A Note On Integrity: “4 Reasons Christians Need to Quit Sharing Hoaxes”

I came across a blog article posted on a friend’s Facebook page today, read it, and realized its implications for my life fairly quickly( read the article at: 4 Reasons Christians Need to Quit Sharing Hoaxes). Its been easy for me, at different times and in different scenarios in my life, to lose touch with the direct connection that we all have the opportunity to make with those around us who are in need. It’s easy to sit back, offer up an obligatory prayer when reading about somebody’s loss, click the ‘like’ and ‘share’ icons when we read something emotionally compelling, or, worse yet, just keep scrolling. But, as this article suggests, as Christians, I could stand to be a bit more thoughtful about exactly what I’m reading, what I’m sharing and, most importantly, what I’m doing to help those within my reach, and then beyond, to know the love, hope, and peace that I know. Tonight I will pray that I can wake up in the morning, make an intentional decision to seek out Christ in others around me, and not take for granted the opportunities afforded to me to engage with them in a manner that is uncharacteristically selfless.

“When a disciple’s every response, word, and decision is motivated by compassion, he has put on Christ and walks in the way of integrity.”  -Brennan manning

“God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all.”  -C.S. Lewis

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”  -Proverbs 11:3

Untamed

Lord help us take on
Taurus untamed
That is your will
By the horns
And let it turn its head
From side to side
Swinging us onto its
Sharply undulating
Back where we will hold on
For life more abundant
Forsaking our comforts
Our convenience and luxury
In the face of those who
Need somebody to be
Your mercy
Your hands
Your feet
The peace of home
To those left out
On the street
Though we know not
Where it will take us
What words you’ll have
Fall from our mouths
What fulfillment
Of needs
We will be
Lord help us ride your will
Far beyond a rodeo
Seven seconds
Into
Eternity

“I’m Not Afraid. No, I’m A Believer”

“I just don’t understand why it has to be this way.” Those were the most honest words my dad ever uttered to me with regards to the cancer that was, at the time, just a few short months away from finally robbing him of his life. My dad was a product of his generation: a man who worked hard and didn’t talk about his feelings. It was an extremely difficult pill for him to swallow. He had an amazing track record of getting the short end of the stick. He wouldn’t have been a good poster child for the notion that people get what they deserve. It was a horrible way for his life to end and anyone who reads this blog or who knows me at all, knows that the seventeen month journey that I endured, from the moment my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer until the midnight moment when he passed away as I sat with him in his bed, was a terribly dark, trying, and painful journey for me, too. It was like watching a fatal car crash happen in slow motion over the course of over a year’s time. As his main caretaker, I was there at every turn carrying a progressively heavier load as his condition worsened to the point where he couldn’t talk or do anything for himself. The description of those months as the darkest period in my life is, to say the least, an understatement.

As dark as it was, though, the backdrop of shadows revealed a thread that was just beginning to strengthen and glimmer intermittently, reflecting a faint, still, small hope that peace would be found, at some point, further down the road. It wasn’t, however, a hope that relieved my pain or a miracle that washed all of my stress and fear away. Nor was it a time machine that could beam me to some future point and time in my life when I would be stronger. It was, simply, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” (Hebrews 11:1). I can’t remember exactly how or when, in the midst of that journey, I came across Psalms 18:16-19, but, when I did, it was immediately relevant and became the main security handle that I have held onto tightly ever since:

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me;he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

The identity and timing of “a spacious place,” however, remained a mystery to me until the naming of Kevin Max as the new lead singer of rock outfit Audio Adrenaline.  Heartfelt encouragement from Kevin to consider “the least of these” set off a series of events, one of which was an introduction to the work of The Hands and Feet Project. As described in a prior post titled, “How To Live Life,” I was inspired to step out in faith and commit to donating profit from the sale of my Dad’s house to The Hands and Feet Project. After making the donation and relaying my Dad’s story and an explanation of how the donation came about, Hands and Feet Project director Mark Stuart extended a generous gesture by asking if they could name the kitchen in a new building that is currently under construction in honor of my dad.

Without going into too much detail, the redeeming and burden-lightening effect that his gesture had on my family and I with regards to the memory of my dad, a guy who always worked hard and looked out for others, but, seldom received his due, was nothing short of monumentally life-changing. Almost instantly, the weight of several months of my life characterized by mourning and wondering how to navigate life without the man who was the best man in my wedding, my best friend, my Dad, started to lift and a new and inspired life swelling with purpose and hope began to emerge. With one kind gesture, my Dad’s legacy would be  shifted from one of loss and emptiness to one of eternal hope in a vocational school kitchen from which teenage Haitian orphans would be receiving their daily meals as they developed skills to become productive Haitian citizens.

I know that Audio Adrenaline’s (the band that started The Hands And Feet Project in 2006) new song “Believer” is being explained by the band as the story of blind surfer Derek Rabelo, but, it wasn’t long after the album’s release that I found my own story told in the lyrics of the song. From an adult life characterized at first by complacency, and then by utter darkness, to a life of purpose and meaning, learning how to step into places where Jesus wants those who are His to go,  mine has changed significantly. Now it is I who am finally “giving up, letting go of control,” not only as I make preparations for a January 2014 short term mission trip with The Hands and Feet Project to Haiti, but, also, in my daily life. I’m learning that my personal comfort and convenience are not a priority, but, that loving others as myself, and in doing so, honoring God above all, are the priorities that matter. In fact, I’m learning, now, about what living life more abundantly really feels like. Each moment spent in my classroom teaching fifth graders is more passionately invested. Each hug and kiss from my wife and kids is more distinctly savored.

Like Derek Rubelo, I can’t necessarily see the waves of life coming, but, learning to feel my way through, with faith,  “I can walk on the water with You, Lord.”

I want to live this live unsafe, unsure, but not afraidWhat I want is to give all I got somehow, giving up letting go of control right now‘Cause I’m already out here, blind but I can see, I see the way You’re movingGod how I believe that I can push back the mountains, can stand on the wavesI can see through the darkness, I’ll hold up the flameTake me to the ocean, I want to go deeper, I’m not afraid no, I’m a believerAnd so I lose this life to find my way and come aliveThey can try to deny what’s inside of me, but there is more, can’t ignore all the things unseenOh I believe I can walk on water with You, LordWhen I walk through the valley of the shadows, when I’m trapped in the middle of the battle, I will trust in You‘Cause trouble comes, but you never let it take me, I hold fast ‘cause I know that You will save meI will trust in You, I will trust in YouOh here I stand all alone waiting on you, Lord, waiting on You

Learn more about The Hands & Feet Project at http://www.handsandfeetproject.org/

Morning Geology

Today I’m thankful. I’m thankful for these times when my pride is not stoked by fleeting notions of self-confidence. As many times as I’ve been here before, you’d think that my footing would be more steadfast and that I wouldn’t become so easily distracted by all that glitters around me. But, my attention span is short and the stream of consciousness that helps my memory to inform my ability to make good decisions in the present is full of static and, at best, inconsistent.

As a fifth grade teacher and a father to a five-year old son and ten-year old daughter, I could give you multiple examples, from each and every new day, of times that I’ve become frustrated to one degree or another by the inability that most children have to consider the big picture when making decisions about how they act, what they say, and what they do. Because, at the age of 37, my own thought processes have developed over the years, I sometimes take for granted, in a given moment, the fact that their priorities don’t always match mine. Of course, its silly to think that they children would see everything the way I do, but, because I’m so often concerned primarily with my own priorities and perspective, too often, I fail to consider theirs and, as a result, do a disservice to them and to myself, becoming frustrated in the process.

An excerpt from a devotional I read the other day cut straight to the core of my problem:

The fundamental secret of Jesus in relation to his disciples was his sovereign respect for their dignity. They were persons, not toys, functions, or occasions for personal compensation. In the Lucan account of the Passion, the evangelist notes that after Peter’s third denial of Jesus “the Lord turned around and looked at Peter…” In that look the reality of recognition was disclosed. Peter knew that no man had ever loved him and no woman could ever love him as Jesus did. The Man whom he had confessed as the Christ, the Son of the living God, looked into his eyes, saw the transparent terror there, watched him act out the dreadful drama of his security addiction, and loved him. The love of Jesus for Peter lay in his complete and unconditional acceptance of him. We who so automatically place conditions on our love (“if you really loved me you would…”) fail to see that this is an exchange – not unconditional love. We tack on one of our addictions to finish the sentence. Reality must live up to our expectations.
-From Devotions for Ragamuffins, by Brennan Manning, Pp.202

Much like I explained in my last post Choosing Threadtoo easily I get caught up in finding ways to feed my own addictions. My own insecurities wreak havoc in my daily life. On the other hand, good moments, when my ego gets a boost, tend to go to my head and begin to monopolize my existence, building up my confidence without any foundation until the inevitable point when reality strikes and, rather than just taking a blow, my confidence plummets to the cold floor. I guess, I’m the guy who builds his house, each day, on the shifting sand and, far too often, finds that it has fallen, but, instead of learning from the mishap, the next day, I build it on that same sand.

What I need is something more consistent. I need to base my actions and my words – the way I treat others – on something much more substantial than my own addictions. The devotion mentioned above hit me so hard because, in the moment when it describes Jesus looking at Peter and the subsequent shame that Peter experienced, I can relate so well.

But, if I can start making the choice to build each day on a solid rock foundation, not taking others for granted and, instead, loving them the way that I would want to be loved, unconditionally, sandy personal comforts be damned, I think I’ll find a level of freedom and inner peace that I’ve never experienced before.

Today I’m thankful.

Choosing Thread

Today’s daily devotion from Brennan Manning’s Reflections for Ragamuffins couldn’t have possibly hit me more directly than it did today:

Concretely, abandonment to the will of God consists of finding his purpose for you in all the people, events, and circumstances you encounter. If God tears up your beautiful game plan and leads you into a valley instead of onto a mountaintop, it is because he wants you to discover his plan, which is more beautiful than anything you or I could have dreamed up. The response of trust is “Thank you, Jesus,” even if it is said through clenched teeth.

Looking back, now, on the journey that I endured as the primary caregiver for my dad during his two year battle with brain cancer, it is much easier to identify many of the moments along the way when I could’ve made a better decision or taken a different course of action than I did at the time. The common thread woven through each of those moments was my own constant subconscious desire to achieve some level of relief from the constant flow of pressure, fear, and anxiety that I was experiencing each day. Had I been less preoccupied with my own discomfort, I could’ve better provided for the needs of my dad during the darkest days of his life. Thankfully, and the grace of God, I’m confident in saying that my Dad was able to experience a notable level of support from myself, as well as others around him, despite my faults. But, if I had been less preoccupied with my own plans to put out the brush fires that I thought were most important, from my perspective at the time, I would’ve likely been able to comfort and shield him more from the pain that he was experiencing.

I’ve come to this realization this morning because, all too frequently, the issue of being too absorbed in my own personal sense of what I deserve at a given moment continues to plague the life that I think I ought to be able to live. Its far too easy for me, in a given moment, to get hung up on a moment or a particular incident and, in doing so, lose sight of the big picture and react in a manner that undermines the grace that has been shown to me by my friends, my family, and my God.

The lesson learned here, in simple terms, is to, first and foremost, trust God, but, also to count my blessings, always love others the way I would want to be loved, and to not take the people in my life for granted. Perhaps, by His grace, this can be the new constant thread running through the moments that make up the days of my life.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

Fruition

It is my consistently inconsistent humility that keeps grace in the forefront the blessings for which I am most thankful.
My own selfish arrogance robs successive moments of each one’s opportunity to join together with those in front and behind, letting love be spoken free.
I need to learn to keep my head up, eyes focused on thee, if I’m to let this life be an exhibit of the hope that will find find fruition in eternity.

My Own Folly

The smile on my face does
Not come naturally
Fighting gravity just
To let a hope flare be seen
My attention span once
Fractured as an addict
Unable to then see
Consistently less than
Frequently
The beauty all
Around my feet instead
This insecurity
A hot-wired
Knee jerk
Mentality
Ne’er at a loss to fire
A loose cannon volley
Into a midnight sky
Without even a thought
For impending damage
Sure to come in the wake
Of this whim of proclaimed
Short shackle-torn justice
I saw your slight
And raised you
An unbridled
Razor tongue sin
Before clouds of debris
Eventually
Drifted off leaving me
Free to see
My own
Folly