Archives For My Story

See that face right there? That face says, “I will punch a wolf.” Nothing trumps Liam Neeson. Liam Neeson is Chuck Norris’ worst nightmare. He is the reason why Waldo is hiding. He finds your lack of faith disturbing.

With that being said, there’s a new Les Miserables coming out. I will see this movie. Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean? Anne Hathaway as Fantine? Amanda Seyfried as Cosette? Heck yeah! It’s even got Sacha Baron Cohen in it! It’s not a question. My greatest hope is to live long enough to see this movie. And then I may enter eternal rest, fulfilled and happy.

Everyone knows the song that Fantine sang, right? “I Dreamed A Dream?” It’s a haunting, sad lament sung by a dying woman who wonders where life went so wrong. “There was a time when love was blind and the world was a song, and the song was exciting, then it all went wrong. I dreamed that love would never die, I dreamed that God would be forgiving…I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living. Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.”

I know that song. I’ve lived that song. Life killed my dream.

I’ve only wanted one thing, for as long as I can remember. My Grandmother use to pray over me when I was a child – “Make him your servant, Father.” And I wanted that more than anything.

I grew up in church, and everything my pastors did I watched and emulated. I studied the bible relentlessly. I checked out theology books from the church library when I was 11 years old and I even read them. I started making connections between common everyday events and spiritual things when I was even younger. I wanted my life to be a sermon. I wanted my life to be something special. I wanted to point people to God. It was my dream. Then life killed the dream I dreamed.

So many things have happened. So many people have hurt me, and I’ve done the same right back. I worked in churches for years, growing bitter, angry, being hurt and hurtful. The song was exciting – exciting to think about and dream about, but life itself was just all wrong. It was the same no matter where I went, no matter what my job was. I kept dreaming, kept hoping, kept believing that God would be forgiving, that he would bless me, and then that part of me died.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

My life was a hell because of my dream. I pursued a dream and not God. His calling on my life was real, and he even planted that dream in my heart, but the dream was not worthy of being pursued. I bypassed the one who called me, the one who gifted me, and made my life all about the dream.

To be who God created me to be, that part of me had to die. The part that held onto the dream, the part that was self sufficient, the part that was created and sustained by my own will.

Your dream is not worthy of being pursued, but the one who gave you the dream is!

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, everything you do flows from it.”

Your heart’s desire should be the pursuit of a relationship with God. He is already pursuing you! When everything in your heart is right, everything that flows from you will be about him and not you. God will give you a dream and you’ll surrender it to him and he will give you all that and more.

Everything in your life should be an overflow, the excess of the abundance that God blesses you with because of your relationship with him. The dream is worthless, fruitless, without his blessing, and you can’t get God’s blessing. It’s not about not having road rage or working in a church. It’s not about the good you do or the lack of evil in your life. It’s all about resting in him. When you can rest in God, as his child, the dreams you dream will begin to come true.

My dreams died because I was never at rest, I never trusted, I went about making my dreams come true on my own. I, I, I. It was all about me, then that part of me got tired, sick, terminally ill. That part of me withered and died and was cut away. A new me emerged from that death, and God knows I’m still working it out, but at least I’m pointed in the right direction now – and that direction is one of being led by the giver of dreams.

How about you? Is the dream alive or is it dying on the vine? Is your relationship with God sustaining you or are you just barely hanging on, all alone?

Let it go! The dream is nothing without the dreamgiver. Your dream will die eventually anyway. Cut it loose now, sacrifice it at the feet of the one who can bring life from death. And after that part of you is gone, God will plant his dream in your heart and invite you to pursue him. If you do your dreams will all come true!

How I Got Here

June 15, 2012 — Leave a comment

Of all the things I have learned, the most important is that I am blessed – beyond reason. Looking back, especially over the last few years, I have been so ungrateful – for my family, my home, my health, my friends – and the list could go on.

Something happened to me along the way, not just one thing, but several somethings. In the midst of my blessedness, I experienced life. Just like happens to you and everyone else, life happened to me.

When I was 16, I made a huge life decision, and I pursued that decision. When other people didn’t understand, even when it seemed I would never get there, I never lost sight of that decision. I knew that God had gifted me and called me into full time vocational ministry, and even with all the youthful missteps and detours I took along the way, I saw a clear path into that calling.

I took a few wrong turns, but eventually ended up right where I set out to be.  And it was nothing like I thought it would be. It really kinda sucked to be honest. I loved and excelled at certain facets of it, others I disliked so much that I didn’t even do them. Which speaks to my immaturity at the time, and ultimately it speaks to why I’m not working in a church right now.

I used my gifts to cover my weaknesses, and while I am very strong in certain areas, I didn’t even try to develop skills in my weak areas, and I never accepted help from others in those areas either. Since then I’ve learned so much -

I never thought that administrative duties were much fun, so I didn’t do anything like that. I spent my time reading, studying, meeting with people, teaching, preaching, but all the work that was required of me that undergirds all that – I just flat out refused to do it. People even asked me all the time what they could do to help – “Nothing” I would say. Now my job is administrative, and believe it or not, I see the importance in it and how vital it is that those things be done with excellence.

Another thing I refused to do is build bridges. About 95% of the people I meet, I find common ground, and it’s easy to build a relationship. If it wasn’t easy, I didn’t do it. Some people are hard to get along with, hard to build a relationship with, and what I’ve found is, often times these people are the most important ones, the ones that will stand with you no matter what. Another important lesson learned, and I learned it outside the church.

I also learned about who my source is. My source cannot be me. I’m not strong enough, not smart enough, not *anything* enough. I am not sufficient. I thought I was though – I was young, bulletproof, nothing could hurt me, nothing could stick. Until it all fell apart, I thought I was doing just fine on my own. I forgot that the one who called me and gifted me would also be the one to sustain me regardless of what came my way. I won’t forget that most important lesson again.

Where I am now – the place I ended up – is the exact place I learned all this – kicking and screaming the whole way. Not two days ago my boss was bragging on me, and she reminded me of who I was when I first started – lacking in so many skills, immature, whiny – and she reminded me of how much grace she showed me those first two years. She said she saw something there and thought I was worth it. I cried then and I’m crying now. Grace.

Grace is the one thing I have in abundance that I deserve the least. The most important blessing there is. I am so blessed! Beyond reason. But God’s love for us doesn’t have anything to do with logic and it certainly isn’t based on what we truly deserve. We’d all be in deep trouble if grace was based on anything but the fact that God is love. God is love!

God is love and God never changes – I say this a lot because I am convinced it is true -nothing you do or don’t do can cause God to love you any less. He IS LOVE. And what he wants for you is to become the person he paid for, the person he bought with blood, the person he dreamed of, the person he redeemed you to be. His goal for you is for you to live like you will when you are in heaven, here on earth.

There’s a lot involved in that. It’s a process. You’ll be there one day, the next you’ll be 1000 miles away. You’ll walk through deserts, you’ll stand on mountain tops, you’ll be lifted high and you’ll be crushed. That’s the life part.

No matter where you are, know this one most important thing: God is love, God loves you, his grace is sufficient regardless. How did I get here? I lived life on my own, it sucked, I learned to trust God. He is everything, and he is all I will ever need.

What’s Your Damage?

January 30, 2011 — 2 Comments

I used to ask people all the time, “What’s your damage?” This was meant to be a put down. As if I have ever been any better than anybody. There was a time when I thought I was though, and anybody who did not live up to the standard of perfection set by little old me was damaged, broken, imperfect, a waste.

I got past that about the time I hit 28. What happened when I was 28? My whole life ended, and all of a sudden I was damaged, broken, imperfect. In other words I realized I was a normal human being and that I was subject to that little old thing called life. It can be a roller coaster, it can break you, it can be the death of you, this thing called life.

I stop short of saying that my life has been a waste since then. I have a beautiful wife, two beautiful daughters. I’ve led people to Christ, baptized and discipled them since then. I’ve worked hard and had great success and equally stunning failures. But I have never worked as hard as I worked before – when I was young and bullet proof.

Here’s the deal. And it’s just plain stupid. But here it is. I was in college, working at a little church in Shawnee, OK. I loved it. Don’t get me wrong, there were challenges. There always are. But we worked them out and God blessed that little student ministry. I don’t want to overstate anything, but it was an (almost) perfect time, an (almost) perfect place, things went very well, God was working and if I had my way I would probably still be there. STILL. Because there’s still so much to do.

And I also won’t diminish the fact that I got big headed. People from other churches were asking me what I was doing – how I was so successful – and I had my own peers working with me on many occasions and they all told me what my ego wanted to hear – “awesome” “God’s really moving” “how many did you have last Wednesday” and it was awesome, God was moving, and I always had more.

Then what happened was I graduated college and offers started coming in from other churches. Big churches. Like an idiot I turned them down. My (idiot) thinking? They will be able to find somebody. This church I’m in now though – they need me. They won’t be able to make it without me.

Did I mention that at that point I was married, buying a house, graduating college, staring seminary, working full time hours (out of my house – I didn’t have an office. The church wasn’t big enough) and making $97 a week after tax. I had been there 3 years and had never gotten a raise. My youth budget had never increased – because while the student ministry was growing, the church itself really wasn’t. My thinking, I think, was I will stay here because they need someone of my ability. Those other churches can always find someone but this church will never be able to replace me.

But they did. Easily. After I separated and eventually divorced my first wife. She was really, really mad and I was oblivious. She was mad that I didn’t go to one of those other churches, where they would be paying me actual money to do what I was already doing. She was mad at my arrogance. She was mad that I spent so many hours on what was obviously a part time position where nothing was ever going to change. They didn’t need me. They needed a part time college student to lead their youth program.

So, when this other guy came along, that was the end of it. I lost everything. The house, the truck, the dog, the wife. And the church. And I lost myself as well.

I had a lot of qualities back then that I still have. I’m mouthy. The flip side is I can flat out bring it when it comes to preaching. It’s my #1 gift. I’m not the best – I know that – but also I know I’m good. And I mean that in the way that I know when I give that gift to God, He blesses it, people respond and there are hi 5′s all around.

I’m selfish. Very, very selfish. On the other side of that is, I have laser focus, and when I’m in the zone I get crap done. I give it ALL and don’t hold anything back. That’s another gift from God.

I’m not tooting my own horn here, or trying to cut myself apart. I could go on. The point is, all of my God given gifts, when used by me, even in the pursuit of good things, were never quite good enough. The flip side of every God given gift is always something bad. Even if you are trying to use it for good.

So, my malfuntion was I relied on the gifts that God had given me and not GOD. My damage? I have been phoning it in ever since. Not to say that I haven’t had moments of brilliance. Everybody does. But when I do, I do something to make it look like it was an accident, or I do something equally bone headed to mess things up. My boss says I sabotage myself. She’s right.

The question is, why? On the surface, it’s because I don’t ever want to go through that again. If I never work that hard, if my success doesn’t bring with it more work, longer hours, etc. then I never have to worry about my wife leaving me again because I’m never there. I know. Dumb. But that’s just on the surface.

What my damage is is this. I’m beyond mad. At myself for not seeing what was going on when I was working so hard. For not seeing that the relationship was falling apart, that she was finding someone else, that for all my effort less was being accomplished than I realized, that I should have taken a job at one of those other churches and I wouldn’t have been in this mess to start with, that I am, indeed, VERY easy to replace. I wasn’t gone two weeks before that church had another youth guy. He had a hard time… I seriously wouldn’t have wanted to be my replacement.

My damage is I’m still hurt. That they could replace me so easily. That after I was gone, it was like I never existed. For all the time and effort I put into it, it was like I was never there at all. I’m hurt that she didn’t tell me how she felt. That I was so closed off (“focused”) on doing what I thought was God’s work that she couldn’t talk to me. I was always “almost done – just a few more minutes.” Who am I kidding? I was never done, never close. I went from 1 task to another 24/7. I’m hurt on the inside because my relationship with God has never been the same, and my relationship with my wife is not what it could be because I’m guarded even now against the same thing happening. Is that crazy? I withold things from her because I’m afraid if I withold things from her she’ll leave me…

I’m mad at God. For throwing me to the side. I know all the arguments. I know all the bible answers and I know what you’re thinking. But that’s how I feel. And I know it’s all my fault. But beyond that, I feel like he got all he could out of me and when it was over that was it. I feel like he’s done with me.

Do you know what it’s like to go from preaching the Word and seeing God move in people’s lives to sitting in a chair in a call center all day answering the phone? There’s no way to explain it sufficiently, but there’s no comparison. Nothing will ever compare. I phone it in because it just doesn’t matter. I could be president of the company, of the whole world, I could be an astronaut, I could be a movie star, I could be anything and be the world’s best at it and reap all the rewards of being the 1 person on the planet who could save the day and it would not come close to comparing to what I have done. Nothing compares. Nothing ever will.

Again, I could go on. I won’t. Basically what it comes down to is, something bad happened and I have been in a loop of self pity every since. Knowing is half the battle. I’ve always known though. All of this – every bit of it – is on me. My fear of success, my self loathing, my cynicism, my broken, aching heart – all of it. It could all change, and I even know how to make it happen, but still I hold back and I don’t know why. Anything has got to be better than this. And I’m not talking about a job. Just life. It doesn’t have to be like this. And still I hold myself back.

My wife is singing right now, “consume me from the inside out Lord.” I won’t let him, I can’t let him. And it’s killing me. I hold back in my worship, I hold back in my work, I hold back in everything.

I wonder though if it really would make a difference if I just let it all go? I wonder how I can get to the place where I’m willing to do that? I wonder if I can still make a difference? I just don’t know. I know I am tired. It’s a struggle to live this way. I imagine it’s how a fugitive on the run feels. Never free.

So – can you pray for me? I know this is very transparent and may seem like TMI. That’s what this blog is for though. I know it’s crazy but part of me is hoping for some healing (the part of me that can still hope) and that maybe God can still use me. Damaged as I am, with all my issues, with all my quirks. I am broken and not in a good way. Maybe God can put me back together.