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Since the lyrics of this song won’t leave my mind, I figure I may as well try and put them in your head.

Derek Webb-This too shall be made right

people love you the most for the things you hate
and hate you for loving the things that you cannot keep straight
people judge you on a curve
and tell you you’re getting what you deserve
this too shall be made right

children cannot learn when children cannot eat
stack them like lumber when children cannot sleep
children dream of wishing wells
whose waters quench all the fires of Hell
this too shall be made right

the earth and the sky and the sea are all holding their breath
wars and abuses have nature groaning with death
we say we’re just trying to stay alive
but it looks so much more like a way to die
this too shall be made right

there’s a time for peace and there is a time for war
a time to forgive and a time to settle the score
a time for babies to lose their lives
a time for hunger and genocide
this too shall be made right

I don’t know the suffering of people outside my front door
I join the oppressors of those who i choose to ignore
I’m trading comfort for human life
and that’s not just murder it’s suicide
this too shall be made right

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I am acutely aware of the fact that it doesn’t always add up. That it doesn’t always make sense. That after all of our questions, debates, and investigations we are at about the same place we have always been. A little more enlightened. A lot more confused.

I am aware of the doubts. The skepticism. The disbelief. Those thoughts that haunt the back of the mind. “Do I really believe that?” “Am I sure?” “Where is the evidence?” “What about this objection?” “What about that question?” I’ve gone through all of them. And will again.

I am very aware of the fact that others who claim to believe have offered up spectacular fodder to those who do not. On quite a few occasions Jesus people have been mean, judgmental, hurtful, shameful, _________, etc. Faced with the prospect of claiming these people as part of your camp, why would anybody want to believe?

And I know that making the following claims places me squarely in the camp of the zealot. The radical. The fool…

_There is a God.

_This God created the universe, and every living thing.

_This God exists as Father, Son, and Spirit.

_God the Son, also known as Jesus Christ, came to Earth in flesh.

_Jesus Christ died for my sins.

_If I am to find peace and life, I can find it in Jesus Christ.

_This is important enough to talk about with the people I care about.

The very fact that I believe these things could indicate that there is something mentally wrong with me.

So, why do it? I mean, seriously…why do it? In many ways, life would be easier if I didn’t. Less hassle. Less stress. Less headache. Less heartache. Less mocking.

The fact is this…I believe Jesus is real. And I believe this because I have seen him change a life. Mine. And I see it changing more all the time. And I see other lives changed. I see changes in lives that cannot be attributed to mental energy, or a force of human will. I see things happening that can only be accounted for by something (or someone) not limited by humanity. And I believe God is real.

And so, I am a fool. Because I cannot answer all of the questions. For you. Or for me. Yet I still believe.

And for the record, I am the happiest fool you’ll ever see!

“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven in His name.”-1 John 2:12.

It all comes back to this. In Jesus, my sins are forgiven. In Him, your failings are wiped away. In Christ, we are made complete. We are forgiven and loved.

This is the message that must be shouted from the rooftops. And talked about over breakfast. And shared during coffee breaks.

Because, when we boil everything down, it all comes back to this. We need to be forgiven. And we are. In Jesus.

In Christ, God gives us light and love and grace and fellowship and faith and power and truth and forgiveness and more and more and more.

There’s no need to search for a cool way to say it. We simply need to say it more. And relish every implication.

In the name of Jesus, your sins are forgiven. Yes!

The thing about love is God. The thing about God is love. When you get down to it, you can’t really find one without discovering the other.

God owns love. It belongs to Him. It is His idea. His creation. Nobody knows it, or does it better. God is love.

So, why does this matter? Well, because of what God’s love causes Him to do. He doesn’t simply say “I love you.” He goes well beyond that, to a place that only love can take Him. He shows us the depth to which He loves us.

Consider this verse, 1 John 1:2…”This one who is life from God was shown to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and announce to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was shown to us.”-The ‘one’ and the ‘he’ being referred to is Jesus.

So, here is what John (the one who penned this letter) is getting across…God decided to show Himself to man. And not one of those Old Testament “hide in a rock and I will let you get a glimpse as I go by” kind of showings. God put His very essence on display.

As a human. A flesh and blood, actual living-breathing human being. God did not just appear in a dream, or a ghost-like type of visitation. God took on the same kind of existence you and I live. He breathed. He spoke. He slept. He ate. He laughed. He got angry. He pulled pranks on his friends (surely Jesus did that, don’t you think?). He was real. From head to toe, Jesus was real.

God didn’t do this so that He could get an idea of what life was like down here. He made “down here.” I imagine He already had a pretty good idea.

He came because He knew that for us to get that close to Him meant He would have to get that close to us.

He came so that we could see, once and for all, what love looks like.

Only a God who loves outrageously would do that.

So now the questions roll in. What will we do with such a love? How will see that kind of love invade our lives? How will this love transform us?

Hey, I figure if my three year old can say it, then I can write it. Yeah, that’s right. We’ve had our first profanity. Not really the kind of milestone a parent dreams of for their child. First tooth? How cool! First word? How wonderful! First step? How great! First swear word? Well, not so much.

But, here we are nonetheless. A little bit of background. Megan, our sweet, precious, gentle creature of a child is gently careening through a defiant phase of life. And as this phase unfurls itself in the midst of our home, my wife and I are noticing new words and phrases entering her daily vernacular. “No!” and “I won’t!” are becoming old standards. And occasionally she’ll mix in a nice “Uh-Uh!” or “Stop it!”

Don’t get me wrong, Meg is not a bad kid. Not even close. In fact, she has a wonderful spirit, and she adds an immeasurable amount of life to our home. And that’s what makes this whole episode so memorable. And so unexpected.

Allow me to set the scene. 2:36 pm-Moments before the offending word flies forth, Megan is committing the crime for which she will be sent to her bedroom. I honestly don’t remember what she did, although it’s safe to say it involved a roundhouse kick to the back of her brother’s head. Or a judo chop to the throat. 2:37 pm-Beth sends Megan to her bedroom with the instruction to stay there until Mommy comes to speak with her. 2:37 pm-Megan runs screaming to her bedroom. 2:38 pm-Upon entering the bedroom, Megan slams her hand down on her dresser and yells “dammit!”.

Beth and I looked at each other with that “Did we just hear what we thought we just heard?” look. Beth walks into Meg’s room and asks her what she just said. And she defiantly blurted it out again!

So, after the talk about naughty words, the swat on the backside, and the additional beating with a baseball bat made out of molten hot metal (you gotta nip these things in the bud, you know), Beth and I were left to ponder what in the world compels the heart of a three year old child.

Quite a day. I learned that I love my kids, even though they are nowhere near perfect. And I am thankful that they love their daddy, even though he is nowhere near perfect. I was also reminded of the depth of God’s love for people. People are defiant. And selfish. And mean. Yet, He loves us. Quite a God.

And I know this…I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.

You will break my heart one day. If I’m lucky.

You will say “Yes” to a boy, not knowing the unbelievably deep ramifications of that decision. All you will know is that true love will see you through (it will, by the way).

You will ravage every bridal magazine ever printed, or zapped out, or beamed in. Not sure what technology they’ll be using by then to disseminate information.

You will plan, dream, and pray about what you’ll remember as one of the most exciting days of your life.

You will send out cute invitations, calling all those who know you and love you to gather round. Your heart will leap for joy every time you get one back with the check-mark in the “We’ll be there” box.

You will don a white dress (at least, you’d better!). You will have your hair and makeup done. You will look beautiful. No more beautiful than any other day of your life. You are beautiful every day. Just different, a little.

You will gather with bridesmaids and family in a room that’s always a little too small to contain everything found within. You will giggle with glee, not believing that God has allowed you to be this happy.

You will walk down the aisle. The instruments will play “Here comes the bride.” Everyone will stand. And smile. And ooh. And aah.

At the end of that aisle, you will join hands with a young man who has pledged to lay down everything for you. And I mean everything. Don’t worry, I will have already made sure of that.

And you will break my heart.

You will force me to remember those days. All those days. Those glorious days when I was the only man you looked to. And laughed with. And read books with. And held hands with. And climbed hills with. And chased your brother with. Those days when you fit comfortably on my shoulders.

And I will think of those days we have not yet seen. The firsts. First day of school. First day behind the wheel. First broken heart. First moment of really understanding what it means to follow God.

All of these things will make me wonder how it got away so fast. Did I teach you enough? Was I the kind of example you needed to see? Will you be blessed to enjoy the kind of marriage I have been fortunate enough to have?

You will see me cry. And laugh. And smile. And probably cry some more.

It will be a glorious day.

At least that’s how I pray it works out.

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. -Ephesians 3:14-19

So, on one side, there’s my God. And on the other side, there’s the God my soul desperately cries for and sincerely hopes is real.

I don’t know my dad. At least not anymore. I did at one point, when I was a boy. He and I did the weekend thing. Looking back I know it wasn’t ideal, but at the time I had no idea that it wasn’t the norm. I remember riding in his red Volkswagen Bug to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal on Sunday afternoons before he took me home.

*Just curious, what possessed the Germans to think that putting the engine behind the back seat was a good idea? I just know that I have some hearing loss because of hours spent in the backseat of that catastrophe of automobile engineering.

I remember dad coming to get me on Friday afternoons. I remember him taking me for rides on his motorcycle. I remember visiting an older family member (I think it was my great aunt) with him, and eating watermelon on the front porch.

For some reason, I don’t remember exactly when he decided to stop coming. It’s funny how the mind has a way of protecting the heart. Some sort of survival mechanism, I guess.

But somewhere between his decision and now, I became a survivor. Which, if you know my roots, is no big surprise. I come by that character trait honestly.

Here’s what is great about survivors. Survivors don’t complain. Ever. Now they may gripe every now and then, but that’s more of a love language than anything else. Survivors aren’t afraid of work. They will jump into any and every task with a “can do” attitude. And they will make sure the job gets done. You don’t have to offer much criticism to survivors, because they’re harder on themselves than anyone could ever be. Survivors are reliable and dependable. Their word is their bond. I have often told myself “I won’t be that dad.” Survival mechanism. Survivors don’t run from difficult situations. And they’re not afraid to fail.

You can trust a survivor. A survivor trusts himself. Usually above all else.

Here’s what is deadly about survivors (or at least this survivor). Survivors draw hard boundaries. The message is clear. “I might let you in, but it’s only going to be on my terms.” Survivors see the world through a fixed lens, and can’t fathom the fact that others might see things differently. Survivors judge. And I don’t mean the kind of judging where we utilize biblical discernment. I mean the kind of judging that states I am not only correct, but that only a complete moron would even think about disagreeing with me.

Survivors tend to fashion all things, including God, in their own image. I know I did. And do. My God is tough and unyielding. Perhaps easy to talk to, but hard to please. I don’t think my image of Him is holding up very well, however.

Survivors always put themselves first. Always. At times it may not seem that way, but we do.

We’re the ones who say, “Love is not given, it is earned.” “Respect is not given, it is earned.” “Trust is not given, it is earned.” Probably not a biblical manner of living, but it keeps me protected. Survival mechanism.

We live out every relationship within the confines of our own expectations. Fall short, and you will suffer the consequences.

We’re better at punishing than forgiving.

All the anger, hurt, bitterness, and sadness that lives inside us colors everything we see and do. Colors the ways we relate to our families, friends, marriages, work, and play. Doesn’t it stand to reason that it would color the way we relate to God, also?

So, the question I’m wrestling with is…do I trust God?

Am I willing to let go of the anger? The hurt? The sadness?

Am I willing to forgive?

Am I willing to love people the way God seems to love them? With a wild eyed, free spirited, nothing can hold it back kind of love?

Am I willing to let my boundaries move? Am I willing to let my walls crumble?

Am I willing to risk letting go of the God I’ve made in my image? From my circumstances?

Am I willing to embrace the God who never was like that in the first place? And who screams for me to know His unfettered love?

Yes. Yes. Yes!

It is not the years in your life, but the life in your years that counts. -Adalai Stevenson

This one is always a conversation stopper. Not in a bad way, however. More like a “hmm…just asked me a question that I haven’t been asked in a long time.” kind of thing.

Tossing this question around has been the joy of my life lately. It’s been exhilarating to watch people smile, squirm, fidget, ramble and sometimes just downright go silent. And I’ve decided to keep asking the same question to more and more people.

So, what’s the question?

What dreams are you cultivating?

This is a fun question, because dreams are God things. And when you ask people to begin thinking about dreams, they must begin to think about God. Even if they don’t know it.

God created people in His image. And with that creation comes a distinct “wiring” for each of us. Each of us has particular passions, talents, hopes, abilities, and dreams. Each of these was put there by God, so that we could put them to work. When we put them to work, we bring glory to Him, we bring joy to ourselves, and we make the world a healthier place.

If you’re not dreaming, you’re not living. At least you’re not living any kind of life you want to live.

So…what dreams are you cultivating?

What is the BIG thing that God has placed in your heart? What’s the thing that makes you think “If I don’t do this, my life will not count the way I want it to.”? If you haven’t yet thought much about that question, now is a great time to do just that.

And while you’re thinking, be prepared to be afraid. I mean good and scared. Don’t think for a minute that a life of dreaming is a life of leisure. Or ease. Or comfort. It’s not. A life of dreaming God sized dreams is harrowing, tough, challenging, frustrating, and quite simply hard.

But that’s where God lives. He loves the givers who give, even when they have no business giving anymore away. He loves the risk takers, who stumble, and fall, and get back up and try again. He loves the people who say “yes” when everything (and everyone) around them screams “no!”

And He loves those who are willing to be afraid. Those who will step so far outside themselves that their only chance of survival is for God Himself to show up. He looks at them and says “Give me your fears. I can handle them. I’m big enough.”

So, what do you want? Do you want to play it safe? Or do you want to follow God?

Go ahead…jump!

“Those who do not take an interest in public affairs are doomed to be ruled by evil men.” – Plato, 300 BC

I know. I know. Believe me, I know. It’s difficult to get excited about this year’s election.

The consistent theme I keep hearing is “I just don’t know what I’m going to do this year. I’m not all that eager about either side winning. I’m not even sure I’m going to vote this time around.”

I understand the absence of passion for this year’s crop of presidential hopefuls. But there is something lurking underneath this lack of enthusiasm for November 4th that concerns me.

Are Christ followers considering abandoning the political process altogether?

**God, I hope not (that was a prayer, not a use in vain. Promise.)**

Not that I don’t understand the temptation to throw up hands and say “forget about it.” I mean, seriously, how long are we going to have to put up with these men and women who seem to exist only to gain more power? Will there ever be a day when these people put the needs of people before their own desire for personal gain?

Does it even matter?

Why should I get involved?

Because you have to. Not you collective. You singular. You. The person on the other side of this blog entry.

You need to understand that every political decision ever made affects someone. And that trend will continue as long as this country is operated the way it is.

Politics affects people, families, communities, states, and countries. And on every level. And while it may be argued that the influence of the political process is completely out of control, the reality is what it is.

The men and women who govern the public affairs have a direct influence on you. And on me. And on us. They affect the ways we are taxed, are defended, are policed, are transported, and more. They make decisions every day that affect our roads, our homes, and our children’s education.

This is a big deal. And it isn’t just a big deal on the national level. This is a big deal on every level, down to your local zoning commission.

**An aside…shame on us if we know more about federal politics than we do about local and state. Local politics may not be as sexy, but they are certainly more important that the national stuff.**

Your involvement matters. Your voice matters.

You don’t have to be consumed. But you need to be aware.

You have the opportunity to place the stamp of your personal convictions on the matters of the day. Seize the opportunity!

I’ve been wrestling with something for a few weeks now. So, I invite you to jump in the squared circle with me. Maybe we can tag-team, and pin this dilemma together.

For as long as I can remember, I have heard that the “come and see” way of doing church is bad. We have put so much emphasis on our services, programs, buildings, staff, songs, and sermons. We have allowed our people to embrace a picture of Christianity that is too inwardly focused.

For the record, I agree. I believe that “come and see” Christianity is a path to death for the church. If our highest (and perhaps only) priority is to get people in our doors, and we don’t see the importance of equipping them for life outside the doors, then we’ve already had the plug pulled.

So, what’s the answer? Again, for almost as long as I can remember, I have heard that “go and be” is the way to live. Encourage and equip our people to be the missionaries in their contexts. Help them understand that the world outside the doors is the focus, not us. Strip everything down to only bare essentials, so that no program stands in the way of Christ’s followers spending lots of time in their neighborhoods, schools, and communities.

For the record, I agree. I believe that it is imperative that each of us embrace the mission to share God’s love in our unique contexts. The world outside the doors is my mission field. They are my responsibility.

But, I wonder…do we run the risk of missing the beauty of the Gathering? In the rush of our desire to go and be, do we overlook the absolute necessity of the coming?

Instead of “come and see” versus “go and be,” is there something more?

Can we “come and go?”

Can we emphasize the importance of the coming together, to sing and pray and question and seek and hang out? All the while admonishing each other that the gathering doesn’t achieve it’s ultimate purpose until we leave with the same joy that compelled us to gather in the first place?

Is it necessary to gather to be a Christ follower? No.

But that’s not the point. The point is for us to be healthy, functioning Christ followers. So, is it necessary to gather to be a healthy, functioning Christ follower?

I wonder…