Gentle Peacemakers

  
I sit down this morning with one of my favorite passages of scripture: the Sermon on the Mount. These 3 chapters in the Gospel of Matthew have been the basis for many hours of personal bible study for me. Two of the verse pictured are some of the hardest for me to swallow: Blessed are the gentle… & Blessed are the peacemakers… I find these verses difficult because I don’t think I’m either. 
Honestly, I find myself relating more to Colt’s peacemaker than to that of a maker of peace. I struggle with being a peace maker for a couple reasons. Peace isn’t just absence of conflict, it’s the presence of calmness. I certainly don’t being calm to most situations, but do bring my share of conflict. I’m cantankerous, quick tempered, I have a fast tongue & I have to be right. All qualities the scriptures urge Christ followers to NOT be. I have decided to I want to make a goal of my to be more of a peacemaker in my interactions with others… especially my family. A few weeks ago at church, we discussed how as parents we shouldn’t exasperate our children… even if they do so to us. I’m trying to me less argumentative. It doesn’t always come out that way. 

And gentle… which I know being gentle or meek means have overwhelming power that you keep restrained. I’d much rather display said power, in order to control. Which is problematic. 

These are shortcomings I’ve noticed in my life. Shortcomings, that bother me. Shortcomings, I want to change. Each day, I try and I have success as well as failure. But each day, I will continue to fight the good fight to become a better husband, a better dad, a man who is more like what Jesus has called me to be. 

What about you?

Listening Ears

dog listening

I consider myself a pretty good listener. I try to cultivate a slow tongue and hear what you have to say. I make a conscious effort to allow you to speak, to allow you to communicate your point of view your side. I would like to think I make rational decisions after having weighed all the facts and heard all that needs to be heard.

Granted, I’m not always like this. Ronda will tell you I am an interrupter. And I am… at times. There are moments when I don’t want to listen. When I don’t feel like I need to listen. I honestly don’t believe those times dominate my ears. In my judgment, I listen pretty well.

The other morning, I was having a conversation with a professional who was not a good listener. She interrupted me multiple times and would not stop until I closed my mouth and heard what she was saying. This didn’t stop throughout the entire conversation, even after the second time I said, ‘as I was trying to say’.

This was very frustrating to me. I felt as though this lady would not allow me to get a word in edgewise. Do you ever feel this way? Do you ever feel as though people are some consumed with getting their voice heard, that they don’t hear yours? It almost doesn’t matter what you have to say, because they don’t want to hear it. They are sure what you have to say doesn’t matter. I find it annoying when I encounter people like this.

I have been reading through the book of James a lot lately. At my church, we are going through series of sermons in the book so I have taken this opportunity to study the book as well. This morning I read from James chapter 1, where James encourages us to be ‘quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger’. These are great words of advice for several reasons. I think our interactions with others would be improved if we would make a reasonable attempt to live this out… not just because the Bible says so. Here are three reasons why it is a good idea to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger:

  1. When we don’t listen to others, we dismiss them. Not only do we risk dismissing a potentially good idea from them, but we are dismissing them. Not just their ideas or thoughts, but them as well. When we are dismissive of others, it communicates they don’t matter. We communicate to them they are important, their voice isn’t worth hearing. We communicate t them they have nothing to add or say of value. Nothing that could be important or beneficial to hear. When we are slow to hear, we are dismissive of others and being dismissive doesn’t build relationship it tears it down.
  2. When aren’t slow to speak, we often end up putting our foots in our mouths. We’ve all been there haven’t we? We open our big mouths and say something we think to be informed by the truth, only to find out we don’t have all the information and we were wrong… and we look like fools, idiots really. I always think about the apostle Peter when I think about putting my foot in my mouth. On one occasion, Jesus was telling his disciples he was going to have to suffer at the hands of the religious leaders. When Peter heard this he was, “There’s no way I’m going to let that happen to you! I will take them out! I will introduce them to my little friend!” Jesus responds with the classic, “Get behind me, Satan!” Open Peter’s mouth, insert foot. Peter didn’t fully comprehend what was going on, opened his mouth and Jesus likened him to Satan because to stop the imminent suffer would have been akin to stopping God’s perfect plan. Being slow to speak allows us to gather enough information to speak with wisdom when we do speak.
  3. When are are quick to anger, it has a tendency to be unrighteous anger. Ephesians 4:26 reminds us to not sin in our anger. For me, this is a prescription to not be angry… because I don’t seem to be able to be angry and not sin. I’m a work in progress to be sure. Either way, if we easily anger there’s a pretty good chance we aren’t being angry in a sinless layabout things we should be angry about. Short fuses rarely lead to righteous anger. Again, it is a matter of having enough information to know whether our anger is justified or not, whether it is something ‘worth’ getting angry about. I suppose we need to understand what would qualify as ‘worth’. In my mind, righteous anger is warranted when the issue at hand would also anger God. If it is an injustice or situation where God would be angry, then we can be angry as well. Too many times we et angry quickly, when choosing grace and mercy would have been better choices. If we are slow to anger, consider and think rationally through the feelings of anger we are feeling we will better equipped to be angry at the right time about the right things.

We should be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger… essentially because it promotes the most healthy and best relationships with others. It is the best way to interact with others. I don’t always get it right. I miss the mark, often. James encourages us to slow down and make more of an effort to get it right.

Pressure Release

breathe
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? Selah. But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself; The LORD hears when I call to Him. Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in the LORD. Many are saying, “Who will show us any good?” Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD! You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety. (‭Psalms‬ ‭4‬:‭1-8‬ NASB)

I like how the ESV and the old NIV Bible I have translate verse four: “In your anger do not sin.” If you know me much at all, you know this is something I struggle much with. I have anger issues. I have various issues surrounding anger. One of the issues I have is for many years I don’t think I was ever angry and did not sin. For me the two were synonymous. Anger = sin and sin = anger. Through much anger (strangely enough), frustration and lots of counseling I have come to understand it is possible to be angry and not sin in that anger. I still like to be angry because it takes me dangerously close to sin. For me, it is a very fine line which I would rather heed 1 Thessalonians 5:22 and ‘abstain from every appearance of evil.’
Relief. Verse one says God has relieved me. He has taken the pressure off. He has taken the weight off. Jesus encourages us to take upon us his yoke for it is easy and his burden is light. This is what comes to my mind. Being relieved or freed from having to carry the weight on my own. Being freed from the heavy burden I try to carry on my own. Relief. Rest. Freedom.
It makes sense to me what follows is an encouragement to not sin my anger. It isn’t really a command, but a reminder that I don’t need to. If I have relief, freedom from my burdens… from my battles with my enemy, then I don’t need to allow my anger to take me to a place where I sin. I am free from this too! I am free from having to worry about whether I will sin in my anger because I have been released from the pressure of my battle of my enemy of the burden I am carrying so I don’t need to let it get to that. God is hearing me when I call to him. He is relieving me. He is offering his burden and his yoke which are easy and light and manageable. God is offering me freedom from the shackles of my anger. I don’t need to be its slave any longer.
This is the first time I have read this Psalm in this way… and it is offering me more hope than I could imagine. My life is about to take some serious turns and take a new direction which I had not anticipated and I am bound to struggle with anger and feeling pressure of life and God is reminding me to allow him to carry the burden, reminding me I can relieve the pressure, reminding me I am free from pressure and from sinful anger.

Which Star Wars character are you?

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I have generally always fancied myself a Han Solo kind of dude. Even though, when I was a young boy I refused to answer my parents unless they called me Luke Skywalker.

But Han Solo is the shiz. His carefree cavalier attitude, his quick wittedness, his ability to think on his feet and get himself out of trouble. Not to mention his dopey, lopsided grin. These are qualities I see in myself. At least in my mind.

The last two nights we have watched Episodes 1 & 2 with our boys. We have played lego Star Wars for months, they’ve watched the clone wars and now we have begun the saga at the beginning to bring them I to the fold.

But this got me to thinking about which Star Wars character am I really? Is Han the best choice for me?

I think if I am honest with myself, I am Darth Vader. Or at least Anakin Skywalker as he turned into Darth Vader. Anakin struggled with anger and controlling his fears and emotions. Anakin was reckless and often didn’t think before he acted. He regularly threw caution to the wind.

These all sound strikingly similar to me.

What do I do with this newfound knowledge?

Nothing really.

But it is an interesting note that Anakin was touted as the prophesied one who would bring balance to the force. He goes crazy and murders everyone he could get his light saber on, but ultimately is redeemed and saves his son while destroying the emperor who was the pinnacle of evil.

He was redeemed.

He became know. For something other than his struggles and missteps. He became known for something beyond his mistakes.

This is what I want also. I want to be know. For something other than my mistakes, my sins.

In the end, Darth Vader didn’t win and Anakin prevailed in the battle for his mind and soul. Anger didn’t win. Hate didn’t win.

Redemption won the day.

Which Jesus? & the Klankster

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***This is an old post, that honestly I’ve posted several times… this morning it just seemed to speak to me.***

As I was running tonite I was afforded the occasion to listen to some of kLaNk’s music. It has been a little while since kLaNk has put out an album. They had one in the last year, but it was only ok. I was listening to the Numb album, their sophomore effort. As I was listening to two songs in particular, I was reminded of my relationship with Jesus. The first songs was Dfl:

I’ll prove to you that I’m a man
With my blood I’ll take a stand
I welcome you with open arms
Have no fear I mean no harm
I know the weight of pain inside
Sometimes the only thing
That’s keeping me alive
I got what it takes to make it through
I want you to know I’m down with you
Gotta drill it in your mind
Friends like me you’ll never find
Words that cut deep like a knife
Just like brothers….Down For Life
I’ll prove to you that I’m a man
With my blood I’ll take a Stand
I welcome you with open arms
Have no fear I mean no harm
I know the weight of pain inside
Sometimes the only thing
That’s keeping me alive
I got what it takes to make it through
I want you to know I’m down with you
Gotta drill it in your mind
Friends like me you’ll never find
Words that cut deep like a knife
Just like brothers….Down For Life
Down…For…Life…I’m down

I finished the Which Jesus? book earlier this week. As I neared the end, Campolo relayed a story of a well-known pastor whose son had died. At the funeral the orator stated that this was God’s will for him to have died. The pastor immediately objected pointing out that Jesus was the first to cry at his son’s death. He reminded us that at some points in our lives, the only comfort we are going to have is knowing that Christ weeps as well. I have felt that way over the last few years. As my mind has been clouded, I have been angry at God often, but as I read those words from Campolo it was very comforting and encouraging to realize that Jesus is crying too. The shortest, and maybe most profound, verse in the Scriptures is in John, “Jesus wept.” Knowing that when my life is hard for me makes Jesus weep, makes it easier to get up each day. In the kLaNk song the lines: I welcome you with open arms; I know the weight of pain inside; I got what it takes to make it through; I want you to know I’m down with you; Friends like me you’ll never find; Just like brothers…

I was also listening to God?:
Tonight’s another night
I wonder aimlessly
To put it all in place
A picture I don’t see
And when I close my eyes
I don’t care if I wake
I use the same excuses
I make the same mistakes
Sometimes it seems so hard
Like you’re ignoring me
I wonder if you do exist
Than what you mean to me
Sometimes I think you hate me
Sometimes I think you hate me
Is this some kind of test
Or a way to make me see
There has to be a reason
Why it’s happening to me
How much more to cry
Until I have a clue
The emptiness I’m feeling
Does it come down to you
Show me everything
And tell me what to feel
My eyes have been so jaded
That I don’t know what is real

Sometimes I think you hate me
Sometimes I think you hate me

As I listened to this song, I realized why God is not afraid of my fears and doubts… he has felt them. Hebrews tells us that our High Priest (Jesus… theology for another time) knows what it is to be like us in every way. I thought of the cross. When Jesus was on the cross he took on the sin of the world and the world was covered in darkness and God hid his face from his only son. Jesus knows what it is like to feel as though God hates him. He has felt as though God left him alone and was not there for him. Hebrews also tells us that God will NEVER leave us or forsake us. I appreciate Rick Warren who points out that it often FEELS like God has left us. And as Ortberg says, in his God is Closer Than You Think book, God is only a reach of the hand away.

I don’t know if kLaNk intended this album to have the spiritual and theological ramifications that it does, but I have been able to apply them for me. In many ways, I believe this album to be the best effort that kLaNk put out.

As I was running I was reminded of the how and when that I became interested in kLaNk and Circle of Dust, who later became Celldweller. I was at ACC and Skip introduced me to Circle of Dust. Another dude, Roy, clued me into kLaNk and then Reese fueled the fire. I actually saw kLaNk in concert many years ago. From there came the interest in Argyle Park. My interest in this music is really more of an obsession than mere interest. I was surprised to think that I have been a big fan of both of these bands since 1996.

Which Jesus? & the Klankster

20130721-082802.jpg

***This is an old post, that honestly I’ve posted several times… this morning it just seemed to speak to me.***

As I was running tonite I was afforded the occasion to listen to some of kLaNk’s music. It has been a little while since kLaNk has put out an album. They had one in the last year, but it was only ok. I was listening to the Numb album, their sophomore effort. As I was listening to two songs in particular, I was reminded of my relationship with Jesus. The first songs was Dfl:

I’ll prove to you that I’m a man
With my blood I’ll take a stand
I welcome you with open arms
Have no fear I mean no harm
I know the weight of pain inside
Sometimes the only thing
That’s keeping me alive
I got what it takes to make it through
I want you to know I’m down with you
Gotta drill it in your mind
Friends like me you’ll never find
Words that cut deep like a knife
Just like brothers….Down For Life
I’ll prove to you that I’m a man
With my blood I’ll take a Stand
I welcome you with open arms
Have no fear I mean no harm
I know the weight of pain inside
Sometimes the only thing
That’s keeping me alive
I got what it takes to make it through
I want you to know I’m down with you
Gotta drill it in your mind
Friends like me you’ll never find
Words that cut deep like a knife
Just like brothers….Down For Life
Down…For…Life…I’m down

I finished the Which Jesus? book earlier this week. As I neared the end, Campolo relayed a story of a well-known pastor whose son had died. At the funeral the orator stated that this was God’s will for him to have died. The pastor immediately objected pointing out that Jesus was the first to cry at his son’s death. He reminded us that at some points in our lives, the only comfort we are going to have is knowing that Christ weeps as well. I have felt that way over the last few years. As my mind has been clouded, I have been angry at God often, but as I read those words from Campolo it was very comforting and encouraging to realize that Jesus is crying too. The shortest, and maybe most profound, verse in the Scriptures is in John, “Jesus wept.” Knowing that when my life is hard for me makes Jesus weep, makes it easier to get up each day. In the kLaNk song the lines: I welcome you with open arms; I know the weight of pain inside; I got what it takes to make it through; I want you to know I’m down with you; Friends like me you’ll never find; Just like brothers…

I was also listening to God?:
Tonight’s another night
I wonder aimlessly
To put it all in place
A picture I don’t see
And when I close my eyes
I don’t care if I wake
I use the same excuses
I make the same mistakes
Sometimes it seems so hard
Like you’re ignoring me
I wonder if you do exist
Than what you mean to me
Sometimes I think you hate me
Sometimes I think you hate me
Is this some kind of test
Or a way to make me see
There has to be a reason
Why it’s happening to me
How much more to cry
Until I have a clue
The emptiness I’m feeling
Does it come down to you
Show me everything
And tell me what to feel
My eyes have been so jaded
That I don’t know what is real

Sometimes I think you hate me
Sometimes I think you hate me

As I listened to this song, I realized why God is not afraid of my fears and doubts… he has felt them. Hebrews tells us that our High Priest (Jesus… theology for another time) knows what it is to be like us in every way. I thought of the cross. When Jesus was on the cross he took on the sin of the world and the world was covered in darkness and God hid his face from his only son. Jesus knows what it is like to feel as though God hates him. He has felt as though God left him alone and was not there for him. Hebrews also tells us that God will NEVER leave us or forsake us. I appreciate Rick Warren who points out that it often FEELS like God has left us. And as Ortberg says, in his God is Closer Than You Think book, God is only a reach of the hand away.

I don’t know if kLaNk intended this album to have the spiritual and theological ramifications that it does, but I have been able to apply them for me. In many ways, I believe this album to be the best effort that kLaNk put out.

As I was running I was reminded of the how and when that I became interested in kLaNk and Circle of Dust, who later became Celldweller. I was at ACC and Skip introduced me to Circle of Dust. Another dude, Roy, clued me into kLaNk and then Reese fueled the fire. I actually saw kLaNk in concert many years ago. From there came the interest in Argyle Park. My interest in this music is really more of an obsession than mere interest. I was surprised to think that I have been a big fan of both of these bands since 1996.

Images

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The power of an image is incredible. We all have at least two images of ourselves. The image we see and the image others see. Kinda like who we think we are and who others think we are. And then there really is a third one – who God knows we are.

We cling to our image of ourselves and our image of who people think we are. It drives much of what we do on any given day. How will we act, what choices will we make, decisions, words we use, all driven by our sense of image. Either the image we have of ourselves or the image we want others to have of us.

Recently, I decided to take a break from drinking coffee. I was drinking close to a pot of coffee each day. I felt like not just the amount of coffee was unhealthy but the ‘control’ the coffee had over me. I had to have coffee in the morning, at lunch, in the afternoon, after dinner, all the time. It became a driving/controlling force behind much of what I did. So I took a break. It wasn’t really for lent. It wasn’t really to stop drinking it indefinitely. It was to re-gain perspective.

This was hard for me on a couple different levels.

1. The coffee itself. I really like coffee. I mean I really like coffee. You have no idea. I would drink it all the time. Literally. There is no beverage I prefer to drink more than coffee. I just really like it, a lot. This fascination with the taste of coffee started at an early age when I would make my way to my parents bed room from mine as a toddler. We lived in a trailer and our rooms were on opposite ends with the kitchen in the middle. I would stop at the kitchen trash can and grab a hand full of coffee grounds and munch away. I got hooked and I haven’t looked back…

2. The image itself. The image is hard for me. When people think of me they think of 2 maybe 3 things. 1. Coffee. I always have a cup of coffee with me. Everyone I know just associates Eli and coffee with each other. If there’s Eli there’s coffee and if there’s coffee there’s Eli. It’s a big deal to me. 2. My beanie. I have a Halo 3 beanie that I wear all the time. I often sleep in it too. It’s just kinda understood that if you see Eli he is going to be wearing this beanie. 3. The third image that is most likely associated with me, although maybe to a lesser degree because it is witnessed first hand a little less often is my motortcycle which has been dubbed Mad Max by all who spend anytime with it. If a Café racer and a street fighter had an illegitimate child, it would be my Mad Max. Rude, crude and socially unacceptable.

As you can see, the act of giving up coffee for a time was loaded with not just the act of restraining from the drink, but from who I am and who people think me to be. Laugh and chuckle at me as though I’m being trite and ridiculous, but I’m not. Coffee is as much a part of who I am as any other aspect of who I am is. Walking away from it was/is hard.

However, I have learned that I can do it. I can walk away from it. Now I don’t have to, because I know I can. In a strange way, this gives me the power to walk away from other habits I have that are much more destructive than drinking coffee.

Like anger.

I don’t have to get angry as easily, because I can control it. Scriptures warns us not to sin in our anger, I don’t know that I have ever been angry and not sinned. Yes, things bother and irritate and I can let them do such… But I don’t have to be mad about it. I can validate myself and express the emotion/feelings I am having and still not give into anger. My therapist would disagree…but he is not me.

I joked when I began to not drink coffee that it was an exercise on self-control. And it has shown me some good information. I know where I stand now. It has given the hope that I can exercise self-control to master other behaviors.

Is there an end to my coffee hiatus? You better believe it! Sunday, March 25th. I will be in Georgia drinking a morning cup of coffee with my parents. A good way to end the drought.

My Problem with God… Vintage Post

It has come to my attention, that I have a problem or two with God. And because of those problems, I find it hard to allow him the control that needs in my life.

I have determined that I am a better judge of the good for my life. I know better. For instance, it would have been better for me not to go for many months without a job. Not only that, but why has he taken away from me the only jobs that I have loved? Which leads me to the second problem: why is God against me? True bad things happen. But my share seems to heavy.

These are the questions that have stifled my relationship with God over the last 3 years. I thought I was making strides to not feel this way, but I realize in some ways I’m no closer now than I was.

I still live in the future or the past and not in the present. I am so consumed with what can be or should have been that I can’t think about what IS. I still harbor a great deal of anger that I think is fundamentally aimed at God for his poor job of being God. Obviously, I recognize the incredulity of those words. God could no more be a bad God than I could be a dog. It just isn’t possible. Why have I let me anger distance me? Why have I not been content, which may be the real center of all this…

… I have learned to be content no matter my circumstances… Not that I have already attained it, but forgetting what is behind I press on towards the prize…

Anger turned inward consumes a person in depression and self-loathing. My problem with God is in reality not a problem with God as much as it is a problem with me attempting to be God.

3 Motorcycle Things that Anger Me

I’m really sure why, but every time I see a Buell Blast I just get angry. I loved the Buell line and all of their bikes except the Blast. It just angers me.

How about this one: a rider leave from a stop and leave their legs down for an inordinate amount of time. It’s usually the right leg because they’ve used the left to shift 1 or 2 times. It just angers me.

Lastly, why have a helmet hanging on the bike. If you’re not going to wear it leave it at home. Enough said.

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Beautiful Bride… excursions in polygamy.

A little over 12 years ago I married Ronda and this August we had the opportunity to renew our vows on the beach here in Jax.  This was a very exciting and enjoyable time for our lives.  We felt like we had reached a moment in our married life that we wanted to reaffirm and share with our friends and the world that we are more committed to each other now than we were 12 years ago when we first married.  While my wife is a beautiful bride, this is not the bride I want to talk about for a few minutes.

I want to talk about the Beautiful Bride of Christ.  I have struggled with this bride and had what may be considered affairs along with polygamy (because I’m married to Ronda and I consider myself to be a part of the Church which makes me a bride to Christ… odd terminology, but it works and it provokes you to thoughts).

I like the Flyleaf song, Beautiful Bride (which is kinda the impetus for this post). This song speaks of how the church stands together and is unified under one purpose, even despite the drastic and wide diversity that exists within it.

I think in many ways it is this diversity that causes the church to have the kind if impact it does. A few years ago I left a church ministry in which I felt wronged. When I left, I became very angry and directed my anger towards the Church. I began to rebel against the institution and idea of the organized church. I became a Christian who despised the Church and all history, whether glorious or not.

Here we are now, I believe the message of Christ cannot be furthered in this world apart from the Bride of Christ. When Christ was here on earth he began what became the Church. Granted, we have made many mistakes. But, we can’t throw out the baby with the bath water. The Church is our rightful place as Christians and it is our duty to love her and fight for her. Often times, we get angry we are ready to give up and take our toys and go home. When it comes to the Church we don’t have that right. If we aren’t a part of the solution we are a part of the problem.

When the Church screws it up, we should not run from her but to her in order to help become the solution.

And you ask ‘so what’?

So what is your response going to be? Are you gonna tear down the Church (and by doing so the Bride that Christ died for) or are you gonna fight for her becoming the solution when she falters?

Which do you think Christ would rather see?