God’s will: I’ve had it backwards all this time.

I’m working my way through a good book titled Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung, and it’s all about his unconventional methodology behind discerning God’s will for your life.  SWEET!  I really want to know God’s will for my life, and I REALLY like things that are unconventional.  So I saddled up and started reading.  And what a HUGE disappointment!  There is no magic bullet in discerning God’s will.  In fact, I’ve been going about it all wrong all these years.  Well, “backward” would be more accurate than “wrong.”

I’ve always felt like the smaller details of my life would fall into place once I finally grasped my major life calling from God.  I don’t really struggle with the huge things in life.  My struggle is in the daily details.  My sins, my rebellions, are in the small daily diversions which are so available to us these days.  And I am a sucker for all of them.  I won’t stand before God with three or four major life rebellions to account for.  I’ll stand before Him with a list of thousands of things I either did or didn’t do that were sinful.  But every one of them on their own seemed genuinely inconsequential.

But once I receive my calling from God, that will all be over.  Because then my life will be in alignment and these things which draw my attention away from God will lose their luster, their magnetic power over me.  In other words, once the BIG thing is in place… all the little things will take care of themselves.

So apparently I needed this book Just Do Something to finally realize how completely insane this perspective is.  Trust me, even as I write this it sounds nuts to put these words on screen.  But literally until about twenty minutes ago, this was my thinking.  If only the huge driving force that I’m supposed to adhere to in life would simply be revealed, then my minor rebellions, my little failures to walk with God, will be no longer.  I’ll be so frickin’ inspired that my struggles will simply dissolve!  My near addiction to these little rebellions will be overpowered by a passion that consumes me… the passion to pursue my newly discovered WILL OF GOD IN MY LIFE!  (Read that last part with a dramatic booming voice, okay?)

Is this how anything works?  Of course not.  It makes so  MUCH MORE SENSE for God to say, “I will be patient and wait for you to follow me in all of these little things you do before I reveal to you the main purpose for which you’ve been created.”  Of course that makes more sense!  So much more sense that I’m literally embarrassed to have had to write the paragraphs preceding this one.

Why on earth would God send me on the very largest mission for which I’ve been created when I can’t string together 70 solid minutes of obedience to Him in the smallest details of my life?  Why would I expect Him to, either?  And isn’t there a MASSIVE sense of arrogance and entitlement in my prior understanding?  “Hey God, I know I basically ignore you at every opportunity I get… but that’s kinda on you, isn’t it?  Hook me up with a sweet calling and then I’ll stop treating you like a doormat.  Bueno?  Great.  Now hop to it pal.  Jeopardy is on soon.”

Wow.  That’s an only slightly exaggerated version of the inside of my head until about a half hour ago.  It’s shameful.  Thank God (literally) that he loves us as much as He does.

I spend the last couple of weeks of each year praying and asking for a single word to guide me through the coming year. It’s something I picked up from Brian Hardin of the One Year Daily Audio Bible years ago.  The word I got this year is, “Execute.”  I’m an idea guy.  But in my process of coming up with huge ideas, I really don’t execute on the basics that are the foundation of any genuinely meaningful life.  Last year my word was, “Achieve” and I ran the Chicago Marathon.  It almost killed me.  But I did it.  However, I did it in the worst possible way.  I failed to train properly.  I failed to eat properly.  I did what I usually do: I winged it.  I half-assed it.  And through sheer will and determination I finished that marathon.  I injured my left ankle and both feet doing so, though, due to my lack of preparation.  So my word for this year is, “Execute.”

How do you execute?  There are a hundred things happening in my life that point to the fact that execution is about the daily little things that add up to a major accomplishment.  These daily disciplines are missing from my life.  I am not going to understand the will of God in my life that I might receive SOMEDAY until I respect Him enough to execute on the small daily things He has ALREADY told me to do.

No, I don’t know if God wants me to quit my job and become a pastor.  I haven’t received that major life direction yet from God.  But God did speak to me about the smaller things.  He spoke to you too.  Through scripture.  It’s easy to forget, as we’re waiting for the loud booming voice from heaven, that the voice of God is probably sitting on a shelf in our living room right now.  Real, tangible, useful direction from God on how to answer his calling in our lives.  We call them spiritual disciplines.  Prayer.  Worship.  Sacrifice.  Charity.  And the Bible is full of them.  Have you ever seen one of those funny billboards, “If you’ve been waiting for a sign… this is a sign.”  Well similarly, if you’ve been waiting to “hear from God” on how to live your life, then why not go ahead and read the book He gave on how to live our lives?

So I suppose I actually have received my calling from God.  It’s written in the dozens of books of the Bible that I’ve read over and over… but haven’t really followed.  I look forward to spending the next year executing on these small daily things that God has already called me to do.  Execute on these little daily things.  Subject my life to God in all these little ways.  All this time I’ve been praying about surrendering to God and haven’t even taken the smallest of steps like changing up my morning routine.  “Oh… you mean surrendering to God is more than just a passionate well-spoken prayer?  I actually have to change tangible things in my daily life?  Who knew??”

So that’s how my 2017 started.  It’s amazing what happens when you take a few hours away from TV and internet.

God bless you all!  And Happy New Year.

J

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.

Wow. I’m NOT abandoned to Christ. Not even close.

Remember a while back I put up a post about starting with small things to abandon yourself to Christ?  Well that has been a learning experience for me because I have found it very difficult to give up even the simplest things, even when doing so just to test my willingness to give something up or take on something new.  I am WAY off the mark on the little things, so no wonder I feel like I’m missing the boat on the big things.

But I’m not down on myself about it.  I’m seeing it more as good news.  Things are pretty good now, and I’m a total screw up.  Think about how AWESOME they will be as I continue to grow in faith and become more willing to abandon my life for the one who created me.

This could get seriously cool.

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

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

about-his-hands

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

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?