Friday, June 29, 2012

Where There Is Faith

It's 10:25PM...

My head is pounding...

There's a crack in the pad of my left foot down by my pinky toe...

My right pinky toe feels like it has a blister...

I weighed 3/4 of a pound more this morning than I did yesterday...

Why can't I just pray the fat away...gaining weight certainly didn't seem hard...why is losing it...

It was 100 degrees today...

It's still 83 and the humidity is up in the "miserable" range...

I know I need to get out there and go for a walk...but I DON'T WANNA!

It's 10:30PM...

Socks on...shorts on...playlist Genius 04 shuffle...ready...set...go...

It's 10:40PM...

Ugh...none of this music is really inspiring me tonight...keep walking...

It's 10:50PM....

I hate this weather....

It's 11:00PM...

He's My Son, by Mark Shultz, plays...hmmm...that's a touching song...the plaintive cry of a man wondering if God is listening to his heartfelt prayer...I've been there...I understand...

...but I'm still really not in the mood for all this...

It's 11:10PM...

Where there is faith
There is a voice calling, keep walking
You’re not alone in this world
Where there is faith
There is a peace like a child sleeping
Hope everlasting in he who is able to
Bear every burden, to heal every hurt in my heart
It is a wonderful, powerful place
Where there is faith

...OK...I get my real problem today I've spent the past couple days focused more on what I want than trusting in Him...Where There Is Faith...

It's 11:24PM...

Only a little bit more....

I'll never know why
Why you did what you did
You didn't have to die
But you did
You hung on the cross
So that I wouldn't be lost
You took my place
Now You're pleading my case
You didn't have to do it
Oh, but I'm glad you did
You didn't have to do it
But I'm glad you did

You didn't have to suffer
You didn't have to give your life
You could have come down from the cross
But you chose to die
You said "Father forgive them
For they know not what they do"
An when they pierced Your side
You just hung bled and died

You didn't have to come down
From the Father's side
But because of Your love for me
You made the sacrifice
You knew no sin
But became sin for me
An all who believe
Can live eternally

You didn't have to do it
But I'm glad you did
You could have come down from the cross
Then my soul would be lost
But You chose to stay
And Your love made a way

...sigh...truth...You Didn't Have To Do It...but I'm glad you did...

It's 11:30PM...

Attitude adjusted...

Abba, I come to you, a broken offering. My problems are not bigger than You. My wants, my desires, pale in comparison to what You want for me. Help my heart seek Your truth.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Makin' your way in the world today
Takes everything you've got
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot
Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you wanna go
Where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came
You wanna be where you can see
The people are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows your name

Be glad there's one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came
You wanna go where people know
The people are all the same
You wanna go where everybody knows your name

The TV was on earlier today. I'd been watching some random show, it got over, I got up and started working around the house, but left the TV on...a few minutes later this familiar song came floating through the air. Cheers was the first show I ever remember being allowed to stay up and watch. It started at 9:00PM, which was normally bed time. The theme song, Where Everybody Knows Your Name, by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo, has been running through my head all day. From the first few moments after that opening phrase made it to my ears, I've been thinking about how the desire to just be accepted, to find someplace where people just enjoy letting us be us, is so strong. Why did God make us that way? Do we do enough, as Christians, to reach out to each other in a way that makes the rest of the world want to find what we have, or what we're supposed to have?

On my walk tonight, Homesick, by MercyMe, played about 2/3 of the way through my walk. It immediately turned my thoughts back to that desire, the desire to find a place where we "belong." It's another one of the group's great songs addressing the grief that we all will experience in some way, shape, or form over the course of our lives. But tonight it was more than that for me. It was a look into the desire for acceptance. Where do most of us feel accepted? Home. Even those who may not have had the best of childhoods typically have some place they call "home," some place where they know they can just be themselves without worrying about impressing people or being judged for their failings, great and small.

I close my eyes and I see your face
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
I've never been more homesick than now

Are we all just a little homesick? Deep down some place inside, maybe even some place we don't know about or recognize? Is that the driving desire for acceptance? A feeling that there's some place else, some place better, some place where there will be no judgement once we arrive? I don't have all the answers, that's for sure. Mostly just questions.

Abba, I bring you my brokenness and place it at your feet. In those moments, the ones when I feel an overwhelming need to be accepted, I ask that you remind me that you accept me and want to bring me to you and a place where acceptance is no longer a concern.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Have you ever taken a deep breath, only to realize it was all you needed to turn things around, be it your attitude, your perspective, or your entire day? It happens to me on a pretty regular basis. There's something about a deep breath...a really deep breath...that can do something good for your heart and mind.

I spent the past 3 days up at Mackinac City, Michigan, with my extended family on my mom's side. It was great, it always is (we get together every summer for 3 to 4 days, usually for the July 4th weekend.) Of course, it's hard, too. It's a wonderful time with family...but it's also a pungent reminder of what I've lost, what's we've lost. The last two summers have been hard for all of us because this time we enjoy so much is an "in your face" reminder that they are not with us.

Arriving back home is always a little bit of a letdown after a great time away with family. Tonight I needed to breathe, I just didn't know it until I headed out for a walk just before 11:00PM. I popped my ear buds in, started up the Music app on my iPhone, selected the My Favorites (Christian) playlist and hit Shuffle...

Take my sorrow and my sin
I will run into Your arms again
Hold me Father
Once again my tears are dried
By your perfect love that's river-wide

As I stand on its bank
With my arms overhead
I am overcome

As I breathe
The air of Heaven
Drawing in Your fragrance
When I breathe
I feel Your fullness come alive
Inside of me
You're the breath that I breathe

Covered by the evening sky
I turn my gaze to where Your kingdom lies
Deep inside me
A silent whisper in my mind
Sweet surrender to Your love divine
Peace enfolding

In the stillness I empty my soul
And Your presence flows

As I breathe
The air of Heaven
Drawing in Your fragrance
When I breathe
I feel Your fullness come alive
Inside of me
You're the breath that I breathe

It's taking hold
It's second nature when I
When I Savor...
As I breathe

...and Leigh Nash, of Sixpence None The Richer, led me right into what I just breathe. When trouble comes, in any form, I want to remind myself to breathe...breathe in the love of Christ...the scent of Heaven...the breath of God. Tonight, as I took that deep breath, I couldn't help but feel like He was there, standing beside me, walking beside me, offering me His strength, and whispering to me, "it's OK, buddy, I've got this. Just trust me, I'll lead you home."

Why is something so simple as a breath so hard to do sometimes? After all, we breathe all day long, regardless of whether we think about it or not, it's truly second nature, it's automatic; yet, it's still not enough. We need to pause and take that breath in a new way, one that reminds us about what's important and where we're headed.

God, I come to you in my brokenness, seeking your breath. Breathe the scent of Heaven into me, that I might savor your love in a fresh way today.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

First world problems...

So, I'm thinking I might expand a little on what this blog gets for content. I had originally been playing off the musical aspects of notes and rearrangement and only planned to write about songs that caused me to think, or reflect, in some way of significance (well, at least significant to me.) However, I'm trying to be a multifaceted individual in my life and I asked myself why I'd want to be so limiting in expressing what moves me and gives me pause in this life? So, I'm expanding a bit; I've decided that it will be OK to post quotes/notes about things I'm reading, and how those, also, cause me to think and/or reevaluate the things that are important to me or going on in my life. I'm telling you this as if you actually had have input into deciding what I'm going to write about goes life.

I read a whole book from cover to cover today. To be fair, it wasn't hard. It was Drops Like Stars, by Rob Bell. It's a beautiful book, literally; the pages are just as much about graphic design and telling the story through imagery as they are about the select choice of words printed on them. It's a book about suffering. In typical Rob Bell fashion, he seems to expend a lot of energy just trying to provoke the reader to think before offering a story or snippet that explains how he feels about it.

I'm not reading books like this out of curiosity. I truly hope to gain something from them, whether it be knowledge, truth, or just new way to think about an old topic. There was a paragraph that reached out to me, about halfway through the book:

"If we aren't careful, our success and security and abundance can lead to a certain sort of boredom, a numbing predictability, a paralyzing indifference that comes from being too comfortable."

Even after what I have been through in the past two years, I still find myself often "overwhelmed" with first world problems (follow the link, if you're not sure what a first world problem is.) And so I find myself going through mental gymnastics trying to find the balance between "haven't I suffered enough" and "do I need to suffer more" for the Gospel? I don't have an answer to those questions. I'm not really expecting to, not yet; but, I want to make sure I'm asking them. As I'm "struggling" with my first world problems, while acknowledging that I've been through the wringer myself, I guess I'm hoping God always keeps my heart open to the plight of the least of these and those who live with suffering their whole lives. Let's be clear, first world problems aren't suffering, but they are a great example of what we complain and worry about, the trivial issues that "plague" our lives, while children go hungry in our community, while the truly poor, the widowed, and the orphaned sit unnoticed by those of us who call ourselves Christians.

Abba, I come to you in brokenness. Even as I offer you what little I have, I ask that you keep my heart and mind open and aware to the suffering around me.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Trust In Jesus/Who Am I?

I had the privilege of having lunch with a friend today. I love having lunch with friends. It's a great way to enjoy good conversation...mostly because it gives my mouth something to do when I'm trying to listen, thus I don't spend the who conversation interrupting my lunch mate. :) Just like most of my lunches with friends, today was a good day of catching up and finding out what God had been doing in each others lives. There's something refreshing about spending time with a fellow believer who is also experiencing new things in their faith that stretch them and help them grow.

I find that after something like this, I'm in an excellent frame of mind to have a song, or two, cause positive reflection and thought processes in my heart. Somewhere in between lunch and getting back to my apartment, God saw fit to provide me with the experience that I long for. I was tooling along in my car, listening to The Message, without really listening...when Trust In Jesus, by Third Day, came on. It's a song I've heard many times before, but not one that ever really caught my attention or made me think about my faith in a new way.

One of these days we all will stand in judgment for
Every single word that we have spoken
One of these days we all will stand before the Lord
Give a reason for everything we’ve done
And what I’ve done is

Trust in Jesus
My great Deliverer
My strong Defender
The Son of God
I trust in Jesus
Blessed Redeemer
My Lord forever
The Holy One, the Holy One

What are you going to do when your time has come
And your life is done and there’s nothing you can stand on
What will you have to say at the judgment throne
I already know the only thing that I can say I

There’s nothing I can do on my own to find forgiveness
It’s by His grace alone I trust in Jesus
Trust in Jesus

Do you believe we'll all stand in a final judgement? I do. I'm not 100% sure of what that scene will look like, but I know how I envisioned it for me. I can see me, standing before the throne, fumbling for words to explain why I've said the things I've said, why I've done the things I've done, and finding none. It's a depressing vision...however, based on some of the things I've been reading, the conversations I've been having, and some wise counsel I recently received, I heard this song in a whole new light. My vision has changed. Instead of standing there fumbling for words and explanations that will never come...I'm just standing there...and the judge is SMILING at me...SMILING with a loving, warm, tender smile. What I had previously envisioned as a place of condemnation and judgement is now a place of love and warm reception. And you know what...that's what it was supposed to look like from the beginning, I just never really understood it. The reason the judge is smiling is because all He Christ. He doesn't see my sin, my failings, my short comings, he just sees the one who died so that I might live!

While my brain and heart were digesting all of this, Who Am I, by Casting Crowns, started playing. Again, another song I've heard more times than I can count, but one that I hadn't yet listened to the real message.

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

Again, the effect of my recent readings, counsel, and conversations helped the message of this beautiful promise play out in a new way in my heart. How often do I downplay my significance to God? After all, there are nearly 7 billion people on the planet today. Those, plus all who have come before, add up to quite large number of people. How can I be special when I look at myself among those numbers? The truth is...God plays favorites...He's big enough, great enough, and strong enough to get away with it. Each and every one of us is His favorite! His heir! He loves me as if I was the only one! Isn't that what we all want? To feel that special? To feel loved in that way? I know I do.

Abba, I offer you my brokenness. I am humbled to know that you stand in my place, to know that you love me as if I was your only child. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Hurt and The Healer

It was two years ago today...

I pulled into the drive through at Culver's for a quick lunch; I was on my way over to Battle Creek for a 3 day conference. As the girl at the window handed me my change, she asked, "Are you a father?" I had she heard?! How did she know?! How did this complete stranger know that Sara and I had just found out we were going to have a baby?! How?! How?! How?! Well, it turns out it was Father's Day...she was asking to find out if I qualified for a free scoop of the flavor of the day. When that realization finally settled in, I sheepishly said, "not yet" and pulled forward to wait for my food. I sometimes wonder if that girl remembers that day. If the panic in my heart and head showed on my face, even the slightest bit, I'm sure she was a bit confused by my reaction. It's a good memory...I'm glad I have it...even if the rest of the story is one I'd choose to rewrite.


I hopped into the car this morning and, as I pulled away from my apartment, The Hurt and The Healer, by MercyMe, started playing on The Message:

The question that is never far away
The healing doesn't come from the explained
Jesus please don't let this go in vain
You're all I have
All that remains

So here I am
What's left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I'm alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into Your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

Sometimes I feel it's all that I can do
Pain so deep that I can hardly move
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You
Lord take hold and pull me through

So here I am
What's left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I'm alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

It's the moment when humanity
Is overcome by majesty
When grace is ushered in for good
And all the scars are understood
When mercy takes its rightful place
And all these questions fade away
When out of the weakness we must bow
And hear You say "It's over now"

I'm alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into your arms open wide
When The hurt and the healer collide

Jesus come and break my fear
Awake my heart and take my tears
Find Your glory even here
When the hurt and the healer collide

Jesus come and break my fear
Awake my heart and take my tears
Find Your glory even here 

I cried like...well, it's hard to describe...I cried...a lot...hard...painful crying...the first time I heard this song. Saying that the music of Bart Millard and MercyMe has played a role in my grief and healing is classic example of understatement. It's my humble opinion that Bart has a gift from God in writing songs that reach out and touch the grieving in a way I've never felt a songs reach out.

When I heard the song today, it took me back to that day, two years ago, when I was flying high on the news of my impending fatherhood. How excited, how nervous, how wide-eyed and happy... It's a sharp contrast to other days I've had since then. The days when all I could do was lay on the floor and ask "why?" The days when it felt like breathing was almost too hard. To be honest, I still have those moments. They don't last long, a few minutes, but I have them...I think I'll have them for a long time.

The part of the song that got to me the first time I heard it, the part that still punches me in the gut every time I hear it, is the line, "I'm alive, even though a part of me has died." In those moments when breathing seems like the only thing I can do, those moments when I look to the sky and ask, "why," it's in those moments that I try to remember that I'm alive.

God, I offer myself to you today, all of my brokenness, all of my hurt. Abba, I am alive, breathe your breath into me, hold me close as you breathe your life back into my heart.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Finally Home

Genius surprised me tonight. I had it build me a playlist based on the Newsboys version of Mighty to Save. I put the playlist on shuffle as I headed out the door for my walk...and ended up not recognizing most of the songs I heard. Some were slightly familiar, a couple were very familiar, but I don't recall hearing most of them before (that's not to say I hadn't, I just don't remember it.)

However, I try to keep an open mind and I told myself to listen to the music, listen to the words, and listen to the message:

"Everybody falls sometimes. Gotta find the strength to rise from the ashes and make a new beginning…life is so much more than what your eyes are seeing. You will find your way, if you keep believing."
What Faith Can Do - Cutlass

"Remember, Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day to save us all from Satan's power, when we were gone astray."
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Mercy Me

"You are more than the choices that you've made. You are more than the sum of your past mistakes. You are more than the problems you create. You've been remade."
You Are More - Tenth Avenue North

"You do not faint. You won't grow weary. You're the defender of the weak. You comfort those in need. You lift us up on wings like eagles. Our God, You reign forever. Our hope, our strong deliverer. You are the everlasting God."
Everlasting God - Jeremy Camp

"You speak with thunder and lightning, your voice shakes the mountains, the foundations of the earth. All I can offer is this fragile breath; with each one I'll praise You, with each one I'll praise You more."
This Fragile Breath - Todd Agnew

Those are just a few of the lyrics that jumped out at me, reminding me of the gift, the love, the grace, and the strength that are offered to me every minute of every day all because God became man and took on the sin of the world. These songs often help me peel back 2,000 years of human interpretation, doctrine, and get down to the core of what Jesus was really about.

As much as I was enjoying some "new" music,  He saved the best for last, the song I needed to hear the most:

"There's so much I want to say. There's so much I want you to know. When I finally make it home when I finally make it home.

Then I'll gaze upon the throne of the King. Frozen in my steps and all the questions that I swore I would ask…words just won't come yet. So amazed at what I've seen; so much more than this old mind can hold…When I finally make it home when I finally make it home.

And the sweetest sound these ears have yet to hear, the voices of the angels. When I finally make it home when I finally make it home."
Finally Home - MercyMe

Bart Millard wrote the song song about his dad, but the message rings true for many of us. Tonight, it reminded me that it's look forward to that day. I don't have to feel bad about wanting to be there. About wanting to see my wife and daughter again. Even if God blesses me with someone new between now and then...I don't have to give up that dream, that hope. It also reminded me that as great as that reunion will be, I can't begin to comprehend what it will be like to stand before the throne, to be in the presence of the one true God. I can't pretend to know what it will be like to hear the angels sing. I can guess...but that's all it is...a guess.

Father, I offer my brokenness to you today. As you reveal yourself to me in new and fresh ways, help me keep my eyes on the throne, help me live in such a way that Heaven is here today, not just something to look forward to.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

In Christ Alone

I listened to church today. I watched it, too. I just wasn't there. I was sitting at home, in my comfy recliner...if I told you why, it would just be one of those TMI moments that's better left just not happening. It was good to join in worship, even if I wasn't there.

In the past year and half, I've often found myself crying at church during the praise and worship time. Not bawling my eyes out, just tears as the truth of Christ's love touches my heart and soul. One of the songs that gets me every time is In Christ Alone. It was written a decade ago, by Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty, but recently took on new life thanks to Owl City and several other contemporary artists who have covered it.

In Christ alone, my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all-in-all
Here in the love of Christ I stand

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me

For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death

This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand

'Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand

'Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand

A good friend gave me a CD not long after Sara and Miranda's funeral. This song was one of the tracks he'd included. It's impact on me hasn't changed since I first listened to it on that CD. The message is complex, yet simple. It's complete, it tells the whole story. When I need, He gives. Through everything I and my family have been through, Christ hasn't changed. His gift hasn't changed. His love hasn't changed. His power hasn't changed. His message hasn't changed. His purpose hasn't changed. His story hasn't changed. His truth hasn't changed. His offer hasn't changed. His promise hasn't changed. The END hasn't changed. He will return. He will take me, us, to be with Him.

He is Solid. He is The Cornerstone. He is the Light. He is Victory. He is Fearless. He is Peace. He is Power. He is Savior. He is Mine and I am His...why wouldn't I want to stand in that?

In his sermon today, Pastor Adam Davidson talked about Christ being our anchor. There have been many days since February 5, 2011, when it felt like all I had...when I didn't understand it, when all I had was the question "why?"...was the anchor to hold onto. Holding fast in the storm, eyes closed, fingers gripped tightly, to the anchor.

Jesus, I am broken, but yours. I offer you my brokenness on this day. Thank you for truth. Thank you for love. Thank you for forgiveness. Thank you for being everything for me that I can not be on my own.

Friday, June 15, 2012


Hmmmmm...I'm sensing some themes here in my life rearranged...

I listened to my iTunes Genius playlist again while out walking tonight. I feel blessed to have had a computer randomly select such a great group of songs for me to listen to; although, I guess it's hard to call it random, if it were random where would the "genius" aspect of it come in? I've actually created two more Genius playlist and plan on rotating through them over the coming weeks...I might even create more. I'm crossing my fingers that the strength of the first one I made wasn't just a fluke; I guess time will tell.

The playlist stretched my walk out to 5+ miles again tonight. To be honest, I could walk a lot longer with that music playing; however, I'd end up with bloodied and blistered stumps at the end of my legs. I'm already feeling a little extra "wear" from going over 5 miles for the second straight night. The playlist is also giving me something to look forward to, which is the motivation that I'm finding works best for's not about exercising and the walking, it's about the music. :)

Early on in tonight's walk, I caught myself thinking about some of the more recent hurts in my life and I was "rehearsing" the speeches that I'd like to give to the responsible parties, even though I know I have no intention of ever giving them. It sucks when you have that moment of realization that you're doing the very thing that you've been asking God to help you NOT do. It's embarrassing, even if I'm the only one who knew I was doing it (of course, God knew I was doing it but that's just a given, right?) So, there I am, on my emotional knees, even while my physical ones are pushing me around the apartment complex, giving those things to God...again. I think forgiveness is going to be a long road, but I am happy to say that I didn't spend a lot of time beating myself up for it, which I think is a step in the right direction.

It wasn't long after this that tonight's song came on...Love, by Petra:

Love is patient, love is kind
No eyes of envy, true love is blind
Love is humble, it knows no pride
No selfish motive hidden inside
Love is gentle, makes no demands
Despite all wrong, true live still stands
Love is holy, love is pure
It lasts forever, it will endure

Love knows when to let go
Love knows when to say no
Love grows in the light of the Son
And love shows the world that the Son of Love has come

Love is loyal, believes the best
It loves the truth, love stands the test
Love is God sent in His Son
Love forgives all we have done

In this world where hatred seems to grow
True love goes against the flow
And becomes so hard to show

In this world where push turns to shove
We have strength to rise above
Through the power of His love
Lord, we need to know the power of Your love

The song is taken quite directly from 1 Corintians 13, one of the more famous passages from the Bible. Famous enough that even many non-believers are familiar with it; after all, it's quoted in about 99.99% of wedding's that happen in a church. Not that there's a problem with that. The message is certainly a good one for married couples to consider as a core part of their relationship.

Tonight though, the song got me thinking about Love Wins, by Rob Bell...yeah...that book that caused a huge uproar in the Christian community not that long ago. I just read it last week. I didn't get involved in the hoopla when it first came out. First, I hadn't read it. I hadn't read anything by Rob Bell. I didn't feel qualified to jump into the fray (although I'm under the impression that that didn't stop many people.) Second, I had some other, more important, things I was dealing with in my life at that time. Now that I've read it, I think that it was much ado about nothing. He spent seven chapters "poking the bear," asking difficult and though provoking questions, before he finally got to what really mattered...Love Wins!

This song reminded me that when Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, he wasn't writing a wedding sermon. He was essentially chastising members of the church there who had forgotten what their new found faith was really about. They were arguing about things about which Paul felt compelled to say, "Hey! Listen up! That stuff's not as important as you think it is! In the end, the thing that matters most is LOVE! Love wins!" And really, when you look at all the things love it any wonder?

Lord, I come to you in brokenness, seeking your love. Fill me with it, teach it to me, ingrain it in me in such a way that those I come in contact with will have no choice but to understand that love wins.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Tonight's blog post is brought to you by not one, not two, but THREE great songs...

I tried something new today...and was very pleased with the results. Those of you familiar with iTunes may know it has the "Genius" function built into it. Genius can do several things. It can suggest songs you might like in the iTunes music store, based on songs in your library. It can also build a playlist for you, from the music in your library, based on one song. This second feature is what I tried. I built a playlist based on the song Why Should the Father Bother, by Petra. In addition to a few other great Petra tracks, it also pulled out some of the best from The Imperials, Keith Green, Larry Norman, Phil Keaggy, Steve Taylor, Margaret Becker, Michael W. Smith, and David Meece.

Saying that I was pleased with the results is actually a bit of an understatement. I liked the playlist so much I doubled the length of my walk out to 5 miles...and I'm glad I did, because it was the last 3 songs I heard that bring me to my keyboard: How Many Times (Seventy Times Seven) by White Heart; To Forgive, by Steve Taylor; Solomon's Shoes, by Margaret Becker.

I've recently become aware (in a very new and real way) that I need to work on forgiveness as part of my walk with Christ. I've been hanging on to hurt, sometimes for a long time, that simply steals my lunch (emotionally one...and I repeat, no one, literally steals my lunch.) It's not healthy for me, it's not healthy for my relationships, and it's not what God wants for me. But it's hard...really hard. It doesn't make it any easier knowing that other people probably struggle with it as much as I do. Forgiveness is at the core of God's grace, and He wants us to experience it in such a way that we are compelled to offer it to those who hurt us.

I think part of what makes forgiveness so hard is that we're often trained, as growing Christians, to do it wrong. We're taught that forgiveness is forgetting about the wrong that was done to you. Letting it go. Getting over it. Moving on. Treating it as if it never happened. It's true that when it comes to our forgiveness, that's how God does it...He has's what He does. However, we're not God. We're human. We're broken. When God offers His forgiveness He CAN forgive and forget...He's God. It doesn't happen like that for us. It's OK for us to admit, and acknowledge that we've been hurt. It's OK to have an emotional, feeling, response to that. It's OK to struggle with letting it go:

How many times,
Must I stand in the waves 
Of this crashing sea?
How many times,
Must I forgive all the hurt
That's been done to me?
Let the jury go, set the sinner free
Seventy times seven

When Peter asks Jesus about forgiveness, the answer is very telling about God's understanding of us...and how we have a hard time letting things, especially our pain and hurt, go. The great part about forgiveness is that Jesus offers us the lead, He's the role model, He stands there waiting to help us, if we'll let Him:

Follow his lead
Let the madness recede
When we shatter the cycle of pain
Oh, we will live to forgive

Come find release
Go make your peace

I saw a Man
With a hole in His hand
Who could offer the miracle cure
Oh, He said live, I forgive
(Oh, He said live, I forgive)

Jesus offers us a cure! He offers us healing, we just have to follow the prescription. It's important, as we move through the process of forgiveness (the cure) to realize that we may not see the results overnight. When was the last time you had to get a prescription for something and everything was all better after you took the first dose? Seriously, we have no problem understanding that it takes time for our bodies to heal, yet we rarely give our hearts the time they need. We fight healing. I fight healing.

The last song I heard didn't have much to do with forgiveness. It was a reminder though, a reminder that forgiveness can take time, and I really need to forgive myself more. I need to stop getting mad at myself when I forget and let some of that past hurt and pain steal my lunch:

Solomon was the wisest man 
But I guess not wise enough 
He forgot the Blesser 
When the blessing were too much 
Now I know I swing with Solomon 
Between the left and right 
How I wish that I could find a place 
Where I'd be satisfied 
(Don't wanna deny You, don't wanna turn from You) 

After all, Solomon was the wisest man in the Bible...but he still screwed up. He forgot. As I listened to that last song, especially after the message of the previous two, I could hear God whispering to me, "Son, listen, you've got to lighten up on yourself. Don't hold yourself to a higher standard than I do. It's ok, really. Just give it to me. I'll take care of it. Give yourself more time, let me do my thing."

Father, I come to you in brokenness. You now my heart, who I need to forgive. When anger and bitterness start to steal my lunch, please remind me about the holes in Jesus' hands. Help me offer those hurts and pains to Him, to you, and to continue down this path of forgiveness.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Yes I Will

What a great night for a walk! I'm starting to like getting my exercise in after the sun goes down. Not sure if that's the best time of day for it, but it seems to suit me well. I enjoy the dark and the peace and quiet that comes with it. There's plenty of lighting along my route, but it's not overwhelmingly bright; so, it's not like I feel unsafe being out at night. Of course, I'm six foot six and have a "full frame"...not sure if I've ever really felt "unsafe" at night.

The best part of exercise is that it's putting me back in touch with some of the over 19,000 songs in my iTunes library. I've got a few playlists that I like to shuffle through and I find myself constantly saying, "what a great song! I forgot I had that in my library."

As I hustled around the apartment complex tonight, Bryan Duncan's Yes I Will popped up in my playlist. It's a song from the late 90's, which was probably the last time I consistently listened to a Christian radio station prior to February, 2011. I don't remember the last time I heard this song, but I'm glad I heard it tonight.

The message is pretty simple and straight forward. It's a conversation that's far too familiar for Christians; the father of lies says, "You're not special. You don't matter. You'll never make a difference." Our response is....?

Admittedly, all too often, we, or at least I, have respond to those lies with, "you're probably right." As I listened tonight, I was reminded that that's not how God feels about me. My Father says, "You are special. You do matter. You can/will make a difference." God's love allows me to shout back, "Yes I am, yes I do, and yes, sir, yes I will!"

I don't remember if Yes I Will was a huge hit. I remember hearing it on the radio, but it was 14 years ago, so...all that matters is that it was a "hit" tonight.

Father, I bring my brokenness to you. As I grow in your love, help me respond to the lies that can't stand up to your truth...the lie that I'm not special, the lie that I don't matter, the lie that I won't make a difference...with the consistent affirmation that, "Yes, I am! Yes, I do! Yes, sir, yes, I will!"

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Zoe Jane

I took a road trip today (150 miles round trip counts as a road trip, right?) to share a good meal with an old friend I hadn't seen in a few months. The time on the road gave me a 3 hour window for listening to some of my favorite tunes. There was a time, not long ago when the radio in my car was always on talk radio...usually sports...or it wasn't on at all. That changed about a year a half ago. I got up one morning, left the house, and when I got in the car I turned the radio to a local Christian radio station. I haven't listened to talk radio more than a few times since then.

On my way home, somewhere around Ann Arbor, Zoe Jane came up in the playlist. It's a secular song...yes, I listen to secular music, the group Staind. Theology aside, it's a song that touches me at my core. The writer shows a longing for a daughter he's not going to see often enough. I know that feeling. I understand that longing in a way even he probably doesn't.

I want to hold you,
Protect you from all of the things I've already endured.
I want to show you,
Show you all the things that this life has in store for you.
I'll always love you,
The way that a father should love his daughter.

The chorus takes me back to the night I held Miranda and said goodbye to her. So much brokenness, so much hurt, yet so much peace...I'm thankful for the 3 days I had with her, but all I wanted was to hold her forever, in that moment. Reflecting on this reminds me of how much the Father wants to do the same for me. He wants to hold me, protect me, show me the things that he has in store for me, and love me the way no earthly father can love his son.

Father's Day is second one without her. I do realize that where she's at is so much better than here, she's with The Father; but, the ache in my heart still cries out, "I want to hold you...I'll always love you, the way that a father should love his daughter."

God, thank you for the promise of your unfailing love. I offer my brokenness to you. I offer you the longing of my heart. May it be filled with your love.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Before the Throne of God Above

I went for a walk at 10:30PM this evening (yesterday, actually, since my clock is telling me it's after midnight.) The day was hot, over 90 out, so I waited until the sun had set before even thinking about going out. I probably could have walked earlier and been fine; it was only about 30% humidity when the temperature peaked, a rare condition here in Michigan...dry heat. Of course, that's neither here nor there...

I listen to the music on my iPhone when I walk. It's about the only time I listen to music on my phone. The rest of the time it's pretty much just a phone, or a map, or a book, or a camera, or...well, you get the idea. Tonight I was listening to Chris Rice's Peace Like A River: The Hymns Project. Some people like rock and roll when they exercise, other's like pop, others like hip-hop...I lean more towards praise and worship. Work the body, work the soul. Two birds, one stone.

As I entered the final few hundred yards of my walk, the last song of the album came on...Before the Throne of God Above. It was written 149 years ago, by Charitie Lees Smith, and was originally titled The Advocate. I almost didn't make it home. The powerful lyrics swept over me, nearly bringing me to my knees right there on the sidewalk outside of my apartment. I hate it when a song does that to me...I love it when a song brings me to that place.

You see, I've been struggling a lot since I lost Sara and Miranda. Not just with grief, but with God. You see, I want to make sure I get there, I want to make sure I make it to that glorious reunion; the time when all things are made new. My problem has always been handing control of my life over to Him.

I recently listened to a message from John Lynch, of TrueFaced, and learned that my focus has been on the wrong type of living, the wrong type of giving Him control. I've been trying to live a life of pleasing God, instead of living a life of trusting Him. There's not room here for me to explain the message in whole, but it really boils down to the fact that trusting God IS pleasing God. Living a life of trying to please Him usually ends in failure and frustration. Living a life of trusting in Him leads to a life of grace, and grace is where I need to spend more time living. John and his buddies wrote a book about it...guess I should give it a read, you might want to, too. Trusting Him means living as He sees me, with nothing but love. It means standing WITH Him, beside Him, to work on my issues TOGETHER. You see, I CAN'T fix myself, but I know someone who can:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea:
A great High Priest, whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in Heaven He stands,
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because a sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace!
One in Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God.

Abba, Jesus, I volunteer for brokenness. Stand beside me, let me feel you standing beside me, looking at this life rearranged. Help me trust you more a little each day, for you are my path to pleasing God. I can not please Him on my own...ever. You stand in my place, covering me with grace, undeserved, freely given.