I don't know why, but I'm not very good at freeing my mind of responsibility and just relaxing. I'm not a big fan of surprises, I like to have a plan; having a plan means you always have to be one step ahead and be thinking what the next play is gonna be. Lately God has been teaching me about surrendering my down time to him; to not be thinking about the next "big thing," but rejoice in the here and now.
In my job (If you can call it a job) I travel a lot. When I'm speaking to people I feel I'm doing what I was born to do. Especially when speaking to students in a packed out gymnasium, that's when I'm most in my element. The adrenaline is pumping, there's laughter and tears, and God is moving in lives. Seeing that student that was once broken give their life to Jesus--that's the most amazing feeling of accomplishment anyone could ever have. I go to these events and give my all. I go home exhausted knowing I gave everything to those students. I'm great at the event and I'm great at exhausting myself. To tell you the truth if I'm not exhausted I don't feel like I did my job.
The thing I'm not so good at is resting and recovering from the event. I find that I come home usually in a grumpy mood. I'm exhausted spiritually, mentally, and physically. My lovely wife is always there with a smile to welcome me home. My poor wife. I arrive home drained from speaking, lack of sleep and from conversations with students and I just collapse.
For the longest time I would find myself coming home and immediately jumping into the next big project without taking a day to replenish myself physically, mentally and spiritually. I thought I needed to be like the Christian Terminator destroying my body then bouncing back without any recovery. I felt guilty if I didn't get right "back to work." Sadly, I was just fooling myself and not only was I suffering as a result of not resting, I was causing my wife to suffer as well.
When you look the words weak or weakness up in the bible it appears 74 times. In the New Testament its most often talked about by a man named Paul (known as Saul of Tarsus). In 1 Corinthians he speaks to the Corinthians saying, "I came to you in weakness-timid and trembling." He says that he did this so they would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. Trusting and relying on the power of God...hmm...now there's a concept. It's easy for me to rely on the power of God when I speak because quite frankly I know I would be speaking nonsense without God's Spirit. However, it's not that easy for me to rely on God's Spirit to refuel after a week of ministry. I find myself going into a funk. I'm tired and grumpy and I drink caffeine in an attempt to push past the weakness. I've finally come to realize I need to allow my body to come down naturally from this spiritual high and the best thing for my body at that time is REST. Pretty simple isn't it? Writing a whole blog like this to say all I need to do is rest!
A few weeks ago my wife sent me a video from Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Seattle Washington. It was titled "What to do After the Big Day" and it sparked this blog I'm writing to you now. In it Pastor Mark speaks very candidly and honestly about what I'm speaking about here. As I watched it struck me: "Oh man thats me!" I'm attaching the video to this blog and I hope it speaks to you as it did me. I hope you take time to rest and refuel yourself. Do you always find yourself saying how busy you are, how you need to take a break but you needlessly keep plugging away? Drop your pride, realize you're human, take time to get refueled by the word and REST. But don't just stop there. List each of the areas in your life that you feel you need to get under control. One of the things I'm trying to do is get on a better sleep schedule. I often find myself up until the wee hours of the morning because I can't shut down my brain, then the next day I'm exhausted.
Although being weak isn't fun, I thank God for my weakness because in my weakness he is made strong! I need to learn to rely on his strength and not my own. For those of you who, like me, feel the pressure of being all things to all people, please realize you're human. I pray you find rest in your soul and in your body. I leave you with 2 Corinthians 12:9 where the Apostle Paul says: "Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness."
May we all learn to rely on Gods grace!
Five years ago I was working as a promoter for a college. I drove from state to state setting up an info booth. I was also working as a counselor for summer camps. That particular summer I put 14,000 miles on a rental car in two months. The longest stretch I drove was from South Dakota to North Carolina. I remember being so tired and I couldn't stop because I had to be at the next camp. I must have tried every energy drink out there. The Green Monster, Redbull, Rockstar, Amped, Donkey Kick, you name it, if it had caffeine in it, it was my friend. Energy drinks have been the fad for the past couple of years. Their main purpose is to energize or "empower" the person drinking it; to give you a boost and make you alert. There have been some complaints lately that energy drinks give you a boost for an hour or so then leave you feeling worse than before. In an effort to fix this problem one company came out with an energy shot called "Five-hour energy." This nasty little swig tastes like sweat, but wakes you up and keeps you alert without the crash later.
Just as our bodies get tired physically and we become unfocused and perhaps even sick, our spiritual bodies also can weaken. What is the energy drink for our souls to boost our alertness and give us that extra 'oomph' that won't leave us crashing hours later? That spiritual energy drink is the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 16:5 that he would be going back to the one who sent him, but promised us he would send "the Spirit of truth" to guide us in all truth. He said the Spirit would tell us what he has heard, that he would tell us about the future, and be a messenger of what God has to say to us. The Holy Spirit was given to us by the Father (John 14:16), by Christ (Isaiah 61:3), through Christ's intercession (John 14:16).
I remember seeing a Redbull energy drink commercial where a frog wanted to be turned into a prince. As the fairy tail goes, the princess is supposed to kiss the frog and that would magically turn the frog into a handsome prince. However in this commercial when the princess gets ready to kiss the frog the frog asks for a Redbull energy drink instead. The Redbull slogan is "Redbull gives you wings!" Once the princess gives the Redbull to the frog he turns into a prince and grows a set of wings. He starts to fly off and the princess says "wait where are you going?" and the prince says "I want to check out the other princesses, you know, keep my options open!" It's pretty funny. Well, to make a weird analogy, the Holy Spirit is here to give us wings! No, not so we can keep our options open or fly away from Christ, but just the opposite--so we can fly towards Christ. Wings help us get to our destination a whole lot faster than walking plus the wings give us power!
Jesus says in Acts 1:8 that, "when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere-in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." The Holy Spirit is our wings! He's there to give us power, to be that boost to help us over that hump, and give us boldness to share our faith. He's the gas for the Harley! I don't care how nice the bike is in the showroom, without gas in it, its not going anywhere! The Holy Spirit helps us overcome obstacles in our way. If I brought you to a huge tree in the woods and I gave you a chainsaw and an axe and said you could cut it down with either, but you could only use one, most of us would all choose the chainsaw because it would do the same job of the axe but in half the time! Can we get through life and its many challenges and difficulties without the Holy Spirit's infilling? Truth is, yes, but it's gonna be a lot harder and take a lot longer than if we would use his power! The believers (the disciples of Jesus) were "filled" with the Holy Spirt on the day of Pentecost seven weeks after Jesus' resurrection. It says in Acts 2:1-4 that "on the day of Pentecost the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies above them, and it filled the house where they were meeting. Then what looked liked flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability."
I remember a time a man in church was causing a major disruption during worship. He was jumping around, yelling loudly, and dancing up to other people pushing them demanding that they do what he was doing. He went up to the Pastor and nudged him saying he too would jump around if he was as free as he was. The Pastor simply put his arm around his neck whispered something and moments later the man stormed angrily out. Being curious and wanting to learn from the experience, I asked my pastor later what he said to make the man so mad. He answered, "All I told him was that the purpose of worship was to bring glory and attention to God and not ourselves and he was bringing attention to himself; I told him that he would need to leave if he continued." The man left in anger and never learned what the pastor and more importantly what God desired to teach him. Too many people think it's about themselves when it's not. The Holy Spirit's purpose is to empower us so we can give God glory, not bring glory to ourselves. I love the verse in John 3:30 "He must become greater and greater and I must become less and less." When we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, the purpose is to make Jesus greater, and to make ourselves less. By us becoming less we are not focused on the "gifts" of the Spirt so much as we are wanting to please the Spirit and make Jesus happy.
A little over a month ago I had sinus surgery. I cannot express to you the pain I experienced recovering from this. I have to be
honest, if I would have known how much this was going to hurt and how uncomfortable the recovery time would be, I wouldn't have done it. I've always had major sinus issues and continually had sinus infections. Hacking, coughing, snorting, sniffing, blowing--you name it and I have done it. My poor wife has had to put up with all of the above and has learned to sleep through a hurricane other wise known as my nose! I went in about 5 months ago to an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor. This guy, being a specialist and coming highly recommended, scoped my nose, putting a light and long tube up my nose probing around. As my eyes were watering and I'm trying not to choke he brings the scope out and says, "Oh man! You got some nasty stuff going on in there!" Ok time out: It's never good when a doctor that's spent his life specializing in examining holes other doctors refuse to look into says, "Oh man! You got some nasty stuff going on there!"
After my summer traveling I went in for surgery. I remember feeling somewhat nervous being put "under" and all. There I was stretched out on the operating table in a dress that wouldn't close in the back and a paper shower cap on my head bathed in bright light and I started thinking to myself is this really worth the humiliation? The anesthesiologist gave me something good and said I would be sleeping in no time. I remember whatever he gave me made my rear end itch and then I said, "You know this room is really intimidating, with these bright lights and stuff. Oh well, you guys do a good job, ok?" And I was out. When I woke up in recovery all I remember was I couldn't see anything and the nurse kept telling me that I was making a mess because I was coughing up blood everywhere. For the next seven weeks I was blowing the most hideous, smelly, crusty stuff you can imagine out of my nose. It got to the point where after I would give birth to this alien out of my nose I would run to my wife and beg her to look at what I just accomplished! Every guy knows what I’m talking about. Ladies here's some advice, if a guy ever goes to the bathroom and asks you to come look at something don't go, it's never good.
As painful as the recovery time was I have to say it was well worth it. I don't remember the last time I was able to have 100% breathability through both nostrils. I hardly ever get a headache anymore. As I was recovering and blowing this crud out, I kept asking myself, "Why the junk did this doctor not pull out all this stuff when he was in there!" I was at times very frustrated thinking that a couple days after the surgery everything would be great and I would be completely well; little did I know, it was going to take seven weeks of nastiness before I started feeling better.
James 1:2-4 says "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."
In the message version it states that we should consider it a "sheer gift" when troubles come our way. A gift!! What!? Did I hear that right? We should consider all the heartache that life brings, all the "nastiness" the recovery if you will a gift? That means I should consider my abusive upbringing a gift from God...it's kinda hard when you put it like that.
The only way to get rid of the infection and the nastiness of our flesh is to put ourselves through the fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-13) and when we go through that fire it will reveal whether or not we have what it takes. It will reveal if we have cut corners through the trials of life or whether we have faced our trials head on. I've used every kind of nose spray you can think of; I've used decongestants; I've been on antibiotics, but all those things were temporary bandages, getting rid of the pain temporarily, but never fixing the problem. The problem was fixed when the doctor put this scope in my nose and then went in my head and cut things away that were not supposed to be there. That's what life feels like sometimes doesn't it? It feels as if God is cutting things away in our lives, trimming the fat, the infection, and it's not until we surrender our desire for a Mickey -Mouse-Disney-movie-perfect-ending fantasy to Him that He will truly be able to move in our lives.
We have to stop wanting the temporary patches of life, we have to start welcoming the trials that God brings our way, knowing it's the trials that will keep us standing firm in our faith when the winds blow and the storms come. Knowing that it's through these trials that we will find ourselves and see who we really are and, better yet, see how great our God really is.
A while ago I was talking on the phone to my father. For some reason I said, "Dad I want to thank you for the abuse, because I've been able to help a lot of people, and if my life wasn't like that as a child I don't think I would be as effective as I am." I didn't say that out of animosity, but I truly meant it. We have two choices when trials come our way, we can either get bitter or better. We can try to prolong the inevitable of what we know is coming by patching it up with bandages or we can welcome it knowing God is in control and he will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). There is nothing more rewarding than going through that trial and coming out the other side realizing you have what it takes to survive.
I think that's how the Apostle Paul got to the point where he could write 2 Corinthians 6 with an honest heart. He was beaten with whips and rods, he was stoned, shipwrecked and left for dead and yet the guy surrendered everything. He basically got to the point where he knew it was going to hurt but made the decision that this life is only temporary and his pain and these trials wouldn't last forever. He was confident and that one day this life would pass and he would stand before God with precious rubies, things that mattered because he was put through the fire and he came out a man, a man that didn't forfeit his character or integrity to shorten the trial, but pushed through it, welcoming it, knowing that it was that trial that would prepare him for his future.
I had a kid come up to me after the assembly program from this last school tour I did in Wisconsin. He said, "Jason last night I was going to end my life but something told me to come today and hear your story, I'm glad I did because now I know I can make it." I’m really glad I made it through that trial in my life as a kid, I'm glad I didn't cut a corner and although very painful learned what I needed to learn through it. It was because of that trial in my life that someone else could see that God was real (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). What are the trials in your life? Are you using different "bandages" to temporarily patch you up, trying to avoid the unavoidable and lessen the pain of the trial? My prayer is that each of us would cling tightly to Christ and embrace the trials that come our way knowing that He is going to use those trials to strengthen the faith of someone else and ultimately lead them to Him.
"Hurts so good, come on baby make it hurt so good, sometimes love don't feel like it should come on and make it hurt so good!" -Hurts So Good, by John Cougar Mellencamp
A couple weeks ago my wife and I were able to spend some quality time with some friends at a lake house in central Florida. We had a great time! I thank God for close friends, true friends. To me a true friend is irreplaceable. I heard someone say their closest friend was their dog, because a dog doesn't care how much money you make or how popular you are and he's always there for you at the end of the day. A true friend sticks by you through thick and thin. A true friend could care less about your social stature; they don't always look to personally benefit from your relationship. A true friend cries when you cry, laughs when you laugh, sympathizes when you're hurting and rejoices when you succeed. A true friend will tell you the truth no matter how bad it hurts, but will always do it in love. With all that said, true friends are really hard to find and if you have someone that meets the above criteria hold on to them; treat them well and tell them how much their friendship means to you.
Growing up I didn't realize how blessed I was with the friends God gave me. When I was 13 my parents split up and my mom packed my brother and me up and we moved to Oklahoma. It was a long trip and all three of us were carrying our share of baggage, (and no I'm not talking about the bags in the U-haul trailer). I was a broken, hurting boy who had little security and what fragile security I did have was found in my one true friend and I had to leave him behind. Transferring schools mid-stream is never good. The new kids from the beginning of that year have already made their friends and you are the odd ball that gets thrown into the mix with everyone staring at you. As if I didn't stick out enough I didn't help myself with what I wore to school the first day. I don't know what I was thinking--I don't know what my mom was thinking to let me leave the house this way! I wore a pair of green sweatpants with my doc marten boots and I believe a black t-shirt. The shirt isn't as clear as the green sweatpants and boots. I'm positive I wore the green sweatpants and boots because I remember as I walked into school some kid said, "Oh my God! Look at this dufus with his green sweatpants and boots!" If he had commented on my shirt I would have remembered that, too. You know the phrase, "I was so embarrassed I wanted to crawl in a hole and die"? Well that phrase doesn't even come close to what I felt! See if I had crawled in a hole and died that would leave everyone standing around the top of the hole, laughing over the corpse of the new kid--lying dead in a hole wearing green sweatpants and boots! What I wanted was for everyone else to fall in a hole and die! That way I could have laughed at them and said, "Who’s the dufus now, huh? Bet you wish you would have wore your sweatpants and boots!" That one event pretty much summed up my year; needless to say seventh grade was awful. I still get chills up my spine when I walk into a junior high cafeteria and smell tater-tots! Eighth grade didn't look like it was gonna be any better. I was still the new kid and the cafeteria still smelled like tater-tots. Do schools have tater-tot scented air-fresheners or something?!
But then one day a girl named Jenny Rutherford invited me to her Wednesday night church youth group. I literally looked over my shoulder thinking she was talking to someone else! As that Wednesday rolled around I began to feel kind of nervous wondering if the kids in this "youth group" would accept me. My family rarely went to church, but when we did my mom dressed us to the nines! So naturally, I figured I'd better dress up...Yeah you know where I’m going with this. I wore my khaki slacks, a dress shirt and a brand new vest my mom had got me. I remember walking in and seeing everyone else wearing jeans and t-shirts! I'm pretty sure one guy didn't even have a shirt on! Once again I felt out of place. I stood cringing; waiting for the "dufus" remarks to start when I was greeted by this college guy who gave me a huge hug and said "we're so glad you're here!" It brought tears to my eyes, because for the first time in a long time I felt accepted, needed, and loved. That one hug changed my life. I ended up going back to that youth group again and again and ended up making the greatest friends anyone could ever have. They were all older than me and it was crazy how we met. We were all hanging out at a house and they thought I was funny so they kept inviting me to hang out with them. Over the years we developed a deep bond. We hung out 24/7. Every weekend we were sleeping over at one of our houses, wrestling to the flashes of a strobe light, toilet papering houses and laughing until we thought we would throw up!
I have never laughed as hard as I did than when I was with those guys! I always wondered what put us together, I know now it was God. God used those guys to keep me alive. There were several times I thought about ending my life, but my friends gave me hope. I have to be honest, at first I didn't go to church because of God, I went because I felt accepted and I knew I would see my friends. One thing we all had in common was we came from broken homes. We each had our pain, and there were many nights we would all cry our eyes out not afraid of showing our weaknesses to each other. On several occasions I remember making a pact with them that we would be better fathers to our kids than our fathers had been to us. They stood up in my wedding and I stood up in theirs. If I was ever in a war they, along with my brother, would be the ones I would want to get my back. Never have these guys thought less of me, tried to use me, or betrayed my trust. They aren't perfect, but they are honest and true. I remember getting together with them and praying for hours. I remember the time I thought I had bit my tongue off playing slaughter ball in the pool and they helped me look for it. There have been times when I've been afraid, but I knew I could call one of them, no matter what time of day or night it was; knowing I wasn't an inconvenience; knowing they had my back. Today we're scattered across the United States. Even if years go by when we don't see one another, when we reunite it's as if we've never been apart. They are men of Character, men of faith. My friends.
Proverbs 18:24 says "there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." It may sound weird, but as my faith in my friends grew my faith in my God grew. I thank God for his true friendship and for placing these friends in my life at such a needed time. It was through their love that I began to see His love. God knows what we need and when we need it. If you have a true friend, take some time today to tell them how much their friendship means to you. Life's to short not to tell the ones we love how much they mean to us. I hear a lot of people say they have good friends and when I hear that I always say to myself "but not as good as my friends." While many people have good friends only a few have true friends. Be thankful for them!
PS: To my true friends, I love you guys! Thank you for always being there for me! SF forever!