Work Your Wall

Adjoining this, Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house, and Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs next to him. 
Nehemiah 3:10

WORK YOUR WALL

As I sat in church recently, the pastor read a passage of Nehemiah.  While he continued on in his delivery, my feet got stuck in the list of workers of the wall.

The quick backstory of Nehemiah is that he had left Jerusalem and was in the service of another king.  God birthed a vision in the man for from home that sparked a desire to return to his people and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  After some surveying of the situation the work begins.

As with much of the scripture familiarity can be a death sentence to the story.  We get so accustomed to the overarching narrative that we miss the nuggets tucked neatly in the details.  On that particular Sunday, I got lost in the mining of truth I had not noticed before.

I knew the story.  I knew Nehemiah the visionary.  I knew the ending, the wall gets built in spite of opposition.  But what I may have seen for the first time or the hundredth time and just never noticed was this passage:

Adjoining this, Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house, and Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs next to him.  Nehemiah 3:10

I know little about Jedaiah son of Harumaph.  In fact I am unsure if he is found anywhere else in scripture.  I’ll confess, I have not done an in depth search for him or his lineage.  Yet I was stuck in a simple truth from his life. Jedaiah looked out his front door, saw a situation and did something about it. Jedaiah saw the wall in front of him needing repaired and worked the wall.

Now not to miss, others were working on the wall.  But Jedaiah, son of Harumaph, took responsibility for the wall right in front of him.

I think as people of faith there is a lot to learn from this Jerusalem craftsman.  We often miss what is right in front of us.  We have grown so accustom to the broken places in our sight line that we fail to see them as places that need repaired.  Or we continue to brush it off that one day I will tend to that.  One day that will get fixed.

And one day passes into the next and it stays unrepaired.

The broken marriage stays broken.
The shattered relationship with your kids stays shattered.
The mess that may not even be of your own making stays a mess.

And day after day it stares back at us begging to be fixed.  The wall stays broken, busted and unfixed.

Jedaiah on that day decided to do something about it.  He worked his wall.  He took responsibility for lied right in front of him.

It is my job to raise my kids…and work my wall.
It is my job to invest in my marriage…and work my wall.
It is my responsibility to love and demonstrate Jesus to those I work with.
I have to work my wall.
You have to work your wall.

It is time we quit looking past the broken places in the wall right in front of us. It is time we work our walls.

#justbeingjeff

 

I wish I’d never been born.

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day he was born.
Job 3:1

I wish I'd never.png

Call it a slip of the tongue.  Call it a verbal foupa. Call it what you like but we have all said it…
“What the…I wish I had never been born.”

You can fill in the blank with whatever word choice flies off your tongue in monumental moments of frustration.  But in truth we have all done it.

I do not think Job’s statement translates exact, but I think it is pretty close.  Job lost everything, literally everything barring a wife that encouraged her husband to call it quits. She made the suggestion to curse God and die. Lots of love in that tent.

Now most of have not lost the family fortune and every one of our children. Most of us do not sit and fester with sores all over our body while be less than encouraged by your friends, but Job did.

And after this “Job opened his mouth and…” out came the unthinkable.  Job wished he’d never been born.  Job saw no way out of his situation and simply wished he’d never been born into it.

We all have breaking points in the journey.  We all face days of hardship and hell.  We all in some way can side with Job.  And in more truth, most of us never get to where Job got.

Yet what we learn from Job is wrapped is these words:

God might kill me, but I have no other hope.
I am going to argue my case with him.

Job 13:15

Job was willing to reach a place most of us never reach. A point of physical and spiritual desperation.  Job resolved that even if God struck him down.  Even if his loss became loss of life he had no other place to put his hope.  Job was willing to petition the only one who could possibly reverse his situation.

I have never walked where Job walked.  I have never faced insurmountable loss. I pray I never do.  But this I walk away with that even if it kills me, in my desperate moments I can take my case before Christ. In my hurt, my struggle, the very moments of life that feel as though I want to curse the very day I was brought into existence, there also comes the belief that even if it were to cost me everything, I have no other place to place my hope.

Even if it kills me, I will still put my hope in him.

 

#ICYMI

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31

ICYMI.png

I have a love/hate for social media.  Like tonight, I was able to see a picture of my 86 year old grandfather whom unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to visit in far too long.   Wrapped in hate is the demand to edit our life down to snippets and snapshots that tell the story, at least the pieces of the story we want told.

In truth, we really only tell what we want people to know.  We select, edit and share the best pieces of life.  We paint and present our greatest hits and leave all our hurts and hardships on the cutting room floor.

And there are seasons and situations of life that get left untold.  So here are pieces of the last year that have been left untold.   We often go back and share with “in case you missed it”.

So this is my ICYMI because most of you did miss it and mostly because I quit putting my life on display for the world to judge.  I quit snapping, sharing, tweeting and posting simply because my personal life was simply that personal.  It was a journey of hurt and joy.  It was a pathway of loss and recovery.  In the end, it was the redemption of life, ministry and love.

For more than a year, I walked in a life of complete paradox.  So much of life was crumbling all around me while my God was simultaneously taking the broken pieces and rebuilding the walls. Disaster seemed to be constant companion.  Interestingly enough it was partnered with blessing and restoration.

In the midst of my heartache, God gave more than I deserved.  Much of that came packaged in the beauty and love a long lost friend.  A friend that I had no idea would come to mean so much in my life.

By now, if we are friends on Facebook and those few in the inner circle of my life, you are aware that I am re-married.

Rachael is my reward.  She is my best-friend, my heart’s love and the person I trust with all the pieces of my life and heart. Her beauty is only surpassed by her passion for Jesus.  Wrapped in laughter is a friendship that blossomed into a love and a love that was sealed with a promise.

On June 23, 2017 that old friend became my wife and my partner in this life.

A blog post is not enough space to tell the story of all God did to get us here.  There are not words to fully unpack what it took and the best description may simply be that the Lord still works in mysterious ways.  And even better yet is that the Lord works and is still working all things for the good of those who love him.

God has a way of taking the broken pieces of our life and arranging them into beautiful mosaics.  Up close all we see are the broken pieces, but as we step back we begin to see how the hand of an artist arranged and selected each one precisely to craft a thing of beauty.

My life, my marriage to Rachael is simply that, a Mosiac masterfully arranged by the hand of God. If you look close you will still see broken chunks with jagged edges.  But as you step back what you will see is something beautiful that only God could have put together.

Just in case you missed it…

My Old Man

I can still remember every lesson he taught me
Growing up learning how to be like my old man
Zac Brown Band, My Old Man

MYThe knock grows louder and louder of the big 4-0 approaching.  Most days it is a passing thought of another birthday.  One more candle to blow out on one more cake.

But the other day two things happened that put my age into perspective. Both were things I heard.

My oldest son is blend of iTunes playlist with a twist of vinyl in his soul.  He was an early adopter of the single from Zac Brown Band titled “My Old Man”.  In true Andrew style I was cornered into listening to this fresh track from the band from GA.

ZBB penned a poetic ode to dads and sons. While Drew’s musical ears were picking up downbeats and lacks of cymbal splashes, I was drinking in the lyrics.  As each one documented a Polaroid snapshot of generational father and son relationships, my secret hope he was hearing more than just the sweet strum of classical guitar.  He did not see the tears tucked away in corners of my eyes as the lyrics poked deep at my desires as a dad.

A second thing unpredictable event happened that same week.  I heard my dad. Yes, he is still alive.  It was not a ghostly situation. In fact he is some 990 miles away in Florida like most people who are of that age. Yet, I heard him, not in person, not on the phone, but inside of me.

READ “Why I Wore Jeans On Easter”

It was the audio that rang in my ears of a deep belly laugh.  It was my Old Man. It was his laugh. The laugh I had heard as child now bellow out out of my mouth and unexpectedly caught me off guard. The man of my childhood was now creeping out of the man that I am.

The collision of these to occurrences lead me to a prayer and a hope.  My life in perspective has brought the revelation of the wisdom my dad was handing down to me. Wisdom originally ignored or taken for granted now is anchors my soul.

I look at my sons and know one day their DNA will look at them and unknowingly through a heartfelt dagger into their soul maybe packaged in musical melodies.  I also realize one day they will hear my laugh come out of their mouth and look for me.

I fight the fight most dads do, trading time for money. Living a life where both feel in short supply.  Time slips out to shore as the tides of life seem so quickly to change. So I spend my time hoping the messages in moments are getting caught.  Praying that the man they see is a man they become like. I think the greatest compliment I can give and ever receive is summed up like this:

“Now I finally understand
I have a lot to learn
From my old man”

@justbeingjeff

 

 

I wore jeans on Easter

“It is better to make a difference than a point.”
Andy Stanley

I WORE

I remember one Easter as a child, I had one ambition, to dress exactly like James Crockett from Miami Vice.  I was dressed in white khaki style pants, bright yellow t-shirt, turquoise single button blazer and penny filled penny loafers.  I was “gnarly”.  Easter Sunday required more than your Sunday best, but your next level Sunday best.

Yet this year on the most seemingly sacred Sunday of the church calendar I wore blue jeans. Fashionable, clean cut and dressed down blue jeans.

What I quickly realize if you read that statement you fall into one of three categories:

  • wholeheartedly agree
  • vehemently disagree
    or
  • simply don’t care

There may be a fourth category questioning what style of jean.  If they were extra skinny, boot cut, classic Levi or a dressy Michael Kors.  But even those may find themselves compartmentalized in one of the previous three.

I am broke and okay with it.  (READ HERE)

So why did I select my grey washed jeans over a three piece suit for Resurrection Sunday?

Simpy because of what Andy Stanley says:
“It is better to make a difference than a point.”

At one point the everyday dress of our culture was suit and tie.  Men wore well polished shoes.  Woman wore skirts and panty hose.  Not just to the workplace but in everyday situations. The work place culture has shifted.  Casual Friday has morphed into business casual with blue jean Friday.  More and more home based work has employees in blue plaid pajamas over Calvin Klein Glen Plaid.

In truth, I own only one suit.

A few years back I got to enjoy the Kentucky Derby from the palatial suites of Keeneland.  There were two rules: men had to wear coat and tie and never take off your coat and tie.  There was a status symbol attached to entering behind those doors. It was a level of persona not found in the grandstands or in grass.

If the Church is to be the vehicle of making Jesus known to the lost and broken, then continuing a status of a Country Club culture will only keep them out.  So I wore jeans because in part it is who I am and secondly to borrow the words of a classic hymn we want to create a “come as you are” culture.

In the same way, we need to not flip the script too far the other way.  Deep v-neck t’s don’t make us more relevant or closer to Jesus.  I am fairly certain the skinnier the jeans is not a status symbol of better the worship.

As those commissioned to carry out the message of hope and life, we cannot be the same ones that set up an obstacle course to the cross.  As culture ever changes, the church needs to find itself adaptable and pliable in how we deliver the message without ever compromising the message.  The message is never changing, the methods have to reach people have to be able to be changed.

So I wore jeans on Easter.

Love Songs

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,
Ephesians 5:19

LOVE

I was recently at a worship concert with Bethel Music . Bethel is one of my favorite worship bands in large part as they penned my life soundtrack. As the anthem worship song “No Longer Slaves” hit the chorus, the 8 year old off key little voice in front of me lifted to heaven an anthem I could not out sing.

In his 8 year old heart abandon of song, his passion surpassed all 39 years of worship I had in me.

Read why “No Longer Slaves” is my life song here.

I am a hopeful (or hopeless) romantic. While lots of people love the melody or beat of the music. I am mesmerized by the message tucked in the lyrics. I find meaning in the narrative of each carefully crafted syllable.  The song has is courier of emotions and connection to the heart. Yet, in this snippet of a moment was the simple reminder that in the collision of melody and lyrics a heart has to married to it.

Mattie, as I call him, did not have one concern about key, timing or pitch. His only desire was to sing a love song to the one who loves him. His head was not simply connected to singing the song, but his heart was married to it in an abandoned belting out of the chorus. It was his love song.

As the final power chord of “No Longer Slaves” pierced the April night sky, the band softly sang the words of the next worship song:

Jesus, we love you
Oh, how we love you
You are the one our hearts adore
Our hearts adore

And Mattie never missed a beat. His voice breaking over the star filled Tennessee sky. He was in love with the subject of the song. He embodied what Paul wrote the church at Ephesus:  Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord. 

It was my reminder that I am in a marriage to the one who first loved me. And married folks sing love songs. Paul encourages us as the bride of Christ to sing melodies and make music to the lover of our hearts.  It more than simply the melody or lyrics. It is a heartfelt love song.

It is often said to sing like no one is looking…Mattie sang like Jesus was the only one looking.

#lovesongs

Going Through HELL

If you’re going through hell, keep on going.
Country song

going through.png

I am a classic over-stater of a situation.  Case in point: I hate sleeping in socks. My feet get all hot and sweaty.  The sock gets all twisted and crooked.  And someone testify with me, there are very few things in life as uncomfortable as a twisted sock while your trying to find your comfort zone. Then based on my discomfort, I will make some incredible overture like “oh that must be what Hell is like.”

In truth Jesus never describes Hell as twisted socks…continual weeping and gnashing of teeth yes, off centered hosiery, no. Yet, we (maybe just I) make comparisons of our discomfort to eternal punishment.

While I want mama to rest assured, I am not headed to Hell, I do think we face some “hells on earth”.

Jesus look dead in the eye of the 12 with dagger like statements of “take up your cross and follow me.”  Jesus always with the key literary foreshadowing was pointing toward his eventual journey toward his Hell on earth.  Jesus, beaten and bloodied, exhausted and worn would be forced to drag and pull his own device of death to the hill of the skull. Where those same hands that carried the cross would be nailed to same board.

(And I complain about socks.)

While most likely most of us will never endure a cross, we do endure hell on earth.  The words of Jesus penned in the red across the pages promise provision and protection but often in the face of trial and trouble.  He said this to his closest friends on earth:

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Seven little words that sometimes feel much bigger than life itself…”you will have trouble.”

“Um, thank you Jesus.”

Truth is hell on earth will happen.  Hurt will come. Despair will be delivered. Grief will be well worn like familiar like a tattered hoodie. It is certain.

For whatever reason we think coming to faith in Jesus hands exempts us from heartbreak. But in fact, hurt still happens even to Jesus loving, church going, bible believing, filled with the Holy Spirit followers of Jesus. The hell on earth happens.

Sandwiched around the certainty of hell on earth is one reminder and one promise.

The reminder: Jesus is the giver of peace not the hurt.

The context of this passage of scripture is Jesus unpacking his plans for the future. It is a far cry from the social and political overtaking of the kingdom his disciples anticipated. It was an announcement of his departure. It was a save the date for his death.

It was as if the first nail was driven into the heart of his friends. Hurt, misunderstanding, uncertainty, confusion, I imagine to be what flooded the followers of the Messiah. I am sure Andrew or Matthew chased thoughts of “it is not supposed to go this way.”

 In that moment, it seems like the proclamation of the plan is the very thing that steals the peace of the disciples. And Jesus, as only Jesus does, reminds them that he is giving them a glimpse of what is ahead not to create fear, but to give them peace.

The paradox of life and seemingly the message of the Passion is that going through Hell leads to peace. The cross of his suffering is what is our peace. He in a literally sense was pierced for our peace.

The reminder is he is the Prince of Peace even in the center of our hell on earth.

The promise: he has already overcome this world.

Hell on earth sucks. It is miserable, painful, and devastating at times. We walk through it with a belief head-shaking of “this is not what I signed up for.”

As hard as it may be and so often it seems nearly impossible to believe he has already overcome your hell. It was nailed the cross, it is overcome in the scars found in his hands and his side.  The scar story of Jesus is what brings the overcoming our hell on earth.

READ MY SCAR STORY HERE

So in the center of the fires of life you can truly “take heart” or as another translation states “be of good cheer” in the center of your situation because he has already overcome.  He beat it back by his death and resurrection. He remains the overcomer of death, hell and the grave.  So I read these words of the apostle Paul with a side-eye sigh and final acceptance:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17

Friend, we share an address. I live where you live. I walk through the hells of life, too. I have hurt, I have faced devastation and been journeying down the road. As cliche as it sounds in a country song, there is an element of truth to it.

If you are walking through hell, keep on walking. You have this reminder: he is our peace. You have been given a promise: he has already overcome.

Keep on walking…