More is less, and that’s okay.

I’ve had a thought on my mind the past week, and I really felt the need to share it if only for cathartic purposes.

My two-year old daughter is autistic, and this has led to a host of new and frightening challenges for my wife and I over the last six months. I know it sounds tragically elitist, but it’s so true that only families with autistic children understand what families with autistic children go through. It’s such a foreign world, and a time-consuming one at that.

One of the many adaptations we’ve had to make is with bedtime, as MarLeah simply refuses to stay down for an entire night. Before we learned about keeping a steady, unflinching routine as a way of emotional management for her it was much worse. Nowadays it’s generally a once-a-night situation. Even then it follows a routine. She awakes, cries, I pick her up, change her diaper, give her a drink of water, snuggle for a few minutes, and then tuck her tightly back into bed.

At this juncture I’d also like to point out the communication barriers that come with autistic territory. She’s rudimentary at best in her exchanges with us, and that’s where I found myself one fateful night.

I walked into her bedroom, groggy, just like every other night. Same routine, diaper changed, drink of water, and then…..

“MORE!”

I was startled. Then it happened again.

“MORE!”

My heart began to swell as I realized what was happening. Elated, I encouraged her to drink as much as she wanted.

“Here you go sweetheart, have as much as you like!”

She finished, we snuggled, and I tucked her back into bed.

As I sat in the dark reflecting on what had just happened, a beautiful thought swelled over me. You see, I honestly believe that in the eyes of God, and through our brokenness, we all have a little spiritual autism. My communication with my father is stymied from my end. The joy I felt when my daughter communicated with me in such simple terms is surely a microcosm of the joy my father feels when I do the same.

It’s moments like this that help keep in perspective how my worth isn’t performance based. If I give what I’m capable of in my broken state, it’s more than enough.

Sometimes more is less, and that’s okay.

Packing My Bags

I’ve never been a fan of traveling. The hassle of packing bags, coordinating transportation and lodging, etc has never appealed to me in the slightest. Even the prospect of seeing new things or visiting new places tends to leave me feeling listless.

I’m really just a stay at home and order pizza kind of guy.

My wife of course, is exactly the opposite. The thrill of traveling, of seeing new and exciting places intrigues her to no end. This has caused more than its fair share of grumbling back and forth, as we both present our case.

I lay that background as foundation for something profound the Lord opened my eyes to a couple weeks ago. It was right after I had deflected inquiries of a vacation from my wife that the Lord posed a simple question inside my mind.

Why do people like to travel?

I was taken aback for a moment, unsure of how to answer. I thought for a moment and in my mind’s eye replied, “to see new places?”

Correct.

What followed was nothing short of revolutionary to my way of thinking.

“I gave man his desire to travel, to see new places. You see the entire earth reflects my son. Creation bears his likeness and calls out his name. Just as there is room in Christ for everyone, so too is there room for everyone living on the earth. Yet there are a multitude of new places to explore every day. A person who has lived many years on earth and seen many of its wonders has still seen only a fraction of the entirety. It is the same with my son. In him there is room for all, and there is infinite new glory to discover every day. You see, I created the earth as a home for you that would speak his name through its function.”

The desire to travel is quite natural indeed!

Why Men Will Never Understand Women

Wife- These socks already have holes in them.

Me- Yeah, but they’re way more comfortable than the other ones we had. They’re cheap too, I can buy more.

Wife- No they’re not more comfortable, I like the old ones better.

Me- You scolded me for wanting to throw away the old socks, so I kept them for you. Why are you wearing my socks until they have holes in them if you don’t even like them?

Wife- *chuckles*

What Was The Potter Thinking

A thought occurred to me the other day as I was talking with my wife about a christian apologist’s blog entry she had recently read. It wasn’t but a few years ago that my paradigm operated on an apologetic premise. Everything I believed had to be “confirmed.” I was big into arguing/debating the seemingly fathomable mysteries of life and the universe, and I was (wholeheartedly) convinced that understanding it all was attainable.

Now before I go any further let me pause to assure you that I’m not yokeling away the merits of science, faith, or any mix of the two. The transition in my mind over the past three years has been a marked shift from a paradigm operating on the basis of proving others wrong and myself right, into one that now sees how little either of those things actually matter.

It goes a little like this.

“Do you believe that I created everything and am omniscient?”

Yes.

“Do you believe you are a part of my creation, with a finite ability to comprehend and understand the mysteries of me, my creation, and my omniscience?”

Yes.

“So why do you act as though facts, evidence, arguments, and persuasions conceived by humans actually proves or disproves me?”

Ummmm…

“And furthermore, if you become convinced of an idea that constitutes “proof” of me, don’t you then close your mind off from anyone who presents an equally or more convincing point of view?”

About that…

“You end up looking foolish when you pretend to know enough about me that you can definitively say how, why, or in what order I created.”

Well you see…

“Remember earlier when you admitted to my omniscience and your finite mind?”

Uhh, yeah.

“When the potter molds the clay, why is he doing it?”

To make a vessel?

“Exactly, and why does the potter make a vessel?”

To hold something specific?

“You’re on a roll Einstein. I did create you to hold something specific — ME! My character, my nature, my love. You were designed specifically to hold this inside of you.”

Well that’s pretty cool.

“Yeah, it is. Tell me though, how weird would it be if the potter made a pot to hold water, but instead of holding water that pot went around telling people where the potter bought the clay from, what technique he used when crafting, and on and on and on?”

I guess the potter would be grieved that his creation wasn’t being used for what he intended.

“Exactly. I didn’t create you so you could TELL the world ABOUT me and how I operate. That’s extraordinarily complicated, and frankly above your pay grade at this point. I created you to SHOW the world who I am by allowing my spirit to dwell with you, in perfect communion. Love will be your proof.”

And just like that, everything changed.

Living On The Edge

The story of the Israelites wandering through the desert for 40 years is one most folks are familiar with. They lived a nomadic life while they waited for God to fulfill his word that he would lead them into the “promised land.” I’ve understood (some of) the spiritual significance that’s implied in that story for years — but it wasn’t until this past month that I truly began to understand how it’s still happening even today.

Much of what happened with Israel was indicative of a greater spiritual truth. After all, God chose the Israelites not because they were better than anyone else, but because he desired to reveal himself to the world. They were charged not with being pious and self-righteous, but with echoing his character to the people around them.  Their mission was to introduce God into a world that desperately needed him. Now as we know, eventually the picture of Israel went dark in anticipation of Christ’s imminent appearance — the truth behind the picture.

But my mind has kept returning to that desert period the past few weeks. And finally it hit me. Our lives go through the same cycle that national Israel experienced so many years ago.

When I was first led into a new life with the Lord, a lot changed. Many of my desires, hopes, dreams, fears, etc, were altered. Some more than others, but I think it’s fair to say that my life changed in an irreversible way when you consider the sum of the many combined parts. I was still human though, and many of my old habits were still there. I would teeter back and forth, torn between the new life I knew to be true, and the old life I was hesitant to leave behind.

Just like Israel.

I had left the bondage of Egypt in the rear-view mirror, but that didn’t mean I was in the promised land yet. The Lord had to allow time for a completely new generation of Israelites to be born, a generation devoid of any time spent in Egypt. Only then could he allow them to pass into the new land they would inhabit. I’ve begun to realize that there is an amazing picture found in that concept. The parts of us that know and have grown accustomed to bondage will never be able to truly embrace the promised land with the richness that our Lord intends for us too. I believe that much of my last 10 years has been spent in a spiritual wilderness, as the Lord has been surgically removing the portion of my former man that knew nothing but bondage and slavery.

Moses, the unquestioned leader of the Israelites, and the most righteous in the eyes of the Lord among them, was only allowed to see a glimpse of the promised land. Despite everything Moses did, and all his faith to the Lord, he was still a man who had been born into the old way of life. In the years after Christ’s death and resurrection, the apostle Paul would speak of a new man that would be born as the result of the death of the old man. I believe this great mystery was forecast in the life of Moses, as he was shown and given a glimpse of the goodness that God would bring his people into, but was unable to experience it himself.

I feel like that’s where I am now. There’s a portion of Moses that lives inside of me, a portion that has seen the goodness of what God has in store. That portion was still born in the land of bondage though. No matter how aware the part of me that represents the old man is of God’s glory, it can never enter into the new life because of who it is. Only the new man can fully experience the new life that God has set aside for us.

For now I’ve got my apartment on the edge of the desert. I see in the distance what I’m being led towards, and I’m content with allowing the old man to die a little more every day. Wandering in the wilderness isn’t a bad thing, it’s essential to being born into a new life.

Wise Beyond Your Ears

Solomon asking for wisdom when God told him he could have anything he wanted has always strangely stuck with me. Lately it’s been on my mind more than ever.

I know I know, I’m only 26 years old, but looking back over the past few years has led me to examine life in a more introspective manner. As such I can’t help but relate to Solomon’s writings. Proverbs is a book that many herald and reflect fondly on–and rightfully so. It’s chock full of wisdom that in a nutshell can help teach anyone how to live a quieter, richer, and more meaningful life. Ecclesiastes is often overlooked though, and exactly why is something I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on. I suppose it may have something to do with the subject matter, as a wise old sage imparting advice for sound living has broader appeal than a broken old man reflecting on the futility of life in the face of death’s eventuality.

I’ve found great comfort in Solomon’s opining in recent years though.

I used to believe Solomon asked for wisdom and God went “poof” like some Middle-Earth conjurer, dousing the young man in intelligence beyond his years. I also used to have a very narrow view of what wisdom entailed. To me “being” wise was akin to being smart or intellectual. If you could tell someone how or why something worked, win persuasive arguments, or articulate your points well you were laden with it. It’s ironic that I never put two and two together, as Solomon’s magnum opus, Ecclesiastes, is less about a man pontificating superior intellect, and more about a man who has realized the utter devastation and vanity of life without the hope of glory.

And that’s where you find true wisdom.

Solomon was a sinner before he asked God for wisdom. He committed foolish acts after his prayer. Some of the decisions he made as King of Israel had resounding effects on the nation’s chronological ripple. His wisdom was built by observing the effect that man’s actions had on the totality of the world we inhabit. His wisdom came from viewing the world through a lens shaded by God’s own heart.

His final assessment? All is vanity and grasping for the wind.

The penultimate conclusion of the wisest man who ever lived, and an honest appraisal of a fallen world.

All is vanity.

All is grasping for the wind.

Many feel Solomon’s Ecclesiastes are depressing, and as such they venture away from this uncomfortable account that seemingly stands out like a sore thumb from other texts. I find a comfort in his words though. We’ve heard the words, but wisdom lies beyond our ears inside the deepest reaches of our being. As the stench of death and futility are woven throughout the pages there lies a faint glimmer of hope–and from that hope springs the only thing I’ve found worth hoping for.

All is vanity in this life, but this life is not all there is.

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down

I was reading a bedtime story to my daughter a few nights ago, the story of the Israelite’s encounter with Jericho to be exact. I love the way the Jesus Storybook Bible relates the information in a simplistic way, and I often find myself considering aspects of the recounted tales that I had never considered before in my “scholarly” examination of the text.

I guess there’s something to be said for approaching life from a child’s perspective.

As the Israelites traveled closer to the promised land, they came face-to-face with the formidable city of Jericho. This no doubt left them frightened and confused.

“I thought we were finally done with all the hard stuff?”

“How are we supposed to get past them?”

Now most of us know the story. God told the people to march around the city and the walls fell down. It’s not that part that interests me as much though, it’s what they were probably expecting to happen that does.

When God told them to start marching and make a terrible noise I would venture to guess that most of them saw it as a precursor to the inevitable battle that was about to take place. I imagine them rallying around that notion and preparing for bloodshed.

How great was the wonderment when the walls simply toppled upon themselves?

As soon as I finished reading the story to my daughter it struck me–I treat the “Jerichos” in my life the exact same way.

I hear and believe God’s promise. I even trust in him to carry me through the impossible obstacles that appear to block the way. I still always have it in my mind though that I’m preparing for war. I know that God will make good on his promise, but for some reason I assume that the enemy must be met head-on and defeated in conventional warfare. I stop one step short. If we trust the promise, then we must also  trust that it may not come to fruition how we envision it. In fact I’ve come to find in my life that God will often work in ways I was absolutely not expecting, almost as if to prove a point about who’s really in control.

Have you ever been surprised by the way a Jericho in your life was torn down?

Two Rights Don’t Make A Wrong

One issue there’s always a ton of debate over is “proper Christian behavior.” What’s okay, what’s not okay, how far is too far, well you get the picture. A friend of mine recently posed a question on Facebook about that very topic, and I’ve decided to post my answers here. The concept is vitally important and one that shapes our entire world view. It keeps us treading on eggshells made of self-imposed judgement and misguided, obligatory zeal.

Here’s to freedom!

My Friend:

“Question(s): Does something have to have the name Christ in it to be “Christian”? What exactly makes something “Christian”? Does it have to be “Christian” for a Christian to enjoy it? Book, music, movie?

My Response(s):

“I think it depends, there is often no black and white. Paul said that those who abstain from eating meat sacrificed to idols were right to do so because eating the food would betray their conscience.

He also said the people who ate the same meat because they didn’t feel a shred of guilt would be wrong for stopping just to please the people who didn’t think they should. I think people focus on the first example and not the second. It is JUST as wrong to stop or abstain from something because of religious peer pressure as it is to do something your conscience warns you against.

The only real “rule” that’s given is that the more mature believer in any given situation just let it go and not cause strife by brazenly eating the sacrificed meat in front of others, or by telling others they are wrong for eating the meat. Kind of like the “when in Rome” concept he touches on in the same letter.

How can they both be right though?

I think a good modern comparison would be “curse words.” I don’t feel that saying fuck or any other word carries any weight except for the intended context and the way those hearing interpret it. Therefore I talk freely around friends and family who are not offended.

Conversely, when I’m around people who feel curse words are inherently wrong I abstain. I used to be like the person Paul warned against being. I would try and convince others that I was right and they were wrong. What I was really doing was devaluing their conscience and saying that my convictions were more important than how they felt.

I’ve come to see the advice Paul gave about meat sacrificed to idols as more than just a singular instance, but as a universal truth in Christ. It’s almost like a holy checks and balances system that disallows any person from claiming moral superiority over another, thus violating the law of love.”

The Most To Lose

More To Gain

The media-fueled circus driven by the actions of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez over the past week has been furious. Accused of executing an associate at point blank range, Hernandez’s action have kindled the flames of appalled disbelief we embrace when a celebrity or public figure who “has it all” throws everything away. The outcry, like clockwork, is groaned from the throaty depths of the middle and lower class who have purchased the deception that material wealth and social notoriety guide hearts to inner peace and calm seas.

The truth is far deeper, and unfathomably more uncomfortable.

More To Lose

I once viewed the rich and famous with those same eyes. Stunned and shaking my head, muttering assessments about the stupidity of tossing everything down the drain. Confirming the mob’s mentality that justice must be served, that retribution must be swift and without mercy.

After all, they deserve it.

I’m unable to pinpoint an exact moment, or boast of a profound revelation that changed my heart. I can only say that I’ve looked in the mirror when I’ve been at my worst.

And I’ve been disgusted.

I’ve pondered the paths my life might have traversed if this singular circumstance had been altered, or if that sequence of events had not unfolded exactly as they did.

And I’ve realized my entirety has always balanced on a  razor’s edge of what I am now and what I could have been.

It’s hard to say what exactly serves as pivotal catalyst in a life laid ruined, but it is the nature of humanity to throw everything away when given the reigns. Desolation of the soul is a dormant malady residing within the fiber of our frailty,  delicately hinging upon every choice and happenstance that binds our actions to character.

We are inherently prone to throwing it all away, only requiring a nudge in the right (wrong) direction.

For some, the faintest prodding is sufficient.

More Than Meets The Eye

It may seem as though I am defending a murderer. I am not. Aaron Hernandez, if he committed these acts, is deserving of the penalty of law. I see these heinous crimes though and do not rush to condemn my fellow man, but rather feel a fierce and all-encompassing sorrow, born from the tragic stasis of this fallen world.

Because you see, the precedent was set from the very beginning of this dark campaign.

Adam and Eve had exponentially more to lose than money or power. Their iniquity’s consequence was earth-shattering, altering the course of human history with a savage ferocity that would ripple it’s claws into the flesh of all that was good.

When I see Aaron Hernandez I feel sorrow for humanity’s static debauchery.

I see the ripple of Adam cast across the murky waters of creation gone awry.

I see myself.

An Answer Worth Waiting For

A Question Worth Asking

I’ve always had a passion for children who are suffering. Everyone has a different area where they feel the tug on their heart strings just a little bit stronger, and for me it’s always been the innocence of young lives colliding with the fallen world. I know that one day I want my life to be consumed and given to this passion, but I have also learned enough in life thus far to know that forcing matters of such significance rarely leads to the desired effect. It’s a cliche, but God’s timing is perfect and I hold fast to the promise that he will deliver the desire of my heart to me when I am ready and the situation is right.

So I pray.

And I wait.

I’ve asked God many times for an opportunity to arise and signify the “beginning” of my life’s work. This is a curiously human way of viewing such far-reaching and eternal concepts, and as I’ve wrote about recently, I’m now seeing that growth happens naturally and over long periods of time.

I had been looking for a sign to reveal itself and mark the start of something new, when in reality I’ve been growing deeper in Christ all this time. I’ve had blinders on, tunnel vision that kept me staring at the big picture while day-to-day opportunities passed me by like clockwork. The Lord has begun revealing these moments to me now that my heart has aligned it’s focus, and one of these moments in particular stood out above all the others.

An Answer Worth Waiting For

My wife was raised in a less than ideal situation. This isn’t meant to accuse or condemn those who had a hand in it, which is why I won’t elaborate on the details, but it is vitally important to recognize because as adults we are largely shaped by what we experience as children. Our fears, joys, struggles, relationships, and interactions with others are all shaped by this defining time in our life.

Christ has called us to himself as little children, and that call doesn’t imply physical age exclusively. In many ways we are all much younger spiritually and emotionally than our physical age, carrying baggage and hurt that is an unavoidable result of being raised in a cruel world.

Recently I was driving with my wife and two young girls, listening to music and dwelling on Christ in my mind. My thoughts turned as they often do to inquiring about what the future might hold.

What came next was so simple, yet so profound that it changed my entire paradigm of thinking.

God spoke to my heart and said “Do you see your wife sitting there? To you she may be an adult and mature, but she is still my small child and I love her deeply, like you love your two girls. Before I can give you more responsibility you must learn to see your wife with the eyes I see her with. Time is irrelevant to me, and I still see her as that young child, scared and hurting, desperately trying to make sense of the world she sees around her. Desperately looking for a love that won’t come with strings or judgement attached.”

Those words have been burned into my heart, and I’m now beginning to see that age often has very little to do with how the Lord sees us. It wasn’t the answer I was expecting, but it was an answer worth waiting for.