We were made in the image of a community.
Our new EP “Islands” is available on ITUNES & Amazon today!
Family Christian Stores will carry physical copies starting next week.
We just couldn’t wait until this fall to release new music,
so we dreamed this baby up with our label.
Couldn’t be more proud of this music.
Hope you love it.
Hope you sing it.
Hope you live it.
Just Getting By
(Why are We Islands: part 3)
No man is an island, but these days, seems like there’s more and more water to cross. Ironic. I thought all our social constructs were supposed to keep us from drifting apart. Wasn’t all our technology supposed to bring us together? And if being connected is easier and easier, why do I feel like we’re just getting by?
Last week I stood in an airport, and watched my fellow travelers build worlds in the sky. People all around me, and no one was looking up. A sea of heads bent down, eyes fixed on a screen, passing the time; passing by the strangers. A pseudo-community fortifying our private fantasies. It struck me, perhaps we’re all learning to be seen, but forgetting how to see.
Capitalism in the social sphere.
Is that a fair statement? Smallest investment, greatest reward. Is this what our encounters are becoming? Is it even worth talking to anyone face to face when they’re not offering us a retweet or a follow back? Are we cultivating a spirit of elitism with our obsession with numbers, but just masking it in spiritual language? ”We’re not narcissistic, we’re influential!” “We’re not fame-mongering, we’re building our platform!” I couldn’t shake the feeling, slowly but surely, we’re trading in community for a cleaner, neater, more manageable counterfeit.
Of course, we only want what the human race has always wanted. We want freedom from the curse. We want the glory we lost in the Fall. We want to take the thorns and thistles out of life. Problem is, if we humans are going to love other fallen humans we’re gonna get pricked. Love cannot be acquired without sacrifice, for “this is how we know what love is…”
Maybe this is melodramatic, but I firmly believe if we want deep friendships it will cost us more than a quick glance at our phone. It will cost us time with people who don’t boost our public profile. It will cost more than a text, more than an email. It will require our entire life.
Day in, day out.
Jesus climbs down the social ladder and dies for us, and so it should come as no great surprise, to have a real, live, loving community around us, we will have to die too.
to our right to be offended.
to our need to be apologized to.
to our obsession with convenience,
to our dream of love without sacrifice.
But who wants that? Who wants to “bear with one another’s faults?” Who wants to weep with the weeping? (especially when we feel like rejoicing?) Who wants to rejoice with the rejoicing? (especially when we feel like weeping?) Who wants to throw a party and invite the weak, sick, and awkward (Jesus said to invite the people who can’t pay you back) Friendship’s not really worth the effort Is it? After all, online friendships are easier to manage. We can come and go as we please. We can give and take as we see fit. People can be blocked, followed, or disregarded with the stroke of a key, and best of all, no one can infringe upon our sacred independence.
We are supreme.
We are in control.
We are like God.
And yet, unlike God, we are still lonely.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying social media is intrinsically evil. I’ve witnessed it help start and foster amazing ties between all kinds of people who may have never met without it. But, I am saying it’s not enough. Don’t you miss the days when we actually looked at each other? I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of trading the spark in someone’s eye for the glow of a screen. I’m grieved at how much of my life I’ve missed unfolding right in front of me, because I was obsessing over someone else’s highlight reel. Remember, we only post what we want others to see, and no matter how perfect those still frames, we all have pain hiding between the pictures.
So I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what my interaction online will look like in the future, but for now, we’ve started having “dark” times with our family. There’s large parts of the day when we put away our phones and stay off the internet.
I know, CRAZY!!!
We actually sit and stare at each other with nothing to say. And it’s wondrously awkward! We may be bored, but we’re bored together!!! But through our boredom and the silence, we’re finding our way back to each other. We’re seeing one another more than ever before.
When was the last time you hung out with a group and didn’t consult a phone? When was the last time you took a break from social media? Hey, maybe you need to stop reading this post so you can go be with your children. I don’t know what you need to give up, because I’m not gonna be the Holy Spirit in your life, but I’ve got a feeling we all could use some “disconnect.” Ask Him if you’re running from the demands of real relationship for the easy condolences of cyber ones. Ask Him how to “be all here,” wherever you are.
Speaking of which, my computer time is over for the day, so as I close this, let me just say, blogs, Instagram, Facebook…they’re all great places to share, to meet, to be inspired, BUT…like some married friends of mine who met through EHarmony tell me, at some point, “You have to meet face to face.”
Why are We Islands (Part Two)
It keeps us from each other.
Worst of all, shame deafens our spiritual ears. When it rolls over us like a fog over the sea, it has a way of stifling Jesus’ voice crying out, “the healthy don’t need a doctor but the sick do! “I came to save sinners!” It shuts out Paul proclaiming, “this saying is trustworthy and true, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the chief!!!” Even though Jesus made a point of hanging out with tax-collectors, drunks, and prostitutes, shame echoes in the hallways of our soul, reverberating fear until we’re convinced, what we’ve done is worse than the thief on the cross. Our infidelity is worse than the woman at the well. Somehow, our cheating and lying is worse than Zacchaeus’.
My friends, do not let your shame push you into isolation. Do you not see this is exactly what the Enemy wants. He wants you hopeless. He wants your mistakes to define you. He wants to keep you from the blazing center of God’s fierce, ferocious, and unchanging love.
But you don’t have to do this life alone.
Have you heard,
"His kindness leads us to repentance?"
Have you considered,
you can’t be too weak for a Redeemer, only too strong?
Have you ever dared to imagine
Jesus is actually attracted to your weakness?
Why do you think He came down here in the first place?
Please. Please. Please.
Talk to somebody.
"Therefore, confess our sins to one another
and pray for one another,
that you may be healed…”
God not only wants us to confess to Him,
but He wants us to expose our weakness’ to our community.
I know it’s terrifying.
People will judge.
People will condemn.
People will be unmerciful.
But our God not only wants us forgiven,
He wants to see us healed.
When you find a gospel-believing person who hears your transgression and looks back at you with the eyes of Christ and audibly says, “your sins are forgiven,” I promise you, the healing will begin.
Take the chance…today.
Bring your failures into the light.
Stop clinging to man’s estimation of you.
Let the gospel wash over you,
and your honesty will even help set others’ free.
You’ll never know the healing you could give someone else just by letting them know they aren’t the only ones who struggle. What a thing the church would be if we could learn to agree with Paul, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
-2 Corinthians 11:30
My prayer for today; ”Forgive me Lord, for living like I’m not yours. I forget how kind you are. You are light for my foolish heart. Jesus, don’t let our shame drive us to our islands. Give us all new eyes to see your mercy, and new eyes to see one another.
Why are We Islands (In Three Parts)
Part One: For Those Who Can’t Speak
So if “no man is an island,” then why do so many of us live like one? Over the next couple days I’m gonna throw just three of many reasons why I believe we keep ourselves in isolation.
Last night my father and I went to a Red Sox game. Or, as my dad is referring to it, “The Second Boston Massacre!” He’s right too. It wasn’t pretty. The Cubs destroyed our beloved Beaners 16-9 in an absolute slugfest. But to tell the truth, it hardly mattered. In fact, it felt right in some weird way. We were there, because my wife is awesome and sent us there to experience a game together as a Father’s Day present, so win or lose, I was with my Father, and it didn’t matter who won or lost. And besides, my dad grew up in Boston and had to wait until he was 53 to see them finally come home with a World Series, so it wouldn’t be fair for me to see a victory my very first trip to Fenway Park right?
Well…that’s what I keep telling myself anyway.
And, in spite the crushing loss, I had an epiphany. Full on, eyes glazing over, epiphany. I think it was sometime after the bottom of the fifth, in the agony of leaving yet another 3 men on base when something struck me. My dad and I were eating hot dogs. He relaying his mis-adventures from adolescence spent down the street, (which included; a moped, joining the Air Force, and running from the mafia) when I looked up and really saw what was all around me.
And not just any fans. We’re talking the most audacious, loud-mouthed, feisty, fun, and faithful fans on earth. All shapes, all sizes, all ages, all races, the Boston Strong were in full effect. And for four glorious and somewhat painful hours, all those fans were screaming to the bitter end. But what struck me most?
Unified under the banner, “Red Sox,” those fans were free. They were free from the tyranny of self. Free to lift their voice for their team, free to cheer on their city, free to focus their adoration on something so much bigger than themselves.
Now, maybe I’m reaching here, but I believe everything has a root in the spiritual. So it made me sit back in my seat, and wonder what made us do that. Why do we feel the need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves? Why do we gather in stadiums all across the world to cheer on a team? Why do we sacrifice so much time, money, and energy in the name of sport? My conclusion?
Our voices weren’t made to talk about ourselves.
I’ve been studying Jesus lately. It’s always amazing to watch Him in action isn’t it? What’s the most beautiful thing about the life of Jesus to me, is how He relentlessly spent Himself for the will of the Father, and toiled endlessly to lift his voice for those who couldn’t speak for themselves.
He didn’t cheer on the victorious,
He campaigned for the powerless.
He was the ultimate anti-band-wagoner.
He even began his ministry by reading from the book of Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”
I love that. Jesus would have made an amazing Cubs fan. (Haha. Sorry Chicago. You’ll win a Series someday) He spent his entire life for the losing side.
And whenever He stood in front of a crowd, over and over in the gospels we hear this; “And Jesus, looked out on the crowd, and was moved with compassion.”
Here you have the one man, more famous than any player to play any sport in history, the one person who truly deserved world-wide notoriety, and He didn’t care much for it. In fact, it seems to me, Jesus never sought to be seen, rather, He sought to see. The only one worthy of adoration, used his life for those who were dying. He used his influence for the very ones who could never return the investment. He used his voice for those who can’t speak.
So my brothers and sisters, If you truly follow Christ, you will follow him to the least of these. There will be a desire in you to spend your life on those who don’t really offer you anything in return. You will find your voice raising higher and higher to defend those who are lower and lower. Our platforms, our spheres of influence, they won’t be spent for our own acclaim, but instead, we will spend our days on justice, our energy on mercy. And as we do, as we use our voices for those who can’t speak, may we see an other-centered, other-directed kingdom rush down on our cities like the very river of God ushering in more than an allegiance to a team, but a new citizenship in the City of our Lord.
"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another…”
No Man is an Island
"Then God said, "Let us make man in our image…"
This is what the church holds to be true.
Mystery though it may be,
the God we worship is a trinity;
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Now, mystery must be welcomed here as analogies fail.
As Tozer exuded, "When we consider the fearful mystery of Thy Triune Godhead we lay our hand upon our mouth. Before that burning bush we ask not to understand, but only that we may fitly adore Thee,”
Though there is one comparison I’ve found wondrously helpful. Jonathan Edwards compared the Trinity to the sun. The Father is the Star itself. Jesus, the light of the world, He is the beams of light we see, the image of the invisible God. The Holy Spirit? He is what we feel. He is the warmth on our skin, the cause and effect.
Three persons, one essence.
A community if you will.
The trinity is the communal eternal exchange
of other directed love.
And this, my friends, is unimaginably encouraging.
Think about it.
Were God only one person then we may be certain of a great many things about Him, but how could we ever truly know He is loving? I mean, we could know He is strong. We could know He is powerful, but love? Love would be outside his nature, because He could not love until after creating someone to love.
But, if God is uncreated community, existing in perfect relationship with Himself for all time, then we can be absolutely certain He is loving, for love is essential to his very existence!
Love is who He is. It is his nature.
And this also means, He did not create us because He was lonely.
He wasn’t sitting around making people out of boredom or out of some need for fulfillment!
God doesn’t need us, God wants us!
God isn’t waiting to love us once we earn it.
He doesn’t love us, because of who we are,
but because of who He is.
In fact, I would argue
He made us because He was too full of love!
He couldn’t contain the beauty
of this relationship He had within Himself,
so it spilled over into creating the world, and creating us.
We are here, because God is love.
And since are made in the image of a community,
it should be of no great surprise Jesus does not merely call us into relationship with Himself. (It isn’t just “Me and my homeboy Jesus”) He also calls us into relationship with His body, the church. Which is fantastic, because it calls us to the same supernatural love He bestows on us. In case you hadn’t figured this out yet, the church is full of struggling people. It’s full of people who aren’t “worthy of love,” by human estimation. But that’s the beauty of it, we get to love them the way we were loved. Tapping into the unearned, unstopping, relentless eternal love of the Trinity, we are suddenly given the power and desire to love others as they are, and hopefully, loving them into who they could be.
You and I my friend, we are not meant to be alone.
Even Adam was given a helpmate.
We were made to commune with God and with one another. So, if you’re living like an island, come back to the mainland! No shame is so great, no mistake so large, that you cannot come back to the body! And, If you’re beating yourself up because you’re lonely, don’t do that. You’re made like God! You should feel unnatural in isolation.
"May they all be one, just as you,
Father, are in me, and I in you.”
Or as John Donne famously mused,
"No man is an island."
May the community who made us,
open our eyes to the community all around us.
Waste Time on God
I have struggled to articulate the value of “wasting” time with God over the years. In our modern culture, obsessed with accomplishment and fame, we describe our times with God as our “devotion” times. We take great stock in what God showed us and how vehemently we felt his presence.
We often feel if we didn’t get the tinglies or cry hot tears down our face then we probably did something wrong.
Like most things, we turn disciplines into performances.
We quantize, we scale, and we track our progress.
We prod each other, “Did you DO your devotions today?”
Now, it might not be obvious, but I believe there is a subversive and dangerous gravity that eats away at us when we look at our relationship with God as something we must do, as opposed to something we’ve been brought into. It’s a slippery slope when you break down a living-breathing connection into bullet points and “how to’s.”
Remember what Jesus said to Martha?
"You busy yourself with many things, but Mary has chosen what is necessary!"
He looked right into the eyes of Martha “do-gooder,” and He questioned her priorities.
And what did Mary do that Martha did not?
She sat at Jesus’ feet.
She just sat there.
Now, if you’re like me, my brain goes nuts if I try and sit in front of God for any great length of time. My prayer time usually includes me walking around in a field and babbling out loud. (which probably makes me look like a madman to any potential spectators) So, to just sit down in front of Jesus, would probably demand I straight jacket myself to a bed post or something.
My friend Jason stumbled across the following quote the other day, and it has renewed my heart for prayer. These following words have breathed into me new life and blanketed grace over my restless, poor praying heart. Besides, Romans 8 says we don’t even know what to pray for as we ought, so the Spirit intercedes for us!
Take heart, friend.
If you struggle to pray, to keep quiet, and tame your thoughts before God, know you’re not alone. And know that it pleases our father’s heart whenever you “waste” time on Him.
Time is best spent when it’s wasted on God.
"My hour in Carmelite chapel is more important than I can fully know myself. It is not an hour of deep prayer, nor a time in which I experience a special closeness to God; it is not a period of serious attentiveness to the divine mysteries. I wish it were! On the contrary, it is full of of distractions, inner restlessness, sleepiness, confusion, and boredom. It seldom, if ever, pleases my senses. But the simple fact of being for one hour in the presence of the Lord and of showing him all that I think, feel, sense, and experience, without trying to hide anything, must please him. Somehow, somewhere, I know that he loves me, even though I do not feel that love as I can feel a human embrace, even though I do not hear a voice as I hear human words of consolation, even though I do not see a smile as I can see a human face. Still the Lord speaks to me, looks at me, and embraces me there, where I am still unable to notice it. The only way I become aware of his presence is in that remarkable desire to return to that quiet chapel and be there without any real satisfaction. Yes, I notice, maybe only retrospectively, that my days and weeks are different days and weeks when they are held together by these regular "useless" times. God is greater than my senses, greater than my thoughts, greater than my heart. I do believe that he touches me in places that are unknown even to myself. I seldom can point directly to these places; but when I feel this inner pull to return again to that hidden hour of prayer, I realize that something is happening that is so deep that it becomes like the riverbed through which the waters can safely flow and find their way to the open sea."
-Henri J. Nouwen
Beginning of Tour and the End of Ego
The Winter Jam Tour starts today.
Arenas full of people.
Hallways of humans.
Lasers, lights, and blast beat induced hysteria.
To be honest, at the beginning of such things, I find myself apprehensive. Not nervous per say, but cautious.
As an artist, there are pitfalls awaiting me around every corner.
Things like falling for the trap of comparison instead of focusing on celebrating others.
Things like drinking in the drug of applause and the dismissal of service.
Things like embracing entertainment over speaking truth.
Things like money, power, and the ambition for success
that might be the greatest threat to the kingdom of God today.
But Mike, it’s a “Christian” tour.
It’s “Christian” music!
Well, not really.
A Christian is a noun, not an adjective.
And last I checked,
Christians are redeemed sinners, not always perfect followers.
So, I’m not going to fool myself into thinking that I’m resistant to such things.
I have to constantly and consistently drink in the presence of God.
I need the love that He has lavished on me to be my fuel,
the glory of God, my ignition,
His kingdom, my aim.
Anything less and all I’ll be doing on that stage is leading people to me.
And Lord knows people don’t need another rock star.
You see, I’ve been staring at Jesus lately and realizing
as ministry gets bigger, it needs to get smaller.
Yes, He spoke to thousands.
He fed the crowds.
But He also fled away to His Father on the mountainside.
He evangelized the multitudes, but He pastored 12.
Doesn’t quite sound like a thriving ministry by today’s standards does it?
But that’s just it.
The wastefulness of grace will not be undermined.
If we’re not willing to serve the one, to embrace the least,
to throw away our precious time
on someone who can’t possibly pay us back,
we ought not ever take the platform in front of thousands.
Or as I’ve said before,
if we don’t want to hold a toilet brush,
we got no business holding a microphone.
if you’re reading this,
let’s stay accountable.
Let’s remind ourselves that we are here to be a gift.
And sometimes the only way to do that
is to look for ways to become small.
For me, it’s going to look like stealing away to play a couple songs for a handful of people.
It will look like coffee with strangers and talking about what matters.
It will be taking time this tour to look into someone’s eyes.
"Fans" security guards, fellow artists…
Last I checked we all bear the image of God, regardless of title.
If only we have eyes to see it.
I’m tired of taking.
I’m tired of chasing what was never meant to be mine.
Glory belongs to our God.
He alone is worthy.
See you on the road.
"We can do no great things, just small things, with great love."
June in October
There’s a child where an empty crib used to lay.
One week ago today,
Another soul found it’s home on the earth.
One week ago today,
another heart-beating, oxygen-breathing
image of God came up for air.
June in October.
My wife and I had our third girl this past Monday.
Well, she had the baby. I just caught her.
7 pounds and 1 ounce of the weight of glory.
Born at home, on her great-grandmother’s birthday.
The doctors told us she was going to be a mis-carriage,
but now, she’s our miracle baby.
October 7th will never be the same.
Now I should mention, the night before June was born,
my sweet wife and I set apart a night out for a bit of spiritual and emotional renewal.
We went to the movies.
We hadn’t been to the movies in what seemed like forever,
and knew with the new addition there wouldn’t be another opportunity in quite a while, so we settled upon a family friendly heart warming tale called, “Prisoners.” You know, the one where Hugh Jackman plays a father whose little girl is abducted?
Yeah, worst idea ever.
I’ll spare you the details, but as you can imagine, this story is every parent’s nightmare. I can’t say for certain, but the anxiety induced from the plot might have been what induced Kelly’s labor. I guess you could say, I wouldn’t “recommend” the film per say, but amidst the horror, there was a line in the film that I knew would change the way I lived my life.
I was floored.
The quote goes something like,
"It’s the war we wage on God. When we take children, it turns parents into demons."
Like I said, it wasn’t what one would call a “date night,” kind of a film, but the quote stuck with me.
I mean, stuck.
For hours, days, even through one of the most significant moments of my life, I’m still thinking about it.
Evil wants to turn me into a demon.
You see, with each of my last two daughters, I really struggled with all the evil waiting for them. When they woke to this world at war, how would they ever make it out alive? I understood why some couples never have children. Why bring a human into existence when we all experience so much hurt? Why allow yourself the possibility of loving something that much, when it could just be ripped away?
A million reasons to not have a baby.
"It turns parents into demons…"
And that’s just it.
Thinking that way, I gave evil exactly what it wants;
to turn me into itself.
A new thought occurred.
What if I was not overcome by evil, but overcame evil with good?
What if there was one who did not revile in return but prayed,
"Forgive them Father, they know not what they do?"
What if all the justice for all the horrors of all the evil was poured out on Calgary?
What if I’ve been freed to be a child of grace?
What if when I’m wronged, I poured into all the empty places?
What if I’m here to reweave the fabric where it’s worn through?
What if redemption is a river, running underneath every single one of my fears?
I used to be worried about all the evil that could befall my children. Now I’m amazed at the possibility of all the good they might bring into the world.
And so it is.
That’s my prayer for baby June.
I pray she’d make the world better, everywhere she goes.
I pray she’d bring light to the dark places.
I pray she’d advance the kingdom,
she would bring reconciliation,
she would overcome evil with good.
And really, it’s my pray for me, for you, for all of us.
every breath in our lungs is another chance to fight against the night.
"How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!”
-Bill & Gloria Gaither
New video journal! “Where Life Will Never Die”
When I think about God,
I have trouble remembering that He has feelings.
Is that a strange thing to say?
I mean, I know that He “loves” me,
and that He “hates” evil,
and I am aware, intellectually,
that He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger,
and abounding in love,
but more often than not,
I forget that He has feelings.
I guess I really shouldn’t forget that,
considering He is the one who thought up
poetry and waterfalls and stand-up comedy,
but I do. Or hopefully I can say, I did.
I was sitting in a fairly large field the other day;
listening, waiting, reading…
and I stumbled upon a verse in Ezekiel.
Now, Ezekiel probably isn’t standard issue reading for
most, and with good reason.
There’s a bunch of crazy stuff going on in there.
God’s on fire.
Angels are flying about on monster trucks with living wheels.
Ezekiel has to lay on his side for a year.
Ezekiel has to cook his food on “the poopie.”
God sends armies to kill and capture “his people…”
Like I said before, it’s a crazy time, and definitely
not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.
But as I was reading in this field, somewhere in middle America,
reading through the chaos and mayhem in the first six chapters of the book of Ezekiel,
I came upon the following words,
"then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations
where they are carried captive, how I have been broken
over their whoring heart that has departed from me
and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols.”
Now, before you start getting fired up that God uses the word “whoring”
just think about this simple statement.
"I have been broken over their whoring heart."
It may not seem like a big deal to you I guess,
sitting at your computer, reading some “blog”
by some “band guy,”
and hearing that God is “broken,”
but, it was a huge deal to me.
To think that the God of the universe.
The God who created mountains and micro-biology,
who made duck-billed platypuses and invented romance,
the God who spoke light from darkness,
and can speak every one of earth’s unending languages,
spoke these words about me.
"I have been broken over their whoring heart."
I don’t even know how to process that.
To think that this huge God who has billions of other
things to worry about, billions of other people to care about,
actually thinks about me. And not only that,
but that He is hurt when I want to spend time with someone else?
You know that’s what this is saying don’t you?
It’s saying that He is heart-broken when we run to other lovers.
God is jealous.
And not only that,
but that He feels, “broken,”
And hopefully that changes things.
It changes how I view Him.
It changes how I view Him viewing me.
It changes how I view my sin.
Donald Miller once said,
"it’s a profoundly different thing to break a rule,
than it is to cheat on a lover.”
Can that really be true?
Can it really be that God is not just Lord and King
and Ruler over everything,
but that He’s a jealous lover who hurts when I run away?
I hope this sticks.
I hope this registers.
May we feel the weight of that.
Subarus, Sex, & Porn Stars
Becoming a father has made me a softy.
I mean, I was a crier even before I had kids, but now?
I was choking up watching a Subaru commercial last night.
A Subaru commercial?! Seriously?
I know, I know.
My man point stock is crashing with every key stroke,
but before you condemn my whimpering,
have you seen this one?
Dude is sitting at the bus stop in the morning with his little girl
when the bus suddenly screeches to a stop and the doors swing open.
His daughter proceeds to give him the most achingly forlorn look I’ve ever seen in the history of the world, as she drearily ascends the steps of terror to cruel and certain elementary isolation.
So what does he do?
He jumps in his car and races beside, constantly peering through the school bus windows to make sure she’s getting along.
And in slow motion you see her with new found friends, laughing at the brilliance of rainbows and all things bright and beautiful.
Punch me in the face.
I’m hysterical at this point.
Well, it’s taken me all night, all morning and a particularly large cup of coffee to work it through, but I think it’s starting to become clear.
That commercial gets to me because no father ever said, “I hope my daughter becomes a porn star when she grows up.”
Even as I’m typing this, my two year old girl just ran up and snuggled her face against my chest. She touched my face, looked in my eyes just along enough to melt me into man-mush, and then scampered off. I don’t where she just went but I’m pretty sure she was scampering.
And I think,
"God, I will do anything to protect her. Even if I have to get my school bus driver’s license and drive the thing myself. Even if I have to clothe her in burlap and cover her in an impenetrable coating of quinoa, I will do anything to keep her safe."
But a chill runs through me.
No matter how many Subarus I buy, or how many baths in Organic milk she takes, I cannot control what happens to her.
And perhaps even scarier? I can’t control what other people will do to her.
Sure, I will educate her.
I will read her stories and applaud her.
I will tell her I’m proud of her.
I will hold her and esteem her.
I will pour myself out to fill her with all the love that I can.
I will arm with her the gospel.
I will cover her in an armor of prayer and joy,
and in every way I can,
I will strive to cultivate the kingdom in her,
and show her how to bring it with her wherever she goes.
But at some point, I will have to let her go into the world.
A world that has seem to forgotten that every girl has a father,
and every woman is some father’s little girl.
Let me talk to the fellas for a second.
I know you’re scared.
I know you don’t feel as loved or as valuable as you long to.
I know you try to push those feelings down by achieving and belittling.
You cover them up with swaggering and bragging.
I know because I have and still do.
Please remember, that if you use some “chick” to make yourself feel valuable, you are using somebody’s baby girl.
Ok. Sure that’s melodramatic.
But it’s true.
And you know it.
Deep down you know what drives you to the computer.
You know what drives you to take advantage.
You know what fuels you to forget that the picture is a person.
As Steinbeck surmised in East of Eden,
”The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved,
and rejection is the hell hefears.”
Rejection is the hell we fear.
Our clamoring for retweets is like cracks in the concrete.
Let’s stop with the excuses.
No more of this “boys will be boys” nonsense.
"If boys will be boys then girls will be garbage."
Let’s own up and let down.
Let down our defenses, pull down the masks.
Own up to the love you’re really after.
We must stop viewing each other as commodity for use and misuse,
for selling and trading, for rule and conquest.
We must present ourselves to one another as gift,
if we are going to stop using one another like currency,
we need to lose our need for such a system.
If we could just;
be filled to overflow,
to bless instead of take,
to gift instead of steal,
then we might just find the love we were always after.
And in the process, we might dry up the fuel that gives demand for girls like mine to become porn stars.
I don’t want my daughters to become porn stars,
and neither will you.
Learn from Steubenville.
Learn from the endless demand and consumption of pornography.
Learn from the millions of trafficked women and children around the world.
Sex will never save you, so save yourself.
And save someone’s daughter in the process.
I fear for my daughters like a man driving a Subaru,
but I also believe in the power of Christ to fill the void that drives our lusts.
And this morning I pray specifically to that end.
I trust you.
And I trust you with these daughters you’ve given me to raise.
But tender Christ you see what has become of us.
You see how we use one another.
Men and women both, we turn each other into objects.
Taking, always taking.
So I come to you Lord asking that you would fill us.
I ask that you would fill the emptiness and the lack of love we feel.
May we know that we are yours, and look upon each other with those eyes.
Sons and daughters, daughters and sons.
Give us life to give.
Give us new eyes to see.
In Your Life-giving name,
WHERE LIFE WILL NEVER DIE
"He was looking forward to the city that has foundations,
whose designer and builder is God.”
This is one of those lessons I feel like I’ll be learning til the day I die.
No matter how many times I tell myself,
I just can’t seem to get it through my thick skull.
I am not home here.
I know. Big shocker, right?
But it is my inability to accept this one simple fact,
that leads me into a whole host of sins.
It leads me into heartache. It lures me into death.
I was born for God. I was born to behold Him,
to love Him, and to be known by Him.
But this land of shadows where I live,
this world that’s cracked and rusted over,
it has clouded my eyes and fooled my heart,
distorting what I know is true.
You see, we all have the unshakable, unnerving, unrelenting,
burning in our belly that just won’t be satisfied,
and the deep engrained knowledge in our soul
that we are made for more than a finite world can give us.
But the real problem isn’t that we can’t be satiated,
it’s that we think we can.
And so we run.
We bend ourselves low in worship to a world
that can never give us we’re truly after.
So now the rub.
If I’m made for the One who made the world,
but I’m destined to live in the world that He has made,
all the while desperately looking for the satisfaction I was created for,
How do I continue on without?
How do I live with the ache?
Well, there’s a whole host of answers to that question
but I will offer you two:
1. We ask Him to Satisfy Us.
Psalm 90:14 says,
"Satisfy me in the morning with your unfailing love."
I love that. First things first,
before I go running mad into this unfulfilling world,
"God, fill me up!"
But of course, sometimes no matter how we beg
and plead with the Lord we still can’t seem to shake
the temptations that are offered us here.
So number 2 is this:
When we remain unsatisfied,
we set our focus on the satisfaction that is coming.
C.S. Lewis so accurately pointed out that if we find in ourselves a desire that this world cannot satisfy, the most logical explanation is that we were made for another world. And I would say that our only hope is to set our gaze fully on the world that is coming.
Last year, I had several friends confess to me that they were trapped in sexual addiction. They couldn’t break away from the screen, no matter how hard they tried. Someone I’m close to committed adultery. It was incredibly difficult to offer any words of hope or any thoughts that might loose the chains and stop the bleeding, but this one verse in Hebrews 11 came leaping off the page to me;
"He (Moses) considered the reproach of Christ
greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt,
for He was looking forward to the reward.”
Ah, that is the rest my restless heart needed, and, it’s what my friends needed to hear. It’s what I needed to hear.
We fight the temptation of pleasure with the promise of greater pleasure.
So whatever fight you’re in, whatever temptation claws at the back of your mind, Look forward. The reward is coming. He is coming. And he’s bringing a city with Him that is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
"O tempted heart, come alive. I feel you burning inside. O weary soul, lift your eyes, to a city where life will never die. This rusted world, can’t satisfy, there’s nothing here that will survive, but the night will end and the sun will rise on a city where life will never die."
"They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…"
I grew up thinking Jesus wanted to ruin my good time.
Everything I wanted to do,
it seemed like Jesus was always telling me I couldn’t.
My friends would get drunk and party;
I wasn’t allowed.
All the other kids were sleeping around.
Jesus said I had to flee sexual immorality.
When people wronged me it felt so good to be bitter and lord it over them,
but there He was saying,
"Forgive seventy times seven."
So when I went to college and started hanging out with kids who actually enjoyed Jesus, it pretty much blew my mind. I mean, my friends growing up “loved” Jesus, but certainly didn’t like hanging out with Him. We knew the right answers and we knew we were supposed to do what God said to do, but these kids at my college were different.
They wanted to obey God.
They liked obeying Him.
No one was making them.
No one told them they couldn’t get freaky at clubs or drink til they threw up. They just preferred being with God. They’d get together and worship Him for the fun of it. The fun of it? I thought “fun” and “Jesus” were contradictory terms.
To be honest, I had a lot to learn. I still do. But my world changed forever my freshman year of college when Christianity changed from something I had to do, to something I wanted to do.
I experienced Psalm 16:11 first hand.
"In your presence is the fullness of joy,
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
The fullness of joy?
Have you ever even considered that God is for your pleasure?
Now, this seems quite counter intuitive doesn’t it? I mean, isn’t Jesus all about self denial and what not? Isn’t Christianity just putting your head in the sand, grinding it out, and keeping your nose clean? Nothing could be further from the truth.
when Jesus says to deny yourself, He never asks you to do that as an end in itself. He says to deny yourself so that you can follow Him! And everything that’s promised us when we get to Him is an appeal to our pleasure. But the tough part is realizing that in order to get the fullest joy, and the greatest pleasure, you have to do things His way.
You have to wait.
Often times you have to go without.
But you go without so that you can get something better.
It’s like McDonalds versus a fancy steakhouse. The steakhouse may take quite a bit longer, but in the end, it’s far more rewarding than a quick fling with Ronald and his super sizing ways. So then, we flee sexual immorality so that we can know the trust, rest, and joy of a sexual encounter protected by the strong walls of covenant. It takes denial, sure, but as a means to a lifetime of more reward. It can seem like Jesus is against our pleasure because we’ve believed the lie that the things He’s created are what will give us what we want. But whether it’s sex, ambition, rock n roll, isn’t it actually God we’re after?
This one thought changed everything. That every beautiful thing I get enamored by, is just a reflection of the one who made it. Any beauty I’m dazzled by or promise I’m lured by, it’s always Him my soul is hungry for. And when I can see that, all other temptations lose their power. To understand all that I love is merely a mirror pointing me upward, frees me to let those things go.
I don’t have to have them.
I have to have the One who made them.
And the pleasure and reward his presence offers far surpasses any drug or buzz I could get. Crazy huh?
Friend, don’t sell yourself short. Jesus wants to give us life. It is Satan who’s out to steal, kill, and destroy. Sadly, we too often believe it’s the other way around. Don’t fall for the lie. His commands to us are the pathways to pleasure. They are the way to joy. All this world could offer you is but a mere shadow of the glory of the One who is behind it all.
Don’t grasp the shadow.
Follow it to the source.
He is the source.
"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."
-2 Corinthians 3:18
"Come to me all you who are weary and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.”
I used to think I knew what tired was.
I played soccer in high school.
I pulled all nighters in college.
I’ve driven through the night, for weeks on end.
But then… I had kids.
Now, you fellow parents out there know what I’m talking about. When you have children, sleep deprivation is no longer an isolated occurrence, it’s a way of life. Babies need. That’s what they do. They need you to feed them. They need you to watch them. They need you to change them.
Diapers. Oh diapers.
Poop. Poop. More poop.
I had no idea how much could come out of something so small, and I had no idea something so small could demand so much of my energy. Now, don’t get me wrong. My kids are hilarious. They make me laugh. They cause me to cry tears of joy. They give me more life than I even knew was possible. But, raising them is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Hands down, absolutely, the Best. The Hardest.
The best hardest thing I’ve ever done and probably ever will do.
So, one morning I’m limping out of bed after another all night marathon of baby blood curdling screams for no apparent reason whatsoever, when my wife grabs me by the arm, and with blood shot eyes says, “I am so worn out.” I tell her that I understand, and I’m pretty sure it won’t last forever, but when I pull up to a friend’s house an hour later, I announce upon arrival, “I need to write a song called “Worn” today, because that is exactly how I feel in the deepest depths of my inner soul.
What do you do when you don’t even have the strength to fight? Where do you turn when you feel like you don’t even have the energy to turn? Well, I have one word to offer and one word alone:
Let that sink into every pore of your skin and every crack in your heart. Breathe it in. Marinate in it. Our God is a redeemer. It’s who He is. It’s what He does. He redeems. Which means, among other things, “to make up for. to restore worth or value.” Jesus makes up for our lack. He restores our value. By dying for us, He gives us a value and worth that we could have never had or achieved on our own. He didn’t die for us because we were worth dying for, He died for us to make us worth dying for. Does that make sense?
His life was worth mine.
Not the other way around.
Now, drudging through the piles of poop, the endless tears, and the sleepless nights, I am filled with hope, because I know one day, I will see redemption win. I will see the struggle end. And so there’s beauty to be had in every moment. God isn’t going to move because of me, He’s going to move in spite of me. He isn’t bringing glory to Himself by saving a bunch of people who get it right and who never wear out. He brings glory to Himself by redeeming the people who never got it right and who always wore out. It’s when we’re in our moments of greatest weakness that He is in His moments of greatest revelation. After all, “His strength is made perfect in weakness.”
I once heard it explained that the earth is like a garment, and where injustice prevails, that is where the garment has worn through. What Christ has done, then, and what our great privilege is to do, is to rework the fabric where it has grown thin.
He reworks the fabric.
My friends, do not grow weary. And if you have grown weary, take rest in the thought, that all he wants from you is praise, not performance. If we come to Jesus with anything more than nothing, we come with too much. All we need is need, because He’s the one who does the work, and He’s reworking all things into good for those who love Him. He’s after a grateful people, not a perfect people. He’s after a responsive people, not a self-helped one. Live loved. That’s our call. That is our job. Even when we’re worn out, worn thin, and feel like we’ve got nothing left to offer Him, all He demands is our nothing. Like the old hymn says, “All the fitness He requires is to feel your need of Him…”
Nothing is all we bring to Him
because nothing is the place that He can fill.