Mistakes.

 

How do we qualify mistakes? They are most simply defined as events that happen due to a lack of judgment or forethought into the outcomes. These erroneous decisions can have varying levels of implications from outcomes as transient as missing a chance to relax due to procrastination to irreversible consequences such as the accidental taking of a life. Usually our mistakes that we dwell on most fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. But as a Christian, how do I reconcile mistakes with a God who is all-knowing, all-seeing, and literally knit my entire being together from my body to my stupid sense of humor? Surely my God is too big for mistakes. Indeed he is.

Perhaps all the mistakes I’ve made in my life weren’t mistakes? What if they were carefully weighed and measured circumstances used to teach me just what my life is? What if God loved me enough to break me down and untangle my knotted heart so he could build me up in love the way I was meant to be? I identify parts of my life through story and when I consider the times in my life where I have feel I have made mistakes, I find myself in the role of Eustace Scrubb.

In Lewis’s Narnia series, Eustace is a less than pleasant little boy that happens to find himself on an unexpected journey through Narnia with his cousins who he completely disdains. himself transfigured into an even more unpleasant dragon by the enchantment of a wicked golden bracelet. None of his friends or family recognize him. He is nothing but terrifying to them. When Eustace had accepted the fact that there is no going back to how things were he founds himself being led by Aslan, the great talking the lord of Narnia, to a pool that will heal him of the curse. Aslan says he must first shed his reptilian skin before entering the pool. Eustace tried painfully to remove the vile skin, but as fast as he could shed it, it would grow right back. Aslan eventually tells him he must allow him to take it of himself using his claws. Eustace is at first very resistant to this, but when Aslan insists it’s the only way, Eustace relents. The first slash shocked Eustace to the core of his being, the pain was excruciating and with each succeeding blow he wished to just die rather than deal with the pain. At just the right moment, Aslan then sends him crashing into the pool. As the water permeates his flesh Eustace quickly finds himself returned to his human self as he was made to be.

Wow. As if we didn’t already know Clive Staples was the man, he just perfectly illustrated my heart in the moments when I feel like everything happening is just a mistake and everything is spiraling out of control, as well as the heart of Christ meeting me in those moments. Everything in Eustace’s miserable life to that point lead to that point where he encountered the power and the love of Aslan. He goes back to his cousin Edmund with a contrite heart, tells him of the heart altering experience he has had, and walks away a new boy.

I find myself in situations where I feel like somewhere along the road I took a wrong turn and ended up in a place I didn’t belong or in a situation that could have been easily avoided if I had only considered a few more parameters in my initial calculations. But what I’ve come to learn from some wise people in my life is that it doesn’t matter how I ended up where I am; all that matters is what I do now that I’m there. The most important thoughts I can have in those instances is remembering God brought me to the place I’m in to encounter him in a new way, to teach me something about his love for me, and to show me the extent of his power in my life, just like he did with Abraham, Noah, Jacob, Moses, and the list goes on and on. That’s just how God works. He calls us out of the comfortable places, puts in the middle of a story bigger than us, and waits for us to come meet him in a quiet healing place. In his presence all the misgivings we have about just what the heck is going on in this crazy world fall to the wayside. Even though the calling out typically brings us into a place that feels like calamity, the calamity is where his power becomes the most real.

Long story short, God has an agenda bigger than us. He has an agenda bigger than our feeble hopes and dreams. He has an agenda of making things new, of glorifying himself, and of establishing his kingdom as he has always envisioned it to be by whatever means he deems necessary. God doesn’t make mistakes. Mistakes are only mistakes by how we perceive them, and if we can learn to perceive them with a clearer lens like the one that is gazing at the kingdom come, then they cease to be mistakes.

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Will your life always be this way? No, it won’t. Not unless you keep it pointed in the direction it’s headed. A radically different life requires making radically different choices. Often God prepares us for receiving His blessings by requiring that we fight our way to the place where they are.

Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

Comrades-in-arms

You are alone. That is the verbal attack The Enemy tells me the most. That is the thing that strikes fear into my heart. That, my friends, is the biggest lie we could ever choose to believe. It is crippling. The idea that we are alone is nothing but a self-fulfilling prophecy that we will inevitably make come to fruition. Like FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” right? He seemed to be on to something there, but fear of fear still seems short of the mark to me. I don’t just want to minimize my fear, but to abolish it. I want to be courageous, undeterred by danger or pain, intrepid. As much as I desire those things, however, I always find I am unable to will myself to be courageous. If I don’t have it in me to be courageous then where does courage possibly come from?

When I can’t seem to drum up any courage from within my own stores I try to look and see where it has come from in the past. The pattern is exceedingly prevalent. I feel most brave when I know I have support. I’m not talking about having  “rah-rah” cheerleader morale-boosting type of support. I’m talking about the “I’ll-jump-out-of-a plane-into-a-fox-hole-arm-in-arm-with-you-while-taking-fire-from-an-MG-42-outnumbered-10-to-1-but-I-don’t-care-because-I-got-your-back-no-matter-what“ kind of support. Okay I get it, The Greatest Generation was quite a bit before my time, but nevertheless, knowing I have someone standing beside me who has my back no matter what gives me the bravery to run at anything head-on. Or at the very least it gives me the pluck to do things I would normally shrink back from things like leaving behind a life and moving 15 hours away from the only place I’ve called home, having hard conversations that you know may change a relationship forever, opening up about a problem that eats at the core of my being, taking an unpopular stance because in order to stand up what you believe in, or walking into a dark place in order to be shed light on things that otherwise would go criminally neglected. My Pop, my grandpa Witt, has always let me know that as his grandson he will always have my back and be that support to me. My Pop has always held me to a high standard in all parts of life from school, to sports, to relationships, to my family, and my faith; however, he has never made me feel like I was at risk to lose his support. It wasn’t contingent on my performing to his standards; it was contingent on his commitment to loving me through whatever curveball life threw at me.

I think we as the Church fail each other quite often when it comes to having each others’ back. Too often do we settle to be “accountability” buddies or merely small group members. These are great things and shouldn’t be taken for granted, however, they fall well short of showing true support. We attempt to “spur each other on to love and good deeds” but we let this turn into an arms race of good works to qualify the state of our walk with The Lord. What would happen if we said, “hey man, I know you’re trying to do this thing of loving and walking with Jesus, and I know it’s not the easiest thing, but just know that I’ve got your back no matter what. No matter what you may screw up or fail at, I’m going to be here to love you win, lose, or draw.” I’ve heard stories of men in the Church who find themselves in less than ideal situations facing criminal charges, caught in the middle of an affair, caught in habitual sin, etc. I feel like the immediate knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss these people as not true believers or lesser Christians because of the moral predicaments they happen to find themselves on the wrong end of. What if instead of distancing ourselves from these kinds of people we embraced them? What if instead of chastisement and crucifixion we met them grace and understanding? Truth be told, the chance is much higher that we will find ourselves on the receiving end of this grace and understanding more often through the course of our lives rather than the other way around.

As members of the Church I think we could serve each other so much better by being real with each other. Instead of spending so much time in comparison and seeing how we measure up to each other, what if we just focused on trying to support each other in our journey for a role in the narrative of God that is our life? What if we truly had each other’s back without the threat of walking way? The truth is we all are just like the paratroopers of the 101st Airborne dropping into a warzone. What we are really fighting for isn’t just the greater cause of freedom and justice, but rather the more immediate cause of the man standing next to us. By narrowing our focus to being the support of our comrades in arms next to us we can more easily achieve the objective we are both working towards.

God’s promise is clear when he says, “[He] will never leave or forsake you.” He has our back no matter what and wants to walk arm-in-arm into battle with us. The battle isn’t nearly as dramatic as WW2 firefight, but it is nonetheless important. He wants to stand next to us in our loneliness, He wants to fight with us for purpose and meaning, He wants help us nurse our wounds when we are worn down from battle, and He wants to be the one that runs back into the gunfire to pick us up when we’ve been pinned down. He has our back, no matter what. As long as we believe this truth, The Enemy has no foothold in our mind or our heart.

My encouragement to you is for you to know, you don’t walk alone. You aren’t heading into war armed with a BB gun and a plastic knife. You have a General that is leading you in victory, and you have allies that are supporting you through the thick and thin.

Psalm 36 says:

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!

    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

 They feast on the abundance of your house;

    you give them drink from your river of delights.

 For with you is the fountain of life;

    in your light we see light.

God gives to us from his abundance and from his river of delights. He doesn’t feed us the scraps off the table or hand us the dregs of the barrel. He is more than adequately equipped to handle our needs, and more than that He WANTS to handle them. The Lord has your back no matter what and is committed to loving you through whatever life has in store for you. 

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leeyounger:

Old Truth Meets New Folk - Spin This.

Southern Harmonic has recorded a track that combines some of the most comforting words in all of Scripture with an addictive folk groove that doesn’t quit. The good news of free grace just sounds better with close, smooth harmonies, so listen in, be encouraged, then reblog and tell your friends.

To get brand new tracks like this one every month in your inbox, sign up for BridgeBox at $8 and support the inner city mission of the Say That guys as well as loading up on all kinds of goods to fuel your walk. Check out BridgeBox right HERE.

Holy smokes my friends are good at this music stuff.

Sojourning.

Small life update: I have moved to Texas.

Okay, maybe I’m belittling the magnitude of the fact I just loaded up essentially every possession I own in my little mid-size truck and moved it 14 hours away from the only place I’ve ever called “home” in 21 years of life. Nevertheless, the uneasiness of making a new place home doesn’t feel that strange to me. Don’t get me wrong I am deeply rooted in the Appalachian foothills of East Tennessee, but I can’t say that I’ve ever felt perfectly complacent in any one place. There always seemed to be something on the horizon that has been beckoning me to something more, to some other adventure that sitting at home wouldn’t allow me to partake in. Some story to live out where I could find out just who and what I was created to be was waiting on me. Complacency would make this self-actualization impossible. I think I may have just been born with a pilgrim mentality.

No not like the kind with Indians, and maize, and funny hats with buckles on them coming over from Europe, the more generic kind. Criteria for this pilgrim mentality are as follows: a desire for novelty, a healthy disdain for the status quo, a hope in a bigger picture, and enough motivation to get off your butt and do something about all of it.

 

Hebrews 11:13-16

13 They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

I think there is a lot to be learned from our spiritual ancestors about being a sojourner in a foreign land as stated in 1st Peter 2. The likes of Abraham, Noah, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and David all knew a thing or two about being pilgrims. They all held hope in the promises of The Lord and had enough faith to see Him through on them. They weren’t okay with complacency either (just ask David on his meteoric rise from pasture boy to King of Israel).

The Lord has been showing me through these stories as well as the teachings of Jesus that this sense of uneasiness as far as having a “home” is concerned is okay. While I may have a physical geographical home in Knoxville, TN it is still nothing compared to the glory of my eternal home that is to come. Everything I see this side of eternity is just a microscopic fraction of all the wonderful things God has in store for those who love him. CS Lewis made the eloquent allegory in The Last Battle when Aslan let the Narnians know that everything they had come to enjoy and hold so dear was only a shadow of the true Narnia that was Aslan’s own country. Knowing this truth I can be “at home” in strange and difficult places. I can remember this when I become disenchanted with circumstances, when I begin to feel lonely, or when I begin to feel like what I do doesn’t matter. I’m merely just passing through and this place is not my home.

It doesn’t end with us realizing we are merely just travelers, though. We aren’t just hopeless gypsies wondering around in the great unknown in hopes of stumbling into paradise, we are citizens of a kingdom that is at hand, citizens with the charge to be bringing the kingdom into a world that was created for that very purpose. I’m looking for fellow travelers longing for an adventure on their way to a true place to call home who want to do what they can to bring shalom to a world so jaded that it settles for cheap imposters of things that were meant to be the sweetest of blessings. I’m looking for people who will push me to realize I’m not just a bystander to history but an active participant with a role to play. This life is bigger than any of us realize, y’all. Let’s take it head on together. 

Jesus Knows You're Fighting A Battle

leeyounger:

Fairest Of Ten Thousand #379

John 16:33

Some things are always going to suck. As long as you live here in this world, there will be road blocks, setbacks and dry seasons. If no one told you that, it’s time to hear it. If you haven’t heard it in a while, it’s time to refresh. If you thought…

If a friend of yours treated you the way you talk about yourself, would you still be their friend? You need to love you today.

Lee Younger (via leeyounger)

The Gospel isn’t like math. You don’t learn something simple in order to learn something more complicated later. You learn the simple message, that I am loved and that I am clean, then you learn that truth in deeper ways.

Tom Job

To be a good friend, you need to find a way to be comfortable with saying things simply, and straightforwardly, in love.

Unka Glen Fitzjerrell on episode 104 of Say That

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(via thebridgechicago)

Repeat the Sounding Joy.

Joy. The one common refrain throughout this holiday season. 

JOY to the world!”

JOY what JOY!”

"I bring tidings of great JOY and peace”

Re-JOY-ce! Emmanuel has come to thee oh Israel”

"Repeat the sounding JOY”

With all the emphasis on joy, why is it that I often find myself most unhappy, most unsatisfied, and least optimistic at Christmas time? Not just in the material sense either. Yes I’d like a new car, a ski trip to Colorado, or even enough gas money to see my friends across the state; but often the dissatisfaction runs deeper than that. When school is over and friends go home for the holidays you can always count on several things to happen: social media will be flooded with pictures of seemingly perfect families, people you went to high school with all of a sudden reappear and let you know how they got into their first choice medical school or have an internship lined up following graduation or have gotten engaged to the most perfect person ever, your bank account slowly dries up, and family you spend the better part of 51 weeks out of the year trying to avoid are all of a sudden in your house asking 21 questions about school, your significant other (or lack thereof) and all of the life you are all of a sudden so disenchanted with. Sounds like some Spanish Inquisition era form of torture doesn’t it? 

So in the middle of this torture how do we capture the joy of the first Christmas? How do we encounter God in a fresh way that trumps all the disappointments of this world? 

What I have come to find is that there is no “fresh” way to do so. The only way to go about it is to get back to the grassroots of what this whole thing is about. As my good friend David Freels tweeted,

"I always imagine what Heaven was like about this time 2000 years go. I picture Allied HQ just before the planes took off on D-Day." 

If you think about it, that might not even be an accurate depiction of the gravity of the situation 2000 and some odd years ago. God wasn’t just about to commission the single largest amphibious assault and invasion in human military history, he was preparing to send his only begotten son behind enemy lines to defeat the curse of sin and forever lay claim to victory over death. And he wasn’t about to do so because he was obligated to or because he was so fed up with the human race for getting it wrong for so long. He did it out of one thing and one thing only…LOVE. 

Because of love we are freed from the oppression of sin. No longer are we bound by the yoke of this world! No longer are we defined by arbitrary measures of a “good” life as defined by our successes, luxuries, and status. God has broken the silence between him and his people and has made a way into his courts that we may approach him in full confidence knowing that our sin and rebellion has been irrevocably nullified by his love. 

Rediscovering the love of God is like finding that one t-shirt that you have been missing. You probably forgot all about it being in your drawers until you happen upon it and then you realize how much you have actually missed it. 

The thing about this joy is, unlike fruit cakes and pumpkin spice lattes, it is made available to us the whole year round. We can rediscover this love any time we need it, and if we don’t sing of it field, floods, rocks, hills, and plains will repeat it for us. So this Christmas if you find yourself in the doldrums, as I often do, do yourself a favor and repeat the sounding joy. Let your heart be filled with the love of an infinite God who chose to make himself finite in order to show you that, no matter your circumstances, the fight for your ultimate joy has already been fought and won. Again, repeat the sounding joy.