Take a Knee

“How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great.” Bill Bennot

My son was playing football a couple of years ago for a city league recreational team. It was a great learning experience for him and for myself as well. He’s kinda like me, he’s a gentle human, sincerely kind and wouldn’t hurt a fly. He’s known as a “gentle giant” among his classmates and I wondered how he would react to how aggressively the other kids played football. Some of the kids in his league had played for 3 plus years and kind of had a head start on him. I never played football save for a few backyard two hand touch games because I was too afraid I would get hurt. I was always a basketball player! However, he jumped right in and did pretty well considering his lack of experience. He didn’t get a ton of playing time but that didn’t diffuse his passion for the game or his ability to cheer on his team mates! We both learned a lot that year.

That year I learned my son was far tougher and meaner(kind of) than I’d ever thought he could be. I was amazed because I knew it wasn’t natural or easy for him but he stuck to it and persevered for the whole season! I was never a “rough house” kind of dad so I just was unsure how he’d adjust to the aggressiveness that the game of football requires but adjust he did! I remember attending his practices and hearing the coach yell at the players for not measuring up, not giving enough effort…that’s something I would take personally but he took the criticism and ran with it and used it to improve his game. I was and am a proud dad. He doesn’t play football anymore but I can tell that season had a lasting impact on his self confidence and his ability to adjust to tough situations.

There was one thing more than anything else I took away from that season by watching Bowie’s team. It was a ritual they had when someone was injured. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced in sports or anywhere really! When one of the members if their team or the opposing teams players was injured during a game, our team took their helmets off and went down on one knee and stopped EVERYTHING until the player was able to walk again or was carried off. As they were ushered off the field, the injured player was met with applause from all the players and spectators. Wow, how incredible, what a statement!! That ritual spoke volumes to me and I began to wonder why we as regular human beings don’t do the same thing when someone is “injured” in life. It seems we are far too late busy and far less compassionate as a society when someone falls down in some way…not just physically falls down but like when life falls apart for someone(a divorce, a relapse into old behavior, a death in the family, cancer, a moral failure, loss of a job..etc) why don’t we “take a knee” and see how we can serve them instead of being so self focused that we just step over them or worse ON THEM while we’re on our way to our destination….cuz ya know where we are going is far more important than the people we pass on the way, right? (Sarcasm).

If you have experience with helping those in need you might think “I know, I know but that person made that poor decision(s) that landed them in the spot their in….It’s their own fault, that’s what they deserve. They made their bed, now they should lay in it. How will they learn from their mistakes if they don’t reap the consequences? After all God helps those who help themselves, right?”(pretty sure that’s NOWHERE in the Bible.) So then, what can we do to help those who have fallen? How do we “take a knee” like those youth league football players did?

Well, Jesus lives out several examples of this that can help us learn how to react to broken and injured people(emotionally, physically or however). In John Chapter 7 there’s an account of a woman who is caught in adultery, I mean literally caught screwing someone who wasn’t her husband….That may not translate as powerfully today because adultery is more commonplace and kind of accepted now but then it was a shameful, catastrophic life event that ended with a woman being stoned to death for her actions…(side note, nothing is mentioned of what happens to the male which is suspect.) Suffice it to say the woman was caught in the act of adultery and the religious leaders threw her out on the street and were about to carry out the execution and that’s when Jesus steps in…after the fall, after the failure, after the moral collapse…Jesus steps in. 

The religious leaders basically said “get out of the way, she’s set to be stoned to death, it is the law.” Jesus replies, “ok then, I will step away and let you throw your stones. So, go ahead, kill her…in fact I see you’re so eager to kill her…she deserves it so go ahead. Whoever has never sinned go ahead and throw a rock at this woman’s head and satisfy the law.” Then, Jesus takes a knee. He gets between the religious leaders and the fallen woman and begins to write something in the ground. We don’t know what he wrote but some speculate it was the secret sins of the religious leaders..but whatever it was, spoke for itself. One by one they dropped their rocks to the ground and walked away.

Jesus literally gets in the middle of this woman’s mess with her! You can imagine the outrage. It wasn’t fair, she broke the rules and now she must pay, right? Jesus then asks the woman. “Where are the people who accuse you?” But they’re all gone. She said “there aren’t any…” then he said to her, “I don’t condemn you either.” Then he helps her get on the right path. He tells her basically if you don’t want to be in this predicament again, don’t do that anymore.” Jesus didn’t give her a lecture about morality, and no doubt he could, or the law but simply extended grace to the fallen woman. He took a knee and helped her up, giving her encouragement all along.

“How’s that fair?” You might ask. I will simply say that grace is not fair, It’s unmerited, undeserved favor… I mean there’s no way to earn it…just accept it. “I know, but where’s the justice for those who have been wronged in scenarios like the woman caught in adultery? Why would anyone help a lady who had destroyed her life so recklessly with a series of bad decisions? Who would put themselves right in the middle of such a mess, risking his own life as he stood between her and her accusers determined to stone her to death? Who would do such a selflessly reckless act?” Jesus, Jesus did then and he does now. Now, if Jesus gave us this example and many others like it then what are we supposed to do with it?

Well this part won’t be popular and not everyone will agree but this is just the way that God has presented it to me. It might make some sense to you or you might be apalled. You might still be fighting it and wrestling with it trying to figure out a balance of what showing grace vs. enabling someone. The truth is if we live this example out of taking a knee, getting in someone’s mess and helping them up while cheerleading them is very hard, it can get ugly and messy, sometimes dangerous and it’s downright inconvenient for most of us self centered creatures. After all, It’s totally irrational to put yourself in harms-way to help prevent a disaster for someone else, right? Nope, that’s not the example with which Jesus leaves us.

It’s so refreshing but also challenging when I meet believers and even some non-believers that are silently practicing this in their own lives and the lives of those around them. They’re able to create an attractive atmosphere for spiritual growth and healing and, unless you ask them about it, they don’t say anything about it. In recovery we say they’re living a life of attraction, not promotion. They seem to never brag or boast or even complain about this idea of serving others cuz that’s what God has done for us. They’re very aware of the grace they’ve been given and freely attempt to extend that same kind of grace to others.

So, let’s back to the football field for a moment. I think back to all the players taking a knee and stopping the game for a moment to show respect and concern for an injured player. This is the very kind of attitude I want to have with people who become “injured” in life. I want to be full of reverence, grace, compassion and acknowledge their hurt because I want them to know they’re not alone. I’ll get in the mess with them and do my best to help them up and cheer them on as they attempt to get back up. I’m prompted to do this because it has been done for me. I’m fully aware that this will cost me some time, money, energy etc but that’s the kind of legacy I want to leave, that’s the stuff that really matters. So, today I will look for opportunities to pause everything and take a knee for someone who has fallen.

Sick of Myself

Alright, it has been a hot minute since I’ve written anything here..or anywhere.  I’ve been busy with people, places and things that consumed my entire being.  I have felt disconnected from God and from my spirituality for quite some time.  I’ve felt like I’ve been part of an Exodus.   Life has led me to some interesting situations that have brought out sides of me I didn’t even know existed, both good and bad.  I’ve been in the desert and in the dark save for a few fruitful and memorable moments.  My prayers have been feeble at best and I have gotten to a place where it’s not that I don’t believe in God…it’s more like “what’s the use?.”  It’s scary to even write that stuff, much less to have been living it out. I’ve made a few foxhole prayers and closet bargains with God that sounded like “get me outta here and I swear I’ll never do it again.”  My prayers have been selfish, mostly because I’ve been only in survival mode and consumed with the most powerful drug that’s ever existed, that’s ME! I’ve been seeking some relief from…………. myself.

I mean it sounds awful to say but “me” is my first thought in the morning and my last thought at the end of the day.  I’ve had people come in and out of my life that I claim to have “loved” but I am not capable of truly loving anyone when I’m so consumed with me.  I have wondered if anyone else had ever felt this extreme spiritual swing as extreme. Then, for some reason, it occurred to me to re-read the story of the prodigal son also known as “The Parable of the Two Sons.” in Luke Chapter 15.  This time though instead of focusing on the obviously wayward son(who’s life becomes a train-wreck) I reread the story of the prodigal son paying close attention to the son that DID NOT sell his inheritance and suffer unbelievable desolation and desperation, at his own bidding. Remember,  It got so bad for the prodigal son that he ended up literally with the pigs thinking that their food looked good for him to eat.  Then, he “comes to his senses” and remembers what a great deal he had being with the father. So, he resolutely decided to go home to his dad…good choice!

This got me thinking about this one time when I was a kid, it had gotten to be Christmas time.  Christmas was always eventful around our house but it never overshadowed the reason for Christmas, which were the presents, right?(kidding)  My grandparents always spoiled us grandkids and I was excited to see what they had gotten me this particular year.  My sister and I bugged the crap out of our mother and we kept asking her for “hints” about what our big gifts were.  I had been told by my grandparents on a number of occasions that I was the “best” “most favored” grandchild, so I of course thought I deserved the biggest present, right?  (I think they told my sister the same thing)  So, we wore my mom down and finally she began to give us hints about the presents.  I was so excited to see what mine was!  I knew what I had asked for and I felt sure my grandparents were gonna come through.  Then, my mom dropped the most devastating bomb on me. We were asking “who has the bigger present?” And she said “your sisters is bigger.”  I was floored, after all, I was the favorite grandchild.  I remember I started crying and ran to my room and threw myself on the bed hysterically in a sort of tantrum. My heart was focused solely on me and what I wanted.

What my little brain couldn’t comprehend was that a bigger present did not necessarily mean better.  My mom said later that my sisters is a bigger present but mine was more expensive(I missed this part).  That statement didn’t phase me.  I was solely focused on the fact that my grandparents had betrayed me and gotten my sister a bigger present.  Well, little did I know……

Christmas morning came and my sister and I wandered in too see what Santa and crew had left us.  The first thing I see underneath the tree was a HUGE, ornate dollhouse, which is exactly what she’s been asking for.  I cautiously approached the tree to find a little gift underneath the tree with my name on it.  It was small, a lot smaller than my sisters but I ripped open the package with no regard, almost enraged at the fact that my sisters present was bigger.  When I opened the present it revealed another box with a type of lid with a hinge.  I opened it up and it was exactly what I was asking for but even better, it was a 24k gold calculator watch, the grandest of any calculator watches I’d ever seen.  I was overjoyed and very satisfied with the outcome of Christmas morning…but I let some of the “hints” of our presents destroy my joy and cause a resentment against my grandparents and my sister.  I in fact did get the better present in regard to what I asked for but I was deflated thinking my grandparents had cheated me somehow.

So, back to the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.  Upon re-examining the story I came to a different understanding this time.  I, being one myself, celebrated the grace that the wayward son had received from his father, even after all he had done.  This time though I felt like I could identify with the heart of his brother who had stayed close to the father the whole time.  The story goes on to say that after the prodigal son comes home, the father throws him a huge party and when the brother realizes what is going he becomes resentful and refuses to go in and celebrate his brothers return to the family.  The “good” brother approaches the father and basically says “What the hell dad?  I’ve never left your side or screwed up my life and you never threw me any kind of party”. The father replies with something like “since you’ve always been with me, everything I have had has been at your disposal.”  That’s kinda how that story leaves you hanging but it paints enough of a picture that I can now see myself as either son.  The wayward son’s heart is evident at the beginning of the story, he only cares about himself and what he wants(me me me me), which leads him to ruin.  However the other sons heart is very much the same, full of resentment toward his father and brother and he acts as if they have both betrayed him.  The attitude and the heart of both brothers at some point is clearly self focused.

This “self-focused” heart is one I can relate to most certainly.  I think back to my heart and attitude at Christmas time all these many years later and see I’ve always been this way, at least as long as I can remember. It’s easy to plug myself into the role of the prodigal son BUT it’s equally as easy to see myself as the other brother now full of resentment, full of selfish and self seeking motives.  I’m working daily to try to eradicate this toxic attitude of my heart.  Sometimes I find that the quickest and surest ways to adjust my attitude is to help someone else in need. In recovery we have a saying…lots of sayings actually BUT this one says “we can only keep what we have(sobriety, sanity) if we give it away. It’s then that I find myself free of that old heavy, gross attitude.  I’m learning this to be a lifelong process of soul working and re-working done by something/someone outside of myself. It’s odd but the painful season I described to you in the beginning, well it’s that kind of pain that pushes me into the spiritual realm or a connection with God.(Surely there’s an easier way 🙂 The Good Book says he started a good work in me and he’s gonna finish it.  That’s a great promise but gosh it’s been a bumpy ride but I believe the result is gonna be less of “me me me.” As singer Matthew Sweet once so eloquently said “I’m sick of myself but when I look at you, something is beautiful and true.”

Growing Pains

“Growth hurts because change isn’t easy, that’s why they call it growing pains”

When I was a kid I lost my dad while he was yet very young.  This fact alone left a mark in my spirit that, to this day, I’ve never gotten over.  That being said, I’ve got very few memories of him but the ones that I do have a very vivid.  For example, I can remember as a child that he loved to joke around and wrestle with me. One of the ways he did is he would fart and trap me under the covers to choke me out.  He thought that was hilarious, I remember his contagious laughter.  I know that sounds disgusting and from what I remember it was horrendous, his gas spelled like propane and boiled eggs mixed with vinegar….I  laugh and I gag to this day when I think of it.  I have a few fond memories of him but that is one of my most vivid memories if him.  

Thinking back, I do have another memory of my father that I’ve pondered more and more recently.  I can recall as a child being tucked into my star wars themed bed and nodding off to sleep surrounded by the dated wooden paneling and 70’s green shag carpet which were the prevalent decor themes of the day.  As part of my nighttime ritual, I would always ask the most perplexing questions right before bedtime, I think I still do, which is probably how my insomnia all started but that’s for another blog.

I was probably around 5-6 years old when this first began happening to me.  I would be jerked awake by these shooting pains in my legs.  I would scream for help from my room to no avail so I would fall out of the bed onto the floor and try to crawl my way over the shag carpet to my parents room to tell them about my immensely painful experience. All I could muster to say is “it hurts.” Eventually they would hear my cries at night in enough time to meet me in the hallway.  My father would comfort me, reminding me, “it’s ok, daddy’s here” and he would massage my legs until the pain subsided and I could walk again.  It was a very traumatic experience, I remember the panic I felt so well. The pain was so bad it would take my breath away and cause an anxiety attack on top of the physical pain.

Now I know that that very traumatic experience is quite common among children that age, it’s simply known as growing pains. I don’t know the science behind all this but I’m just relaying my experience. However, if you had tried to convince me back then that those were “just growing pains” I would have told you that you were lying and that those pains were the result of someone trying to kill me by beating me to death because it truly felt that way.  Isn’t that the case though?  If we aren’t sure of where the pain is coming from, the source or what caused it then we simply feel like it is a plot on our very lives.  

I’ve been thinking about this more lately because I’ve been experiencing a different kind of growing pains.  It’s more of a mental or maybe even a spiritual experience than anything else, I have very little alarming physical pains anymore and maybe it’s cuz I’ve learned to ignore them..but again, that’s for another blog.  I’ve been experiencing what I guess will call spiritual growing pains.  These pains are typically brought about by unsolicited change in my life.  This type of change feels like situations that are forced upon me and I feel like I am backed into a corner.  I feel like the universe has handed me a raw deal and I don’t like it at all.  It seems unfair and my first instinct is to come out swinging.  I lash out at everything and everyone who’s close to me but that typically doesn’t bring about a desired outcome.  So, then I am left with some simple options.  Do I keep fighting and exhaust myself completely by taking stabs in the dark or do I practice some acceptance and try to acknowledge what the universe is presenting me.

The spiritual answer is just to accept the lesson that’s being dealt to me but I fight it kicking and screaming.  It feels like I’m dying and someone is literally bludgeoning me to death….kinda like when I was a kid and was having actual physical growing pains.  Back then, the pain was very literal and it resulted in growth..painful growth.  These days the pain is just as real but it’s on a spiritual level.   So, today I try to welcome these changes as they come my way.  Sometimes I do better with it that others but I’ve started to recognize this at the onset or quickly thereafter and I do not expend anywhere near the energy I did by fighting it previously.  One of the quotes I think I read recently best describes this chronic cycle is “growth hurts because change isn’t easy, that’s why they call it growing pains.”  I pray today that I would continue to recognize the opportunity for growth that comes with change….even if it feels like I’m dying.

I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby!

“Little Dave”, Ruby and Sam in 1977 in Linden, Tn.

When I was a 7 year old kid, after my father died of a massive heart attack, I basically moved in with my grandparents full time.  My mom was falling apart and had her own battles to fight but my grandparents always stepped up in an attempt to “raise me right.”  Yes, they probably were off some of the time, but that’s all I knew were Sam, a World War 2 veteran who still carried around shrapnel in his body as a result of combat in his service to our country and his wife Elizabeth aka “Betty” but I called them Nanny and PaPaw.  Nanny and PaPaw were just kids when the depression came on but it stuck with them. They grew most all the food in the garden in the back yard on that Farm in Linden, Tn.  They canned tomatoes, made their own pickles, when we went hunting or fishing it was not for sport, it was so we could eat.  I’ve journeyed so far from my younger days and I don’t know if that’s good or bad but I digress.  We had a very simple existence and there was a beautiful thing about it, I never felt unloved, or abandoned.  They were instrumental in bringing me up and laying a foundation that still sticks with me.  I can still hear Nanny say “don’t put you elbows on the table” or “don’t sit down until everyone else is seated she would say, “because that’s what real gentlemen do.”  She had lots of other rules and to some I would say she is rolling over in her grave but Nanny if you can hear me, thank you for all you taught me. PaPaw thank you for letting me be a part of all you did, from feeding the cattle to digging fenceposts and bailing hay, I know I was probably in your way most of the time but you never let on, you just showed me how to do everything you knew how to do.  Man, I learned some very valuable lessons on that farm.  The one that sticks out to me today is the face that I was once a very sold out cowboy…literally a boy.  I knew how to drive a tractor by the age of 8, feed the cows, hunt squirrel and catch rainbow trout but my favorite memory I have is of riding horses.  My first horse was just a little old Shetland pony, her name was Ruby.  She was the most gentle and sweet animal on the planet.   We bought a  used bridle and saddle to get her all dressed up, PaPaw threw me up in the saddle and there I went riding.  It was awkward at first but I soon got the hang of it and couldn’t get enough.  I remember my grandad showing me all the things to do to bring the most out of a horse.  I recall having these contraptions called “spurs” on the back of my cowboy boots but for a long time I didn’t know what purpose they served.  One day I asked my PaPaw what they were used for. He explained to me that if you give the horse a little nudge with these things they will respond to what you’re asking them to do.  Well, that was it, I wanted to go faster now that I was comfortable with Ruby.  Poor Ruby, she was so old the most I’d ever seen her do is  “trot” at best (that’s kinda like a sluggish jog for a horse).  I never wanted to hurt Ruby so I held off for a long time but one day I tried kicking her side a little with my spurs to see what it would do.  WHOA, I never knew Ruby could “Gallop” (That’d a horse going faster that a trot). Oh man, I thought I was really something on my little pony, just me and Ruby, galloping off into the sunset.  I was a cowboy, a true cowboy.  Well, all this got me thinking and in my feels lately so I had to share.  Life has been tough lately some of it self imposed, some of it not.  It has had me in kind of a funk for a few days…lots of days in a row but…one day not too long ago God kind of spoke to me via this memory of my childhood.  I felt his Holy Spirit comforting me and encouraging me but I also felt him saying these circumstances that I’m currently navigating are simply designed to make me stronger, to mold me into all that I’m designed to be but God it hurts.  I don’t like it, I fight it, I wrestle with it, I cuss at it and just when I think I can’t take anymore I feel the pain of God’s “spurs”.  I know it sounds crazy but hear me out.  Just like I didn’t my pony Ruby had it in her to RUN until that one day I gave her a couple swift spurs to the ribs.  It’s like I heard God say that in the same way I nudged Ruby he was nudging me and the design of it all was to bring something great out of me that I didn’t even know existed!  It’s a painful lesson yet one I’m hearing loud and clear. He’s allowing this pain in my life to “Spur” me on to the next level spiritually.  I don’t think I could be as optimistic about this pain if he hadn’t spoken that to my spirit over the last few weeks.  So I wanted to encourage you today, If you’re in pain or going through hard times, I know it’s not easy, BELIEVE me I know pain, just know that God is using it as a training ground for where he already knows you’re going.  He knows your potential and he loves you and I so much that he won’t just let us become stagnant and just stay where we are.  He loves us as any good father would do. He knows what we are capable of and he will “spur” us on, lest we forget.  God loves you and he’s right there in the midst of the pain and the uncertainty he’s gonna see you through to the next level.  Hebrews 12:6 states that “He chastens those whom he loves…” that word chasten literally translates to “train.”  Are you in pain?  That just means you’re in training.  Don’t give up, hold onto hope and know that we are loved beyond anything we could ever imagine. He won’t let ya fall…or if he does it’s just to show you that you can get up again!

Spot it? You Got it!

When I was 16 I got my first car. It was a 1987 Pontiac Sunbird with a little spoiler on the back. It was bright red 4 cylinder with cloth grey interior equipped with a factory delco tape deck. When I first got it I was so very proud of it that I literally washed it all the time, probably daily. I would get it all shined up and layer black magic on the tires to give em that slimy shiny new-look. I would vacuum it, armor all the dash, windex the glass and THEN I would always dangle those little yellow trees from the mirror to make it smell like vanilla, yes I am a wierdo, always have been.

I loved that Sunbird but I couldn’t help but make a few “improvements.” I lowered it, tinted the windows on it and put a bumpin’ system in it. Some J&L audio 12’s in a isobaric box to be exact(can’t I get witness??) I’d buy the latest cassette from the Sound Shop…. some LL Cool J or Mellow Man Ace, D-Nice, Techmaster PEB and push those speakers to their max. I can still hear the rattling of my trunk and see my dash lights dimming when the bass hit hard. I’d say those times contributed to my hearing loss today, but I digress. We lived in the kind of town that “crusin” from the mile long strip from the Shady Brook Cinema to the Kroger was an every Friday night event. We’d all drive our decked out cars and pull over at Kroger to talk or better yet, we’d race out to the Stockyard to witness a fight between rival students.  Those were simpler times in a little middle Tennessee Town of Columbia back in the late 80’s, early 90’s.

This all came to my mind recently and I recalled driving around in my 1987 Sunbird and I remembered I had begun to notice something I’d never noticed before… I noticed there were ALOT of 1987 Sunbirds were in Columbia.  I felt like every other car I saw was a a Sunbird, maybe a different color, maybe different wheels but nevertheless there were a lot of Pontiac Sunbirds. In retrospect they were probably there all the time but after I got mine and started driving it, I noticed other people driving them all the time too!! (That’ll Preach)

This got me thinking, where else have I seen this pattern? Have you ever heard the phrase “if you spot it, you got it.” ? This is a simple way to put words on the fact that if In fact you notice something (a mannerism, a character “flaw”) about someone else, typically something that annoys you, then it’s probably an issue or something that reminds you of….yourself. Even better was the old adage that “if you smelt it, you dealt it.”  Meaning the person of accusing the other of flatulence is probably the guilty party, right? 

So, I began to think on something Jesus said (Odd transition I know) He was talking to his Disciples as he was about to leave the earth. He said “in a little while the world will not see me, but you will see me because I live, you live.”  Basically why I take from it as he was saying was. Ok, physically I’m not going to be around anymore but you’ll see me alive in you in others around you like yourself.” I know that sounds a little weird but I think what Jesus us saying is that we will “spot it if we got it.” We will know others who are alive the way that we’re alive!! (This could go the other way too) He even said don’t be confused, you will know people who are connected with me because you will see their love for humanity and all creation. Sounds a little crazy but think about this. Who comes to mind when you think of a person who loves humanity? Mother Teresa, Bono, Al Gore lol? and the list could go on. Who is it that seems connected in a way that you want to be connected ?

Around my house we have a little letter board that my wife changes every couple of months to reflect something that is relevant around our household. Our board currently reads “Love is Verb.” You might automatically be brought back to that old DC Talk song, which is the jam btw, but what I hope this letter board will help us keep in the forefront of our minds is that love is not just a feeling but it’s an action statement. What I hope to remember when I read it is “how can I best love those around me.” That starts will the people right in front of me, my wife, the 4 kids, the next door neighbor and everywhere else that God puts me in contact with people. What does that look like? 

I think I make the common mistake of just saying “I love you bro.” And I feel like I’m sincere, and that’s good but it’s not where I should stop!! When I see someone struggling it’s not ok for ME to simply say “I love you, and I’m praying for you.” That’s all fine and good and has it’s place but I have to back that phrase up with action. I see the need and try to meet it. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable and often is very inconvenient but I believe that’s the posture God is asking me to have at all times. To be love but with feet, to be prepared to act like I love someone, not simply talk about it. I’m sure we could get in a debate about boundaries and codependency and blah blah but this is something God reminds me to do personally, so apply it as the spirit stirs you…(that’s for another blog)

I think about the life of Jesus and what his ministry looked like on Earth. It was very atypical of someone who would be referred to as “King.” Jesus modeled the life he calls us to live, he was the chief servant of all mankind. This flips the idea of kings and kingdoms on its head. His way of life was and is simply revolutionary. His example was to lead others and show them God love for them by serving. I’m drawn to the image in my mind of Jesus washing the disciples feet right before he was crucified. One of examples of Kingdom Living on earth was to serve them and show them that it was also their mission to do likewise. I could go on, but I feel like I said what I needed to be said there…

So, then I was thinking about my 1987 Pontiac Sunbird in all its glory and I had this final thought. If (and that’s a big IF) I am truly plugged into what Jesus was/is about then it will kind of be like my Sunbird when I started driving, HE will begin to appear to me more frequently and seem to be everywhere. That is if I become aware of where God is at work in me, then I will recognize it in you and everyone. I think that’s true of all of us. Jesus said in John 14 that if he lives that we will live also and we will see him. I am coming to see that if I want to know where God is truly at work then I will look for where people are serving others or there are opportunities for me to serve. However, it’s NOT just limited to church services, homeless shelters, poverty stricken countries and underserved areas etc. I believe God has called us to serve wherever we are in this very moment! I think If we truly get in the drivers seat and start where we are THEN we will begin to see more and more opportunities to love and serve and people with a heart to do likewise. I pray that my eyes be opened to see and take advantage of opportunities to carry out Kingdom Living and show God’s love!! In the meantime I think I saw Jesus in a pimped out Chevy Cavelier with fuzzy dice on the mirror and he was bumpin hard yo! I hope you can hear it too!

Spiritual Awakwenings?

Just the term or phrase “spiritual awakening” or the concept of a spiritual renewal, a rejuvenated soul or whatever you wanna call it, has always been marked by (at least in my mind) with some sort of grand, ethereal, celestial event. It’s the kind of event that is accompanied by a choir of angels and harps, as the heavens open up and God shouts with a thunderous voice something very “God-like” and has big words or phrases that might sound something like “thou art released” and then boom everything changes in a split second. 

This brings to my mind the story in the Bible where Saul on the road to Damascus is stopped in his tracks and knocked off his horse by a blinding light from Heaven followed by a thunderous voice of God(If you’re singing Blinded by the light right now, you’re not alone.) Saul at that moment is literally blinded and realizes that he’s been going down the wrong path in life, despite what he thought. God revealed to him that the very people he was persecuting, Christians, were the very people he was supposed to be serving And leading. This was a turning point for Saul. From that moment on he even had a new name, he went by Paul.  Paul went on to write most of the New Testament of the Bible. He went from killing Christians to building the kingdom of God and leading them in a revolutionary life. This is an extreme case of what I think of as a spiritual awakening, but recently I’ve begun to think they may look a little different and more unassuming than we even realize or recognize but really has the same impact, just a messier version. 

When I was a kid I remember my PaPaw aka Grandpa always had a pack of chewing tobacco in his back pocket, Levi Garrett if I remember correctly. As a curious youth would do I would watch him put a big wad of that tobacco in his mouth a few times a day to have “a chew” as he called it. He was a a rugged man, a WWII vet, served in the 13th AirForce, he still had shrapnel in his body from a close encounter with the enemy in The Phillipines. Needless to say I adored this man, I wanted to be like him in every way. I used to make my grandma match up our outfits, i emulated his speech, my mannerisms were like his. He was the man I looked to in order to learn to be a man. I used to put on shaving cream and pretend to shave, just cuz I saw him do it! He taught me many, many life lessons that I still carry with me to this day. I miss him to this day. He would always encourage me to be a “gentleman” and” let the ladies go first” etc. But so many things I learned from him still are at play today….103 years after he was ever born, God may I have that legacy.  

One of the biggest things I carry with me to this day was a lesson I learned…. the hard way. I watched my grandpa put a chew of tobacco  in his mouth several times a day and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. It seemed to bring him to life, he seemed to savor it!  When he unrolled that pouch, mashed the tobacco between his fingers I could smell the aroma of the tobacco, it was comforting and it mysteriously made me want some. I thought, if this man that I love so much enjoys this, then surely I would enjoy it, right? Well, I annoyed him daily with the persistent  and probably annoying requests, “PaPaw, I wanna chew, lemme have a chew.” He consistently said “No, it’s not for kids, maybe when you’re older IF your mom lets you.” He said “and it’ll make you sick.” I thought that sounded silly, why would my PaPaw continue to chew tobacco if it made him “sick.”

One day I guess he was over it, he gave in to my annoying requests and he said “ok Dave, you’re a big man, here you go” and he proceeded to hand me the pouch of Levi Garrett chewing tobacco. I was overly excited and eager to try some of it and this was a right of passage into manhood, after all. He sat back with his arms crossed as I I shoved a wad of tobacco in my  mouth that would have choked an elephant. I began to chew and recall it was pretty gross, but I proceeded to chew and grin the best I could with all that chew in my mouth. This was very similar to my encounter/discovery of coffee, I just couldn’t figure out why adults would eat/chew something that was so….bitter. But, as a proud little “know it all” I proceeded to chew and chew and…..swallow, there was so much tobacco juice I couldn’t help but swallow it. My grandpa smirked and asked “well, how is it?” I proudly smiled and said “mmmmmmmm” cuz it’s all I could say at that point.

Then, it happened. I began to feel my stomach swirl and I broke out in a cold sweat. I felt horrible the only word i can think of that would describe that feeling is….green. At this point I decided to spit it all out, something had gone very wrong. I got soooooooooo sick and began to dry heave at first and then I hurled, I threw up viciously and violently. My eyes watered so bad I couldn’t see, I was barfing but still no relief. I was sweating, had cold chills and I was still incredibly nauseated, so nauseated. My grandad rubbed his hand on my back and tried to comfort me and said “see, I told you.” But that wasn’t any help either. Honestly, it took me a couple days to fully recover and regain any type of normal.

I wish I could tell you that this was the last time I ever chewed tobacco but I had to try it several more times with similar results in order to learn a very simple lesson. “Chew this and it will make you so sick you want to die.” I am glad to say that today, I do not chew tobacco but it’s not because I’m healthy or wise or am scared of cancer, I honestly do not want to get sick. That’s actually enough of a deterrent for me today. I believe this has been a gradual, spiritual awakening. It didn’t happen overnight but it did I fact lead to a change in my “heart.” It was a messy, long process but it did eventually happen.

I’m  recently reminded at the moment of the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol”. If you’ve seen or read this you’ll probably remember that Ebeneezer Scrooge has a change of heart after being tortured by 3 “ghosts” who visit him to show him the error of his ways and how his life is off track. After the third ghost, he’s seen the error of his ways and from that moment on he’s a changed man.  As I watched the story again recently I began to see the unhealthy negative patterns in his life began to consume him. It was His fear of poverty propelled him into an all consuming greed that cost him every relationship In his life and left him with the reputation of being “a Scrooge” He didn’t set out the be this way but eventually over time he made decisions that isolated him and robbed him of life. As we know from the movie, after his change of heart he left a legacy of generosity and kindness. This spiritual awakening happened late in life for Scrooge but it did happen. 

I think God has been showing me these things to help me identify The Spiritual Awakenings in my life. They’ve been happening all along but I think I’ve been waiting for an “aha” moment. And, while there are these moments at times, the Spiritual Awakenings that I’m becoming aware of are a constant renewing of my spirit. God says the he wants us to have a full, rich life. For me, it has been the recognition of self destructive patterns in my life, patterns that are designed to destroy me, not to bring me life. Just like when I chew tobacco, I now know that these choices make me “sick” they rob me and those around me of the full life that God intends. I’d like to think that as God shows me these things I’d just “stop” and then make a change immediately. However if I’m being honest the spiritual awakenings are usually a process of God allowing me to bump my head, get back up and go, “ok, that hurt, maybe I shouldn’t do that again.”

So, if you’re like me you might be waiting on a divine sign or fireworks or whatever to point you in the direction your spiritual awakening. You might be waiting on choirs of angels to signal this moment of significance.  If you’re waiting on those and not getting them, don’t be alarmed. Instead look for a the hand of a patient loving father who looks at you when you fall down and get back up and says “now, go this way.” This in fact is a spiritual awakening. I pray we all come to see these seemingly insignificant events in our lives as places where God is at work in us.  He says in that he “started a good work, and he’s gonna finish it.” Be encouraged today that God is at work in you, even if it’s a little messy 🙂