Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A prayer to God from a non-god

My prayer today as I navigate the wilderness of Lent.


You are my Lord.  You are God.  I am not God. 

I have tried to be God in my life for a long time.  But I am not.

I'm human -- a pretty undisciplined one at that.

I am not in control.  I cannot stop depending on you for every breath.

Please, please, please do not allow me to forget:

You are God.  I am not.

Monday, February 27, 2012

We Are All Addicts

As a man who struggles with sexual sins and addiction and has battled for many years, I have grown to see that, in one way or another, we are all addicts.  My Lenten thoughts today are about this.

The world teaches us to place ourselves above others--above God.  We're taught that beauty and sex are basically the same thing, and if you don't have them, you need to hurry up and get some.  Alcohol and drugs destroy countless lives, yet we're quick to deny their effects on us as individuals.

Even shopping and consumerism are addictions for many people.  We have become addicted to buying and then buying again as soon as the new [insert device or product] is released.  Some of us even wait in line for hours.

As good as we are at having addictions, we are horrible at fighting them.

That's why I love the approach of AA and Celebrate Recovery:  One day at a time.

Jesus was in the desert for forty days.  I have a feeling he wasn't marking the days like Robinson Crusoe.  He was fasting one day at a time.

I'm trying to do this for these next forty days:  One day at a time.

I've discovered a great series by Central Vineyard called "Taking Root."  I encourage you to check it out.

To close, I want to leave you with encouragement to seek help with your addiction--whatever it may be.  Celebrate Recovery is a fantastic 12-step program that will help point you toward God while helping you overcome.  A quick Google search will hopefully turn up one close to you.

Finally, I leave you with the powerful Serenity Prayer or Reinhold Neibuhr:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time; 
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and
supremely happy with Him Forever in the next.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

When you come out of the wilderness

Something my dad told me today:

No matter how long you're in the desert, as long as you come out closer to the Lord, then it's worth it.  If you're not closer to God, well, you know where that's going.

Basically, he was saying that if you better learn from your mistakes, and you better learn to lean on God.

Here is Psalm 51 to reflect upon:

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
   according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
   blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
   and cleanse me from my sin.
 3 For I know my transgressions,
   and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
   and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
   and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
   sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
   you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
   wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
   let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
   and blot out all my iniquity.
 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
   or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
   so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
   you who are God my Savior,
   and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
   and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
   you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart
   you, God, will not despise.
 18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
   to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
   in burnt offerings offered whole;
   then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

He Was in the Wilderness

Angela and I read the beginning of Luke 4 when Jesus was in the Wilderness.  I don't know how many times I've read that and then dissected it. 

"What were the temptations he faced?"
"How did he fend off the devil?"
"The devil uses scripture; what should our response be?"
And more.

Very rarely do we stop to remember that Jesus was in the wilderness.

I feel like I've been in the wilderness for awhile.  I was trying to claw back to God as soon as possible, but I wasn't doing it in a way that was effective.  It was still about me.

It's so easy for us to give up something and make the struggle about us.  It's just another New Year's resolution.  I've been eating sweets like crazy lately, so I'm fasting from sweets for the next 40 days.  I didn't initially decide that because this is the problem that is getting between God and me.  I've stopped eating my wife's delicious brownies because I'm getting fat. 

But my inability to control eating sweets is symbolic of something greater:  my selfishness and lack of discipline in all areas of my life.

That is what has kept me in the wilderness for so long.  It's also much harder to fast from.  It's become who I am in so many ways.

So I'm going to try something in addition to giving up desserts while I'm in the desert.  I'm going to add things.  I want a Lent that explores my own selfishness and seeks to rid myself by serving others

It's hard to see others when you're too busy looking in the mirror.  It's even harder to love others.  But that's what I'm going to try to do.

I'm going to keep track of the selfish things I do.  This will be how I face temptation head on like Jesus did.  Instead of stopping there, I will give my list up to God each day.  In addition, I will seek opportunities to love others.

Jesus was in the wilderness, preparing and growing closer to God.  This is my time to be in the wilderness, too.

We'll see how this goes.  I wish you well in your wilderness these next 40 days.  Feel free to share what you've been thinking about as well.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Breathing in Ashes

I don't usually honor the Lenten fast.  I come from the Church of Christ tradition that says "every day is Easter."  But I'm trying to be more purposeful this year.  All I can truly say I know or have done in the past is give up something minor for the 40 days.  But that's only part of it.  So I'm trying to be more purposeful beginning yesterday (Ash Wednesday for me) and today, I'm getting out of my selfishness and it God's selflessness.

Here are some quick thoughts:

The air quality in Chiang Mai is horrible right now.  You can see the smoke hanging in the air.  It's a combination of the seasonal "burn everything" tradition, the pollution of vehicles, the cooler than usual temperatures, and the lack of wind clearing the valley basin.
Reading and thinking about Ash Wednesday and Lent (here and here) today, I realized that the feeling of an impending apocalypse is the perfect way to start this season of focus.  Ash is hovering in the air around us--we're even breathing it in--and the mood is set.

When the world feels like it's going to end, you have the perfect setting to reexamine your life up to this point.  I'm going to use this time to explore the ways I've been selfish for so long, the ways I haven't been the man I want to be, and the ways I can achieve significant growth in Christlikeness this season.

I pray you are able to do the same.