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

 

 

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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…

Divorced, not disqualified

I know your past is broken
You can move on it’s over now
Here in the presence of the Lord

Tired of running running
Be still and know He’s in control

Here in the Presence, Elevation Worship

Divorced, not disqualified (1)

I am divorced.  There it is said.

This fact that has been hidden. Shamefully masked in messages slipped into social media.  But those words have not been shared.  Today, I am saying them.  I am divorced.

This is not a post searching for sympathy or asking for your empathy. This post is for me.  It pulling back the curtain on what has been hidden because only when we step fully into the light can we truly be seen.

As in any marriage there is fault to be spread around.  This is not the space to discuss details. Nor really are the details necessary for you to realize what I have come to.

Divorce does not change God’s love for me.
Divorce does not undo his sacrifice for my life.
Divorce does not erase the gifts he has put inside me.

And divorce does not disqualify me.
And it doesn’t disqualify you.

After walking through divorce on both sides of the scenario, as a child of divorce and now a divorcee, it is evidently clear as to why God hates divorce. But God never said he hates the divorcee.

I grew up in churches where divorce, especially divorce and remarriage was often presented as the unforgivable sin. It was the scarlet letter of the church. It seemed to be the ultimate dis-qualifier from serving God.

In John 4 we find Jesus sitting with a woman who had previously been married, 4 times in fact. The scripture does not clearly say all the marriages ended in divorce, but based on the time of day she was at the well, this woman wore shame like an overcoat in the heat of the day.

But the loving Savior saw past the past. The story reveals what happens when we see past the irreconcilable differences of divorce. Jesus reveals this woman’s past to her, not condemn her, but to reveal his love for her.  This woman melting in the noonday son had her heart melted by God’s son.

That day she left behind her jar at the well. She left behind the vessel that carried the water and became the vessel that carried his love to her city. This woman we call the Samaritan Woman became the first missionary to the Samaritan people.

Divorce hurts like hell. Divorce destroys things. Divorce is like walking barefoot on glass with the weight of the world on your shoulders.  It leaves you cut and wounded

But divorce does not disqualify you from the calling of God. To be honest, God has in this season of new life restored what he has called me to.  I have found his love in greater ways. I have seen him provide in greater capacity.  And have found my God still capable of using the gifts and talents he has put in my life.

So if you have been lied to, I want to tell you the truth. God can still use you. More so, God wants to use you.

I know your past is broken
You can move on it’s over now
Here in the presence of the Lord

Accidentally On Purpose

“Direction, not intention gets you to your desired destination.”
Andy Stanley

psych.jpg

True confession: I am terrible with directions. I have been known to pull out of my driveway the wrong way. A lot of that is the process of habit.  I turn left out the drive because most days of my life I turn left out of my drive.

My kids will attest that sometimes we end up somewhere “accidentally on purpose”. Let me explain.

“Accidentally on purpose” is where you set out to a specified destination. Get lost. Arrive at another completely different destination and turn to your kids and say “we are here.”  And “here” is not where you set out to end up at all.

Life has been a constant arrival of “heres” in my life.  Outside of few rare occurrences, many of my arrivals have been by accident lacking purpose. Not to negate the reality that life is part adventure and part of the adventure is the discovery of the unknown.  But too often the unknown has been found because there was not a clear direction to where I was going.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote the captives what God was speaking.  It was “I know the plans I have for you…”  God in his usual banter with me says “Jeff, if I have a plan for you, how come you seem to live by accident?”

Oops.

I won’t “accidentally on purpose” become who God has intended for my life to become.  I won’t “accidentally on purpose” arrive at the destination God has for me. I never seem to “accidentally on purpose” live the life laid out for.

Those things only happen when we have purpose. What I have found in my life is when I have misplaced purpose I end up with misplace passions. The passions of my life never change. The passion to communicate, to help people, to live a life full. Yet what happens is when I lack purpose those passions get placed in areas that do not directly get me where God’s plan is leading.

And where I end up is “here” accidentally on purpose.

So the shift is to live with purpose.  Purpose requires decision making, not always my favorite activity.  Purpose requires choosing myself while loving and serving others. Purpose means moving past good intentions to live with action. Purpose means facing fears and opposition and standing strong in the face of both. Purpose means picking a destination and then setting a course to get there.

Otherwise you just end up “here” accidentally on purpose.

In a Moment

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Deuteronomy 4:29

mastpic-pews.jpg

I was 19 and recently divorced.

Not from a marriage, but from my faith. I was one year removed from high school.  After one year in the labor force, I was entering my freshman year of college.

I remember the day of separation vividly as the movie reel ticks in my memory.  I was packing for my first year of college. Brown boxes and duffel bags held my most precious possessions outside of my Ryne Sandberg rookie card which remained on my childhood dresser.  As I held the hardback book that was handed to me by my pastor upon high school graduation, I slid it into the box as an appeasement to my mama.  But in my mind I said to myself “I won’t be needing this.”

And in that moment the great game of hide-and-go-seek began.

I spent the majority of my first semester hiding.  He spent most of those four months seeking.  In the most precarious of positions and places God would interrupt my strategically designed new life without him.

On a cold December night home on break, a praying mama drug an unpraying son to church.  Near the back row seated on a wooden church pew in a classic “pentecostal revival” service I was attempting to do my best hiding, while God was doing his best seeking.  If the preacher who was preaching that night every reads this, I hate to say I don’t remember a word of your sermon.  Not that it was not good, it may have been. It was just I was mid-discussion with Jesus and his voice was louder than yours no matter how much you shouted.

And my 19 year old stubborn insistence was broken down by his unfailing pursuit.  In that moment God reconciled the covenant that I had broken. He redeemed the distance I had created.

In the irony and divinity of God, it was from that Bible I packed up with no intention on using, in that church I had no intention on attending that December night that I preached my first sermon.  That bible now tattered from use and covered in pen and highlighters sits on my self with a duct taped spine as the reminder that we are never too far from God.

It amazes me how I spent most of year running and in a moment he caught me. I had fought so hard to have life my own way and he reminded me that my life was never my own. I had freedom to choose, but my choices had left my life shackled with sin. In that moment, the hider was found the by the seeker. The marriage of my life to the master was reunited.

If you know Jesus, you have had your one moment. If you are far from him, he is seeking you so that your heart and his can be united. It happens in just one moment.

Have you been found?

justbeingjeff