Monday, August 23, 2010

Do the Body Good

So I’ve been doing some recording of my songs with my friend Jordan in his room, I call it the J-Dub Music Factory. It’s been a lot of fun, hearing something I wrote on a piano or guitar and adding more instruments to it is so cool to hear when it’s all put together.

The hardest part of it is when you hear what you just recorded played back, raw, unedited and with no accompaniments. You feel so exposed and nervous. Like a kid in middle school that just sent a note to a girl that says he likes her only to see her laugh at it with her friends while they point fingers towards me… I mean him. But anyways, you’re like, “Dang, that’s me? That sounds awful!” You hear yourself differently than you hear yourself singing in the shower. It’s pretty tough to hear, especially for a singer like me.

But what’s crazy is that after Jordan played the other instruments we’d recorded with me singing, it didn’t sound so bad. I was like, “Hey, I can actually listen to this. Not completely terrible.”

I think it’s the same thing with our daily lives in the Body of Christ.

Romans 12:4-5
“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

It is my belief that there are no soloists in the Body of Christ. Sunday morning church may have told you differently. And trust me, I love Sister Maggie’s Sunday offering solo special as much as the next guy, but we’re not meant to sing our lives out alone. “Each member belongs to all the others,” we are each an instrument that was made to play in a glorious orchestra.

Just like the other instruments that were added helped to cover up the cracks, shallowness, and altogether weakness of my 12-year-old boy-like singing voice, as members in the Body we are meant to balance, protect, and uplift the other members.

Romans 12:15-16
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.”

The Body is meant to care for the Body. Yet for so long we’ve been a masochistic body. Sometimes more than the world could ever hurt us, we’ve been hurting ourselves. Instead of rejoicing with those who rejoice, we get jealous. Instead of weeping with those who weep we say that they should get over it, or counsel them with all of our great wisdom and analyze their problems to death, when really they just need someone to listen to them.

A hand never goes to the places a foot has been. The foot was not really made to be a hand but got demoted; it was perfectly designed and placed by God to be a foot. A hand should not try to make a foot another hand. Nobody wants to try and eat a sandwich with a foot-hand. Gross. You’ve been perfectly designed and placed in the Body by God. Be who you are supposed to be in it! But the Body must work together.

I remember a Savior who was on his hands and knees as a servant, placing hands where feet step. I remember a Savior who was pierced in his hands and feet because he loved every part of the Body.

His body is our example, and we are his body. Really weep with those who weep. Really rejoice with those who rejoice. Be who you are in this great Body of Christ. Jesus told us to remember his body that was broken. So be pierced. Be humbled.

We are broken, and we belong to each other, and we all belong to Jesus. We are the body of a Savior who was “pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities,” but we are beautiful.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Layers Upon Layers Upon Layers

Matthew 7:24-27

The Wise and Foolish Builders
24"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

I had just graduated high school. My greatest dreams lay ahead of me. I could go anywhere I wanted to go, be anything I wanted to be. The possibilities were endless that summer.

So where else was there to go but to a tree farm to work out in the hot sun all the live-long summer. Every young, ambitious man’s dream. Obviously.

If you’ve never had to do manual labor for an extended period of time I suggest you try it. Apparently it builds character? Thanks for those words of wisdom, mom.

I learned many things at the blessed tree farm. Like what a man smells like who refuses to bathe. And that you can get a massive sunburn even if it’s cloudy outside. And also that if you drive a lawn mower over a PVC water pipe, that you will have created an erupting geyser in a split second.

Of all the wonderful things I learned there, I suppose the thing that most impressed me was that it’s much harder to plant a tree than you’d think. You don’t just drop the tree (with a 2-foot diameter root ball) in hole, kick some dirt in, spray it with some water and leave. The tree will die if you do that. I know. I saw them die. Not my fault of course.

To properly plant a tree you must put it in the ground and as you fill in the hole with soil, you must use a hose and continually wash in the dirt. It takes much longer than you’d think, and it is so vital that there are no air pockets around the roots. Fill in dirt. Wash it in. Repeat. Repeat. Get a blister. Repeat.

When you’re walking by a palm tree you really have no clue what the roots look like underneath and how important it is for its life that it was properly planted. You only see the surface, but the most important part of the tree is beneath the ground.

Have you ever had big, amazing, life changing moments in the presence of God? Maybe times where you’ve cried harder than you ever thought you could. Maybe the power of God was so strong you couldn’t even stand. Maybe you heard his voice so direct and so clear. Maybe you felt his love deeper than anything ever before. Maybe you saw a miracle. These are some of the moments we never forget. The ones we give testimonies about in church or on mission trips. The ones you know you would never even need a picture to remember it by because it will always be clear in your mind’s eye.

Those moments are great and important to our spiritual lives, but if we live waiting for the next big God explosion to blow our minds, I believe we will be people who are spiritually dying.

I think that like the roots of the trees, perhaps it is the things we will never remember that are the most important for our growth. Just because you can’t see them or remember them does not mean they were not impactful in a most important way. They are the daily times of communion with God that we must wash in over and over, a foundation of layers of continual faithfulness and seeking after God. And just because maybe you can only see or remember the top layer (perhaps what you read in your Bible yesterday) does not mean the other layers of time with God in the past have no relevance or significance.

We are building our foundations on the Rock of Jesus with every daily reading of scripture, prayer service, time of worship, and good deed. So when the rains come down, the streams rise, and the winds blow and beat against us we will not fall, because our layers are firm and our roots run deep. If our foundation is not solid, there’s no way anything on top of it will remain.

Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6 to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The bread we buy from Publix was not the bread he was referring to. Real bread only stays fresh for about a day then it gets hard and stale. When I was in Paris I saw people go to the bakery every morning for fresh bread → une baguette. I think with God and man, it must be a daily walk, daily trust, daily praise, and a daily dose of grace and guidance. Our daily bread.

Just like the soil around the roots, the word of God must be continually washed into our lives. “Pray continually.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

You’re not going to remember every moment you ever spend with the Lord, just like Michael Jordan doesn’t remember every basket he’s ever made, but each moment with God is necessary to our growth. You can’t build on top of something that is not there.

Seek the Lord. Build layers on top of layers of intimate and precious moments with your God. Because I believe with all my heart that even if you don’t remember them all, your Father does.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Wave Pool Life

When I was a kid I spent a lot of time at Ocala’s premier water park Wild Waters. Oh yeah, Ocala has it all. We even have TWO Wal-Marts!

Anyways, like most of the other kids in the park, I’d drop whatever I was doing or leave whatever line I was in and run as fast as I could (or walk safely if a lifeguard was around) to get to the wave pool whenever I heard that it was time for the “Wild Waters Waves!” A big, booming voice would come on every hour and announce that the once still waters of the giant wave pool were about to… well… wave. And I’m talking massive waves! The kind that could sink ships! It was always exciting.

On one particular wave experience, I turned out to not be as excited as I usually was. I don’t know if it was a bad corndog, too much energy spent from running all over the park, or if I was just too overcome with excitement, but for some reason these waves seemed a bit bigger than they were any other time before. And somehow I had gotten out into the middle of the wave pool and didn’t even have a raft.

The waves kept coming. Each one fiercer than the last. I found myself losing all of the energy I had once before had. With every second that passed it became harder and harder to stay afloat. My head kept going underwater and by the time I had kicked myself up enough to catch my breath I would start sinking again. There I was, an eight-year-old kid coming closer than ever before to what I knew of death.

At one point, I looked to the right and saw a girl around my same age floating on a tube with her dad swimming right next to her. In an act of desperation I reached out and grabbed onto her tube so that I could keep above water. And then, suddenly, the girl looked back at me and into my eyes… and she gave me the weirdest look I’d ever seen someone give me. Perhaps that was the first weird look from a girl I had ever gotten; I should have known right then that I would live a life constantly filled with many more.

After that girl stared into my soul and annihilated my self-esteem, I decided to let go of her floatation device. Apparently I would have rather died than take a look like that from a woman. (Nowadays I kind of embrace them; perhaps I am numb to them?)

As I tried my best to survive in those wild waters, completely exhausted and with shattered confidence, I prayed to God every second for the waves to stop. Finally they did. And thankfully, I did not die.

Years later, I still feel like I am in the same place as that awkward boy in the wave pool. Not really getting anywhere. Not really swimming. Just treading water. Trying not to die. So much effort spent on kicking and paddling as hard as my feet and arms can, but going nowhere. Just treading water.

The Psalmist, that boy, and now this man all pray the same thing:
“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths where there is no foothold. I have come into deep waters; the floods engulf me.” (Psalm 69:1-2)

It’s a frustrating place to be, especially when one of my greatest fears is wasting time I will never get back. But here I am, treading water. For all my dreams, attempts, and pursuits, I am swimming nowhere it seems. I tread water. I swim to keep myself from drowning.

I’m not dying, but am I really living? And is this life abundantly?

I am finding life is not a straight shot to the finish line. It is a road with intersections, turns, and traffic lights. Sometimes when we feel like we are stuck, just treading water and going nowhere, maybe we are really just transitioning.

2 Corinthians 4:16
“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

Maybe we are in another transition point in life. Some transitions are smooth and painless, but some are complicated and take more time than we expected them to. But this is real life. And I think that’s why they are called transitions and not dead ends, because we are going somewhere still, it’s just that things are changing. Time is not our enemy; it is a part of our process.

Being people that want to be continually moving forward is not a bad thing, but we must realize that occasionally the only action needing to be taken is the act of patience. If we are putting our trust in the Lord, we must put our timing in Him as well.

Sometimes saying, “I’ll stay where you have me,” is just as important as saying, “I’ll go where you send me.”

It’s amazing what a little shift in your perspective can do for your faith. Try looking at your situation a little differently, and know above all else that God is looking at your situation, too.

If it feels like you’re treading, maybe you’re really just transitioning.

Psalm 116:5-7
“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the simple-hearted; when I was in great need, He saved me.
Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”