Sunday, February 24, 2013

Because of Them ...

The one on the left is 13 now.  The one on the right is staring down the barrel of 16 in just a few more months.  It's an understatement to say that time has flown by ...

But they are really at the heart of why I'm feeling this longing to renew my connection with my part in God's Story.  You see, I have a duty to pass on the best view of that Story to them so they can make the best choices for their own stories.  It reflects the relational heart of God for all of us.

I know I make mistakes - far too often to even count.  But I am beginning to realize that my mistakes grieve God not because I broke "some code" but because I have chosen to walk away from the greatest gift I've ever been offered.  I make my choice to tell God, "Hey!  What you offer is great and all, but I think I'll try it my way for a while.  You'll still be there when I'm done, right?"  And God is still there, but he's sadder because I chose to turn away, even if for a little while.  And that brings me back to my girls.

As my pastor said today, I am part of the I AM.  That needs to sink in and have an effect on how I view my world.  When I choose to write my own definitions for everything, I choose a weaker, darker story.  And, by extension, I pass that along to those who matter the most to me - my wife and daughters.  I make it harder for them and others I encounter to choose a better part in God's Better Story.

So, as a part of this Lenten reawakening, I want to offer the best choices to my wife and especially to my girls.  I want to claim the best part of God's Story consistently.  I know I will miss it (and do so often), but I want to continue coming back to God's Story, erasing what I've written without his guidance, and joining with him to continue creating the best part possible for me and my girls.  I owe it to them as their father and as one who wants them to love God with all their hearts.  I have a unique opportunity and a duty ... because of them.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Re-Entering The Story

I haven’t written regularly for some time.  I put myself on a pretty rigid schedule for a little over 2 years and managed to post near weekly blogs and even have them in a position to end up as books (that’s a different project).  All this time, even while I have written a few posts on special themes, God has been encouraging me about how my own story fits within His bigger story.  I’ve read books, seen little bits of writing, heard people talk - and all of it seems to point back to a singular theme.  So, as I begin this next leg of travel on the Crooked Path, I want it to be more about how God invites me - and all of us - to enter His story, claim it for our own, and explore the wonderful opportunity to create as He inspires us.  If I’ve learned one thing in the past few years, I’ve learned that God quite literally died to have a relationship with me.  He did so to have a relationship with you.  He stands, open armed, without condemning us and asks us to join and follow Him as He leads.

This is my Lenten offering for 2013.  Not so much what I give up, though I am giving up my own tendency to despair and pull back.  My Lent is more about what I am taking on.  I want more than ever to explore in a fresh way my part in God’s story.

Just this week, the e-mail I get from John Eldridge’s organization offered me this thought:

“God gave us a remarkable choice. He did not make Adam and Eve obey him. He took a risk. A staggering risk, with staggering consequences. He let others into his story, and he lets their choices shape it profoundly.”

I want to choose the best story possible and see where God takes me.  I want to reflect that story and those choices to my wife, my daughters, my friends, and everybody I meet.  I want my journey on this Crooked Path to be one of ultimate joy and freedom - not because of who I am, but because of the One who gives me the choice to shape my part in The Story.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Rhythms of Grace

Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: "Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You've concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that's the way you like to work." Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. "The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I'm not keeping it to myself; I'm ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen. "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." (Matthew 11:25-30, The Message)

Sometime back, I was listening to a CD while I was driving. It happened to be a compilation of old Don Francisco tunes, and one in particular caught my attention. The song “Give Your Heart a Home” speaks of our struggle to do things for ourselves and the empty failure that brings. It uses the passage quoted above as Jesus’ voice beckoning us to lay down our own burdens, yoke with Him, and let Him give us true rest and a home. I had been thinking about that song and how Scripture (especially the passage in Matthew) called out to us in our deepest need and want, but I hadn’t been able to bring it all together to the point where I felt like I could write about it … until my pastor, Sam, spoke on it in his sermon.

The call of Jesus in Matthew 11 is not a simple “greeting card” wish for us to come away and find a quick respite in the midst of some momentary difficulty. In fact, the call here is a direct extension of what Jesus taught in the Beatitudes about who heaven was meant for … the lowest of the low among creation. God beckons us to leave behind life spent living without Him and trying to bear a burden we cannot possibly bear. As Francisco’s song said, we spend what we don’t have to buy an emptiness that cannot fulfill. We are lost souls faced with continual disappointment and disillusionment. Our empty hearts cry out for something … anything … that will stave off the pain we feel in the very depths of our being. And in the midst of this, God calls.

Jesus invites us to join with Him and promises a rest from our struggle that we so desperately need. He doesn’t want our religious efforts, hollow as they are. He wants our hearts. He has already paid the price and offers the promise that His burden is light and His yoke is easy. His path is intentionally crooked, as I’ve discussed before, but He offers us something we cannot get elsewhere.

And, taking Him up on his offer, we travel the crooked path not without a companion or a plan. Rather, we travel it yoked to a Divine Brother who leads us and guides us and bears far more of our burden than we can possibly imagine. And as we walk forward, linked with our Master and Savior, we move to the unforced rhythms of Grace.

Our Friend Jesus offers a kind of rest that truly brings new life, a recovered life. We lay our head against His shoulder, and lean on Him, accepting His strength as the substitute for what we cannot do ourselves. And resting on the Rabbi’s shoulder, we hear in the rhythm of grace, His heartbeat keeping time. It isn’t a simple vacation or refreshing getaway, it is the rest of a lifetime. No longer lost souls, our heart has found a permanent home, and our travel along the crooked path lifts and lightens in His presence.