Contradiction, It’s Where I Find Me

Contradiction

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Success is promised, but tempted to flee
Strength is waning, never been so strong
Screaming out truth while surrounded with wrong

Heart breaks for broken, yet it’s harder than stone
Surrounded with people, feel so alone
Wisdom is clear, but it’s not convenient
Standards are high, yet fittingly lenient

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Grace is free, but for others there’s a fee
Focused on the prize, eye on the goal
Culture sidetracks, stuffing this God-shaped hole

Disciplines obsessive, lethargies overtake
Foundations unyielding, yet easy to shake
Purpose focused, never in doubt
Roadblocks surround, quick to pout

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Beauty disguised, ugly reality
Full of creativity, overcome with exhaustion
Frustration rules, leaning towards resignation

Days so long, life so short
Feelings rage, demanding to sort
Wealth of opportunity, a catalog of choice
Volume getting loud, muting my voice

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Obsessed with acceptance, don’t care if they hate me
There’s chatter of courage, yet fear rules the day
Conviction is high, unless there’s a price to pay

Morality important, it cramps my style
Aim is focused, yet missing by a mile
Souls transparent, never wanting to fake
Portraying translucent, diagnosis opaque

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Hiding pride, shouting humility
Spirit shrivels, heart breaks
Finish the race, whatever it takes

“Smack in the centre of contradiction is the place to be.” –Bono

We, people of faith, often times feel like we have to have it all together in order to feel like good, successful Christians.

We, people of faith, often times feel like we should have no doubts, no temptations, no frustrations and at the same time, have an endless amount of strength and faith oozing out of us.

We, people of faith, often times forget what the scriptures show us about the life of one of the most amazing Christians to ever live.

Let me share with you two examples:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.” (The Apostle Paul) Romans 7:15

(“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ ”  The Apostle Paul) 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

The Apostle Paul, stuck in a contradiction, it’s where we find him: Tempted, discouraged, weak, and that’s why we need God’s Grace and not religion!

Soul Fatigue

Soul Fatigue

A famous American explorer who spent a couple of years among the savages of the upper Amazon, once attempted a forced march through the jungle. The party made extraordinary speed for the first two days, but on the third morning, when it was time to start, the explorer found the natives sitting on their haunches, looking very solemn and making no preparation to leave.
“They are waiting,” the chief explained to the explorer. “They cannot move farther until their souls have caught up with their bodies.”

Humans are interesting beings.

We keep moving because we are afraid to stop.

We keep moving because we want to impress our boss, our friends, our peers.

We keep moving because if we slow down, we will have to deal with our soul (our inner most thoughts and feelings), and that can be a scary thing.

To numb the emotions of the past, the frustrations of the present and the fears of the future , we ignore our soul (the real part of us) and we work harder and faster, hoping that we can outrun and outpace all those feelings.

When it comes to soul fatigue, Jesus offers some comforting, words when he says, “Come to Me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”

Jesus offers something very counterintuitive.

He says, “Come to me.”  He doesn’t say come to religion or follow a pastor or join a denomination or follow a set of self-help principles.

He says, “Come to Me.” It’s about a relationship with the creator of the universe.

We are a people desperate for soul rest! Yet we seek rest for our souls in strange ways. We eat more, drink more, escape more, we even move around more hoping we can ignore our tired soul. We read self-help books hoping that we will find some magic formula. We are hoping that somewhere within us, we can muster up enough strength to make it through the day.

Yet again, this is the promise God spoke through his prophet Isaiah, “God gives power to those who are tired and worn out and He offers strength to the weak. Those who wait on the Lord will find new strength.”

The first thing that I notice about this promise is God offers me a new strength. It is not an old strength that just gets a little stronger. It is a supernatural strength.

But the hard part is how we get it. We get it by waiting. “Wait on the Lord.”

Human beings are not very good waiters! We hate to wait at airports, on freeways, in supermarkets, in relationships. We want everything right now!

Jesus said simply, “Come to me.” No other qualifications.

Secondly he says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

What is a yoke? I grew up in the city, so for years I kind of missed this metaphor.

For those of us who did not grow up on farms. A yoke is a wooden beam that attaches two farm animals together to lighten the load so they can work together as a team.

Why does Jesus use this symbol? Well, one reason is because a yoke was a symbol of sharing the load.  King David wrote, “Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders. He’ll carry your load and He’ll help you out.”

But I think more importantly, a yoke is a symbol of sharing a common goal.

When we yoke up with Jesus’ purpose to heal broken hearts, feed the hungry, bring justice to the abused, love those who have been judged and offer hope for those who have given up, we will discover a pace of life that is energizing and sustainable.

“Come to me” and “yoke up with me”. Two simple antidotes to soul fatigue.

“Because God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.”
― Augustine of Hippo

Just A Few Thoughts on Storms

Storms: We all have them.

Financial storms.
Health storms.
Relational storms.
Emotional storms.
Storm storms.

What happens when we experience storms?

ONE, we reprioritize what is really valuable and important.

Things that seemed important, are no longer.

People we took for granted, are no longer.

Storms have a way of putting back in proper order things that are proper.

TWO, we find out who our real friends are.

As Oprah Winfrey once said, “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

THREE, we stop talking about God and start talking to Him.

David spends the first part of Psalm 23 talking about God, but when he gets to the valley that has death shadows blocking the sun, he starts talking to God.

FOUR, many times it is during storms where we discover super natural strength.

The apostle Paul writes, “…suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope.”

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote,
“All that is gold does not glitter
not all those who wander are lost
the old that is strong does not wither
deep roots are not reached by the frost
From the ashes a fire shall be woken
a light from the shadows shall spring
renewed shall be blade that was broken
the crown less again shall be king.”

The storms and floods that have hit Sahel Academy in Niamey, Niger will not have the last word.

It will rise back up, rebuild and become an even brighter beacon of hope.

It will rise back up, rebuild and train a greater generation to share the love and grace of Jesus.

It will rise back up, rebuild and reach a country whose median age is 15.

It will rise back up, rebuild and heal the broken-hearted and will set those held captive by religion free.

Our prayers are with you and for you!

God bless all the teachers and faculty.

Please do not give up, for there is a great reward.

I’m Caught in a Contradiction, and I Can’t Get Out of It

Don’t be afraid to find yourself right in the middle of a contradiction.
It is usually where God grows your faith.

Everyone deals with doubt and insecurity.
Everyone deals with lust and selfish desires.
Everyone deals with fears and worry.
Everyone lives in the paradox…
…I am strong, I am weak,
I am handsome, I am ugly,
I am thin, I am fat,
I am caring, I am selfish,
I am in control, I am falling apart,
I am at peace, I am afraid,
I am Godly, I am a heathen,
I am forgiven, I am ashamed,
I am smart, I am dumb,
I am special, I am nobody,
I am patient, I can’t wait,
I am a faith giant, I am full of doubt,
I am excited, I am depressed,
I am in awe, I am unimpressed,
I am strong, I am weak,
I am going to make it, I am not sure I can…

Our faith grows the strongest when we are not depending on our strength, intellect and resources.
Our roots grow deep when we stop trying to control, stop trying to overcome, and we surrender our fragile egos at the footsteps of the door of Grace.

The Apostle Paul reminds me of something I quickly forget, “We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

If I wait for my contradictions to go away, I will never live.

Paul, this hero of faith, brags about his superhero strength when he says, “I do what I know I shouldn’t do, and I don’t do what I know I should.”

He then says to the church in Philippi, “Follow me, and you will experience peace”.
He was living in the reality of the contradiction that he was called to lead others by his example yet he did not have the strength, on his own, to lead well.

He had to depend fully on the power of God and His Grace.

Paul challenged the Galatians that “God gives you His Spirit and works through you to offer people His hope not because you are strong enough to follow the law, but because you received the Good News of His Grace and are allowing His power to work through you.”

It is easy to discount my faith and the purpose God has for me when I allow my contradictions to control me..

I must fully embrace the contradiction that in my weakness, He is strong.

I must remind myself that even though I can’t solve everyone’s problems and change the world in a day, that I do have the most powerful force living in me, God’s love, hope and Grace.

When I do that, I become more powerful than I can ever imagine.

In his book The Easy Yoke, Doug Webster tells a story about an idealistic college student who ended up on a mission trip to one of the more dangerous housing projects in Philadelphia.

Frightened and anxious to share his faith, the young man approached a very large tenement home. Cautiously making his way through the dark, cluttered hallways, he climbed up one flight of stairs to an apartment.

He knocked on the door, and a woman with a cigarette in her mouth, holding a naked, crying baby opened it. Not in any mood to hear some white, idealistic college boy to tell her about Jesus, she started cursing and slammed the door in his face. He was devastated. He walked out on the street, sat on the curb and wept, feeling worthless and inept.

Then he said, “It felt like God whispered some wisdom in my ear.”
He got up and ran down the street to the local market and bought a box of diapers and a pack of cigarettes.

When he knocked on the door again, he showed the woman his purchases. She hesitated and then invited him in.

For the rest of the day, he played with the baby and changed its diapers (even though he had never changed diapers before).
When the woman offered him a cigarette, he took one (even though he had never smoked before).

For the day, he said very little.

Late in the afternoon, the woman asked him why he was doing all this, and he told her about his relationship with Jesus and how much Jesus loved her. It took about 5 minutes.

When he stopped talking, the woman looked at him and softly said, “Pray for me and my baby that we can make it out of here alive.”

When we allow ourselves to be put in vulnerable, seemingly over-our-head situations, and simply offer the dignity and the love of God in tangible ways, His spirit works through us, our faith grows, and most importantly…OUR CONTRADICTIONS BECOME IRRELEVANT.

I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

Those who are trying to make the biggest difference, those who are fighting extreme poverty and injustice, those who are under-resourced, under-manned and overwhelmed at the size of the task get tempted more often than others to want to quit.

Many times their courageous looking exterior is masking a very discouraged and tired interior.

Just recently I talked to some heroic, selfless people in my life, who were at the brink of possibly throwing in the towel.

I had sent a few emails to people who inspire me. They are making such a huge difference when it comes to global hunger, trafficking and our local homelessness issue. At the end of my emails, I tagged the scripture, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Their responses back were, “Wow, that verse couldn’t have come at a better time.” And then they shared with me their discouragement, weariness and doubt that they were making a difference. They said that verse reminded them again that Jesus said it would never be easy to serve the hurting and broken, especially when the rest of the world tends to look the other way.

The writer of Hebrews says, “Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.”

It is always easier to start something than to finish it.
The thought of changing our world is much easier than doing it!

How many of us have ever started a diet but within a week we had given up? Within a day? Within an hour? It’s just human nature:

When we want to follow Jesus and the prophets who said to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, father the fatherless, take care of widows and fight against injustice, the scriptures remind us that it will cost us something, maybe everything, but the scriptures also remind us that God will give us the power we need to do his will.

You can have the greatest intentions in the world but without a power supply greater then yourself, then you will run out of gas.

The apostle Paul reminded his prodigy Timothy that “God had not given him a spirit of fear, but of POWER, love and a sound mind.”

How do we live in God’s power?

It starts with surrender.

Something very powerful happens when we finally say the words, “I can’t do this on my own anymore!”

On Fifth Avenue in New York City, in front of the RCA building, there is a huge statue of Atlas, with all his muscles straining hold the world on his shoulders.

Atlas is facing Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, which is right across the street, and in the lobby of the church there is a shrine of Jesus as a boy, with no effort, holding the world with one hand.

You and I have a choice. We can try to carry the world on our shoulders, or we can say, “I give up, God, here’s my life, I give you my world.”

I also think it is important to remember that it is normal to get knocked down, fail, and to want quit.

But we must remember the words of Paul who said, “Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us. And when we are knocked down we get up again.”

Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all time leading rusher, ran over 10 miles in his record breaking career. His career yards per carry were 4.2. That means Emmitt was tackled 4370 times in his Hall of Fame career.

Imagine this: In the midst of running 10 miles, Emmitt was knocked down 4370 times by sweaty, angry 300 pound linemen.

Now imagine getting up this morning and because you know that jogging is good for your heart, cholesterol and weight management, you put on your running shoes and short shorts and you start running through your neighborhood. How far do you think you could go?

However long you decide you can run, now imagine doing that while getting knocked down every 4.2 yards by angry, sweaty 300 pound men. How long would you last? How long would I last?

That’s life isn’t it? About every 4.2 yards, in the words of John Madden, “BAM”, life hits you hard. Life seems to have 300 pound linemen hitting us from every direction. It seems each year these 300 pound linemen get faster and stronger.

Every 4.2 yards Emmitt Smith had a choice, “Am I gonna get back up again or am I gonna stay down?” He got back up 4370 times.

I’m sure he didn’t always feel like getting back up.
I’m sure there were times when he was hurt, discouraged and just plain tired.

Emmitt Smith kept breaking records, winning super bowls and motivating teammates because he kept getting back up.

A very wise prophet said thousands of years ago something that is just as relevant today. “The LORD gives strength to those who are weary. Even young people get tired, then stumble and fall. But those who trust the LORD will find new strength. They will be strong like eagles soaring upward on wings; they will walk and run without getting tired.”

Norman Vincent Peale wrote, “If you have no problems at all, I warn you, you’re in grave jeopardy. You are on your way out and you don’t know it! If you don’t have any problems, I suggest that you immediately race from wherever you are, jump into your car and drive home as fast as you can, and go straight to your bedroom and slam the door. Then get on your knees and pray, ‘What’s the matter, Lord? Don’t you trust me anymore? Give me some problems!’”

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13