The Tyranny of Right

I hate being wrong.

Granted, not many people enjoy being wrong, I would imagine. I can’t envision someone sitting at home having an argument with their wife over wanting to be wrong.

“I’M WRONG!”

“NO I AM!”

Ridiculous.

The older I get, and the longer I’ve been married, however, I’ve realized that to a large extent, I’ve built a part of my identity on being right. Not that I walk around just obsessing over every little thing that I have any control over, but I like to think I’m right most of the time.

Case in point: Several months ago, my wife and I were in the car (I think) and got to talking about something trivial, like sports, or song lyrics, or the name of the guy who seems to be in every move (Steve Buscemi.) I think we were discussing a song lyric, and she heard it one way, I heard it another, and I would not let it go. I kept insisting that she was wrong. My wife is gracious and wonderful, and she dropped the issue. Not me. I stewed. I barley spoke a word until we got where we were going, and as soon as I parked the car and got out, pulled out my iPhone and went to my trusted source: Google.

I was wrong.

I told her she was right, and she laughed it off, saying something like “Of course I was.” Why did I vent over that? Why on earth did I react that strongly to something as stupid as a song lyric?

It’s because I’ve built my identity on being right, at least to a degree. There is a pastor that I greatly respect named Tullian Tchividjian. He wrote an incredible book on suffering called Glorious Ruin that is amazing. Seriously, go buy it. He posted something to twitter awhile back that has stuck with me for months. He said,

“@PastorTullian: If you feel compelled to respond every time you’re criticized it reveals just how much you’ve built your identity on being right.”

Ouch.

Am I the only one who this strikes a chord with? I fight back. I respond with anger and animosity. I’ve built my identity on being right, instead of building it on Jesus, and his redemptive work on the cross.

I think until we are free from the tyranny of always being “right” we will never be righteous. We will never be able to bring the Kingdom of heaven to Earth if we are too busy bringing a defense to those who would dare question anything we say or do.

Do you want to be free? I know I do.

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Does Prayer Work?

I don’t believe prayer works.

Actually, let me clarify that statement. In my head, I know prayer works. I’ve read the scriptures. I’ve attended the prayer meetings. Heck, I’ve even fasted and prayed. In my head, prayer works. I will profess up and down that it works, and that it is beneficial, and that it is the lifeblood of my relationship with God.

Can I be honest? More often than not, the way I live speaks otherwise.

The way I live says that prayer is ineffective. The way I live says prayer is a ritual at best. The way I live says that prayer is something to check off of my list before I eat or go to bed. Am I alone? Am I the only one that feels like more often than not, prayer is talking to a wall? That when I pray, my words just bounce off of the ceiling and back down into my face? I can’t be alone in this.

I think a big part of this is that in the modern church, we don’t teach people to pray. We treat God like a cosmic vending machine. He’s there when we need stuff. He’s there when things are headed downhill fast, and we need some rescue. We desperately offer up these half-hearted prayers to God, that have no real faith behind them, and then wonder why he doesn’t answer them like we want. I’ve been convicted lately of this. I treat God that way. He’s there when I need him, and the rest of the time, he just hangs out and watches me live life. He’s blessed to have me on his team. Absurd.

For the ancient Hebrews, the name of God (YAHWEH) actually contained no vowels. So it was literally spelled “YHWH.” What’s my point? There are scholars who maintain that the sound of that word was nearly identical to the sound of someone breathing in, then out. Breath. The most natural, thing we do. We breathe tens of thousands of times a day without even thinking about it.

What if we prayed like that?

What if prayer wasn’t a checklist item, or something we did out of duty or obligation? What if it was as natural to us as breathing? We often didn’t even think about it. We just….pray. As normal as the breathing. In and out.

I’m reading a fascinating book right now by Paul Miller called A Praying Life and he makes this same point. Prayer isn’t magical. Prayer isn’t closing yourself off to the world and spending hours on your knees (although that doesn’t hurt.) Prayer is as simple as getting in the car and offering a ten second prayer for your kids. Prayer is getting in the elevator at work and praying for your boss while you ride. It’s normal. It’s mundane. It’s organic. It’s just…you.

What would my life look like if I prayed that way? What chains would be broken, or doors opened, or people healed? What if I had the audacious faith to pray, and believe that my prayers made a difference? By his grace, I’m getting there. I’m re-learning how to pray.

Is it time for you to re-learn as well?

You Are Loved

If you’re anything like me, you tend to be hardest on yourself.

“I’m not good enough to make a difference. I don’t have a ‘gift.’ I don’t belong in that class of people.” You tell yourself time and time again that you will never measure up, that you’re not good enough, and that everybody else has it together and you haven’t figured life out yet.

The worst part of it, is that more often than not, I believe myself. I believe that I’m not good enough. I compare myself to everybody around me. They make more money than I do. They’re more successful than I am. They got a promotion. On and on and on and on. It never ends.

Can I tell you something? Something that will make you uncomfortable?

You are loved. By the creator of the Universe.

Let that sink in. You are loved. You are loved more infinitely than you will ever know. You are loved to the point of exhaustion. You are loved not because you’ve done anything great, but because Love created you, and by His very nature, he created you in his image, you will ALWAYS be loved. There will never be a time in your life when you are not loved. Nothing you do, nothing you say, nowhere you go, will ever change that.

You can’t outrun it. You can’t escape it. You can’t undo it. The love of the Father will be there. Forever. Like a birthmark. A constant reminder of your true self. An identifier. His love is what makes you who you are. It higher, deeper, wider, and more vast than you can possibly imagine. It is big enough to handle the deepest anguish, and small enough to care about the most seemingly insignificant details of your life.

Are you uncomfortable yet?

I am. I don’t deserve that love. I’m not good enough for it. I’m not smart enough, haven’t done enough good things, and haven’t lived a life worthy of that kind of scandalous love. But that’s the crazy part. It’s available for everyone. The burned out, the spiritually bankrupt, and those who seem to have it all together. Those for whom it seems like everything always works out.

Love plays no favorites.

Live in that. Wake up soaked in that love. Like waking on a hot night, drenched in sweat, be soaked in his love. Wear it like a blanket. Carry it with you. Live life as if you are intimately loved by the one who put the stars in their place. Because you are.

And so am I.

Lessons from Avery – Worship

I’ve learned a lot from Avery.

That may seem obvious. Of course a man is going to learn a ton from having daughters. I know more about princesses than I ever thought I would. I know the words to way more Disney songs than I ever imagined. I’ve obviously learned some things.

I’m not talking about those types of lessons though. Avery has taught me some things that I don’t know that I ever would have learned had it not been for her. In that spirit, I’m going to be committing a number of posts to the things I’ve learned so far from Avery. When Rylee is old enough, I’ll do the same for her (in case you think I’m playing favorites)

Avery worships with reckless abandon.

Let me elaborate.

I was driving home tonight from running errands with Avery, and we were listening to Mumford & Sons. Specifically, their song “I Will Wait.” Avery loves them. She dances around the house, taps her feet, and just loves life when they are playing. She knows words, and sings along. And I’m okay with that.

As we are driving, I can hear her whispering the words to the song as it’s playing. I gave her an encouraging “sing louder Avery.” What ensued was one of the most memorable things I’ve experienced in a long time.

The chorus came, and Avery, at the top of her lungs, shouted “I WILL WAIT, I WILL WAIT FOR YOU.” She kept it up. Yelling. Out of key, off time, over and over and over again. It was reckless. It was loud. It was unrestrained. And best of all.

It was passionate.

I wish I worshiped like that. I’m reserved. I’m quiet. I lift my hands during the chorus, and maybe the bridge, but never during the verses. That’s weird. Who does that? I’m so concerned about what people are going to think of me. But the beautiful thing about that car ride, was that it was just me and Avery, and she gave no thought to how I would see her. How I would view her. She was singing. She was enjoying herself. She was responding to me. And I loved every minute of it.

Maybe we all need to worship more like Avery. Recklessly. With no regard for who is around us, or what they’ll think, or whether or not it’s an “appropriate” time to worship. Maybe we need to just ignore the room full of people, and remember that at the end of the day, it’s just God and I, and he loves to hear his children worship.

Thank you Avery. Thank you for teaching this Daddy what it means to worship with raw, reckless abandon.

Fatherhood

I grew up with an amazing father. My dad enrolled in seminary when I was young, and worked the night shift at as a janitor, while attending seminary full time, in order to help make ends meet. Some of my earliest memories are of taking my dad dinner in the evenings and using the pool at the school where he worked. We would eat whatever we had packed for dinner, and then put on swim trunks and play “double dive,” which was really just him throwing me in the pool and me having to swim back to the side. It’s a wonder I didn’t drown.

My dad worked for years as a pastor, and what I appreciated about him was that he was the same man on stage as he was at home. There was no difference. What you saw was what you got. The real deal.

But as great a father as he was, for some reason I always struggled with the notion of God as a father. I’m not sure why. You would assume that my experience with my own father would have made this comparison a cinch. That I’d naturally gravitate to the idea of God as father.

I never really made the connection. I called God my father. I started prayers with “father God.” I knew about the trinity. Father. Son. Holy Spirit. I knew it in my head, but it never really made that eighteen inch journey to my heart.

Until I became a father.

I was scared to death to be a father. Not because I thought I’d forget my kids somewhere, or forget to put a diaper on, or make them choke on food or something. I was worried that I would do something that, years down the road, would make my kids say something negative about their father. That they would grow up with a story not like the one I did.

I’m convinced that God gives us children for a couple of reasons. The first is to teach us patience and selflessness. Anybody with kids can attest to this. You want to test your patience and realize how much of a selfish individual you are? Have kids. Guaranteed.

The second reason is one that I feel like took me awhile to understand. It was more of a subtle realization, rather than the slap in the face of the first one. I believe God gives us (specifically men) children to teach us what real fatherhood looks like. Regardless of what kind of father you had, we all have big shoes to fill. I think God said to himself, “the only way these men are going to have a real picture of fatherly love is if I make them fathers.”

And you know what, I think he was right. I love my wife, but I’ve never felt anything as incredible as watching my two beautiful little girls come into the world. I didn’t need to take pictures of it, or video tape it, because there is absolutely nothing that will replace that, or make me forget that moment. That moment I was given the greatest responsibility a man can ever be given. I became a father.

I pray that I can live up to this responsibility. It is the single most terrifying, yet most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I am learning every day what it means to lay down myself and love my children like my Heavenly Father loves. Earthly love will only get us so far. Sure, I love them. I would die for them. I would sacrifice anything to make them happy. But that isn’t enough. They need to know love like Jesus’ love. And I am absolutely convinced that my role is to show them that love.

If you are a father, that is your role. To demonstrate the love of Jesus to your kids. When they make you laugh, and when they make you so angry you want to punch a wall. Love them. Show them how important they are to you. Show them that nothing they will ever do will make their daddy stop loving them.

Because in the end, all we are doing is simply reflecting the fatherly love that we’ve been given.

Be their Abba.