He Lies In Wait

Too many lies

There once was a girl who lived by the shore,
Whose Mommy told​ her they were quite poor.
The Mommy was afraid that they’d be in need
So she lied and deceived and grew lost in her greed.

As time went by, the little girl grew,
Increasing in beauty and all that she knew.
She loved her mommy but felt angry inside
Because Mommy used people and quite often lied.

It was bad when Mommy exchanged truth for wealth,
But it was sad when Mommy lied to herself.
She told lies so good, she believed her own
Until they became her only friends in a lonely home.

The little girl swore she’d never know this life,
So she found a boy and became a wife.
She made friends and a family in a lovely town,
And had her own little girl whom she’d never put down.

Then one day this Mommy had a bad day,
She knew neither what she could do or could say.
Angry and worried, she gave up her goal.
She used people and lied for the sake of control.

And when all seemed done, it seemed she’d won,
When really she’d only shown that she too could run.
Conflict and pain were never dealt with head-on,
Not as a child and not as a mom.

Now Daddy’s no saint; he has his own lies,
He forgets how little the world satisfies.
But he dreams of the day when all is made right,
On that day when we’ll kneel before an unapproachable light.

So for now another little girl grows down by the shore
Apart from a Daddy who could not love her more,
A Daddy who’ll someday look into her eyes,
And apologize because, “Your Mommy and I just believed too many lies.”

My grass is overgrown, and I don’t care.

I am convinced that eternity exists; that this experience we understand to be life is only a brief, finger-snap moment before our eternal dwelling in one of two residences–either with God or without.  I consequently find myself having a very difficult time caring about the minutia of this life.  My credit score, my lawn, my reputation, etc.  I find myself meditating on the concept of forever, and eagerly awaiting the time and place in which all things will be made right, only then to walk outside and see my overgrown front lawn.  Oh, and my inherited and unfinished flagstone project.

But I do not care!  I look around at a million things that will eventually burn up or fall away.  Everything will decay, my body included, and only our souls will remain in the environment God will lay upon this earth.  Why then should I give a rip about this, that, or the other?

To be fair, this might all just be an excuse.  I have bills, and I should pay them, and it may be that I am merely using eternal salvation as an excuse to avoid and neglect things I’d rather not do, not because I’m so overwhelmed by the revelation of the Holy Spirit, but because I’m lazy and/or disinterested.  The truth of the matter may just be that I should have better considered my interest in things like home maintenance before I purchased a home, or rather committed a good chunk of my monthly income to a bill collector who owns my home much more than I do.

Just the same, I don’t care.  I know that I should care–I think–but I do not.  I feel enslaved to these trivial things: this lawn, these pets, the continually settling dust and animal hair that slowly seeks to carpet my home.  The American Dream and my image.  It all demands so much sustained attention.  And the cruel thing is that there is not one thing that seems overwhelming, such that I could point at it and say, “Look, everyone, at this thing that is taking control over me!”  No, that would be too convenient.

Rather, there are a million little things.  Tiny pinpricks that aggravate me on a daily basis that would seem ridiculous by themselves, but together form a powerful stress-inducing army.  The dog I care too much for and thus cannot simply give away who’s teeth are rotting, whose breath is rank, and who pees on my floor weekly, if not daily.  The floor that remains clean for a day.  The house that is ever decaying.  Ever requiring.  The lawn that grows. Every.  Freaking.  Day.  Thankful as I am, or try to be, that I have an area in which my two small dogs can run, it is not without cost.

I’m just tired of it.  This life of mediocrity and mundane slavish servitude.  I’m tired of it.  I’m not suicidal.  I’m just so fed up.  Why does any of this BS matter?

I feel like this is the point where I’m supposed to find the answer deep within my soul.  Or, let’s be honest.  The answer to why I should mow my lawn is probably neither that deep nor that complex.  Nonetheless, I don’t have it.  At least, not today.  Maybe tomorrow, but not today.  Today, I don’t give a shit.

It’s a beautiful day out.  My bike has a flat tire.  My God is crushing my old identity, presumably to build up a new one.  My dogs are walked and my grass isn’t the worst in the neighborhood.  So I don’t, and I won’t care.  And for someone like me who has spent far too much of his life concerned about the opinions and impressions of others, maybe today is a good day to practice not giving a damn.

I feel better now.  Thank you.

Maybe We’re Responsible for Too Much

Figuring out what matters matter

Obligations

I’m on the board for my local homeowners’ association (HOA).  It’s not at the top of my list when it comes to ways in which I identify but I’m not ashamed of it either.  It just is what it is.  I joined because Joe, the board president, is my neighbor.  About a year ago he came to my house and asked if I’d be willing to fill a seat.  When I asked him what the role required, he said it basically meant checking my email periodically and voting on some decisions, to which I agreed.

Joe does the vast majority of the work that needs to be done in order to fulfill the HOA’s commitment to homeowners to ensure an environment that is both desirable to live in and desirable to own an asset within.  That work includes covenant enforcement, community communication, and accounting/bookkeeping.

I asked Joe to come by today because I wanted a better understanding of what’s required of the HOA.  I wanted to to know what would need to be done if Joe got hit by a bus, and more so, I wanted to alleviate some of the pressure on Joe’s shoulders, despite the limited room I have in my life to take on new things.

Joe was kind enough to explain to me how we do our accounting; how we receive payments, pay vendors, reconcile accounts, assess late fees, maintain receipts, etc.  There were certainly moments when my eyes glazed over and my mind wandered to less demanding places, but for the most part I kept with him.  I’ve worked in accounting in the past and used personal budgeting software for most of my adult life, so I felt I had an advantage, though I can definitely sympathize with those would say they simply zone out completely when reviewing things like cash flow reports or an income/expense review.

My takeaway: there’s more to it than I thought.  I assume most homeowners are similar to myself in that they pay their monthly dues and leave it at that.  We assume it’s not that complicated.  You, oh evil HOA, take my money, leave me alone, and shovel the sidewalks.  Make sure the community grass gets mowed and send me a letter that I’ll burn when I get lazy and don’t pull in my trash cans.

The truth is that there’s a quite a bit that goes on behind the scenes in order to make the ship run smoothly, and though I won’t get more into here than I already have, suffice to say that Joe’s volunteer service to our community is drastically underappreciated.

Stepping Back a Few Steps

This got me thinking,  not about expressing appreciation for Joe, though I should think about that, but rather about responsibilities, and how many responsibilities the typical full-time working, tax-paying, Facebook-updating American man or woman tries to maintain on a daily basis.

I don’t have a very complex life, I think.  My friend, Matt, has a lot of responsibilities.  He has a wife, a full-time job, three kids, church-type responsibilities, community responsibilities, extended family responsibilities, and probably some other things going on while I, by comparison, have two dogs and a lawn I neglect.  And a broken marriage.

Like Matt and many American men though, I also have a home, bills, an aging body, complicated relationships, desires, dreams, a faith, friends, family, bills, dirty floors, a cluttered garage, neighbors, unread books, social media accounts, a blog, unfinished projects, appointments, trash cans, a high-mileage vehicle, bills, an unchanged air filter, an empty fridge, a seat at church, laundry, dirty dishes, unwritten books, ungiven gifts, unmade money, unassigned time, an ever-dying phone, unused potential, an underused gym membership, and overused XBox Live subscription, undeveloped political opinions, unadopted children, unprayed prayers, unused vitamins, unstretched muscles, bills, and a seemingly ever-increasing list of other societal demands and expectations that I sometimes–no, oftentimes choose to ignore rather than wrangle.  Because it’s a lot, and I’m tired.  Or at least that’s what I say to justify my choice to check out.

I don’t care about a lot of this stuff.  I mean, I know I should care, and I do, sort of.  I care about my Mom and Dad, and my salvation, and the salvation of those I love, and I want my desires to be God’s desires.  I want to read my Bible, and I want to have good conversations with good friends over good drinks and good food.  I want to be financially stable, and I want to be a responsible man.  But sometimes–like when I’m looking at what it means to be a responsible member of my HOA board–I can’t help but wonder; does this actually matter?

In the example of the HOA, what we (and by we I mean, Joe) basically do is work to make sure Joe Schmoe doesn’t park his truck on his lawn, and Betty Boo doesn’t paint her house pink, because we promised the other owners we’d hold the line against owners who might be temped to act a foo’.  Full disclosure: my lawn needs mowing.

But what if we didn’t?  This is a question I ask a lot in most every facet of my life, and I think it’s a good one to not only ask, but play out.  What if we didn’t do what the HOA does?  What if I don’t read my Bible?  What if I don’t go to counseling?  What if I don’t walk the dogs, pay the bills, go to work and spend time with friends?

Well then there would be consequences.  Choices render changes, and while I could judge those consequences as good or bad based on society’s expectations, the fact is that I don’t know the entirety of the story, which makes it hard to say what was for the better and what was for the worse.

I made bad choices that led to led to the deterioration of my marriage, but in the time since she left I’ve made–by God’s grace–some of the most important growth in an area of my life where I’ve needed it for a long time, and that is good.  Does that make my bad choices good?  I don’t think so.  But it does humble the judge in me.  So now, rather than try to judge everything as good or bad with as limited a view of the future as I have, I try to evaluate things based on how they fit with my desires.  Desires that I hope and pray are God’s desires for me, of me, and through me.

My point

Maybe we’re responsible for too much, and maybe all those responsibilities sometimes distract us from what matters.  I would suggest that eternal salvation matters most, because if it is true, nothing matters more, but that is not to say that date nights and time with kids and time in school and mowing your lawn isn’t also important.  You don’t get to be a shitty husband because you’re such a great guy at church.  But keeping things in their proper place is important so as not to become too anxious about temporary situations and plights.

My encouragement to you and to myself is that we would begin and/or continue to take time to step back and take stock of what matters, lest we get too wrapped into the meaningless minutia.

“And I am a Son.”

Forever.

God’s grace if offensive.  It looks at my works, both good and bad, and dismisses them, unjustly and unfairly.  The grace of God does not hold me to account as I feel I ought to be.  It does not reward my successes and it does not punish me for my failures.

That bothers me because there are times when I very much would like to be honored and glorified for what God has done through me.  I want the credit, and when I don’t get it, I pout.  Like a child.

But there are also times when I hate myself.  I hate myself for the things I’ve done, words I’ve said, pain I’ve caused and mistakes I’ve made.  What’s more is that I am not without temptation to recommit the same mistakes that have already shown themselves to be self-sabotage; wretched man that I am!  And it is in this shame that I turn to God, critical and hypocritical and demand his wrath.  I want his fury because I know I deserve it.

But God, in wisdom, mercy and love, does not punish me.  He accepts me as I am.  He looks at my mess and does not critique.  He does not call me out and he does not shame me before the crowd.  Rather, he offers to help.  He offers to enter into my overwhelming inadequacy and share with me everything that I need, including the ability to receive his grace.

This both offends me and brings me to tears, be it this morning on the prairie while watching the sunrise, or here and now, in my kitchen while I meditate on the truth.

I am prepared to be a slave.  Life is supposed to be hard.  But to be a son of God–to be welcomed into a home I sought to destroy by a father I rejected passively and then actively.  That, I am completely unprepared for.  That level of love and acceptance breaks me, and I am left neither proud nor ashamed, but only entirely amazed.

Repent and believe, for the kingdom is here.

“I’m a slave.”

Slaves

Paul introduced himself to the church of Rome as a “servant of Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:1, ESV).  This is a translation of the Greek word, doulos, which could also be translated as bondservant, or slave.  Paul was, by his own eager proclamation, a slave to Christ.

Lest there should be any confusion, Paul makes this point only all the more clear in Romans 6, in which he exhorts Christ-followers to realize themselves as “slaves of righteousness.”  His letter to the church of Corinth supports this identity when he reminds his readers that “you are not your own” (1 Cor 6:19); a considerable affront to our modern-day American sense of individualism and autonomy.

Therefore, we who call and consider ourselves Christians are to understand ourselves as not authoritative over our own selves, be that physically, mentally or spiritually.  We have a master; a Lord; a commander; an owner, and it is He and He alone who calls the shots in our lives.  We may make requests, but ultimately we are not self-governed.  We are His, and He is ours.

Fortunately for us, unlike men who are owned by men, we are owned by an eternal, all-powerful, everlasting and good God who we can trust to govern us well.  He governs us better than we can ever hope to govern ourselves, and we trust Him to direct us even when our deceptive and short-term driven desires would lead us to do otherwise.  We trust Him to know our deepmost desires better than we can know them ourselves, and we trust Him to know what is best for us with the knowledge He and He alone has, far beyond what we can ever hope to see from our immeasurably more modest vantage points.

That is why I wish I had–or rather wish that I employed the boldness God has given me to introduce myself as Paul did so frequently; as a slave to my master.  My name and vocation have so little meaning compared to my identity as a slave to Christ, if in fact I am grafted into His vine, that it seems outright silly to introduce myself in any other way.

Obviously, it would put people off-kilter, at least in America, but so what?  Maybe we need more of that.  If it might lead someone to an eternal community with Christ, is it really so great a sacrifice to be the weird guy or girl who responds to the question, “what do you do,” with an atypical answer that might reorient an eternal soul?

I mean seriously: do we, oh fellow Christians, really believe forever exists?  And if we do, how does that change us?  How can that not change us?  How alarmed ought we be if our understanding of forever, graciously given us by God, does not affect our identities or conversations?  If we are still merely names and vocations?

I am a slave to my Lord; a slave to righteousness.  I am a servant of Christ and a sinner saved by grace.

Prayer

Father: Please, give us the boldness to do the work that matters most.  Give us and give me the courage to go and make disciples.  To respond as an enthusiastic slave to You.  You are my God, and I am grateful that my life is not directed by me, but by You.  Please, remind me regularly of who I am, and why I submit to you not out of dutifulness, but in a spirit of eager anticipation for the good things that I and others can only experience in You.

Amen.

Word

“What’s the word?”

In the Marine Corps, we had this thing called “word.” Basically, word was pertinent information. It was what you needed to know to move forward with your day and with your government-owned life.

It was a coveted thing because word was not typically made available to everyone first-hand from our Commander, by whom it was issued. Rather, word had to be passed from one echelon to the next, from top to bottom.

“What’s the word,” was a common question in the barracks where Marines might spend hours standing by (waiting) to receive it. For reasons I still don’t understand, it often took a long time to obtain word and pass it to everyone. Bureaucracy, I suppose. There was word of the day, weekend word, etc. Word was what you needed to start your week or be freed on a Friday afternoon.

This concept still exists in communities and circles I am a part of now, except that as a Christian we believe God has not only given us word, but THE word. Made flesh. And it is abundantly available to all.

Unfortunately, unlike new believers in China and Rwanda, American believers like myself largely take the word for granted. Our Bibles are dusty and our Commander is, at best, a counselor, whose orders have been misunderstood as advice to be considered rather than unquestionably obeyed.

In the Corps we heeded word because we feared the consequences of deviating from it. In Christ, deviation from the word is not without consequences, in this life and the next, but unlike in the Corps, the word of God exists not merely to control us. It exists to give us life, that we may share it. Pass it along. Not because we have to, but because we get to.

Maybe You Don’t Know if it’s a Good Day

We know what we know.

Attention Getter

There’s a YouTube video I really appreciate of Ravi Zacharias responding to the question of why God allows evil.  It’s six minutes.  I hope you can make the time to watch it, now or later:

The Gist Of It

In concluding his response, Ravi tells the Eastern folklore tale of man whose horse runs away.  Incredibly, it returns, but breaks his son’s leg, which then keeps the son from being forcibly recruited by a traveling gang.  As these events play out, the horse owner’s neighbor continually comments on the man’s good and bad luck, all the while not knowing the effect of each circumstance on the future.

The moral of the story is that for as tempting and convenient as it is for us, much like the horse owner’s neighbor, to make moral judgments about day-to-day things, the truth is that we do not know how things will ultimately play out.  We cannot really know what will be beneficial, and what will not.

I think of this often in trivial moments, like when the barista asks me how my day is going.  I realize she’s just being conversational, but sometimes I feel like letting loose:

How the hell should I know?  It’s 9 am and I’ve only begun to live this day out, but even if it were 5 in the evening I only know what I know in the very limited scope of things that is my own meesley perspective!  How’s your day!  Do you know?  Can you know?  You’re living and dying in the exact same moment!  Do you have the ability to make moral judgments about everything that happens!  Do you know how it’s all playing out and where this friggin’ ship is headed!

That would probably be a defining moment in her decidedly “bad day.”

Let’s Be Honest

I don’t intend to change anything.  Small talk is small talk, and I’m just ranting.  I know that when my uncle calls me and asks how work is, and I say that I’m working a lot, that he doesn’t mean much when he says, “Well, that’s good.”

Sure, I could admit that I’m only working a lot in order to afford counseling and keep my mind busy since I tend to make poor decisions when I’m bored, but that seems rather exhausting.  He’s not oblivious to the struggles of my life anyway, so it’s not like it would be a shock if I admitted it.  It’s just–it’s just easier to say, “Well that’s good.”

Uncertain Conclusions

While driving home from work earlier tonight, I was thinking of something.  I can’t remember what but I found myself wanting to categorize it as good or bad.  Such is the temptation of mankind to label and categorize things.  It makes them easier for our minds to understand and sort out.  And that’s not necessarily a “bad thing.”

But sometimes things just are.  They’re neither clearly good nor bad–they just are.  I did this.  I said that.  It had that effect.  Is that good?  Is that bad?  I don’t really know.  What I do know is what effect it had, and whether that effect was intended or unintended, that’s what happened.  So now what?

I don’t want to encourage the idea that good and evil do not exist.  They do, and there are certainly cases in which a spade ought to be called a spade.  I’ve made bad choices.  I just don’t know what all of them are yet, especially when some of them are rendering good changes in my life.

Admission

I’m actively working stuff out here, so if I seem contradictory or unclear at times, it’s because I am.

 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Roman 8:28

“Look, Lord. See my shells.” by John Piper

Important.

Tolle Lege

“I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, which tells about a couple who “took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.”

At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life—your one and only precious, God-given life—and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells.

Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord…

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How To Pick Up Women

An example

Women aren’t stupid, nor are they all the same, so what works for one woman might not work for all or even most, but there are some characteristics and practices that seem to appeal to more women than not.

Confidence

Confidence, not cockiness, helps.  Symptoms of confidence include good posture, an assured speaking voice, and a healthy level of eye contact.  You want to speak and carry yourself as one who knows what he wants and is willing to take a risk in order to obtain it.  You want your mission to be clear, and you want to be clearly committed to it.

Listen

Listening is a means  of value-giving.  Just as, if not more important than what you say is how you listen and how you respond, verbally and non-verbally to a woman when she responds to your advance.  Listen not merely to hear words.  Listen in order to give value.  Again, use eye-contact and make sure you are facing her from a distance that is not awkwardly far but not intimidatingly close.  Close enough to put your hand on her shoulder but not close enough to hug her.  Remember: the purpose of your listening is not only to hear what is being said but to communicate your appreciation for what she is saying.  Value her, beginning with her words.

Be Welcoming

Smile, not like a dork, but like one who is genuinely happy to be interacting with a beautiful woman.  Smile like you know she likes you.  Unfold your arms.  Use simple hand gestures, and let your hands face up more than down.  Up is inviting and offering.  Down is controlling and oppressive.  Make a clear offer for her to respond to.  Ambiguity is not your friend.  Give her something to either say yes or no to.  Instead of asking for her number, offer to contact her.  It’s less risky to offer her your number, but it is not her responsibility to reach out to you.  You are the initiator.  You are the driver.  Act as such.

Be Safe

This is not easy to communicate non-verbally, but this is what you’re going for, maybe more than anything.  More than most women want an attractive man, they want a safe man.  Physical attractiveness at its best is only a means of getting noticed by a species that is much less visually stimulated than it is emotionally hungry.  Women want to feel protected, and while many a man will spend countless hours at the gym working to make himself appear as one who could defend his woman against an attacker in a dark alleyway, the truth is that if you can muster the balls to approach her, you’ll get much further in a relationship with her if you can demonstrate yourself as one in whom she can entrust herself and her emotions.  In other words, while it’s good to be able to protect her from an attacker, you’ll more often need to know how to safeguard the outpouring of her emotions.

Can she share herself with you?  Can you hear what she is most ashamed of, uncertain of, and insecure about, and still love and accept her exactly as she is?  Can you be vulnerable with her, and she with you, such that your iniquities lean against one another in a supportive way rather than a corrosive way?  Maybe you can carry her through a door, but can you carry on together through uneasy times?  Can you care about her when she doesn’t care about herself?  When she doesn’t care about you?

If you can, you may not be merely picking up a woman.  You may be cherishing her.  But then, that’s how you attract a woman.  The ability and desire to cherish is attractive.

Summed Up

The truth is that the best way to attract a woman is to reflect the man of Christ.  Be confident.  Know who you are.  Know why you are here.  Give of yourself in such a way that says, ‘I value you more than my own well-being.’  Welcome her.  Invite her.  Be safe for her.  Provide, protect, and pray for her.

It is He after all that she and all of us long for, whether we know it or not.  It is He that satisfies our souls, and He that she requires, as do you.  Consequently, the better you know Him, the better you might reflect Him, the better you might love her, and the more she might desire you; keeping in mind that Christ was crucified by the church He loved.  And loves.

It is of course in the process of coming to know Him better that I hope that you might see the absolute ridiculousness of using the example of Christ to lure a woman into bed.  No greater evidence of your depravity, and thus need for Christ, may exist other than in your willingness to use Him as a pickup line; as a means to your selfish ends.

Certainly, is not good for man to be alone, but it’s also not good to use women as if they were created by our Father merely for the sake of validating our false understanding of what it means to be a man.  I’m sorry to say I’ve been guilty of this.

So do her a favor: point her to Him, and if and when you are both oriented upon Him, then point her to the alter.  And then to the room.  Because only then, when you are free to be who you were created to be, and free to have sex in the context it was created to be known in, will you be free.  Going through the motions of intimacy without doing so in the safe container that God gave us to enjoy it within is no more wise or enjoyable than it would be to create a warm, crackling fire on the living room carpet, in front of the fireplace.  You will do more harm than good, and fail to understand the wonderfulness of fire–or sex–in its rightful place.  You will only know a cheap and destructive substitute.

Desire

It’s not what you should want.  It’s what you already most want, even if don’t realize it yet.