my search to understand the bigger picture


Monday, January 31, 2011

I took a few hours last week Thursday to sit down, have some coffee, and try my hand at writing something specific. I actually intended to sit down and hope to write a song (never tried this before), but this poem came out instead. It's my first draft, but I'm not sure I will make any changes, at least not for now. It was based off of portions of Isaiah 42 and 43 from The Message Remix. Enjoy.
You With Me, Me With You

You’ve said once, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”.
Many times I wonder, what made you
Commit to something so painful
When most of the time I’m acting so woeful?
You guide me, direct me,
Never let me go.
Even when I struggle with things
I already should know.
You tell me not to be afraid,
Reminding me that my debt’s already been paid.
You don’t keep me from trouble;
Instead you help me navigate those nasty bubbles.
You’re more interested in helping me grow than keeping me safe,
In developing my trust in you than keeping a steady pace.
You allow me to come between rocks and tough spaces,
Yet keep those from becoming my final resting places.
When I focus on you I can walk on water;
Without you is when I begin to falter.
Instead of removing nasty crevasses in life,
You guide me step by step around that strife.
My trust in you is what You’re after,
Like a safety net as I swing from rafter to rafter.
I’ll blindly follow wherever you lead me,
Trusting You wholeheartedly, even completely.
You are my personal God, the love of my life;
Your Word penetrates my heart with a knife.
Application is my biggest issue;
Desperate to follow You, trying not to miss You.
I love how much you love me;
How You desire my eyes open to see
What you have destined for me to become,
All my thoughts and actions driven by the One
Who’s called my name, claimed me as His own,
Your love for me forever I’ve known.
Allowing you to guide step by step is a real adventure,
Who would ever want to wander down a road they know is sure.
That doesn’t help me to trust You,
Knowing that is as adventurous as a petting zoo.
As scary as it is I want adventure, I want danger;
To live any other way would just be stranger
Than anything I’ve ever known.
Created to live a safe life….not why I’ve been born.
I’m ready to enter this great battle with You as my ally,
Are you ready to hear me shout my battle cry?
It’s You with me,
Me with You.
I can hear Lord Elrond tell Aragorn, “Put aside the Ranger, become who you were born to be.”
That’s what I want Jesus, for You to welcome me
Into a story much larger than myself,
Something that requires your great wealth
Of love, knowledge, tools, and guidance.
All there to help me shout “GOOD RIDDANCE”
To the devil who so diligently attacks,
Striving in all ways possible to break my back.
He’s there at every corner trying to trip me up,
But yes, it’s true, God’s right there to back me up!
Remember, He’s here to take my hand when I don’t know the way,
Especially when it feels like I’m searching for a needle in the hay.
God specializes in rescue missions,
Situations that require His defeat of Satan’s evil minions.
Christ desperately loves us more than we know,
His only hope is that our love for Him will grow
Into something mature and powerful;
Ready to serve others, that’s no bull.
I’ve learned to believe that God’s heart is good,
Never have to worry about knocking on wood.
Yes, He is wild at heart,
Why would I want Him to play any other part?
Life was not meant to be dull and boring,
What joy is there in that kind of story?
No, I feel alive when I’m huffing and puffing,
With every breath that’s in me struggling.
That’s when I really get to see God come through,
And prove to me that His word is indeed true.
I love you Lord, this I know,
Thank You for loving me, and helping me to grow!
You’re the love of my life, a life I offer to You…..
Ok God, it’s Your turn, You know what to do.
Give me more adventure, chances for me to grasp your hand,
Trusting you completely, to guide me to land
That You’ve prepared for me since the beginning of time,
Spending eternity with you, won’t that be sublime!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Overdose


Around every corner is the lure to consume.

A desire to be satisfied.

Unfortunately no human being has found anything under the sun that brings satisfaction.

So we consume more, and more, and more.

Eventually we overdose.

However, there is hope if Christianity is our rehab.

In Jesus satisfaction can be found. Grace, love, peace and hope can be found....and there is always more.

Consume more of Jesus.

OVERDOSE.

This was on the inside jacket cover of Lecrae's latest album, called Rehab: The Overdose. I like it because this is exactly what's been on my mind lately; my attempts to satisfy myself with consuming things. Even tonight, I found myself wishing I could even just go to Goodwill to get a couple of clothes that were new to me. Why? Do I need anymore clothes? Um, my closet is overflowing with stuff. In fact, I have so much, most days I have a hard time deciding what to wear because of the sheer volume of it all. I mean, for real, I've got issues!

Where does this desire for more come from? Satan, plain and simple. I believe it's one of a thousand different distractions he's waged against us to take our eyes off of Jesus. It doesn't take much to "convince" me that all I need is something new to make me happy. And then the next day it's the same thing all over again. Things will never bring about the satisfaction I so desperately desire. So why do I run from the one thing I know will bring that satisfaction?

Christ came to give us life to the fullest. Most people I know with tons of "stuff" are always consumed with the newest stuff that's going to come out or just has come out. Rarely are people like me satisfied with simply knowing Jesus.

I'm ashamed of this. And that's why I'm confessing this today to the few who will read it. Much of the time my desire for things outweighs my desire for God. This ought not to be. I can say the right things, and even do the right things. But more often than not, if I let my mind wander, it heads down the road of dreaming about stuff, rather than focusing on Christ. I am a sinful man.

When you see me, ask me if I'm thinking about God or thinking about stuff. I want to be a person that has been transformed by Jesus in my life. I want to search and desire only Him, and nothing of this world. I don't want to be a slave to things anymore. I only want to be a slave to Christ.

I WANT TO OVERDOSE ON JESUS!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Dark Side



A few nights ago, the dark side of me came out. It crept out of nowhere, and I hardly noticed. Almost as if it was surfacing from some secret place deep within me.

Let me explain.

Tuesday was an incredibly long day for me. The kind where you get up before the rest of your family, and you get home after the kids have gone to bed. A long day. Period. The final 2 1/2 hours were especially stressful because the temperature dropped after having fog most of the day, making the roads incredibly slippery. (at one point I was going 5mph and still sliding to a stop.) I got off of work half an hour later than I was supposed to, and a 15 minute drive home (normally) took about 45.

At one point, traffic stopped because of an accident. I could see a few squad cars, some wrecked vehicles (one on it's side), and a tow truck up ahead. The longer we sat the more aggitated I became. Soon, I was shouting at the top of my lungs, wanting the traffic to get by the accident so that I could get home. My knowledge as to the severity of the accident was extremely limited.

Suddenly I became grotesquely aware of the dark side exploding out of me. I had no concern about those involved in this accident. My ONLY concern was to get home, and I was irate that someone else's accident was keeping me from my goal. This wasn't just a minor frustration or irritation at postponing getting home a few minutes later. There was deep rooted evil lurking!

I can hear some of you now. "Come on Thad (rolling of the eyes), lighten up will you?" I'm telling you, this scared me. It scares me to think of how much evil there is hiding beneath the surface in my life. Much like with Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars movies, he was seduced, not in an over the top, turn to the dark side of the force or else kind of scene. He was seduced by tiny whispers, seeds planted in his mind over and over. Lies that he knew were not right, yet he never really renewed his mind to THE Truth.

We've got to guard our hearts as God instructs us friends. We must keep a careful watch for the subtleties of the enemy. I don't mean let it occupy your mind 100% of the time. But let's take inventory from time to time of ourselves, asking God to reveal any unclean thing in our minds and spirits. Let's ask the Holy Spirit to remove any impure motive or thought. Let's ask God to give us a growing distaste for the things that distract us from Him.

When my life should be marked by my love of God and others, this moment found me only consumed with myself. Let's start taking our faith seriously, and start acting like mature Christians. And maybe, just maybe, the next time I see an ambulance or accident, instead of being upset, I can take a few minutes to pray for the safety of those involved.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Abundance

Is it just me, or do many Americans have a problem with materialism? We want the next big thing simply because it's the next big thing! (at least that's how I tend to operate) This book I'm reading on Sabbath has been great; not only giving me insight and ideas into how to celebrate Sabbath in my own way, but also tremendous insights in other areas of life.

For instance, the author says, "I know people who worry they will not be able to stop worrying. I know people who can't fall asleep because they are worrying about not being able to fall asleep......Worry is the fear of emptiness. We think, How will I live if I am called to suffer in this way without end and with no clarity or explanation? Worry obsesses about how our life will be ruined if certain factors outside of our control do not change. Worry extends regret to the future as it anticipates a sorrow too great to endure."

I think I'm addicted to worry.

I think many of us are. Last night I made a mental list of all the things I worry about, and if they are valid or not. Out of a list of 10 or so, maybe 1 was legitimate. AND I STRESS MAYBE. I create issues in my head before they even exist! (how many of you know what I'm talking about?) I take something potentially difficult, and twist and morph it until it becomes something that keeps me awake at night, stomach in knots. The sad thing is this situation I've created hasn't even occured yet; I don't even know if it will happen or not!

I've been a slave to worry.

And then, Allender wrote something that snatched me back to reality. "Sabbath requires the release of worry and invites us to trust........Both worry and regret are satanic."

DOHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Think Homer Simpson)

Most of what consumes my worrisome thoughts are things like.....

>What if our savings account runs out?
>What if we can't pay our bills?
>What if the bank takes our house away?
>What if I can't provide food for my family?

What is noteworthy, is that none of these has yet to even come close to passing. So why do I worry about it? I HATE THAT ABOUT ME!

And then later last night I came across this quote from the book Sabbath. "Abundance is not about possession; it is utterly, completely, and solely about gratitude."
Yes, that's it! Abundance is about gratitude. Usually, when I can switch gears and turn my mind towards thanking God for all I do have, the worry leaves in a hurry! My mind shifts back from imaginary waves, to the creator that I'm walking on the water towards. Allender also states, "We must develop a taste for abundance on the Sabbath, or we will not be prepared for the glory that is ahead."
Honoring and celebrating the Sabbath is not a negotiable command. (4th commandment) It is meant to be everything we need. And I intend to start giving it the attention it deserves in my life.

How about you?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sabbath

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I'm currently about half way through this book. I received it as a Christmas present from my parents this year, and honestly didn't know what to expect. Usually we enjoy the same type of books, but I can't remember ever reading a book on the Sabbath, so I was a little nervous.


Ever read a book that drove an arrow into such a deep place in your heart that you wanted nothing more than to read through it all in one sitting, and yet, had to force yourself to slowly digest every word because it struck so deep a nerve? Welcome to my experience with this book. I've been crawling through it for about a week now, reading half a chapter here, a few pages there. Even though I recognize that I could easily go back and read it a second and third time, I absolutely don't want to miss anything the first time around!


There was one sentence this morning that captured my heart. One of my best friends is moving to Phoenix this weekend, and last night another buddy and I took him out as a final hurrah, a farewell without it being an everlasting goodbye. In the book, the author is discussing a moment in time where he and his wife invited 2 other couples to share in their celebration of Sabbath for that week. They got to a point of sitting after dinner, sharing wonderful conversation. And then he wrote this,


"WE KNOW ONE ANOTHER WELL ENOUGH TO TELL TRULY TRUE STORIES, YET NOT SO WELL THAT WE KNEW WHAT STORIES WOULD BE TOLD."


To me, it's almost as if that's what last night was for me, beautifully penned for me this morning as I read. Last night seemed to be one of those magical nights, encounters with friends where nothing special happens, and yet it brings such joy to the soul. We probably ran through most emotions as we shared some frustrations past and present, talked some of the future, and laughed so hard that we cried simultaneously. We were honest, and yet did not necessarily know what would come out of each other's mouths.


And as I've sat and thought about that time this morning, I've felt the emotions of sadness at one friend moving away, and yet felt extreme gratitude that God has blessed with me such friends! Amazingly, I have more friends with which to share memories such as this in the coming weeks, months, and years. Beyond that, and more importantly, God's graciously given me such an amazing family with which to do life. In a world where so many people are detached from the rest of humanity, I've been blessed beyond measure with great people surrounding me.


Which brings me back to thoughts on the Sabbath. While I'm surrounded by people far greater than I, I am struck by how little I search for moments like last night with Jesus. Rarely do I sit at his feet, share a meal with Him, share a laugh with him, talk about life, etc. In fact, my church is beginning a series on Eating and Praying God's Word. Very timely for me I think. Many of those close to me would say I'm crazy, that I spend lots of time with Jesus, and my "devotional" life is something they appreciate about me. Not trying to be prideful here, many have shared that with me.


But there's a difference between going through the motions and FULLY ENGAGING with Jesus. Lately I've been a motion person, and I'm craving more and more a full engagement with Jesus. So, I'm going to continue crawling through this book, soaking up every morsel in it, and look for more time to devote to Jesus.


My question to you? How are you being challenged right now? This is THE time of year where people have made new resolutions, goals, etc. Let's hear them! How do you want life to be better? What's your plan to get there? Me, I need more of Jesus in my life. So, I'm going to start investing more in a weekly Sabbath.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Siberian Express 2011 & Good Friends

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I got to run the Siberian Express last minute today, thanks to some friends of mine. I wasn't sure I'd be doing any races at all this year, but things just happened to work out that I could make it today. Two buddies of mine came along, Scott Olthoff and Tom Roth. I spent the early part of 2010 running almost every weekend with these two characters as I trained for Comrades Marathon. We even traveled to St. Louis together for a weekend to run that marathon. It's been a long while since I've been able to run with them since my changing jobs, so it was really good to connect with the two of them today.

There's really no other way I'd love to run than on the trails. I love being out in God's creation, enjoying the beauty of the natural surroundings. I've done plenty of road running in my day, and will continue to do so. But I'm really hoping to add more trail running into my training regimen this year, especially since decent trails are only a 15 minute drive from my house, and literally right outside the door of my church job. No excuses this year baby!

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What I love about trail running is that typically it's a much more relaxed environment than road races. Sure there are some people who are talented enough to challenge for a victory, but most of us are out there for the pure joy of it. Trail runners are definitely a different breed, and it's always interesting to see all the different types of people that frequent a trail race. I love the comraderie, community, and deeply personal feel of trail events. They just seem to bring out the best in folks. Here's one final video to leave you with.......

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stripping Down To The Bare Essentials

I was having some trouble uploading a particular video from vimeo, so I've done so to my facebook page. Watch that first and then read this.



About half way through this clip, Anton Krupicka says that running, and even life for him is about stripping down the amount of gear to the bare essentials. That thought has stuck with me for almost 2 weeks now. I haven't been able to let that sentence go. As I've wrestled with it over and over, the reality that struck me was that's my problem.



I make life too complicated. My tendency is to make my relationship with God too complicated. My focus can so easily shift to everything but those few things that matter most. It's all too easy for me to pick up the latest Christian book, blog, podcast instead of simply picking up my Bible and spending time with Jesus. No matter what arguments you make, spending time reading or listening to what someone else has learned about themselves and Jesus, does not automatically mean you have spend time with Jesus. I can't fully get to know my wife by talking to her best female friend about her. I've got to personally spend time with my wife!



And it's that way with Jesus. Sure, books, blogs, podcasts, even music can help us with knowing Him better. However, there just isn't any substitute for spending time with Him. Period. Try to argue with me on that. My wife would much rather me learn about her by spending time with her, rather than me talking about her with her friends.



Sure, there are more days than not that I'd rather read Donald Miller, Rob Bell, Shane Claiborne, than my Bible........



That's a big problem! I think Satan has waged an invisible war against us, with the purpose of keeping us as far away from the Scriptures as he possibly can. I have found the more that I take this battle to Satan, the more I want to read my Bible, and spend time with Jesus. The focus becomes more and more on Christ, and Christ alone.



Stripping things down to the bare essentials. We don't need any more gimmicks. We don't need any more resources. We need to take our time and efforts back to THE source, and sit at the feet of Jesus.



Are you with me?

Shut up Legs



Simple.

Direct.

Sometimes what I need is a swift, simple, direct, kick in the butt! Ya know what I mean? Seriously, sometimes it really is mind over matter. I definitely have found that to be true in running. It's as much mental as physical. In fact, it may even be more mental than physical when it comes to accomplishing a particular goal.

Life is not altogether different in that regard. I am as good as anyone at pissing and moaning the moment something doesn't go my way. I can complain with the best in the business. It's so easy to place my focus on the water and waves instead of Jesus (potentially unclear Peter walking to Jesus on water reference). Life truly is all about perspective.

This has been an issue as of late for me. Life from an American point of view has been difficult this past year (2010). And even after taking my first trip to Africa, and meeting one of our sponsored daughters, I still so easily forget how amazing I do have it! As American's we comprise roughly 4% of the world's population, and a HEAVY majority experience life in no way, shape, or form the way that we do. Even in my stressful state, I've got it made comparitively speaking. And that's when I need to tell myself, "SHUT UP LEGS!" In other words, "Deal with it! Get over it! Stop whining!"

Seriously, what is it about me that I think as a Christian life should be easy! Where did I learn to buy into that lie? When did I become so lazy? Who wants an easy, boring life anyways? Is that really any way to live? I feel most alive when I am being challenged, and definitely not when I'm coasting. If I'm doing my job by growing in Christ and influencing those around me, then Satan's gonna be pissed and come at me from all angles. What about that battle would be easy? And, just because life may get a little challenging, does that automatically mean it's an attack? Or is that just the way life goes sometimes in the fallen state we live in? Either way, I constantly have to tell myself, "Buck up bro!"

"Shut up legs indeed!" Really, if all I do is constantly nag, complain, and whine, then maybe God is better off if I don't claim Him. Better yet, maybe I should just step up, take my swift kick in the pants, grow up, and forge ahead with a renewed vision to serve Christ with everything I've got! Yeah, shut up legs! Suck it up partner, we've got unfinished business to accomplish here!

What are your thoughts?