We’re cheap crappy mulch. And that’s good.

Something snapped in my head this morning. The current Christian church is hammering away at how God loves you even though you’re a mess, even though you’re broken, even though you’re not perfect.

And that’s all true. But crap, dude, I’m sick of hearing about it. Listen, if you’re in a place where you think you’re too big of a mess for God to love you, you’re wrong. It’s as simple as that. Just get over it. God loves you. And he’s got some crap he needs you to take care of, so just… GRRR. Get over it.

And then it started hitting me. God created all of us. And I operate under the belief that he’s not an idiot and doesn’t screw up. So why are we all so broken? Okay, bust out the theology about the original sin, and blah blah blah my eyes roll back into my head and I want to take a nap.

My thought turned to this: What if God didn’t screw up? What if we’re NOT broken? Well that doesn’t work perfectly. There’s some crap about me that is definitely broken. Okay, what else? What is this thought trying to creep up to the top of my head?

And then it hit me. We’re mulch. We’re cheap, low level, throw-away mulch. And it’s AWESOME! Let me explain.

We used to garden a lot. And we saw this video a guy did on his garden and how shockingly productive and beautiful it was. No watering system. No fertilization. No pesticides. But amazing results. This dude had organic farmers travelling in to see how he did it. No one could figure it out.

His secret was mulch. Lots of it. He just laid down a new layer of mulch every year and it broke down over time and held in water, fended off pests, acted as fertilizer as it broke down. Mulch. That was it. And it was all free. He worked out a deal with the electric company to dump all their grindings on his property every time they went out tree trimming. And they went tree trimming a lot. He had lots of free mulch.

So as is always the case, other people tried it. And one dude in particular really bought into this system. He ordered up a giant load of the best quality mulch. It was expensive. And it didn’t work. At all.

What? What happened?

The problem was that his mulch was perfect. It was perfectly consistent in size. It was only one type of wood. No leaves. No spare twigs here and there. It was perfect. Perfectly useless.

It turns out the free crappy mulch has tons of junk in there that isn’t pretty, but is the backbone of feeding this guy’s garden. And he didn’t even know it.

So I’m mulch. And so are you. And the good news is that we’re the cheap crappy kind with all sorts of odd looking things stuck inside that look bad but work great. We’re not pretty on the outside. But here’s the thing: We work. We’re USEFUL.

So yeah I suppose this is just one more post about it being okay to be broken. But I’m trying to take it a step further than that. Maybe what we call “broken” isn’t broken. Right?  But being constantly told we’re broken kinda sucks the life out of you after a while.  You get to a place where you’re like, “Well I’m really broken and I suck and I’m a mess.  But at least God loves me.”  Dude.  That’s frickin’ depressing.  I don’t think God wired us up to feel like that all the time.

Maybe all this mess is what breaks down over time into something that can feed the starving around us. This mess will produce something that is beautiful, nourishing, and naturally fends off those who would seek to do us harm. Maybe instead of finally accepting that we’re broken, we should look in the mirror and realize this thing you’re seeking is just as jacked up and messy and you think it is. And that it is for that very reason… unbroken.

I’m not saying we don’t owe God everything for the grace he shows us every day.  But perhaps we’ve lulled ourselves into inaction by constantly drilling into our own heads how “broken” we are and God’s up there like, “Get over dudes.  Broken means you can’t function.  You ain’t broken.  I’m kinda waiting for you to, like, start working.  Ya know?”

Those are my slightly disorganized thoughts for the day. Later all.

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You are alone in your sin.

You need to get a handle on this sin thing.  What’s the matter with you?  You realize don’t you that most people don’t “struggle” with this they way you do, right?  There must be something wrong with you, some wires crossed.  Whatever it is, you need to draw back into yourself and figure it out.  Put prayer on hold, would ya?  You can’t be praying in the middle of this giant mess you’re in.  And think about your wife, your family, your friends.  Listen, I’m your friend, and you have got to get a handle on this.  I know you supposedly had a “good day” yesterday but how long will that last?  You really think you can string together even five decent days in a row?  When has that worked out?

Get to work on this.  Figure it out.  You’re on your own out there until you can get this sorted out.

_____________________

Ever heard these words?  Yeah.  I have.  All the time.  This is that conversation the devil likes to have with you in order to guarantee that you never break free from sin.  Yes, the devil can actually use your own battle with sin against you.  A crafty little bastard.  Fighting him off can actually fuel his game.  Distance from God.  It’s all about distance from God.  How many times have I skipped prayer because of recent sin?  Mission accomplished, devil.  Well played.

So let’s set it straight.  If you are stuck in sin YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  But you had better get about the business of surrounding yourself with strong Christians who don’t define their faith as a means by which to judge the sins of others.  You need real Christians, not Christians who are full of crap.  You need scripture, and you had best not ever… EVER… step away from prayer.  I don’t care how much you lose your battle, you get back onto that battle field with your Christian friends and your powerful God and you fight again.

Got it?  Don’t believe the crap you hear.  Because you’re going to hear it.  Over and over.  But you’ve got an army behind you.  Want me in your army?  I can do that.  james.d.voigt@gmail.com.  And trust me on this: with me in your army you will no longer be alone in your sin!  We’ll fight it off together.

Take today and kick the living crap out of your sin.  Team up.  Pray up.  Bible up.  And start kicking.

 

We were built to be heroes.  It’s about time we start acting like heroes.

 

Photo credit: Leni Tuchsen / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Pointless Prayer, and why prayer will never get you what you want.

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I posted a while back about prayer, and received some exceptionally insightful comments. I learned a lot. I confess that, even though I write this blog, I don’t really understand prayer very well. I usually feel like I’m talking to the backs of my eyelids. That’s starting to change.

Perhaps “pointless prayer” is too strong a term. But let me explain my thinking. I have always prayed because it was a means to stop doing something I shouldn’t do. Or start doing something I should do. Or get something I don’t have. Or get rid of something I don’t want. I understand that the Bible says we are supposed to bring our requests to God. But this was different. My thought was, “Prayer is the key to getting this result that I want.” That sounds true. Why else would we pray? But it’s not true. Prayer gets you only one thing: A relationship with God. From there, amazing things happen.

I can already see the comments flowing in, but you need to understand how this worked in my head to see that I’m right about this. Those of you who disagree with the title of this post probably just have a more mature level of prayer than I do. I literally thought that the act of prayer was the key. This action of speaking into darkness behind closed eyes was going to change me. And the center of my prayers was always the same: Me. Sure, I would pray for other people. But the prayer was still, “This is what I want for this person I am praying for.”  I wasn’t praying in order to be close to God.  I was praying because I thought that saying a bunch of words with my eyes closed would be like flipping a switch and things would happen.  Things didn’t happen.

It would be more accurate to title this post, “Talking to the backs of your eyelids will never get you what you want.”  That’s all I was doing.  I was not seeking a conversation.  I was not seeking a relationship.  I was just seeking results.  It was no different than a stranger walking up to you and asking you for things.

Prayer wasn’t getting me anywhere so I wrote this post a while back. And I put a poll on there asking how you pray. Since I have a personality disorder that causes me to think everyone in the world is just like me, I assumed the overwhelming response would be people confessing that they wished they were more disciplined in their prayer life. But I was wrong. The overwhelming response was that most people reading this blog just pause momentarily throughout the day and pray about whatever moves them at the moment.

This was surprising to me. I follow a lot of the blogs of the commenters and these are people I respect. People doing really cool things in the world for God. People I should listen to. So I did. I stopped trying to jam prayer into a specific spot in my day like it was a chore and started praying whenever I felt moved to do so. Or whenever I felt a moment of weakness. Or a moment of particular strength. Mostly just whenever. I started praying a lot. Far more than I ever did in the days of setting aside a half hour at the beginning of the day. My prayer became more focused. That first half hour of the day was riddled with internal distractions and spinning thoughts of everything from breakfast, to work, to the kids, to whatever. But these little moments of prayer were highly focused.  My prayer became pointless.  It was not meant to deliver a result that I wanted, or even desperately needed.  It was simply to build this amazing relationship.  Sure, I know I can ask for things in prayer.  But I want to ask them of a Father that I know.  That I spend time with.  That I care about, and who cares about me.  That’s a different level of asking.  And it needs to come first, I think.

Something interesting happened that started to reveal this truth to me. I ran out of things to ask for. When you pray a lot, all throughout the day, you kind of run out of the standard shopping list in your head. I started asking God for a closer relationship. I started thanking Him for even hearing my prayers at all. He’s God after all. I started seeing images of me walking along side, and get closer over time. That blackness on the backs of my eyes was being replaced with images of a God who, for whatever reason, wants a relationship with me. It makes no sense to me how this could be, and it never will. I am starting to give up on trying to get it to make sense and instead just being amazed that it happens.

So there you have it. This blog you read is written by a guy who in currently in 3rd Grade Prayer. But a month ago I was in Pre-K so I’m moving up. And I mostly have all of you to thank for it. Things take a long time for me. This skull, with all its fourteen screws holding it together, is pretty thick. But with you along for the ride with me, I feel like some things are starting to come together.

Next step… dealing with the interaction with God and how it freaks me out a little. Overall, the realization that asking God to change everything in your life might actually result in Him doing so. That’s awesome when you write a theoretical blog about things that other people should do. It’s scary when it happens to you. But I can do scary. With you folks along for the ride, I can do scary.

We were built to be heroes. It’s about time we started acting like heroes.

Photo credit: stallkerl / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

There is a world out there desperate for more than average.

izqrdo / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Being average is pretty awesome. For a while. Actually, it’s pretty cool until you’re about forty. And then you realize that being average is… well… pretty average. It’s empty. I remember a few years ago hearing a great friend Frank talk about all the stuff he had accumulated. Motorcycles, snowmobiles, the whole works. He works hard and can afford it. But it started losing its meaning. It started feeling average. And Frank fell out of love with average.

If you’re 25, and average is looking pretty awesome to you, take a lesson from an old timer here.  Average sucks.  Just look at it and keep on walking.  Because none of us has been called to be average.  What’s cool is that there is no one thing that you can do in order to be amazing.  There are a billion different ways to be amazing, and you are custom built to do one of them.  Have no doubt about that.  The world needs amazing things from amazing people and being average just doesn’t fit into that equation.

If you’re average right now… if you’re kind of coasting right now… let me ask you: Are you about done?  Because awesome is just over that hill and it’s calling you.  The world is desperate for you to step into the giant shoes you were born to fill whether you think you’re ready to fill them or not.  Grab your cape people.  Let’s go be heroes.

We were built to be heroes.  It’s about time we started acting like heroes.

Get infected: This ain’t no prosperity gospel.

photophilde / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

I’m a fan of small steps.  Stop stressing out about where God will lead you over the next twenty years and just do something to serve Him over the next twenty minutes.  That’s where is starts.  That’s not where it ends.  This is no prosperity gospel where you give the minimum and get the maximum.  In this gospel, you give it all and strangely stop caring about all that stuff you used to want.  But that doesn’t always happen all at once.  Maybe you’re like me, and it starts with small steps.

I’ve gotten some emails asking me whether I honestly think that doing small things for God is enough.  Doesn’t God expect radical abandonment?  Of course He does.  But you have two options.  The first option is to sit around doing nothing (like I did most of my life) waiting until you are so compelled to turn your life upside down that you do it all in one shot.  We’ll call this the Damascus option (Google it).  The other option is to get infected.  I’m getting infected.

Serving God is infectious, people.  It gets into your fibers and takes over.  But it needs a place to start.  It takes something small you get you hooked.  Here’s the deal.  God built you to love feeling happy.  He built you to want things.  He built you to want satisfaction.  The greatest trick evil ever pulled off was convincing you that the junk we buy actually delivers that satisfaction.  And it does, kinda, for a little while.  But the satisfaction you get from watching your high def TV is nothing compared to even the smallest act of service for God.  Nothing.

I don’t advocate small steps because they are better than large steps.  I advocate small steps because they are better than nothing.  And let’s be blunt here for a second.  A lot of us are doing nothing.  I did nothing for years.  Decades, actually.  You can read the second chapter of my book where I describe over and over the times that God dropped lay ministry right in my lap and I was either too dumb or too stubborn to do anything with it.  For me, I needed small steps to catch the infection that would lead to large steps.  I think right now I’m somewhere around medium steps.  But every day that goes by I see a path coming more and more clear that someday leads to radical abandonment.  God shows it too me slowly because he probably knows I’m too much of a spaz to handle it all at once.  My Damascus moment might be right around the corner.  I need to keep working and praying to be ready for it.

I wish I didn’t need to take small steps.  But I do.  And they are better than the non-steps I took for the first 35 years of my life.  My small steps having me starting to feel the infection working within me.  I know that one day I will wake up, look at my wife, and describe to her an adventure that is both scary and awesome all at the same time and we’ll finally say, “We’re doing it.  Whatever the cost.  We’re doing it.”  And those small steps along the way will have prepared me for that day.

I hope you get called to do something crazy.  Something radical.  But until that happens, please join me in taking these small steps.  In the Bible we always come in at the good part.  We come in right when the fishermen are dropping their nets to follow Christ.  And we’re amazed that they would do that right out of the blue.  But was it out of the blue?  What was their backstory?  What small steps had they been taking over the previous ten years before that day came?  Who knows… maybe they wrote a blog.

These are my small steps.  What are yours?  Telling your small steps helps people to connect.  It helps to get them moving in the right direction.  Or, if you’re already onto big steps or even radical abandonment then I would love to read your stories and comments as well.  Inspire us all.  It’s what you were built to do.

We were built to be heroes.  It’s about time we started acting like heroes.

Photo credit: photophilde / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Taking the Plunge: Tithing (and why I thought I couldn’t)

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I posted a while back about some ways that I fall short as a Christian.  Simple things that just need to be fixed.  One of them was failing to tithe.  And it has been bothering me ever since.  The issue was brought to a head recently as our church did a series on going beyond your comfort zone and trusting God.

My thought was this.  I want to tithe.  I think, most months, we would be able to pull it off.  But there would be months that we just don’t have it.  Can we commit to that?  I have friends who have tithed through months of unemployment.  Here I am claiming that it’s impossible for me to tithe.  The other issue is debt.  We’re buried in debt.  Some of it is pretty dumb debt.  Regardless, it interferes with our ability to tithe.  Without the debt, tithing would be no problem.  So we basically pre-spent our tithe for years and now we have to dig out.

Those are the excuses.  What was the REAL issue with tithing?  I thought the problem was my wife.  We had never really gone into detail on it because the conversation went sideways pretty quickly whenever it came up.  Not sure why.  But for whatever reason, I was under the very clear impression that my wife had no interest in doing a full tithe.  And that she’d be mad if I brought it up.

So the issue finally came to a head (peacefully) and instead of getting into whether we should tithe or not, I just asked her what amount she would be willing to give.  That amount is about $13.00 a month short of a full tithe for us.  Are you kidding me?!?

Literally, for years, I’ve avoided this subject.  If I were to be completely honest with myself, I would have to say that I probably didn’t have a genuine desire to tithe and just used this invented argument as a means to blame it on someone else.

Bottom line: We’re in.  Deep end.  No life jacket.  We’re tithing.  So…. now I suppose I should go back and read the rest of that list of dumb mistakes I’m making and pick another…

What is holding you back from doing something that you just know you should be doing?  Maybe it’s tithing, maybe it’s getting out of debt, maybe it’s finally picking up the phone and calling your dad after all these years.

Challenge yourself: Is it really as impossible as you have convinced yourself?

We were built to be heroes.

It’s about time we started acting like heroes.

Photo credit: Foter.com / Public Domain Mark 1.0

Quick Post: Changing lives right where you are.

“Last night he texted me and said he called his mom and granny and told them about this.  They started crying.
He said, no one has ever done anything like that for him.”

Tears of Joy

There will come a day when God asks you to radically abandon your life.  Until He does, bring amazing change into the lives of those around you right where you are today.  Make a grown man cry.  Be a hero.

FULL POST HERE

We were built to be heroes.

It’s about time we started acting like heroes.

Photo credit: GYLo / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

You can’t bring people to Christ in 30 seconds. It takes a real relationship.

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“Gee whiz I told this guy about Jesus and even handed him a little mini-Bible and he didn’t accept Christ right there on the spot.  Sadly, he will burn in hell.”  Really?  Is this how the plan to make disciples of all nations was supposed to work?

The making of disciples is not an event, it is a relationship.  My earliest disciple-maker was the same as most people, probably.  My mom.  We were at church every Sunday with our little baggies of Cheerios to keep us occupied and quiet.  I didn’t realize until later how challenging it must have been for a single mom working full time to get to church every week.  But while I was growing up, it was never even considered an option.  I honestly don’t remember ever missing church.  Ever.  My dad was also a huge part of my disciple-making process but in a much quieter way.  My parents divorced when I was about five so I would see my dad on weekends.  My lessons from my dad were silent.  He wasn’t much for telling me what to do.  He was more for leading the way and teaching by example, quietly.  And I look back on his life and am thankful for those silent lessons.

About 15 years ago our church took us in and I remember very distinctly that Pastor Gary remembered us a couple of weeks after we first visited.  Remembered us by name.  He had only met us once for a few seconds at best when we shook hands leaving the sanctuary.  But he remembered our names.  Since then I’ve had conversations with dozens of church members who had the same experience.  I have no idea how he does it, but it made us feel at home.  This church was also where I went through “Christ Renews His Parish”, a weekend men’s retreat.  That was now three years ago, and I just last night traded emails with that group of men as we still stay close in touch, pray for each other and even get together a couple of times a month.

That is just the tip of the iceberg in getting me where I am today.  Look at that process above.  Look at the people involved.  The time involved.  And the time still needed.  I’m not done when it comes to becoming a disciple.  There are friends that I have that seem so amazingly more mature in their growth and it’s exciting to see what I can still become.  But getting me where I am now has taken decades, not minutes.

Some of you reading this have a calling to walk up to perfect strangers and invite them to accept Christ.  I’m not in any way asking you to stop doing that.  You are planting a seed.  But that seed needs to grow.  While you may only be in the lives of these people for a few seconds or minutes, you need to be prepared to enter into long term relationships with at least some people in your life and help them to foster a relationship with God.  It takes time.

But it’s worth it.  It’s so worth it.  I remember I was in a men’s group meeting at church one night and one of the members was sitting there and you could tell he was thinking about something.  He rarely spoke.  He was a listener.  He finally spoke up and said he’d never been baptized.  And he wanted to be.  I am almost brought to tears today remembering the church service a few weeks later where he was baptized as an adult.  It was an amazing day.  I also remember a close family member calling me to tell me he was returning to the church after decades away from it.  I remember seeing his kids baptized and then watching their marriage affirmed by the church.  These were inspiring times but they were years or decades in the making.

I don’t get “credit” for either of those.  Remember my story and the number of people involved in bringing me to where I am today.  I was just one of the people along the way that invested time and prayer into those lives.  My encouragement to you today is to ask who you need to be investing your time into.  Who can you be patient with the same way the people in my life are patient with me?  Who can you pray for the same way my disciple-makers have prayed for me?  Who would you LOVE to get that phone call from, with that beautiful phrase, “So, I’ve been thinking about getting baptized.”

I can tell you that it’s an amazing thing.  And I encourage you today to begin that process.  That long long process of disciple making.  God bless each of you.


We were built to be heroes.

Sometimes that means one act of heroism.

Sometimes it means a lifetime of it.

Related Post: Band of Brothers: We do not fight alone.
Photo credit: purplemattfish / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

How an IT guy made a grown man cry.

Laptop Closeup Keyboard

How does an IT guy make a grown man cry?  I received this awesome message from a friend whose husband is an IT fixit guru who changed a young man’s life by realizing his calling wasn’t out there somewhere, it was sitting right in his lap.  This story I received via Facebook is reprinted with Veronica’s permission.  Thanks for sharing it Veronica!

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Just read your blog for today…so here is God in action and me sharing my story.

There are 8 people in my seminar class…it is a very intense class with lots of computer work and papers. One of the guys lives all the way in DeKalb so he can be with his daughter (4).  He also works full time at McDonalds.  Well he was stuck going to the NIU library late late at night after he drove home from night class at AU and trying to get into the library around his work schedule.  That’s pretty tough with all he has going on.

Another student over heard me talking about my husband’s business.  He repairs computers.  She asked if he took them and knew where and how to get rid of them because she had one that died two years ago but she didn’t know what to do with it.  I told her yes, that we could get rid of it for her.  I also asked her what was wrong with it. She indicated that she didn’t know but the screen would just turn blue and freeze. So she put it off to side and moved on.

I asked her if Lou could look at it and if we are able to fix it, if we could donate it to Jonathan, our classmate in need of one.

Well, Amanda was so excited about this idea and agreed.

So she brought it in and Lou looked at it and simply re-loaded everything, added office, and an anti virus program, and some more memory.  Works good as new!!

We have it to Jonathan yesterday.   His eyes filled with tears and was left speechless.

He asked me, “Why?”  I told him that I have been blessed in my life and that God made this happen. Everything lined up with Amanda and us being able to fix it.

Last night he texted me and said he called his mom and granny and told them about this.  They started crying.
He said, no one has ever done anything like that for him.

_______________________

Lou knows the truth: Whatever you are doing, whatever your job, whatever your hobby, you can change lives.  Sure, God may call you to walk away from it all.  But until He does, why not make the world a better place right where you are today?  Thanks again Veronica!

Related posts:
Call it Off: Stop Searching for your mission.
Are you praying for something you already have?

We were built to be heroes.

It’s about time we started acting like heroes.

Photo from FreePhotosBank.com.

Quick Post: My life without politics on Facebook.

How do you take the Christ out of a Christian?  Have him log onto Facebook.

Obamacare.  Immigration.  Common Core.  There is plenty of room for debate today.  Earlier this year I was challenged by a great friend to abandon political debate on Facebook.  And my life is better for it.  I’m more aware of the needs around me.  More aware of my wife and kids to be completely blunt.  What are you doing on Facebook that you could walk away from?

FULL POST HERE

We were built to be heroes.

Are we acting like heroes on Facebook?