Archives For freedom

Bean Dip

November 19, 2012 — Leave a comment

beandip

Bean Dip. Frito brand, with jalapeno peppers. Best snack ever.

I’ve been eating bean dip and taco flavor Doritos since I was a wee lad. It’s the first thing I remember actually eating. I used to cry for it if we didn’t have any. I remember when I was about 5, my Grandmother going out to 7-11 late at night to get me some bean dip and taco chips so I could watch Twilight Zone before going to bed.

Yeah, I was a weird kid.

I never had a stomach ache from it, never got tired of it, never got enough of it. In fact, I just ate some about five minutes ago. And when I say “some” I mean about a whole can.

What is it about these things that we call “favorites?” Whether it’s a favorite meal (tacos), favorite drink (coke), favorite snack (duh), or favorite person (Cheryl!), I guess it’s that they just click with our personality and become a part of who we are.

Have you ever had a favorite, then change your mind?

When I was about 13 years old, I stayed the summer with my Grandmother in Anaheim, CA. She worked somewhere I can’t remember, but it was next to a movie theater, and some days when I went to work with her, she’d give me $20 and I’d spend the day at the movies. It’s amazing how many movies you can see for $20 if you’re sneaky.

Also, I loved Rolos back then. One day I got my ticket and spent the rest of my money on Rolos. I had about 7 packs of them. Also, I was watching Rocky 2.

About half way through the movie I had eaten about 70 Rolos, and was starting to feel a little queasy. Toward the end of the movie, when the severe beatings were taking place, I lost it all on the floor of that movie theater. That was 33 years ago and I have not just not eaten Rolos again – I have never eaten anything with a combination of chocolate and caramel since then. Funny thing is, I haven’t thrown up, not once, since then either. This is good info to remember.

Rolo is my kryptonite, my Achilles heal. The further they are from me, the better.

Some people, though, don’t know any better. They just keep right on doing what is bad for them, what is making them sick. The “snack” has turned into a habit that has turned into a life.

I think about my mother, who ruined her life with drugs. It started off pretty innocent – she was just a kid in the 60′s smoking a little weed, and one choice to say yes ended in her death 45 years later.

The bible puts it in a horrible, disgusting way. “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.” (Proverbs 26:11)

I could really elaborate on that, but I hope you got a mental picture when you read those words so I won’t have to.

It should make you queasy, it should make you shake your head to try to clear that image. Maybe you’ll start humming the words to your favorite song so you don’t have to think about it anymore. Either way, that entire chapter of Proverbs is about foolishness.

If you’re like me (normal?) you’ve done some foolish things in your time, and have grown and become wiser and learned from your mistakes and have vowed to never repeat them. I could tell you some stories, believe me! But for others, this is hitting you right where you live.

Listen, I’m not trying to make you feel bad or guilty or anything. I’m trying to tell you that you can be free! Yes, the fool will waste his life chasing after drugs or alcohol or money or things, and never really discover what life is really all about – and it’s a tragedy every single time. But it doesn’t have to be that way, for any of us!

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” This verse, for me, is my favorite in the book of Galatians. Everything Paul wrote before this is building up to this verse.

Paul talks about how we were slaves, how sin had condemned us, how we were prisoners to the Law, how we were separated from God by our transgressions, and in one statement, he reminded his readers of everything that Christ did on the cross for us – We are free!

But look at what his next words were – “stand firm.” This is classic Paul – he tells us what God did, then tells us what we must do in order to have it.

Yes, Christ died for you, yes the price was paid, yes, we have been handed freedom, but what are we supposed to do with it? We are supposed to stand firm – stand firm so that we can continue to walk in freedom.

What I love even more about it is, we can’t even do that without His help. There is nothing we can do that is right on our own! We can’t save ourselves, we can’t redeem ourselves, we can’t be good enough or smart enough or strong enough. The fool will try.

Our victory comes in standing firm, and we can only do that by giving everything up – our thoughts, our actions, our lives must not be our own, or we will find ourselves enslaved to the things Christ freed us from.

Remember the Rich Young Ruler? He came to Jesus so excited – he had done everything that was required of him under the Law, and it was not enough. He was holding back. Jesus told him to sell all of his stuff and give the money away, then he could follow Him. And if you will remember, he walked away with everything he had before, plus one more thing - he still had his wealth, his station in life, his religion, but he also walked away sad.

Do not walk away sad! What is God saying to you right now? What are you holding on to? What in your life are you using as a poor substitute for Christ? What do you keep returning to, over and over and over, knowing full well it is foolish to do so, and will keep you from every good thing, keep you from the freedom that Christ died to bring the world?

Don’t walk away sad - lay it down, and be done with it for good! Don’t be enslaved to your vision of what your life is supposed to be – become who God dreams you could be, and walk away a brand new person, with a brand new life! You can have that right now! What is your choice today?

 

 

Set Apart

November 10, 2012 — Leave a comment

unique

I’ve been struggling for a while about something major – what sets me apart? What makes me unique? What is there that’s special about me?

My wife is a musician. She sings, writes songs, plays several instruments. With just a little nudge, she could be a pro. She could be famous.

My daughter Trinity can draw. Not just draw. She sees unique and original pictures in her head and can transfer them onto paper or canvas and they are beautiful creations. She’s only 11, but she has some serious talent.

I could go on – and I guess I will. There are people who are extremely gifted in this world – whose abilities outclass the mere mortals around them, and wherever they go, whatever they do, people take notice. They change things, they challenge themselves and those around them. They are, more often than not, heros.

Well, what about the rest of us? What about me? I’m not being down on myself. I’m very smart, and I’m really good at a lot of things. A LOT of things. In fact, almost everything I’ve ever done, I’ve been really good at. But not great.

What am I great at? What will define me and my life? What will I contribute? What will I do that’s important?

Everyone will agree that I’m unique, and I have a certain way of seeing things that’s different. At work I approach things differently than most people, and its been that way regardless of what job I have had. But at the end of the day, unique is just a way of saying different but mostly the same. I’m just me, and I’m really not that much different than any other person.

I really only have one thing that makes me special. And I’m not all that good at it. I’m God’s kid. He’s my father, and I’m his son. Maybe if I can be a better child, I will find what I’m really supposed to do or be.

Thing is I can’t make myself better. I have to rely on the father for that. I have to follow his lead, and live the life that his Son lived. That’s something I’m still learning. I’m more of a prodigal who has been off squandering and is just now waking up in the pig pen wondering what brilliant idea I can hatch to get me out of this mess.

The problem is the same one that everyone faces. Not what am I going to do with my life, what am I going to be, but who am I? It’s all about identity.

We all struggle through life trying to find our place, carve out an existence, muddle our way through. I used to think (and still stuggle with thinking) that there were some really lucky people who knew someone or had the right daddy who actually got to be someone in life, and the rest of us just got regular jobs and lived and died and were forgotten.

I really don’t want that to be my life, but I don’t know anyone, and I’m not too terribly lucky. But I do have the right daddy.

In spite of all of my wrong thinking, which I am obviously still working through, I’m still set apart. Those are not my words and I stuggle to believe it. I know it in some part of me, but I don’t act like it sometimes and have trouble believing it in my head. It’s funny how different parts of your body can be in a war against each other sometimes.

My spirit tells me I’m living in the Kingdom, I’m God’s child, he has a dream for me. My soul tells me I’m pretty much average and pretty much out of luck. My heart yearns for freedom and to know what God’s plan is for me so I can just do it already.

Basically I’m out of whack.

So I have to keep on going. I’m at least pointed in the right direction right now. Three years ago there was no hope at all. No. Hope. I have to keep giving more of myself to God, I have to keep keeping less for myself. Because one thing I do know – it’s not about me. All those things I’m good at…what are they but gifts from God, that I used for my own glory for so many years.

We are set apart – unique, different. The bible says we are aliens – not of this world. Or maybe that’s an old Petra song. Either way – what we need when we are stuggling with these things is to remember that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. That’s Romans 12 right there by the way.

The battle for my spirit is complete. My body will keep getting older, then fail at some point. No way around that unless Jesus comes again while I’m alive. What stands in the middle is my mind, and it’s still crammed full of the world. This is why I stuggle – because my mind needs to be transformed. As Bob Hamp puts it – I don’t need to think different, I need to think differently.

The problem is I’m in bondage to being me. Jesus came to set me free from that. I need to repent from that – I need to think differently. Right now I’m trying to think different – I’m trying to control my thoughts by plugging other things in – good things! Classes at church, Christian music, listening to great sermons. It’s all good! The content of my thoughts is not so much the issue, though, as is the actual way in which I think.

I can’t exchange bad thinking for good thinking and hope to do any better. This is my effort – and it’s in vain. It’s fruitless.

To repent means to think differently – not new content, but a whole new way of thinking and seeing things. The renewing of my mind. And as I’m discovering, like everything else, it’s a process – one that I’m in the big middle of.

So I will keep on going. But sometimes I may still wonder from time to time – who am I, why am I even here? I think that is thinking the old way and only glorifies me. I don’t want to do that anymore. Maybe it’s a baby step, but that’s where I am.

Where are you?

Aftermath

November 7, 2012 — Leave a comment

arch

Aftermath. It can be pretty messy. Have you seen pictures of the devestation of Hurrican Sandy? It’s not good.

Most history books have pictures of wars and natural disasters. In a few of them, if you look just right, you can get a sense of not just the destruction, but of the human suffering as well. It’s scary, sad, gut-wrenching.

Have you every been through something like this? I know my home town, Harrah, OK has been through some tough times in the last few years – tornadoes and wildfires just to name two things. I have friends and family who have been affected. Some have lost everything.

About a year and a half ago, a tornado swept through Joplin Missouri and caused massive damage. Less than a week later, I was in my front yard here in Texas looking straight up over my house at the circulating wall cloud thinking, “We are in bad trouble here.” Many tornadoes touched down that day all around us, but we were spared.

I had panic attacks for weeks after that. I had never been scared during any kind of storm before. But I never had a wife and two little girls crying and praying for their lives in cramped closet before either.

I saw how close it was. I saw with my own eyes. The cloud, the part that was spinning and dipping down and going back up. My heart was racing, I was almost hyperventilating. I was well and truly scared – like I had never been scared before.

None of this was in my control. All we could do was pray and ride it out.

It was completely out of my hands.

How much of life is like that? Things happen. Bad things. Horrible things. Things that tear up our bodies and minds and souls. Things we have no control over – illness, loss, abuse, job loss, families torn apart.

These things change us, these things scar us. They can even destroy us, and what we are left with is a wasteland in our hearts and minds and bodies. Who can pick up the pieces? Who can make us whole, when we have been so completely torn apart?

Tonight at church, an assignment was to make a diagram of our families, and using symbols, show a variety of things – addiction, divorce, mental illness, death, just to name a few. Mine looked like the pictures above – the aftermath of a nuclear strike. I was not prepared for this.

I know everyone has their own baggage, and they all deal with it in their own way. I discovered that I haven’t dealt with it.

My birth mother is dead. She ruined her life, and ultimately her liver from drug use. She was bi-polar. She was abused and abusive to my birth father. My mother was adopted, so I have no idea what her parents were like, but I do know her mother got pregnant either outside of marriage or due to an affair with someone she wasn’t married to. She always felt like she was unwanted, and she always acted like nobody loved her.

My father was a hippie and from what I can tell he got over it. He was a drug addiction counselor, and is selling real estate in Las Vegas now. We don’t keep up with each other.

I was adopted, along with my sister, by our great aunt and uncle who were the opposite of my birth parents. Very strict. My new dad was career military, a command sergeant major. Tougher than nails. A veteran of three wars. He has his own scars from what he had seen and done as a soldier on the battlefield. He never spoke of it.

My mom raised the family while he was away – I have three older siblings – 2 brothers and a sister, who were the grown children of my new parents. I think my youngest/older brother is 17 years older than me.

When I say they were all great, I really, really mean it. But I was already screwed up. When I was four my mom injected me with heroin. She rolled me up in a rug once. She would put me in a dark room and scare me just for fun. I got thrown around a bit, too. But the worst part was when she would disappear for days on end, with just me and my one year old sister in the house alone.

The little family tree I drew tonight was supposed to give me some insight into areas where I still need to experience freedom, so that I can help guide others to freedom as well. The purpose was to help identify life patterns, and to break them – in ourselves and in others.

Folks, I have a ways to go. All of this devastation, all the broken pieces still laying around in my soul were brought to the surface tonight. I’m a mess. Most people are in some way, and sometimes they don’t even know it. Now I know it – and now I have the tools to deal with it. And maybe one day I will be able to minister to those who are going through this as well.

We’ve been in Freedom Training for about two months. This was the last night. Every single week, this one verse always pops into my head – “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” (Is 53:5)

Yes, Jesus died for our sins, but look at that verse – we can have peace and healing through him! Not just forgiveness – we can have that and we need it, but we can have healing in our souls and in our bodies! We can have peace! We don’t need to have a stiff upper lip, we don’t need to bury our hurts, we don’t have to act like everything is ok – everything CAN BE OK! You can have what God has promised – if you ask!

What is God saying to you right now? What are you struggling with? Ask God to show you if there is a lie associated with that. What is the lie? Ask God to show you what is true – accept his truth, and live in it! Be free!

Roach Motel

October 20, 2012 — Leave a comment

roach motel

I used to live here. This is a google street view screen shot of where I used to live. It was a long time ago. The place doesn’t look any better than it did back then.

No heat, no AC, about 100 square feet of living space. I had a sleeper sofa and a 13″ tv, a little bitty fridge was built in and it had a small sink and a single burner on top. The person who lived there before me must have had a dog because of the smell and the fleas.

There were asbestos ceiling tiles, dark fake wood paneling, and a single, bare light bulb hanging down from the middle of the ceiling, which was plugged into the only outlet in the room. Basically it was an extension cord with a light spliced on at one end, and it was stapled to the wall and across the ceiling. And yes, it had a pull-chain on it.

The bathroom was 5×5 and had a 5 gallon water heater. I would fill the tub up with hot water only, wait 30 minutes and fill it again for a lukewarm bath. The door would not lock or stay shut. It had a padlock on the outside, and I put a box in front of the door at night.

I lived here for a year. The rent was $100 a month, plus utilities and cable tv. When I moved in I was making $0. I didn’t know where I would end up or how long I would be allowed to stay.

None of this was the worst part. Not even close. The worst part was the roaches. Now, in a regular home, if you get up at night and turn a light on, there might be a roach, but it’ll disappear pretty quickly – under the sofa, behind the fridge. This is when you know it’s time to get an exterminator out.

The roaches in my little slice of heaven had no shame at all. They didn’t bother hiding because this was their domain. I was the interloper. They would sit and stare at me, waiting for me to go to sleep so they could try to eat my face off.

I tried to get rid of them. I complained to the landlord and she gave me a can of spray. Which they laughed at. I tried glue traps next. I was going through about 12 a week and didn’t put a dent in them. I didn’t know what to do next.

Now, at that time I was working at a local Ace Hardware. I had a lot of roach related items to choose from. Bombs, glue traps, sprays, powders. The only thing I never tried was a roach motel – I figured, I’m already living in one, why buy another. So as a last resort, I got a pack of 4 bug bombs.

I knew I was going to be gone for a weekend, so I set off all 4 of them on a Friday night, and went on my way. I came back on Sunday around 5. When I opened the door, this nasty, greasy mist came out and hit me in the face. It was covering everything. I turned on the light, expecting to see a bunch of dead bugs. Out of the literally hundreds of roaches, maybe only 5 had been killed, and I’m pretty sure they died of old age, or maybe a laughter induced aneurysm.

So I did the only thing I could do. I gave the owner two weeks notice and found a better place. A way better place. A nice little place.

When I did that, a lot of things changed. I got promoted at work, I met Cheryl, I got a new to me car that actually ran, and I started getting heathy. It’s a wonder how healthy a person can be who doesn’t have bugs crawling all over them at night.

None of this is a metaphor. It’s all true. But on the other hand it is a metaphor because I was in a very dark place – physically yes, I lived in Satan’s armpit, but it was really bad mentally and spiritually as well. I was depressed and felt abandoned – by friends, by family and by God. All my dreams were crushed, my spirit was crushed. I felt like I deserved to be where I was because I was a terrible person, and terrible people suffered like I was suffering.

Did I ever mention my neighbor? A very old man. VERY very old. He coughed all night and during the day he watched soaps. One day I was working on my car, trying to get it running, and he came out with some iced tea for me. He asked me if I went to church anywhere, and I said no, I had been a pastor, but now I’m working at Ace.

He invited me to come to his church, and I did. Just a sweet little church out in the middle of nowhere. After a time, I became their youth pastor. I was so messed up when I went there, but they were patient with me, very gracious, very loving. I didn’t do much more than play games with the kids on Wednesday nights and lead singing on Sundays. But they loved me and after a time, I began to feel better about everything. And then I met Cheryl somewhere along the way and we moved to Texas and got married.

Listen – it was no accident – not any of it. The roach motel, the old man, the church, meeting my wife. God led me through all of that. He was with me at rock bottom when I had roaches biting at my fingers, and he is with me where I am today.

The situation is, I still need a little rescuing. Who doesn’t, right? We all go through times where we forget that God is there, that he’s real, that he is in control. But he is. Things are so great right now! Family is good, cars are running, we have a nice house and great kids. Any or all of that might change tomorrow. But today I will praise God for what he has given me, and when tomorrow comes, I will continue to praise even if its all torn away.

My lesson from the pit was to learn to be thankful – and I am so thankful!

Where are you right now? Mentally, physically, spiritually? Thank God for it even if you can’t see anything to be thankful for. He will hear you, and things will improve. I didn’t just get lucky, I was blessed, and the same God that pulled me out of the roach motel wants to bless you too! Learn to give thanks in everything, and everything will change in your life!

 

It Ain’t Me

October 15, 2012 — Leave a comment

That song really speaks to me sometimes. CCR has always been a favorite band. Love their sound, and their lyrics still hit home all these years later. Seems like we’re still fighting some of the same battles we have always fought. They just seem different because there’s different people involved, but really if you think about it, it may be a different generation, but the song is still the same.

I’m thinking about my own life while listening to this song, and some of the battles I’ve fought. Some I’ve won, some I’ve lost, and some I didn’t even need to fight.

Because of some of the things I’ve been through in life, I’ve always had some identity problems. I don’t know if all adopted children go through that, but I did, and do to this day. Who am I? Whose am I? Did I do something wrong all those years ago? Did I do something to make my birth parents do what they did?

I know the answer in my heart – NO! They were already adults, and they were who they were, and I didn’t do anything wrong. In my head, when it comes up, I still struggle with it. Most days I win, too. I know WHOSE I am! And on the days that my thinking gets the best of me, I resolve to give it to God and do better next time, through him.

Like I said, I don’t know if most/all adopted kids go through this, but I do know a lot of people in general deal with it. I talk to people at work almost every day who feel trapped, who think that life is passing them by, who don’t know who they are or what they were made for – what their purpose is. Most of them say the same thing that I feel and that is in this song – “It ain’t me!”

Thinking back to the cross…Jesus knew exactly who he was, and what he was here to do, and when the time came he did not hesitate to fulfill his mission. And because he did all those things – living, dying, living again, and all that that entails – because of that, we all have identity through him!

Romans 8:17 says that we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Think about how huge this is! I think of the prodigal son, whose brother did not accept his return very gladly. The son had already taken his inheritance and squandered it, then came home with his proverbial prodigal tail between his legs. And the father accepted him gladly, running to him, throwing a huge party in his honor. The other son grumbled and complained and said, “you never let me have a party and I was here the whole time!”

That is not Christ’s attitude at all! He has everything, he is at the right hand of the Father, and he wants to share it all with us!  He wants to give it to all of us who have gone astray! Who are we? We are sons and daughters of the King, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, and we have the Holy Spirit as the down payment of everything that is to come. We will inherit, and in fact have already inherited the Kingdom!

Crazy, right?

Who am I? I spend a lot of time saying, screaming, whimpering, whispering, thinking “It ain’t me.” God who am I? What do you want from me? What do I do with this life you have given me?

His reply is a still small voice – “Be my child. Just be. And as my Son said what he heard me saying, and did what he saw me doing, so you should say and do as well.”

I am a son, I am a prince, I am a saint, and I am a priest! As my savior was before me, so I now am. My life is a message – everything about me is a song to the King. He loves me, he accepts me, he approves of me and he even likes me! I do not disappoint my Father, and nothing I do or say or think could ever change his love for me! Why? Because when he looks at me he sees Jesus!

And still in this life I will struggle. My spirit is connected to God. My physical body will die. My soul – my mind, will and emotions – I will need to submit to him every minute, every second of every day. When I do he renews my strength. When I don’t I worry, I wonder, I wither.

What do I do with this life he has given me? What do I do when I’m at work thinking, “This ain’t me. I was made for more than this. What about these dreams I have? What about these gifts you have given me? I feel like it’s all been wasted!” I give it to him, and I be his son, and I serve those around me. And I forget what I was whining about to begin with.

What is the Holy Spirit saying to you right now? About who you are? About why you are alive? I bet he’s telling you the same things he just told me. You’re special! You’re loved! And God has a plan for you – to just be his!