade in two ways. First, it’s an impossible illusion to maintain because no one is perfect. Second, it creates the false image that to become a believer, you can’t have any issues or problems or sin-issues.

I think what people are looking for when they look to believers are people who make mistakes and fess up to those mistakes, who fail miserably and pick themselves up and move on, who have flaws and choose to see the good in themselves and others.

I’m praying that I can live with that kind of authenticity. I’m praying you will seek to be just as honest and real and transparent in your own lives as well.

Remember, God above all knows your deepest secrets, your utmost failures and flaws, and loves you just as you are. Not as you wish you could be or how you see yourself on your very best days but just exactly as you are when you’re feeling lowest.

That’s the kind of love I’m craving and the only kind of love that can change me into someone who can love others the same way.

 

Things I Love 40: The Farewell Tour a la The Eagles and the Rolling Stones

island hammock

“The cynics, they can only speak of the dark, of the obvious, and this is not hard. For all it’s supposed sophistication, it’s cynicism that’s simplistic. In a fallen world, how profound is to see the cracks?

The sages and prophets, the disciples and revolutionaries, they are the ones up on the ramparts, up on the wall pointing to the dawn of the new Kingdom coming, pointing to the light that breaks through all things broken, pointing to redemption always rising and to the Blazing God who never sleeps” (Ann Voskamp).

This may or may not be the last of the series. Ok, probably not. These are just too much fun to quit entirely. Even if you don’t blog and actually have a life, I recommend writing down all the things you’re thankful for. Not just the big things, but the little things like morning dew on the grass or butterflies lighting on flowers. You can steal mine if you like. Ideas, not butterflies. Starting at #1,211.

1,211) Those purple flowers that I can’t remember the name of.

1,212) Friends who speak the truth in love when I need to hear it and stick around after I’ve royally made a mess of things.

1,213) That messing up doesn’t mean the end of the world.

1,214) Being defined by the love of my Abba.

1,215) Finally believing that I will be a good husband and father one day.

1,216) God never ceasing to amaze and delight me whenever I have sense enough to stop and pay attention.

1,217) Chocolate in all its many glorious forms.

1,218) The way God speaks to me where I am and always knows where to find me.

1,219) Men and women who sacrifice their lives protecting the freedom that I so casually take for granted so often.

1,220) Me finding and living out my very own brand of awesome almost every single day.

1,221) Finally trying a Granny Smith apple just to say I’ve eaten one (and Oh my Lord, they’re tart).

1,222) For July days when the high temperature is 84.

1,223) For the chicken cobb avocado salad at Panera Bread on Old Hickory Blvd in front of Target.

1,224) That I care less what other people think of me and much more of what God thinks of me.

1,225) That there is absolutely nothing that will separate me from God’s love, nothing he hasn’t overcome by the cross, and nothing that he can turn into something beautiful and glorious.

1,226) When I can borrow from other posts and hopefully you won’t notice.

1,227) The Wilson County Fair coming up in August.

1,228) Having a full tank of gas in my Jeep.

1,229) Reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (my favorite of the Narnia books) yet again.

1,230) Promoting my friends’ music or books or art or causes.

1,231) That my last name isn’t Weiner.

1,232) Advancing to level 63 in Candy Crush Saga.

1,233) Finding an extra large box of Cocoa Pebbles at Publix for $1,50.

1,234) The number 1,234 (’cause it’s in order).

1,235) All, 721 of my facebook friends.

1,236) Still having all ten fingers and all ten toes.

1,237) Burl Ives singing “Silver and Gold.”

1,238) Learning to think for myself and not be spoon-fed by the media or talking heads (either conservative or liberal).

1,239) Being able to simplify my life by getting rid of books and CDs I won’t ever listen to or read again.

1,240) People who know how to use “your”, “you’re”, “to”, “too”, and “two” correctly.

Aw heck. You might as well count on there being at least one more of these.

Me Too

I think that sometimes the most powerful words you can ever say or hear from a friend are, “Me too.”

It means that you’re not alone in your struggle. In your fear. In your doubt.

It means that at least one person knows what you’re going through and you’re not the freakish weirdo out of the whole human race who has your particular issue.

It means that two are more of you are gathered together and that’s where God really shows up.

When I heard a speaker say that he fears when people find out what he’s really like, they will abandon him, I said in my heart, “Me too.” He had named my fear almost verbatim the way I would have named it.

That was comforting. To know that a well-known speaker has the same fear I do was good to know, but that another human being shares that phobia meant the world to me.

So remember you’re not alone in your struggle. You are not a freak of nature. Others are walking the same road that you are, even though you may feel like the only one.

There’s a website called nomorevoices.com where you can name what the voices are telling you. The only response will be, “Me too.”

So remember when you’re in the depth of your struggles that you are not alone. Others are in the same place you are.

And most of all, God knows.

 

Why I Am a Fan of Henri Nouwen

solitude

“In solitude we can slowly unmask the illusion of our possessiveness and discover in the center of our own self that we are not what we can conquer, but what is given to us. In solitude we can listen to the voice of him who spoke to us before we could speak a word, who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, who set us free long before we could free others, and who loved us long before we could give love to anyone. It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the result of our efforts. In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared. It’s there we recognize that the healing words we speak are not just our own, but are given to us; that the love we can express is part of a greater love; and that the new life we bring forth is not a property to cling to, but a gift to be received” (Henri J.M. Nouwen).

Henri Nouwen wrote that every single person ever born deals with aloneness, because every single one of us is unique and no one else will ever have our exact problems and issues and hang-ups and phobias.

He said we can either see our aloneness as a wound and thus turn it into loneliness or view it as a gift, where it becomes solitude. In solitude is where we can learn to be still and quiet and know that in truth, we are never really alone. God is with us.

Solitude makes us better people, better neighbors, better friends, better spouses, better lovers, and better disciples. We’re not clinging to each other out of a desparate need to not be lonely, but because we are finally comfortable with who we are in the times when we are alone with no noise to drown out our own thoughts.

That is my own wording of what I’ve been reading in The Only Necessary Thing, a compilation of Nouwen’s thoughts on living a prayerful life. Seriously, if you don’t read another one of my blogs, but read one of his books, I will be supremely happy. He’s that good.

That’s all for tonight. Let me know what you are reading that touches you deeply at the soul level. Maybe it’s a book that will do the same for me. And may the God of the earthquake and the God of the thunder also be the God of your silence and the God of your solitude. Amen.

My pledge to all of you

I pledge to always give the benefit of the doubt. I pledge to look at you in the best way possible and to see you in the best light at all times. If I have a discouraging or disparaging thought about you, I will renounce it in the name of Jesus as a thought from the Enemy and I will not agree with it. I will believe the best about you, hope the best for you, pray God’s blessing upon you and stand with you even when you feel like giving up on yourself.

I will probably fail at this. A lot. But I will keep trying. I will love each of you like Jesus loved me. Whether or not you notice or care is not my concern. What is is that I keep my end as best I can. Of course, I can only love you with God’s love flowing through me. I want to see you fully alive in God as He meant you to be.

I want to pray for you, so feel free to share whatever concerns or issues or anything that is on your heart, or on the heart of anyone you know. I will not stop until I die or Jesus comes back. This is my pledge to you.