Church, Death, Depression, faith, relationship

Our Jesus

The perfection of my Father never ceases to amaze me. I’m thankful He is all knowing in the face of my ignorance. He reveals things to me when I need to know them, and if I don’t need to know them I am comfortable in knowing He knows what to do. That just made me think of an old hymn.

Needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Life is exceedingly painful, and I’m not going to say one season of life is harder than another because suffering is suffering, and when a one-up-man is at play it doesn’t serve to relieve the suffering one of pain. That’s not God’s purpose. When you read the book of Job I think you learn a powerful lesson in how we are to respond to any kind of suffering. Most of the time complete silence is order. Being present with the one who is hurting is all that is needed. Holy Spirit reveals to our hearts and minds when words need to be said. Life itself is a teacher, and our filibusters do more harm then good. We get off on some rant of what we think that person should have done in any given experience, but no one knows what they would have done until they go through it. Walk in that person’s shoes, and then if something needs to be said it will be revealed.

Listen from different angles, suspend judgement if life is not at stake, and when you can rationally discuss details then and only then should words come.

My friend Lynn got me to thinking about these things earlier in the week as we sat in her living room. Our mutual friend Landon was a our topic of conversation, and he has built a life and ministry around this very principle. He’d shy away from this kind of spotlight, but nonetheless we are two who have been transformed by his willingness to be moved the way the Spirit has moved him.

We teach each other don’t we? We move each other in the way we listen, speak and sit silently with each other because we have One who came here, and He showed us perfection in being with people.

Standard
faith

The Pitcher’s Mound

It’s easy to miss the significant in the midst of the mundane. God is constantly at work, and pursuing mankind even in the midst of a girl’s softball game.

Unless the LORD builds the house the laborers labor in vain is what we learn from Psalm 127:1.

The Mt. Juliet team initiated the prayer with our Civitan girls, and as I looked upon these young ladies gathering at the pitcher’s mound in prayer I marveled at the presence of the Father who calls us all His children.

I grieve the loss of innocence and turning from faith the many in our nation are engaged in, but when I pause in wonder at a group of girls who pray after a double header on a Tuesday night I know our nation is in good hands.

God is not wringing His hands in Heaven wondering what to do with His creation. He didn’t even do that during the times of hedonistic Rome when civilization was much worse.

So long we teach our children to pursue the Father who pursues them 24/7 then we are seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all other things will be added.

Standard
Death, Depression, faith, relationship, Women

An Apologetic

Today’s Jesus Calling (June 10) reminded me of a class I had in college. Doug Varnado taught a class called Christian Mind and Devotional Life for 3 hours credit, and it was during that semester that a song really came to light deeply on my heart and mind. Here are the lyrics.

I just want to be where You are dwelling daily in your presence. I don’t want to worship from afar. Draw me near to where You are.

I want to be where You are. Dwelling in your presence. Feasting at Your table. Surrounded by Your glory. In Your presence. That’s where I always want to be.

I just want to be. I just want to be with You.

cropped-cropped-mg_2841.jpgThe suffering servant is a very real reality for billions of Christians. Two of my friends are deeply suffering because their wife and mother have departed this life. An hour hasn’t passed since I found out that I have not thought about both of them. I wrote an entire post in memory of our beloved Bonnie. I went by her beautiful house, but Malcolm was out and about. I texted Malcolm III, and I posted on Facebook respectful comments of my grief for her passing. I knew Bonnie for over half my life, and her love, instruction and presence are impacting me now even in her absence.

Her absence makes my Father’s presence feel even more real, and when my Carey and my daughter were in Chicago I felt a painful void without their physical presence. We are constantly reminded that this life is to be lived by faith, but I am thankful that one day faith will be obsolete because we will gaze into the face of the One who defeated death. I have not concept of that now because I continue to “lose” people I love.

Mac, Bonnie’s husband, is an incredible provider for his family. His smile, unconditional love during the epitome of my depression inspires me now even though he may have no idea it does. I have an inkling into the pain he suffers from the loss of Bonnie from his Facebook posts, but I have no idea the pain he goes to sleep with or the pain he wakes up with without his precious lover near him in the same house.

He is not the first man to lose his wife, and there will be billions more who will experience the same thing, but the pain is real, and I do not glaze over it for anyone.

Two posts are hardly replacement for a life who impacted our eternity, but we draw comfort from the fact she is literally in the presence of our Father.

We long for that because the fallen nature of this world, and the fact that our hearts and strength fail is proof we are not here to stay.

Don’t grow too attached to what you have here, but invest in the things that remind you of God’s presence.

Scripture tells us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added.

That’s easier said, written and quoted, and sometimes impossible to practice because the pull of other things is so deafening and powerful in the face of our human strength. We are not left to our own devices because we have a Helper near and in our hearts and minds.

She/He intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express, and when I’ve been face down in pain I am given strength to rise up because of Her.

My Brother Jesus sweat drops of blood in the garden well before Prozac was discovered, and my Father, who is omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (every where all the time) and omnipotent (all powerful) is closer then the blood in my veins. Satan is not. Is he powerful? Obviously so. Turn on the television. But he is not all powerful. He was created like us, but he chose to reject the Father.

Bonnie did not, and I do not. Choose Him because He chose you (John 3.16).

Standard
Body Image, Books, Death, faith, relationship, Women

True Peace

img_0136

I was at Mission Barbeque at Opry Mills last Friday, and when I went into the lavatory there was a picture of Marilyn Monroe over the urinal. I read this book about Marilyn Monroe, and as I wrote this post she came to mind. With all due respect to those who knew her I have to pity her because she never knew true peace. Her worth was found in men, and Hollywood used her the way I use a vacuum cleaner to clean Nashville homes. She allowed it however, and I think our Father’s mercies are upon her now even these plethora of years later as she is not subject to the discarding of Hollywood’s definition of worth. Never let a human being define your worth. Let my Father see you as a unique creation on which He does not fail. Period. 

A sense of humor is important, but there are some subjects within the context of community and more personal relationships when it’s too early to laugh.

I do not need to take myself so seriously that I can’t laugh at myself, but there is a time to take myself seriously as it pertains to overcoming a particular shortcoming or sin.

Coming to grips with the damage done is a very serious matter that I meditate on, but to gravel in guilt and shame is of course straight from the agenda of Satan himself. Satan may not be directly involved, but he doesn’t have to be for it to be grafted into the thinking of a human being.

We’ve always lived in dark times, but the statements created that become beliefs can be overcome.

We are not left alone to our brokenness even when the end is suicide. If someone drags you and a loved one through shit because they took their own life just walk away because you’ll get it on you.

Boundaries are powerful, and God created them for our protection.

That’s why the word propitiation is so powerful in the text. In my paraphrase I take “hilasterion” and phrase it “boundary.” Boundaries cover and protect, and my LORD’s “atoning sacrifice” and “propitiation” is a boundary from destruction, perishing or annihilation. I am forever secure in the presence of my Father even in death.

That is the reason fear is done away with literally. Oh, I have to choose to believe it because He does not force it upon me.

And I believe it, hence all things can become new.

I pray your faith dive to that kind of depth because you can take all the Prozac in the world, and you’ll never have that kind of peace.

Standard
Arts, Church, Death, faith, Women

Bonnie Rose

Scan

I taught 5th and 6th graders at Madison under Bonnie Rose. I got to know Malcolm and Bonnie and Malcolm III there, and now Carey and I are good friends with the Roses. 

This amazing woman is no longer with us, and it saddens me beyond words. Her Malcolm and Malcolm III are hurting deeply because now they have to go to Wilson Boulevard without her.

I think what I loved most about her was her tireless desire to make the gospel attractive. Her talent for art at Wilson Boulevard, Gallatin Road, Franklin Road and Charlotte Avenue displayed the greatest Artist with poise, dignity and beauty. Her hand of artistic expression honed at Lipscomb Academy and Harding University will live on in her absence, but I would not be surprised if our Father is gazing upon her beauty now.

Bonnie Rose was first and foremost a follower of Jesus Christ. She was Mac’s wife, and Malcolm’s mom, and my tears are heavy as I bear some of their grief.

Their generosity and love I will carry with me to my grave, and when I stop by Wilson Boulevard to visit my dear Mac I will forever remember the lady who was with me in my darkest night of the soul. She was not only there in the pit of my depression, but she was present as I “rose” above it in my groaning. I groan now because there are two men in my amazing city who have a void that will never be filled this side of eternity with our Father.

She took conflict as beautifully as she accepted her arthritis, and when I’d sit with her and Malcolm I could never tell she was in constant pain. She’s not in pain anymore, and the only thing the consoles me in this loss is that the smiles I see on Facebook, and the memory of her in my head are real and enduring. She will be one of the ones I will search for when the new Earth is created. Her place now at the right hand of an all loving Father wherever that is is assuredly a place of warmth and not pain that we can only imagine.

She had a plethora of voids in this life I know because we spent hours sharing our hurts with each other, and as the Holy Spirit worked through both Mac and Bonnie I can look upon our relationship with unadulterated love for the hope I express. Her hope is complete now, and her physical pain is no more, and though I have no idea what happens after death I suspect it’s better than here. I’m not ready to leave because I don’t think my time on Earth is through, but I long for the day to be where Bonnie is.

Bonnie was obviously a beautiful lady, but her heart and devotion to God, Malcolm and Malcolm made her beautiful on an entirely different level. She wasn’t out to compete with anyone, and she did not flash her money to shame anyone. Her heart was open because Jesus transformed her life to love the unlovable unconditionally.

We love you Bonnie, and we’ll miss you terribly as it’s already begun, but we know that when we join you “quietly, quickly and gently” that we’ll see your art, share your heart and hum songs of praise that will raise goosebumps on our arms in the presence of the One who conquered death.

Standard
faith

What Is Strength?

IMG_0458

This picture was taken a year ago in Orlando. This is my youngest brother Jeremy, his wife Crystal, and their 3 little munchins. Jeremy is an inspiration to me because I believe with my whole heart that he embodies all the things I write about in this post. Is he perfect? You know the answer to that. Satan loves it when we are defeated by fear, shame and guilt. He uses all those things in my battle with depression, but people like Jeremy and Crystal give me hope that Revelation is right on track when it teaches us that God wins. 

This morning I came here only I couldn’t because I didn’t have an internet connection. Obviously I do now. That was about 6am. It’s now almost noon. I say that because I’m always proud of sticking to something even if there is a waiting period to accomplish it.

I take for granted the small victories that are really not small at all because small victories lead to big ones.

That was a side note. Here’s what I was really coming to post at 6am.

Fatherhood and Marriage is a mantle. If you choose to shoulder it and do the work, it will bring you to places of joy and satisfaction and love…

But if you falter… if you double guess your choice… if you decide half-way in to shirk the mantle, or grumble at its weight… you are lost. It will punish you without mercy, brutally and endlessly. (LIT: How To Get Your Soul Back; Bryan Ward, ©2016, http://thirdwayman.com. All Rights Reserved.

I’m living this reality. I’m coming out of the unmerciful and brutal side of this equation, so obviously I disagree with with the endless part. It’s similar to my theology. God is never ending, but to say He’s unmerciful is ignorant. Pain is very much a part of life, but it does not last forever. All things pass except the eternal bond we share with God. I place too much emphasis on the things that do not last to the exclusion of focusing on the things that do.

Mr. Ward places fatherhood ahead of marriage, and I don’t assume anything about that between his two ears, but I lived for 6 years being married to Carey before fatherhood came to my experience. Marriage will be with me long after my daughter has left home too. There are too many people who place all their eggs in the fatherhood basket, and they wonder why their marriage ends when the kids leave. Neglected relationships die. There is no more single important relationship than the one with your wife.

Mr. Ward from Third Way Man convinces me of this. My responsibility as a father is a very serious matter, and one I do not, nor have I ever taken lightly, but I am changing my thinking as it pertains to the woman who I share life with till death do we part. This is not because my parents have been married for almost 50 years, nor is it because I’ve been given some special knowledge that I should. It’s not even because the Bible tells me so. It’s because God created from the beginning marriage to be a lifelong commitment between a man and woman. We’ve polluted, perverted and removed all mystery from this holy union because we have failed to acknowledge the supreme power God has over making it pure.

When we take a high view of relationship we know that we must die daily to our selfishness in order to make any relationship work, but too few of us know what that looks like, much less how it looks in our relationship with our wives. We weren’t shown what it looks like, and in fact 50% of us saw it end in a blaze of glory, so how the hell are we to know what to do when a boy learns what he experiences?

It’s high time we get serious about relationship, not because we have a corner on the market, no one does, but because we’ve been given a power and connection with the one true God who never sleeps, eats or wrings His hands in frustration at our refusal to rise to the occasion.

I have failed with epic proportions. That’s not a secret. I am just once voice out of many crying to a Father who is closer than the blood in my veins, and His breath breathes life into my lungs when I can’t take another step. The futility of my plans, my selfish ambition, and my anger at my enemies together can be squelched with His pinky finger, yet somehow time and again I demand fairness from those who reject God. Don’t expect the world to give you what it cannot. Our consumeristic culture can’t even pause on Memorial Day to remember that our fallen men and women made Memorial Day possible. The culture is inundated with ad after ad of new cars and furniture. No wonder we self-implode against our families who we seek “satisfaction” from.

Demanding another person make you happy is not only ludicrous, but it places a demand they cannot fulfill. We have to stop.

Do we empower another human being in their weakness, ignorance and narcissism? No, but when another human being is not able to bring what they cannot bring we need to not only accept it, but we need to embrace it because there is a God who is filling that void.

Marriage exacerbates this because you are now connected to a person 24/7. It’s the way God created it. When we seek to destroy things God created we only destroy ourselves, and I don’t have to tell you we’re doing a good job of destroying each other.

Adam and Eve had the same problem. They blamed another for their sin. It’s time to stop blaming others and other things, and own up to our own sin.

God created us and the planet we’re on. Don’t you think He can sustain and make all 7 billion of us strong upon it?

 

Standard
Arts, Church, Depression, faith, relationship, Story

Improv

 

IMG_1571

This is the room I write about in this post, but it looks silently different. The piano is in the same location. 

Crafting something from nothing has always intrigued me. The book Free Play was introduced to me a few years ago, and even though it’s premise is improv the principles can be applied outside of acting.

I’ve found a new place in the house to read and write. It’s our music room. It’s where my guitar and our piano reside. I’ve read many writing books where they tell you to write in the same place every time. This is is my second day in a row coming here, but I’ve been here several times before. I just haven’t consistently come here consecutive days. Habit and routine are important in creating. I think that’s the trouble with my muse in the context of learning to play the guitar. Kevin is divinely patient with me as I work through the blocks that prohibit me from learning, but as that fire burns within me I will not give up unless death stops me. The artist life is not for the faint, and stage fright is really only a symptom of something much deeper, in my case a life-long struggle with depression.

My dad was pastoring a church in north west Kansas in the middle of nowhere really. It was a typical mid-western Church of Christ, and though I don’t want to demonize them because they are still in existence I will write that all of us have demons to deal with. My brother Jeremy had just been born in Arkansas. It was the very early 80’s, and the church convinced my dad to move his family to Kansas. They only had enough money to pay him for a year. They did not volunteer that information. A year in he’s looking for another job. My nightmares and struggle with depression began. Somehow in the course of that experience I also became a Christian, and I remember vividly thinking that if I wasn’t baptized I’d go to Hell. I also remember growing spiritually in that same day as I stood in the shower after my baptism thinking I get to spend eternity with my Father.

The nightmare was very specific, and I remember it to this day. I was part of a concentration camp on Ellis Island constructing the Statue of Liberty. Lady Liberty was complete from the waist up, but we had to lift her so another work detail could finish from the waist down. We never completed her construction. There was no resolve or closure, and when I’d wake up I’d either have wet the bed, or I’d be in a cold sweat that I’ll never forget so long I don’t battle some sort of dementia. Those dreams were especially intense and repetitious when dad was gone interviewing with different churches.

My family of origin loves the arts. We always have, and my family now loves the arts even more that we shake our heads in disbelief at those who boycott Twilight and Harry Potter. Spoiler alert: Good wins over evil. Moving on.

Family is very important to me, and even though some of us argue over what a family looks like if love is shared is the main question in any relationship. God created Adam and Eve, and He created us for monogamous relationships that last a lifetime.

I shared the following with a group of people at a round table during a parenting seminar we attended led by my friend Frank Scott.

I grew up on average about 500 miles away from my grandparents. That wasn’t by design. It just was. While in Kansas mom and dad decided to record a cassette tape of a dramatic presentation similar to Lake Wobegon Days and Prairie Home Companion. We sent a copy to my dad’s parents we called ma and pa, aunt Sue and my mom’s mom grandma. Grandpa died in 1977. Grandpa was in his 30’s when he married grandma at age 15. In any case dad wrote an entire script like Garrison Keillor does for his radio broadcast that sometimes is broadcast from the Ryman Auditorium. All 6 of us had speaking parts amidst the variety show my parents concocted. I’ll never forget it. It still amazes me that they were able to do that in a very tumultuous time of their lives. It was probably like a glass of wine or a good novel that gave them escape.

Even in the midst of darkness if those who believe in light turn the light on it’s amazing how God sends hope to those who don’t have it.

It’s what keeps me going.

 

 

Standard