I am blind to you, O Lord
This world makes me blind to you
And I don’t know if I can survive
I don’t know if I can swim in this lake
I don’t know if I can survive in this water
I don’t know if I can make it through this storm
I know you’re present everywhere God,
but I can’t see you move here
I can’t feel your touch here
It separates me from you
And I cannot be in this world without you
Cause if I am, it will swallow me
And I will die
I will die
I will die
I will die if I do not die
I will die if I do not die day after day
This world will swallow me
And I will swallow it
As I swallow it, as I take of it’s fruit, it swallows me
And I am torn, I am torn
And my sight is lost
I loose sight of the victory that’s already been won
And the person that I’m going to become
I don’t know
How do you shine a light when the darkness is so thick
And there’s no air
How does a light survive when there’s no air
There’s no breath
It’s so deceptive
How do I do it
How do I be a light when there’s no air
Can a light survive in a dark room with no oxygen
Cause that’s what I am in this world
What glory is there for you here God
What glory is there for me to give you
It is not plain to me
I cannot see your face through the fire
Through the rain I am blind to your presence
How weak am I?
That I can speak to you so boldly, and speak of you so boldly
And in the blink of an eye I am lost from your sight
I have hidden myself from you
This armor that I wear is the armor of a fig leaf
Covering my shame
I am a paper warrior
I am a plastic warrior
So easily torn down
So easily torn down
So strong sometimes
Yet so quickly removed
I am a paper warrior
A glass warrior
To live in this world, it’s not easy
To be so utterly alone
So utterly alone
Is this the call
Is this the call
Cause I don’t know if I can carry it
Cause I don’t know if I can answer it
If this is the call Lord, I don’t know if I can answer
Through my own power I cannot
Through your strength I can
I am so weak
I am so weak
My strength is an illusion for it is only the strength of Christ in me
Never once have I been strong outside of his perfect power living in me
Never once have I been strong outside of your power because I look at myself and know that I am so weak
I am so broken
I am filthy
How can I see such great things
And turn and do such evil
I am nothing
I am nothing without you
God this is the testament to your glory
That this paper warrior
This weak sinner
This evil, evil person
Can do any good for your kingdom
I truly know you use the least of these for I am the least and I have been chosen
That is a miracle
That is amazing
That is what the power of your Holy Spirit is
That you come into a broken down Chevy and you turn it into a Mustang
You come in to a leper and you make is the most beautiful creation on earth
You take the form of a baby in Bethlehem, and you make him a king
And none of it happens outside of your power
None of it happens outside of your power
There has never been good in this world, there has never been love in this world, except by your power
I find it slightly ironic that I’m categorized and appointed as a leader for small groups and Bible studies among my friends and community in the church. I find it even more ironic that I enjoy doing it. I say this because small groups and Bible studies used to scare the daylights out of me. All throughout high school I avoided youth groups like the plague because I knew that I would be forced into a small group or a house group where I would further be forced to share the ugly details of my personal life. I went under the illusion that I believed my personal walk with Christ, or lack there of in reality, was my own business, not meant to be shared or spouted to anyone else. I was content with leaving my judgment, my lust, and my hypocrisy in the closet, because if I didn’t have to deal with my weaknesses in a group, then I could more easily ignore them in my own life.
Over the years, however, God has granted me a complete change of heart. I’m now part of several small groups throughout the year, including leading a Bible study and an event called Basement Worship, where my friends and I commit our ‘hang out time together’ to worshipping the Lord instead of watching a movie or going out to eat. God has revealed to me not only the beauty, but the need for vulnerable community in my life.
Most of our lives are lived in non-vulnerable communities. In our work environment we usually commit ourselves to being as strong as possible. Don’t show any weakness, or else you may not be able to climb the business ladder. Amongst our friends it’s the same way. We don’t want to admit that we struggle with sin. We hide our jealousy, our pain, or our weakness from those around because God forbid if anyone should appear more ‘Holy’ or ‘successful’ then we are. We seem to be obsessed with creating an unhealthy, passively competitive culture in our businesses, our teams, our friends, and even our families.
Theses non-vulnerable communities require that everyone wear a mask of perfection, omitting any struggles or hardships and pretending that we have it all under control. The non-vulnerable community results in people who are so fearful and so closed off, that connection is no longer possible and every man is his own island of plastic, pretended treasures.
The vulnerable community, on the other hand, encourages openness about imperfection. It celebrates the reality that we are all imperfect and broken, and pursues the reality that both personal and communal restoration is achieved most effectively through vulnerability with God and with others.
I have tried to encourage vulnerable community in the teams I lead. It’s uncomfortable at the start, but it results in a team of people who truly trust and serve one another in humility. It puts everyone on the same level, so that we can begin the climb together with the strength of the whole team backing each other up. Nothing is more powerful then that kind of teamwork.
I want to live in vulnerable communities. I don’t want to hide my issues and imperfections anymore. I want to share them openly with my friends and I want them to share theirs openly with me. I want us to find brotherhood and sisterhood as we recognize and breath easier that every one else is just as human as we are. I was to pray with one another over the serious things and laugh with one another over the silly things and cry with one another over the sad things.
I don’t want to wear the mask of perfection, it usually doesn’t fit me very well anyway.
I used to always pretend my life was a movie when I was a kid. I remember one specific fantasy that I would play out almost everyday during my summers off from elementary school. I pretended that I was on a travel baseball team from Alabama (I used that think Alabama would be the coolest place to live) and the team I was on wasn’t very good, but I was the leader and our coach really believed in us. Everyday, as the season went on in my mind, we would win another tournament against harder competition, and our national ranking would rise. We lost sometimes, but only to overcome it with an even greater victory later. In the end, we won a national tournament and became the best travel team in the country, and I was MVP.
I have such fond and specific memories of what everything looked like in my head, as we traveled around the country constantly singing Sweet Home Alabama. In reality of course, I was just running around my basement in my pajamas pretending to play baseball games and act our dramatic scenes with the coach. I am still convinced today that it would have made a great movie, but Warner Brothers has shown no interest. It’s a great story, yeah?
I think we all, at one time or another, have wished that our life was like a movie. That we could overcome great odds to achieve an end the requires epic, triumphant music. I want my life to tell a great story, like the great movies. But great stories, in order to achieve great triumph, must first tread the waters of trials and suffering.
The scenes that make great movies great are often the scenes we want to skip, the ones that are painful to watch. When The Pursuit of Happiness, we want to skip the scene where Will Smith locks himself and his son in the train station bathroom because they have no where else to sleep. But if we do not watch that scene, if we do not invest ourselves in, and persevere through the suffering, then the triumphant climax at the end of movie when he walks in slow motion down the streets of New York City means very little to us. Not to mention the title just sounds silly. It would just be called Happiness, we could leave out the whole ‘pursuit of’ part.
I am convinced that we will never experience immense triumph in our story if we are committed to avoiding pain and suffering. Pain, suffering, trials, tribulations, stumbling blocks, they’re what makes the eventual triumph so triumphant. The baseball team that is already the best at the beginning of the season, and then goes on to win the national tournament is a boring story, because people aren’t inspired by individuals who achieve easy to reach goals without any struggle. People are inspired by stories of individuals who faced unbelievable odds, adversities, and knockdowns, in pursuit of a goal that is conceivably way beyond them. Movie characters dream big about their goals. We want our lives to feel like a movie, yet our dreams and mundane, and barely lifesize. Characters who live great stories, the ones on the big screen, live to achieve dreams that are larger then life.
If God, or anyone for that matter, were to watch the movie of my life, I would want it to be a comedy, tragedy, action, suspense, romance, thriller, biopic, fantasy, sci-fi, inspirational, tear jerking, belly laughing, butt quenching epic where I, as the leading character, follow the script that God, the director, has given me, and it leads me on a pursuit of places, relationships, platforms, and dreams I never could have dreams of.
I want to close this post by using the wise words of Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
“It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something.”
What are you holding onto?
If Christ is truly the bridegroom and His church is truly the bride, then we must commit ourselves to creating a wonderfully happy marriage with our Savior.
Now I’m no expert, but from what I’ve heard and what I’ve read marriage is no cake walk. A healthy marriage requires such things as devotion, humility, service, teamwork, commitment, patience, kindness, gentleness, and of course, time spent together.
Lately, God has been teaching me a lot about the time I spend with Him. None of us spend enough time with God, that is certain. In order to have a thriving relationship with anybody, you need to spend time with them. God is no different. We’ve all heard that sermon. However, my mind of late has mostly been focusing on where and how I spend time with Him.
Throughout the Christian’s spiritual journey we develop traditions with God where we feel like we connect with Him best. Some of us have a special place where we like to pray in the morning, or a place in the sanctuary where we like to sit during a church service, or a certain posture of worship that we always revert to. For example, once a year I like to travel back to the bench on a university campus near my hometown where I took my first step with Christ at the age of thirteen. I like to meet with God there once a year in prayer to reflect on the year passed and the growth that He has accomplished in me.
These traditions that we establish are great, and they are important to many of us, including myself. But let me put it to you this way, if you were married, and for ten, twenty, even fifty years, and you only ate at the same three restaurants and went to the same movie theatre on date nights with your spouse, do you think your marriage would be alive, thriving, and exciting? Do you think you would know your spouse as intimately as possible? Do you think your 50th anniversary slide show would be any fun to watch? Like I said, I’m no expert, but I don’t think so.
It’s the same with God. If we only seek the Lord in the ways we have always sought after Him, then we will continue to experience in the same exact way. And this might be fine for some people, but I believe that by doing this, we are putting God in a box. And our vision of God only stays confined to the boxes we put him in.
The people we know the best are the people that we have spent the most time with in wonderfully diverse situations. Circumstances change our perception of people, and they change our perception of God as well. If we change our surroundings, or our posture, we see things in a new way, a new light.
I wrote something that I felt God speaking to me the other day in my journal, God said, “Jon, each morning, meet with Me in a new place and in a new way, and I will show you something new about Myself. Try something, try anything, and I will be there.” To put it another way, when we begin to experiment with God in new places and new postures, He breaks open those boxes and shatters what we once thought He was capable of.
For the past week I have been trying this and the results have been unbelievable. And the things you try don’t have to be earth shattering. One morning, instead of kneeling while I prayed, I stood up with my hands in the air, and it totally changed the way I felt the Spirit’s presence, because the posture of our physical body affects the posture of our spiritual heart. Our circumstances affect our perceptions.
So today, try something new with God. If you have never raised your hands before in worship, try it, see what it’s like. Do your quiet time at a coffee shop and silently pray for the people around you. Climb up to the roof and pray from up there, do your bible reading out loud, sit down during worship and silently pray the words of the songs in your heart.
God has revealed to me one of the most exciting parts of faith in Him is the potential for experimentation, and it’s something that I have been missing in my walk for a long time. We can meet Him anywhere and talk to Him about anything, so why not try everything. I want my 50th anniversary slide show with God to be filled with wonderful, diverse images of wonderfully diverse memories. Try something crazy, what’s the worst that could happen, or better yet, what’s the best that could happen?
A message to anyone who desires excellence in their lives be aware of the Enemy, the Enemy to Excellence. He comes in all sorts of ugly shapes and sizes. He pops up to convince us that doing our best, giving our all, going after our dreams with absolute tenacity is not worth it.
The Enemy of Excellence can, at times, be a very strong force in our lives. Sometimes, we find ourselves in an environment oppressive to the excellence we seek, and the celebrated mediocrity of the environment gives voice to this enemy. But the person who pursues excellence is committed to a different path, a path with no short cuts, but a great reward. In order to achieve excellence, we must ignore the voices around us, or even within us that are trying to drag us into mediocrity or worse. We must cling to and know that excellence is a road worth traveling, and no one, including ourselves, has the right to bump us from it.
The voice of the Enemy sometimes, and most dangerously, resides from within us. For fear of being snooty, or desire to fit in, or doubts of our abilities, we dumb down our pursuit or excellence and just skate by. But the world is not changed by people who merely skate by, it was, and is changed by excellent people.
So to the person who desires excellence in their life, let nothing and no one deter you from this path, because this path, though rough, is the path or a world changer. Go and run down it, trusting that Isaiah 58:11 holds true that “The Lord will guide you always…and will strengthen your frame.”
I was out to dinner with my sister the other night, she is in town visiting me for spring break, and before the meal came out we were playing a little game I enjoy called the Question Game. (A side not about the Question Game, it’s not really a game, you just ask questions back and forth, but if you sell it to people as a game, they are more likely to engage in conversation with you).
In the early stages of the game I usually ask very surface level questions, this or that, would you rather type things. The answers are always fun to compare and listen to, but when I asked my sister what she wanted to be when she grew up, her answer surprised me beyond what I was prepared for.
I had dinner with two different friends this week, both of which are going through a difficult time. As is the way of the Lord, in both of these conversations, we ended up talking about the same thing, the horrifying subject of personal weakness. One friend said,
“I feel like I’ve become a weak person, like I’ve lost all my strength.” And the other… “I’m sorry Jon,” he said, “I’m a very weak person.”
They both relayed these things with looks of fear and disappointment on their faces, as if being weak was something to be frightened of. In their defense, I completely understand why.
When we start something, whether its school, or a sports season as a child, or a class at church or for your masters degree, or maybe you have a personal trainer, or it’s your first day alone on the job after being apprenticed for months. When we start something, I notice we often expect some, what I like to call, warm up time. We show up on the first day not expecting much, maybe a slight walk through. But we certainly aren’t prepared for a normal day, much less a busy day.
The most popular name in America right now is that of Tim Tebow. With the billion and one articles and opinions that have been spread about the Denver Broncos quarterback in the last few months, I thought I would add my two cents to the pot.
However, I don’t want to talk about Tim Tebow the athlete, or Tim Tebow the person, or even give my opinions on Tim Tebow’s faith. Rather, I want to use Tim Tebow as the headliner to highlight a fasting moving trend that has been bubbling under the surface of our culture for the past few months.
They say that no press is bad press. And Tim Tebow has had more than his fair share the past few months. And when Tim Tebow is in the news, you can probably bet that the name of God will be close by. Because of Tim Tebow’s relentlessness in sharing his faith at any opportunity he receives, especially in front of millions of viewers, God’s name has been all over the media these past few months. And whether this news is good, bad, or something in between, Tim Tebow is starting a movment.
Every time after a game when Tebow thanks his Lord and Savior, he is making it more and more acceptable for Christian athletes, and Christian celebrities at large, to express their faith openly in our ever growing secular culture. And in the past year, Tebow has not been the only one bringing God into the press.
In the early stages of the upcoming election, the number one blaring issue to most voters thus far, has been the religious faith of candidates such as Michelle Bachmann and Mitt Romney. And while Bachmann is no longer in the race, her presence and openness about her faith, whether you agree with it or not, has gotten people talking more and more about things not of this world. And with the fast growing demographic of politically active, twenty-something Christians, in 2012 the ‘Christian vote’ will be more important then it’s ever been before.
Elsewhere in the country, The Book of Mormon has been the hottest show on Broadway for the last year and a half. And while the show does not paint the most positive picture of the Mormon faith, it has gotten God’s name into the theatre and paved the way for revivals of such shows as Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. Shows like this, whether they are theologically correct or not, bring the faith conversation to over five thousands audience members a week in the heart of New York City.
There is no denying it, God is in the media, and it has all the signs of the beginning of a movement. And Tim Tebow is now it’s unofficial leader. All it takes is one person using their voice, to inspire other people to begin using theirs. The more these people and their professions of faith are trending, the more curious people will become, and all it takes is a little curiousity to get people to begin digging into the things of God. Because when God’s on television, then God’s in our homes, and when God’s in our homes, then we have a much better chance of being in our hearts. Thus, I would like to purpose a new definition, or an expanded one, of the term Tebowing.
Tebowing: Relentlessly and unapologetically using your platform to expand God’s kingdom.
Tebow is doing this on a national scale, and don’t be surprised if you begin to see more and more people start coming out of the woodwork talking about their faith on national television. Don’t be surprised when you begin to see more and more voices calling out in the desert. We only needed someone to prepare the way so we can begin to prepare His way.
So is it a good thing that there is all this media talk about faith and religion? I don’t know if there is a right answer to that question. But this we do know, that when people are talking, God will use that talk, positive or negative, to bring glory to his name, and people to his heart.
A tradition of newspapers and magazine's all over the country around New Years time is to do the Top Ten of the year that was. I've been browsing through and reading some of these lists over the past week and I am amazed at all the things that can happen in 365 days.
This year we had massive protests in Lybia, Egypt, and Wall Street that were all organized on Facebook. We had tsunamis in Tokyo, tornadoes in Missouri, and flooding in Thailand. Bin Ladin was announces dead, the war ended, and we finally got Obama's birth certificate. The Mavs won the finals, Ron Santo's in the Hall of Fame, Pujols is an Angel, Crosby's back on the Ice. The world fell in love with the royal wedding and under the spell of Pinterest and The Hunger Games.
How colorful and exciting this year has been. But after reading all of these lists over the last week I have come to conclusion that every single one of them has missed the most important event of the year. An event that changes the way we live everyday, but most often goes unnoticed. Not a single event this year can match the fact that in 2011, Christ still saved lives and changed hearts. The victory over sin is still won and those who know that victory still lived free in 2011. It is the only event that is on the top ten list year after year, and nothing can beat it. Nothing is more beautiful or miraculous.
So as you make your top ten list from this year, do not neglect the amazing work that Christ is doing, and has done in this world and in your life.