Quieting the Noise – 10 days in

Social Media

 

10 days into a media fast (see the previous post “Quieting the Noise” to see why) and here’s what I’m experiencing:

The Good

– finding several opportunities a day to hang out with God in scripture for a few minutes at a time

– keeping a stream of thought going all day…after I’m with people and find myself alone again, my thoughts immediately jump back to what I’ve been experiencing with God

– experiencing intentional moments with my kids in the evening…instead of defaulting to the TV or computer, we’re playing games, wrestling, reading and talking about God

– realizing that my heart is calmer, more at peace, more open to interruptions…my focus is more on people…my wife is getting more of me

The Struggle

– finding that I’m out of the loop with a couple Facebook conversations that ran through our community this week…although not quite sure how much of a struggle this is because those conversations were mostly unnecessary drama

– wanting to sit down on the couch in the evenings and unwind with my wife in front of the TV or a movie…I love sitting with her every evening

– wondering how things are going with the Olympics and what the latest news is with the Cowboys

– discovering the relational connectedness and personal peace I often trade for the noise of our world

10 days down, 30 to go!

Quieting the Noise

When was the last time you heard from God? I’m not asking about the lesson you heard in your worship gathering or in your small group discussion last week. No, I’m after something much more personal here. I’m asking about your intimate connection with the Father.

When was the last time you talked to him as you would your best friend? Do you remember the conversation? What did you say? How’d you feel while y’all spent time together? And one more question…

What did he say?

If you’re like me, honestly answering this question can be one of the most challenging things in your relationship with God. So often we come to God with our agendas, locked in our schedules, focused on our pursuits. But deep down, we know there’s more to our relationship with God than this. We know he is aching to not be talked at but to meet us in this conversation. To walk with us in our lives and to intimately guide our movements. He longs to be heard and known by us.

This kind of relationship requires something of us. Like any relationship we value, it takes work. Pursuit. Sacrifice. Intentionality. In the midst of this fast-paced world we find ourselves in, how do we make room for this with our Father?

In July 2012, I wrote a blog entry entitled, “Communicating with God.” In that entry, I discussed how social media promises unlimited connections with people but also threatens our real, deepening connections at the same time. In the year and a half since, I have experienced the danger of it. I try to set limits and live in healthy boundaries but even with this, it’s often hard to quiet the clutter.

I realize that in order for me to truly reflect the Father’s heart to people, I need to be immersed in him. Covered in his presence. Guided by his Spirit. Filled with his word. This can’t be accidental or even secondary. It must be primary. I need to pursue him with the same passion he is pursuing me!

In order to focus on this, I am initiating a 40 day media fast. I’m going to quiet my world of social media, TV, sports updates, etc. in order to be more present with the Father. I’m not checking out of the world or out of relationships. I’m simply quieting the noise so I can hear better. Truer.

May he be heard and known by and through me as a result!

 

 

God Get Away (Part 2)

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Can you relate to the Southwest Airlines “Wanna Get Away” ad campaign? Ever feel like life just needs to slow down or maybe even come to a screeching halt? It happens to all of us but the question is, what do you do when that emotion comes? Do you fight through like a responsible adult? Or do you run? And if you run, where do you go?

I have varying responses to stress and struggle. Sometimes I fight and sometimes I find myself in flight before I even realize what’s going on. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I need to intentionally create these rhythms in my life. If I hit the release valve regularly, giving myself time to breathe, I am much stronger when everything goes sideways. When I refill my tank, even when it’s not that empty, I end up having so much more to offer everyone in my life.

So I live in a rhythm of retreat and engagement. Every Monday, I retreat. I escape the office. Drink coffee. Read scripture. Sit. Reflect. Pray. Write. Dream. And invite God to have his way. It’s incredible medicine for my heart.

In addition to this, a couple of times a year, I disappear. I step away from everything. My family. My work. My football obsession. Everything – and I escape to be alone with my God. During this time, I will often spend two or three days without saying a word to anyone. Just me and God at a beautiful ranch.

For the past several months, I’ve been reflecting on what God is doing with me and with the people at Journey. This recently brought me back to a journal entry I made at one of these retreats in May 2010. The entry was entitled, “God Get Away.” In the first part of that entry, God led me to reflect on Jesus’ prayer in John 17. The following is my entry from the following day:

I slowly and methodically read David Platt’s book, “Radical” yesterday. It was an amazing day. Everything that began stirring in my heart during my time with God as I dealt with John 17 ended up resurfacing as I read the book. It was as if God scripted the day for me. His protection and power and fatherhood and partnership with me in the advancement of his kingdom became a consuming reality for me. At one point, late into the night, I hung out with him in prayer. I can’t remember the last time I prayed like that.

I felt known and loved and accepted but also a sense of fear at the potential of being exposed to the presence of God. I’ve never known him like that. I feel like such and infant in front of him. I feel like there is so much about him that I don’t understand. But this doesn’t push me away – it draws me closer. I want more of him.

I have spoken before of a dream or a picture that God has given me about the man he created me to be. I feel him emerging in a way that I never have before. And it is not work! It is simply submission. It is a letting go. It is freedom and peace. I truly don’t know that I have ever felt what I feel now! It doesn’t even feel like a quote/unquote “spiritual high.”

I’m not afraid of coming down off the mountain top or returning to “normal” or losing this experience! I am simply being made new. And I can’t wait for what’s next. This isn’t about my call at Journey or my dreams for ministry. This is all about God. I want him more than I ever have. And what’s crazy is that I expect this longing to increase. I feel like the more I know him, the more I will want to know him and the more I will realize that he is too big to know.

Oh, the consuming greatness of my God! There is no love like this. It is for this I was made.

A God Get Away

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A “God Get Away” – that’s what the title reads in a journal entry I made from May 2010. Three and a half years ago. It doesn’t seem possible for that much time to have passed but yet so much has happened since then.

I had taken about three days to escape. Three days to quiet the world around me and listen to God. What would he say? Would he speak at all? I needed his presence. His direction. There is no way I could step into what was coming without it.

After almost a day of detoxing from the world, I began to intentionally seek him out and I found myself in John’s story of the life of Jesus – specifically in chapter 17…Jesus’ prayer in the garden.

I read. Sat. Listened. Looked out into the beauty of the ranch I was surrounded by. I marveled at the wonder of creation and at the same time checked the rocks around me to make sure there weren’t any snakes close by.

I read John 17 again. This time finding myself gravitating toward a few verses in the middle of the chapter. Verses that unpacked Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, his apprentices. Here’s what he prayed:

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be sanctified.

Protected, Sanctified & Sent. That was his prayer for those who would follow him. For those who would become like him in this world. I am not historically a journaler but I was moved to record my prayer in response to this.

After worshiping out of this same text yesterday with Journey, I have been prompted to share this prayer with you here. The following is my prayer from 5/12/10:

Holy Father,

I need your protection. Without it I would be consumed and destroyed. I have come to know how helpless I am in this world without you. Without your strength, my eyes go blind. I become consumed with myself. All joy disappears. Relationships become empty and difficult.

But in your covering, all of this changes in an instant. The air becomes light. There is a spring in my step and ease in my heart. There is boldness in my speech that is defined by love and compassion. Relationships are life-giving and there is rest at night.

Protect me Father! Do not allow the evil one to rob me of one more day with you. Fill me with your presence that I may truly live. Thank you for this life you give. May I truly learn to live in it so that when we are finally together in fullness, it will be like coming home.

Teach me what it means to be your son. Define me this way. Write it on my heart. Make it as true a reality to me as it is for me to be Brady, Reagan and Brycen’s dad. May I come to know you as “Abba” – “Daddy” and not just as FAther. Cover me and hold me in your hand, Daddy.

I just stopped there. I wanted to soak in his presence. I sit in view of what I was asking. I didn’t want to “end” my prayer and go to the next thing in my retreat. I wanted him. God. And I wanted to be more his son than I ever had.

I knew he was sending me but I also knew that I would have to be completely dependent on him if that were to happen. I could do nothing without his protection and without him remaking me to look like him.

How about you?

Scary Love

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My hobby and entertainment outlet of choice is the Dallas Cowboys. I know, that in itself is pretty polarizing but they’re my team and it’s the one addiction I will allow myself. On my days off, I’ll research their stats, read up on their opponents and do my best to project their future.

Last night, before the Cowboys visited the Bears – and utterly fell apart – I received a series of texts from one of my friends. Although he lives in Waco, Texas (and attends Journey), he for some reason feels an unnatural allegiance to his “home team” the Chicago Bears. He and I spent the next half hour sparing back and forth, explaining why “my” team was better and would ultimately come out on top. It was a lot of fun!

However, even as I made my case, I wasn’t convinced. I knew my arguments were hollow and I doubted that the joy of victory would be ours. The final outcome of the game, a 45-28 embarrassment, was all too predictable.

In response to yet another crippling defeat, I posted on Facebook my thoughts about why this keeps happening to the Cowboys. I explained some X’s & O’s and then made the case that the problem is deeper than any one player or even a ridiculously bad defense. The problem is deeper than that and can be summed up in one word…

INFLUENCE.

It’s the single most important word in football and is, I believe, in the top 5 most important words in life. Influence. Consider for a moment the power behind this word. This is the force that guides you, shapes your thoughts and your character. It impacts everything in our lives. Our relationships. Our professions. Our self-esteem. Our faith. What we invite to influence us directly determines who we will be, what we will do and how we will impact the world around us.

The problem with the Cowboys is a problem of poor influence. Poor influence in the draft room, possibly (although probably getting better – consider the last couple of drafts, emphasizing the offensive line – but I digress). Poor influence on the management of critical game situations…absolutely! I am convinced that if this one piece of influence was changed for the Cowboys, it would impact their win column by 3 to 4 wins a year!

In considering this, I can’t help but think about how this plays out in my life. I both celebrate and struggle with influence – especially as a dad. I realize the power I have to shape and mold my kids because of the influence I have over them and I don’t want to sleep walk through it. I want to use it intentionally and proactively. I know who I want my kids to become and I want to do everything I can to direct that. Sometimes I do a great job, sometimes I feel like I’m sleepwalking but I realize I am influencing regardless. And mostly, I am grateful for that.

The struggle comes not because of what my influence means but because of what it doesn’t mean. Think about it…with all that influence can do there is one thing it can never and will never do.

CONTROL.

I influence my kids every day but I will never be able to control them. I can not “make” them “do” anything. I can guide. Teach. Direct. Shape. Mentor. Challenge. Correct. Discipline. And on and on. But I will never be able to control them nor anyone in my sphere of influence.

And this is both freeing and troubling at the same time. It allows me to be critically important but ultimately puts the responsibility fully on their choice. As I consider the depth of such a dynamic, I am highly aware that this where our God chose to live with us.

That’s scary love!

A Word About Life

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For those of us who follow Jesus…

– who long for a more authentic expression of life

– who reach for something more than religion

– who want our faith to be more than a belief system

– who submit to a God we have never seen

– who have experienced a change that is undeniable

– who recklessly follow the way of love…

For you, I want to remind you, encourage you and challenge you with a life altering word.

READY?

Here goes…

“It’s not about you!”

I know, this may startle you. It may sound harsh or cold or insensitive. It may bring up all kinds of arguments or theological rebuttals and if it does, that’s OK. But it’s true none-the-less.

Question: Have you ever paused long enough to move beyond dealing with what you were saved from in order to ask, “What was I saved for?”

Really, what’s the point of our freedom from brokenness, struggle, guilt, conflict and death? To move into healing, freedom, confidence, peace and life – right? But life for what?

Deep down, we know that this authentic expression of life is much deeper than what we find our dreams, our failures, our desires and our successes. When we have moments of clarity, we know that true life can be found in the midst of all of this. It obviously involves us but somehow, it’s not limited to our external experiences.

So what’s it really about? What’s this new life for? As we question, listen to the following simple truth from Jesus’ prayer in John 17:

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

You see, the further we follow Jesus, the clearer the view becomes. We begin to see life as it was intended, not as it has been twisted. As we encounter this truer life more and more, we see the one for whom life was made and for whom life was given. We see Jesus – the very heart of the Creator.

When our eyes are fixed clearly on him, we realize that he is the center of the story. It is about him. His love. His gifts. His dreams. His forgiveness. His hope for a new and better life – a life remade by him and a life defined by relationship with him.

We are brought from death to life so that he might wholly and completely know us and love us. This is his heart, his nature, his overwhelming passion – that he might be express himself fully to us, the object of his desire. That he might once again be free to shower his love on us.

It is in the midst of this love that everything changes for us. Our hearts are healed, our dreams are rebuilt, our pursuits are altered, our relationships are mended and our successes are redefined. And somewhere, throughout this transformation, it hits us. The truth of Jesus comes flooding our hearts demanding us to die so his life may fully take hold and the Spirit reminds us with the words of Christ himself, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”

It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s not about what we want or what we would choose. It’s about him and us being brought closer to him. Period. This is all that really matters.

Once we get this, the story changes. Our selfish pursuits become selfless offerings and instantly we are moved into partnership with our God. Moved into the front of his battle against what threatens to destroy his children. Moved to become extensions of the love of God. It is here that our gift of life finds full meaning.

What are we saved for? We are “Redeemed to Redeem!”

Take a look at the words of a new song we are singing at Journey, that was produced by Austin Stone Music:

Redeemed to Redeem 

We have come too far, beloved

Than to sway this path we tread

We have nothing else to boast

Than the cross where Jesus bled

CHORUS:

We’ve been redeemed to redeem the world around us

We have been loved to love one another

We’ve been pursued to pursue Your kingdom

Oh, oh, redeemed to redeem, oh oh redeemed to redeem

VERSE 2:

Yes we know what is to come

A home where men no longer thirst


For our souls were made to love
 oh nothing of this passing earth,

Oh nothing of this passing earth

BRIDGE:

To You our lives, we surrender now

Our hearts are Yours, we surrender now

All for Your name, we surrender now

Oh, oh redeemed to redeem

Oh, oh redeemed to redeem

Oh, oh, redeemed to redeem, oh oh redeemed to redeem

Journey of Faith Series

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Have you ever been loved more than you deserve?

Have you ever been given more than you gave? Forgiven when you wouldn’t have forgiven if the tables were turned? Pursued when you would have run away?

If so, I’d love to hear your story. I’d love to share a cup of coffee with you and marvel at the wonder of this gift. I’d love to hear where you found yourself and who it was who offered the unimaginable. And I’d love to meet that person. To look deep in her eyes as I celebrate the heart of God I see in them.

You know that’s where this reckless love comes from, right?

It’s what we were created for. To love and be loved. To be naked and vulnerable and completely known, yet accepted and cherished and honored. It’s the way things should be – and will be again one day. In the time between now and then, life is rediscovered in the pursuit of this love.

If you’re like me, you’ve chased this kind of experience in countless ways. I’ve looked for it in romance, friendship, professional partnerships, sensuality, athletic acclaim, public approval, and on and on the list could go. All of these offer glimpses of the approval and connection we long for but in the end, they are all empty and lacking.

No one and no thing can fill that void in our lives. It doesn’t matter what we chase, it all ends up twisted, bent and out-of-place. Nothing that has been created can give this to us. It’s all idolatry – false gods!

Realizing this can set us up for a transformed life. It’s not the created but the Creator who can satisfy our hunger for love and significance. And what of the pursuit?

So often, we focus on our pursuit. But have you ever considered the idea that you and I aren’t the centerpiece of the story? We aren’t the main character. But we aren’t insignificant to it! No, we are essential to the story. We are the supporting cast – so much so that the story can’t be told without us. You see, we are the love interest of the main character.

Our’s is a story of God’s love affair and we are his lover! He is the primary pursuer, chasing us with a relentless passion that is completely beyond our understanding. It’s so much less about our pursuit of him and so much more about his pursuit of us. He is coming after us and he will never stop. The question is, will you give in to his love? Will you submit to his advances? Will you allow your heart to be caught and overcome?

If you do, it will change everything! It will fill your heart with what you were intended to have from the beginning and you will find yourself naturally extending this kind of reckless love freely. His heart will begin to just come out of you.

How about you?

A Great Read

Do you have a Bible? If so, how many? Do you have a favorite? Is it a thin-line Bible? A daily devotional Bible? A chronological Bible? A study Bible? A pocket Bible? Or possibly an on-line Bible?

What version do you prefer? Do you like the NIV? The New Living Translation? The Message? Or do you lean more toward the New King James? The New American Standard? The New Revised Standard?

It’s amazing how endless the possibilities are for us to access scripture. We have it on our phones. We have readings sent to our e-mail accounts. We have them in our cars, in our bedrooms, in our living rooms and even in our hotel rooms when we travel. We have literally come to the place where we could have constant access to the word of God.

And so I ask, “What’s your relationship with the Word?”

Early on, I knew the Bible to be God’s book. That he inspired over 40 different men to write his words down for us. That it is divided into two major sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. That it has 66 books, 39 in the Old and 27 in the New. That the Old Testament has stories about God and his people – Israel. And the New Testament has stories about Jesus and the church. I was a student of the word. I took notes in church and worked to connect all the dots. I was definitely in pursuit of more information. I wanted to know more about God, more about the church and more about what this meant for me.

Then, there was a time when I stopped reading the Bible altogether. I struggled with what appeared to be inconsistencies in scripture. And with inconsistencies in my personal experience. I stopped my pursuit of God and did my best to numb my heart.

But still he spoke to me. In the midst of my struggle, he reminded me of his love and his desire for me to be free. I heard is voice through the gentle challenges of other believers. And finally, he broke through with a word spoken deep into my heart, saying, “You have no life without me!”

When I came back home to him, I entered with a new desire. I wanted to know this God who would not give up on me. I longed to discover his heart. I wanted a real relationship with him, not predetermined religious answers. And so I searched, I questioned, I discovered and I let go.

In my pursuit of God through his word, I found Jesus. I was introduced to the Word who was God and has been with God from the beginning. Who participated in creating us for relationship with himself. Who ached as we continually choose to love ourselves more than him. Who has relentlessly chased humanity from the beginning of time. Who established the nation of Israel to represent God to the world. Who refused to give up on people. Who punished and rebuked but always followed it up with hope and provision. Who willingly gave up his place to become like us. Who came to once and for all rescue us from the enemy, from this world and from ourselves. Who stood in our place, taking our penalty…dying so we could live! Who promised that his presence will always be with us, leading us and reminding us of his way. Who will one day take us home!

When you look at your Bible, do you see him? Do you encounter his heart? Do you invite him to break through and have his way with you?

What’s your relationship with the Word?

 

Jesus is Crazy!

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Sometimes, I think Jesus is summed up best in one word…crazy! If you really watch him, listen to what he teaches and apply it to your life, you might agree with me. This man is nuts! Consider for a second one of his more famous teachings:

“Don’t resist an evil person!

If you are slapped on the right check, turn the other, too.

If you are ordered to court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too.

If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.

Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.”

What was he thinking? Does he really understand what he’s asking us to do? What are the end results of a life like this? Do I really have to allow myself to be beat up to follow Jesus? Do I really have to freely give my stuff away, without resistance — even more — does he really expect me to give more than what they are trying to take from me or to serve more than what is being required by a person in authority over me? Do I really have to live this way?

That’s what’s amazing about the way of Jesus! It doesn’t make any sense from the perspective of self-preservation. But that’s just it. That’s the complete wrong perspective.

Jesus has invited us to follow him, which means that we live life like him. That we watch how he talked…how he interacted with people…how he touched the untouchable…how he loved the disgraced…how he accepted the prostitute…how he forgave those who were intent on killing him. We stand at the shadow of the cross and hear his words echoing, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves take up their cross and follow me.” And from that vantage point, all rebuttals that Jesus was just talking rhetorically disappear.

Here is a radical God that is recklessly demonstrating the depth of love he has for us. It’s a love that transforms us to the very core. So much so, that it becomes who we are. It becomes what we offer. And at this point, we stop asking, “Does he really want me to do this?” and we begin asking, “Who is the next person I can share this with?” And this sharing is so much less about what we say…it’s about who we are. It’s about being willing to die so someone else might live!

Yeah, this is crazy – but what a beautiful way to live!

 

Not So Dirty Laundry

The clothes line.

It’s a picture that has been almost completely erased in our contemporary world. We live in a microwavable society and we don’t have time to wait for the wind to dry our clothes. We have instant access to nearly everything. If you want to know how tall Dirk Nowitzki is or even how to spell his name, just Google it (he’s 7′ tall by the way). If you want to know exactly how much longer before your kids get home, just text them. If you want to get the seven-day forecast or find out the latest breaking news in the world or sports, just hit the “News & Weather” app on your phone. I don’t need to go on. You know how small our world has gotten and how instantly everything comes to us. Even this blog is an example of this.

I love much of this new era we are in. Staying connected to so many more people. Not having to watch the news but knowing what’s going on in the world. Not getting lost everytime I go somewhere new. But is there a price that we pay for this?

Sometimes I long for the simple and less convenient. For moments of walking around with a cup of coffee in my hand, knowing that it will be another hour before my next task can be attempted, much less completed. Time to breathe. Time to think. Time to connect one on one with someone – not through a computer or in a text message but face to face. Where I can see the light in their eyes and the smirk on their face. But too many times, this is missed.

We have so much opportunity for relationship in front of us and so often we settle for less. We share a polite, “How’s it going?” in passing or send someone a “poke” on facebook or add them as a friend but still find ourselves isolated and unknown. It is too easy for us to hurry from one important event to the next, forgetting the people the event is really about. And we accept surface relationships as normal.

But…we were made for more! We were created to love and be loved deeply. To be known at every level and loved anyway – even in spite of the stuff we wish wasn’t there. We are shown a picture of this from the Father, as he takes our dirty laundry and incredibly makes it fresh again. And as he hangs it up dry, our shame of what once covered our stuff is now gone!

I can look you in the eye and tell you of the old stains in my life with a smile on my face, having no thought of embarrassment because it’s not there anymore. When this is done, authentic relationship is developed, love is shared and the Father is made known. And when we hit a bump in the road and the coffee flies all over us, we can draw from this relationship and point back at the clothes line. A reminder of the newness given by the Father in the past and the promise of what’s available to us now.

So bring on the coffee and the conversation. Let’s share this life together. Don’t worry about the spills, I know a good cleaner!

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