So Much has Changed…

Often in life, each day is just another day. Each day is a day unto itself. But sometimes, the day is more than just a day. It is a defining moment.

This day last year was one of those. It was a defining moment. It is frozen in time. It is a day never to be forgotten. It was probably one the hardest days of my life.

Without sharing too many details or the particulars – one year ago today, my brother was taken into custody after a court hearing and transported to county jail and ultimately to state prison. This is an experience my family has not talked about much outside of the ‘Westfall Family circle of trust.’ Today, I am feeling as though I need to share my thoughts on the last 12 months. I am not going to talk about the details, but I want to talk about the feelings and impact this experience has had on my family from my perspective, my point of view.

February 5, 2015 was one of the hardest days of my life. Watching your brother get taken into custody is hard enough, when you add into the mix having to watch your parents as their son is taken into custody and you have the makings for a tough day. I have found it is one thing to cope with your own emotions and to assist others in coping with their emotions… but when the others is your family, it is significantly more difficult to keep an objective presence. Watching my parents explain to my niece and nephew their father isn’t coming home for a long time… as their little minds attempted to wrap around the concept of another parent who would be missing from their lives. As they tried to make sense of something that makes no sense at all. Watching parents struggle with the exact same thing… finding sense, meaning and purpose in a experience that makes no sense.

It was on this day I learned the futility of saying, sometimes crap happens to good people and we have to accept it. This does nothing to comfort those suffering. Knowing it is unjust doesn’t make it easier to handle. I mistakenly thought those were wise words in a time of crisis because they are true. Scriptures teach the sun shines on the wicked and good all the same. But in times of distress, these words are hollow. Empty. Meaningless. We search for meaning, for understanding and we want things to make sense. And when things don’t make sense, posting out they make no sense, makes no sense.

Over the last year, I have experienced feelings of loss I hadn’t anticipated. Some time ago, I wrote the following words trying to understand my feelings:

  • This feels strange to write this…I find myself mourning my brother. No, he’s not dead. But he is in prison. While the story is complex and convoluted at best, I want to muse more on how this whole story causes me to feel.

    I find myself mourning him. He’s gone, while not being gone at the same time. It causes an odd void in my heart and life.

    On any given day, I communicate with Ronda more than I do any other human being… makes sense, cuz she’s my wife.

    Next in line on this list was my brother. I didn’t realize how often. I called, texted, emailed, facebook messaged, sent him a YouTube video or otherwise reached out to communicate with him. Countless times over the last two plus months I have found myself wanting to reach out to him about something, nothing or anything in between. I actually called his his iPhone last week! Haha. Habit.

    Given the amount I typically communicated with him, there is now a void in my daily communicative expression. This evokes a feeling similar to mourning in my heart because I am unable to communicate with him when and how I want to.

    I don’t know what I expected the feelings to be like…

    At least we can speak on the phone once a day. We could write letters, but that’s not a fun as it might sound. We can visit, but things have been some crazy at work I haven’t had the time to plan a trip to Georgia.

    I know this is only temporary and after this season has passed life will return to normal. But in the meantime, I miss him.

I feel a great sense that can only be described as loss. There is a hole in my life which can only be filled by my brother. A large, special piece of my everyday has been taken away from me. It is missing. This loss has certainly changed our relationship… I don’t know how exactly or what things will be like when we can talk whenever we want, but things have changed.

I know my family has felt the same or similar feelings on loss, too. This has affected us all. We all have felt the pressure, the loss, along with other feelings. We have felt betrayed at times. We have felt lied to. We have felt disappointment. We have felt like we have been left to pick up the pieces of shattered lives. We have felt overwhelmed and unable to cope. We have felt guilt. We have felt responsible. We have felt feelings that are real and powerful. We have hurt and we are hurting. I would argue this is normal. This is to be expected. And this is ok. What’s not ok is bottling the feelings up and letting them gnaw at our hearts and allowing those feelings to adjust or change the love we have for a brother/son who himself is hurting. Maybe more than us. Likely, more than us.

This may be a simplistic approach to the dilemma, but I believe guilt or innocence to be irrelevant. Maybe not irrelevant, but holding no bearing on the reality of my feelings about him or about this situation. I love my brother. I will always love my brother, no matter what. But loving my brother doesn’t mean I am not allowed to have feelings like the ones above. It doesn’t mean when I have those feelings I am in the wrong. But it also doesn’t mean I can use this as an excuse to feel differently about him. What has happened has had a dramatic impact on my family and we are forever changed because of it. And at the resolution of this whole experience, there will be more exploration to finally resolve it. To finally, make sense of it… as much as we can. No doubt, there will be more tears, more frustration, more anger, guilt, remorse, sadness, joy, laughter, more whatever.

I’m not going to pretend I see the silver lining and I know on the other side of this we will be stronger, better, blah blah blah. This sucks, from start to finish. But, this is where we are. This is our life. This is the experience we have. This is the hand we have been dealt and whether God is in it or not, we will endure it. God will use it, certainly. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. Doesn’t make it suck less.

For about 12 months I have wanted to share my thoughts and feelings. I have wanted to express what we are going through. And I haven’t. I don’t know if it is because I was embarrassed. Or if if I didn’t want to hurt feelings. Or if I wasn’t sure we were or I was ready. But the sooner we stop hiding in the shadows, the sooner we can have some resolution about what and how we feel.

I love my family. I love my brother. I will always love them. Nothing will ever change that. This has been hard, but it hasn’t killed us yet. And I don’t think it will. If we continue to stand against this as a family, we will endure.

These are my feelings. These are my thoughts. This is my voice. If you are reading this and you feel like you have suffered and are suffering know you are not alone. Know there are others walking through life carrying heavy burdens. Burdens we daily try to give to Jesus, but hang on to because it is hard to give them up. There’s a band called HELLYEAH. They have a song entitled Hush. It talks about growing up in a family wrought with abuse. While it is not always true, emotional pain (regardless of the source) often easily translates from person to person. What I mean is, when we feel emotional pain we can associate with others feeling emotional pain regardless of whether the source of that pain is the same or not. As the scene is described in the song, a line from the chorus says, ‘if this reminds you of home, you better know you’re not alone.’ This is why I write these words today. I want share my pain to let others know they are not alone. To let others know they don’t have to suffer alone in silence. We can help each other. Today I may be strong enough to hold you up, but next week I might need you to hold me up.

I will hold you, will you hold me?

The Love of a Savior

Photo credit unknown.

Photo credit unknown.

One of the tenets of Christianity setting apart from other world religions, is the love of a savior. Christianity alone has at its center a God who loves his creation enough to call them children and to die in their place in order to satisfy his wrath upon sin.

Jesus himself draws the stark contrast of this revolutionary approach to life when he comments that few people would die for a good man. What isnt said there, but what is certainly hinted at is that we are not good men. We are sinners. We live in a fallen world and we are bent towards sin. Knowing this, and loving us anyway, our God sacrifices himself to pay the penalty for our sins.

This act is so revolutionary, so extraordinary, so out of the box we as a humanity can scarcely grasp the full weight of what he did or why he did it. Paul writes in Romans, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. While we were still in opposition to him. He loved us enough to move towards us. To take the first step to have a relationship with us. Which is a second tenet separating Christianity from other world religions, God desires to know us personally. He doesn’t sit on a throne far above in the heavens looking down at us, waiting for us to screw up so he can capriciously punish us. Rather, he engages in our lives with us, walking alongside us each day. In fact, his desire is to dwell within us. To live in and through us. Paul also write in one of his letters to the church at Corinth, that as Christ followers we are temples to the Holy Spirit (God’s spirit he sent to dwell within us). In this particular passage, Paul was correcting the Corinthians on their sexual immorality, however the idea that our bodies are temples of the spirit of the almighty God should have broad applications in our lives. Our lives should be lived in such a way that God is glorified by our actions.

As we prepare for today and this weekend, ask ourselves this question: Is God glorified in the way I am living, in my habits and daily routine, in my work, in my attitude and in the way I treat others? If not, now seems like the right time to reorganize our priorities.

Sith Redemption – part 1

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You may or may not be aware, but Star Wars the Clone Wars has recently been added to Netflix. The boys and I have begun to watch this over the weekend. We have seen a few episodes here and there, but not many as they were on Cartoon Network and we didn’t have cable for most of when the series was running. So, we have has an influx of Jedis in our house over the weekend. It has been fun to watch the boys run around with light sabers, using the force to battle evil.

One of the themes that draws me to the Star Wars story is the theme of redemption. As we watch the clone wars, we see Anakin Skywalker as a young Jedi before he is corrupted by the dark side of the force. I believe, Anakin’s story could be my story. I struggle with anger, anxiety, fear, resentment – all paths to the dark side.

Yoda has said the path to the dark side is an easy one. I find this to be true in my own life. It is easy to exercise anger over restraint, anxiety over peace, fear over confidence and resentment over contentment. It is difficult to slow down and think through a response to any given stimuli rather than react off the cuff. As a parent it is much less effective to consistently react to our children instead of proactively parent them.

Why is it so easy for us to fall? Why is so hard to not give in to the temptation to follow a path of self-destruction? I don’t know I have the answers to these questions for everyone, but I know in my own experience it feels more powerful. It feels like I remain in control. It feels less humiliating. It feels less embarrassing. It feels more powerful.

The dark side of the force (and our own behavior) feeds our selfish desires. It selfishly feeds our wants at the expense of others. It selfishly puts us before those around us.

Anakin’s path to the dark side was slow, as he began to give in to himself. As he began to care for himself more than others. As he began to place too much confidence in himself and his abilities. As he began to have less concern for others.

Anakin didn’t know it at the time, but he was on a path that would need redemption. And like the path many of us have taken to redemption, it wasn’t an easy one. I want to write a few more posts on this idea this week to see how one Sith being redeemed is very much like one Eli being redeemed.

The Star Wars story is one that has captivated since I was a young boy. I can remember going to see Return of the Jedi in the movie theater with my mother. I have always enjoyed this story. I will do my best to give it the respect it deserves as I write about one of fictional histories most influential characters.

I’m a Failure

Yesterday I posted the notes for the message I gave at H2O Church during the morning service. Here I want to give the video of me running through my notes outside church yesterday morning before service.

I tend to be long-winded, so I knew if I planned to speak for 30 minutes that I would speak for 45 or more. So I purposefully kept my notes short so that I could ad lib during the message.

I also, wanted to give you the chance to hear the final product. Here is the podcast version, which is to say it is the live version of what was delivered during the service yesterday.

I had a couple of photos taken while I spoke yesterday, which I also wanted to share with you. As you listen to the live version, the shades will make more sense…

I'm a Failure

Yesterday I posted the notes for the message I gave at H2O Church during the morning service. Here I want to give the video of me running through my notes outside church yesterday morning before service.

I tend to be long-winded, so I knew if I planned to speak for 30 minutes that I would speak for 45 or more. So I purposefully kept my notes short so that I could ad lib during the message.

I also, wanted to give you the chance to hear the final product. Here is the podcast version, which is to say it is the live version of what was delivered during the service yesterday.

I had a couple of photos taken while I spoke yesterday, which I also wanted to share with you. As you listen to the live version, the shades will make more sense…

Beat Up, Used Up & Broken

Good Morning! For those of you visiting with us today, my name is Eli. For those of you who are regular attenders… my name is Eli.

I’m super excited about being here to share with you this morning. This is an honor and a privilege to be here this morning.

I am a failure. I’m broken, beat up, used up, spit out, loser, disappointment, inadequate, incapable, insufficient… a failure. Let me try to help you understand how I got here…

I grew up in a Christian home, with an ordained dad & mom. I graduated high school and went to Bible college. You ever notice how when kids who grow up in the church graduate high school and then their faith is challenged? My faith wasn’t really challenged until I was about 30 with a wife and 2 kids. The first time my faith was challenged was as I served at a church in Gainesville that really chewed me up and spit me out. That experience caused me to question who I was, my abilities, my self-worth, self-confidence, my purpose in life, and my calling. I was left without self-confidence, without courage and without belief in myself to accomplish anything (particularly in ministry), feeling like a failure.

Lucky for me, I was pretty quickly hired as a caseworker for DCF, which prohibited me from really processing and working through the feelings of failure this church experience created within me. I really loved working as a case manager, it created in me a passion for the broken and screwed up families around me.

But you see, I sorta felt like Ezekiel. You remember he was in training to be a priest. And before that role could really take off Jerusalem was sacked by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586 B.C., and his chance at being a priest utterly destroyed when the temple was blown up.

So I got into case management and saw the underbelly of the American family. The abuse that occurs is sickening and inhuman. However, when exposed with this tragedy, I felt like this was my calling in life, that God was calling me to work in this field to be a ray of light in darkness. I felt as though God had prepared me for this role. After about 4 years at this job it was taken away from me, when I had a supervisor that decided he didn’t like me and formed a personal mission to fire me. Finally, when over-worked and stressed out I reacted to him in a way that gave him the opening he was looking for to fire me. I felt like Jeremiah who said:(Jer.20v7) 7 O LORD, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me.

In case you missed what just happened there, he called God a liar. I felt that way. I had 2 careers taken away from me. When I say they were taken away from me, what I mean is I had failed in both. With ministry, I failed in the sense that I couldn’t play the game in such a way to keep a position successfully at a church and I failed in case management in the sense that I couldn’t get along with my supervisor in a way that would keep him from firing me. So here I was married with 2 kids and jobless. I was broken, beat up, used up, throw out, a failure, a loser, worthless, and depressed. I spent a solid 2-3 years depressed and I mean depressed to the point where I was crippled, unable to move forward in life.

I was a failure.

Slowly, God began to awaken me and assist me in realizing it’s ok to be a failure…

Look at Peter, one of my heroes from the Scriptures: He was a failure’s failure. The only thing he didn’t fail at was failing. A few examples:

  1. Walking on Water – or should we say almost drowning in the water?
  2. Cut off dude’s ear… why the ear?!? Was he was just that bad with a sword, that it was completely accidental?
  3. Denied Jesus 3x

He constantly failed and was constantly re-used by God. Constantly restored, constantly redeemed. As I looked at Peter I realized, even in my failures God didn’t view me as worthless. I recalled Romans 5v8 that says,

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Or what about 1 Cor. 6v20,

For you have been bought with a price.

Where does that leave us? It leaves us with a God who loves us, who values us & our failures. God loves us even though we fail. We am his creation, his children and as such he values us enough to do whatever is necessary to restore, redeem and return us to him.

Even though I fail.

And maybe to some degree because I fail.

God uses our failures as the space to make his strength evident. When we realize our inabilities, our shortcomings, that’s when we have the eyes to see the power of God and how it is perfected.

Check out 2 Cor. 12v7-10,

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Really? Our weaknesses, our failures become our source of strength.

God loves failures.

Our biggest failures often become our greatest accomplishments. That’s how I got to H2O. Orlando was the site of my biggest failure. Where I went deep into depression, where I couldn’t find a job, where I almost obliterated my family, where all of my worst fears about myself became my reality. God is using my biggest failure to be my greatest accomplishment.

I wanna close with this comparison:

You remember Judas, he sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. He failed. Instead of allowing God to redeem him he took his own life.

What about Paul, who made it his life purpose to kill every Christian. He failed. But he allowed God to redeem him and he was the one who brought the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Are you gonna let God use your failures? Are gonna be a Judas or a Paul?

Beat Up, Used Up & Broken

Good Morning! For those of you visiting with us today, my name is Eli. For those of you who are regular attenders… my name is Eli.

I’m super excited about being here to share with you this morning. This is an honor and a privilege to be here this morning.

I am a failure. I’m broken, beat up, used up, spit out, loser, disappointment, inadequate, incapable, insufficient… a failure. Let me try to help you understand how I got here…

I grew up in a Christian home, with an ordained dad & mom. I graduated high school and went to Bible college. You ever notice how when kids who grow up in the church graduate high school and then their faith is challenged? My faith wasn’t really challenged until I was about 30 with a wife and 2 kids. The first time my faith was challenged was as I served at a church in Gainesville that really chewed me up and spit me out. That experience caused me to question who I was, my abilities, my self-worth, self-confidence, my purpose in life, and my calling. I was left without self-confidence, without courage and without belief in myself to accomplish anything (particularly in ministry), feeling like a failure.

Lucky for me, I was pretty quickly hired as a caseworker for DCF, which prohibited me from really processing and working through the feelings of failure this church experience created within me. I really loved working as a case manager, it created in me a passion for the broken and screwed up families around me.

But you see, I sorta felt like Ezekiel. You remember he was in training to be a priest. And before that role could really take off Jerusalem was sacked by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586 B.C., and his chance at being a priest utterly destroyed when the temple was blown up.

So I got into case management and saw the underbelly of the American family. The abuse that occurs is sickening and inhuman. However, when exposed with this tragedy, I felt like this was my calling in life, that God was calling me to work in this field to be a ray of light in darkness. I felt as though God had prepared me for this role. After about 4 years at this job it was taken away from me, when I had a supervisor that decided he didn’t like me and formed a personal mission to fire me. Finally, when over-worked and stressed out I reacted to him in a way that gave him the opening he was looking for to fire me. I felt like Jeremiah who said:(Jer.20v7) 7 O LORD, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me.

In case you missed what just happened there, he called God a liar. I felt that way. I had 2 careers taken away from me. When I say they were taken away from me, what I mean is I had failed in both. With ministry, I failed in the sense that I couldn’t play the game in such a way to keep a position successfully at a church and I failed in case management in the sense that I couldn’t get along with my supervisor in a way that would keep him from firing me. So here I was married with 2 kids and jobless. I was broken, beat up, used up, throw out, a failure, a loser, worthless, and depressed. I spent a solid 2-3 years depressed and I mean depressed to the point where I was crippled, unable to move forward in life.

I was a failure.

Slowly, God began to awaken me and assist me in realizing it’s ok to be a failure…

Look at Peter, one of my heroes from the Scriptures: He was a failure’s failure. The only thing he didn’t fail at was failing. A few examples:

  1. Walking on Water – or should we say almost drowning in the water?
  2. Cut off dude’s ear… why the ear?!? Was he was just that bad with a sword, that it was completely accidental?
  3. Denied Jesus 3x

He constantly failed and was constantly re-used by God. Constantly restored, constantly redeemed. As I looked at Peter I realized, even in my failures God didn’t view me as worthless. I recalled Romans 5v8 that says,

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Or what about 1 Cor. 6v20,

For you have been bought with a price.

Where does that leave us? It leaves us with a God who loves us, who values us & our failures. God loves us even though we fail. We am his creation, his children and as such he values us enough to do whatever is necessary to restore, redeem and return us to him.

Even though I fail.

And maybe to some degree because I fail.

God uses our failures as the space to make his strength evident. When we realize our inabilities, our shortcomings, that’s when we have the eyes to see the power of God and how it is perfected.

Check out 2 Cor. 12v7-10,

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Really? Our weaknesses, our failures become our source of strength.

God loves failures.

Our biggest failures often become our greatest accomplishments. That’s how I got to H2O. Orlando was the site of my biggest failure. Where I went deep into depression, where I couldn’t find a job, where I almost obliterated my family, where all of my worst fears about myself became my reality. God is using my biggest failure to be my greatest accomplishment.

I wanna close with this comparison:

You remember Judas, he sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. He failed. Instead of allowing God to redeem him he took his own life.

What about Paul, who made it his life purpose to kill every Christian. He failed. But he allowed God to redeem him and he was the one who brought the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Are you gonna let God use your failures? Are gonna be a Judas or a Paul?

God’s Redemption Story

If you go to my facebook page you will notice on the left hand side there is a poll where you can learn what Star Wars character you are. I wanted to be reassured as to which one I was and so I took this poll and found out what I consider to be truth… I am Han Solo. I know this comes as no surprise to you. When I think of Han, I always think of that scene in the Death Star when Luke is trying to convince Han that Princess Leia is worth saving.

Han Solo I can imagine quite a bit – that’s God’s redemption story, bigger than we can imagine

Romans 5:8 tells us that we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We gloss over this world ‘sinners’ often times and downplay what it means to be a sinner. But plain and simple, being a sinner means we are enemies of God…
That means that Christ died for us while we were diametrically opposed to him. Enemies. Not just friends who weren’t getting along. While we were still sinners… enemies of God… he died for us… in our place… instead of us… his redemption story is big enough that he loved us, died for us, called us back to him.
What does Redemption mean?

Redemption means to bring something back to life. It’s taking something that is dead, broken, beat up & ugly and making clean, new, fixed & pure. Healing, restoration, life… again.

Take Paul for example. He was killing Christians, then became the greatest voice of the church. He was on his way to Damascus with permission from the High Priest to kill any Christians that he could get his hands one when he encountered the very Christ he was persecuting. We are all enemies of God in the same manner before we meet him…

What I have found is that sooner or later we are all going to hit rock bottom. Another thing I realized, painfully I might add, is – the only way up from the bottom is through the redemption story of Christ. No matter how far we think we are we are never out of the reach of God and his redemption story.
More than that, the only thing that can fill that hole within us is God. When we are on our way down and after we hit the bottom we are trying, grasping at anything to make the pain, hurt stop… and nothing stops it. Oh, we can make it stop for a short time: drugs, sex, spending sprees, alcohol, cutting, reckless behavior… anything to make the pain, hurt to stop. And it works… for a very short time. And then we realize God and his redemption are the only thing that can save us… from ourselves.

Christ has been here & done that – human just like us. Hebrews 3:17-18 tells us that Jesus has been there, done that, got the t-shirt… he became a human and he knows what it feels like to have a friend die. He knows what it feels like to be stressed out, overwhelmed, angry, depressed, tired, beat up, broken… he has been there and he can offer to carry our burden because he has already carried and knows what it feels like.

Great, Jesus knows what it is like to be me… so what? He has redeemed me… for a purpose.

Look at John 21:15-17, this is the story of Jesus eating a fish breakfast with his disciples and asking Peter if he loves him three times. You may remember a short time before this Peter denied Jesus three times. I think Jesus is telling Peter (and us ) no matter how many times he is denied he still loves, still redeems and still gives a job to do.

Jesus instructs Peter to care for his sheep and feed his lambs. I think this means we need to love our neighbors, disciple the lost, care for the orphans & widows… these are all ways that Jesus’ people are taken care of or fed.

James 1:27 says that pure & undefiled religion is to care for the orphans and widows and to remain unstained by the world. In this context religion is used to describe our worship of God.

Here is the challenge… are you living up to the task God has given us? He has redeemed us, repaired us, healed us so that we can reach out to the broken, beat up, bruised, used and afflicted around us…
are you?

God's Redemption Story

If you go to my facebook page you will notice on the left hand side there is a poll where you can learn what Star Wars character you are. I wanted to be reassured as to which one I was and so I took this poll and found out what I consider to be truth… I am Han Solo. I know this comes as no surprise to you. When I think of Han, I always think of that scene in the Death Star when Luke is trying to convince Han that Princess Leia is worth saving.

Han Solo I can imagine quite a bit – that’s God’s redemption story, bigger than we can imagine

Romans 5:8 tells us that we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We gloss over this world ‘sinners’ often times and downplay what it means to be a sinner. But plain and simple, being a sinner means we are enemies of God…
That means that Christ died for us while we were diametrically opposed to him. Enemies. Not just friends who weren’t getting along. While we were still sinners… enemies of God… he died for us… in our place… instead of us… his redemption story is big enough that he loved us, died for us, called us back to him.
What does Redemption mean?

Redemption means to bring something back to life. It’s taking something that is dead, broken, beat up & ugly and making clean, new, fixed & pure. Healing, restoration, life… again.

Take Paul for example. He was killing Christians, then became the greatest voice of the church. He was on his way to Damascus with permission from the High Priest to kill any Christians that he could get his hands one when he encountered the very Christ he was persecuting. We are all enemies of God in the same manner before we meet him…

What I have found is that sooner or later we are all going to hit rock bottom. Another thing I realized, painfully I might add, is – the only way up from the bottom is through the redemption story of Christ. No matter how far we think we are we are never out of the reach of God and his redemption story.
More than that, the only thing that can fill that hole within us is God. When we are on our way down and after we hit the bottom we are trying, grasping at anything to make the pain, hurt stop… and nothing stops it. Oh, we can make it stop for a short time: drugs, sex, spending sprees, alcohol, cutting, reckless behavior… anything to make the pain, hurt to stop. And it works… for a very short time. And then we realize God and his redemption are the only thing that can save us… from ourselves.

Christ has been here & done that – human just like us. Hebrews 3:17-18 tells us that Jesus has been there, done that, got the t-shirt… he became a human and he knows what it feels like to have a friend die. He knows what it feels like to be stressed out, overwhelmed, angry, depressed, tired, beat up, broken… he has been there and he can offer to carry our burden because he has already carried and knows what it feels like.

Great, Jesus knows what it is like to be me… so what? He has redeemed me… for a purpose.

Look at John 21:15-17, this is the story of Jesus eating a fish breakfast with his disciples and asking Peter if he loves him three times. You may remember a short time before this Peter denied Jesus three times. I think Jesus is telling Peter (and us ) no matter how many times he is denied he still loves, still redeems and still gives a job to do.

Jesus instructs Peter to care for his sheep and feed his lambs. I think this means we need to love our neighbors, disciple the lost, care for the orphans & widows… these are all ways that Jesus’ people are taken care of or fed.

James 1:27 says that pure & undefiled religion is to care for the orphans and widows and to remain unstained by the world. In this context religion is used to describe our worship of God.

Here is the challenge… are you living up to the task God has given us? He has redeemed us, repaired us, healed us so that we can reach out to the broken, beat up, bruised, used and afflicted around us…
are you?

The Odyssey

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So here is how the story begins…
I’ve been driving this 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee which seems to be plagued or cursed from hell. It always seems to have issues, and they never seem to get resolved.

So in February I break down and take it to a mechanic who assesses the problem and says it has a blown head gasket. For the un-initiated that doesn’t mean much. But it is a hefty job requiring the top half of the motor to be removed. Dude for a on to say, it is the worst blown head gasket he has ever seen. Ever. He says for $1000 he can replace or for $1500 he can put a salvage motor in it, recommending the motor due to it being the worst blown head gasket he has ever seen. Ever. So that’s what we do.

Keep runs great, for about 3 weeks. Then break down city, again. So we take it back to the same dude. Any guesses on the diagnosis? Another blown head gasket. This one due to a hole in the radiator which caused all the coolant to extricate itself from the motor. He says, I can fix for $1000. I said, I don’t think so. So it begins to sit.

Enter, stage left, my brother who needs a car. He says, you think we can do a head gasket? I say, we can’t make it worse if we can’t. That began the process of me, Abe & dad replacing a head gasket. Picture this: dad, who knows nothing about working on cars and has the patience of a bulldozer; Abe knows a little more because he has had to as of late; and me who knows more than both of them put together and I realize this is beyond my skill level, but I will do it if they want.

So they come down with parts having been shipped here and the Odyssey begins on Tuesday. Surprisingly, it comes completely apart by end of the day Tuesday. It actually goes back together by late afternoon Wednesday. And no it doesn’t run. I know what you are thinking… those idiots did something wrong. Our thoughts too. So we had to towed on Thursday to a shop. He looks it over and there are a few minor repairs that need to be done to make it run. Nothing we broke (Except Abe who broke the distributor cap when he put it on backwards… which was after he gapped, and therefore ruined, 2 park plugs for my GSX-R. It appears Abe was the weakest link.)

All in all it was a successful attempt at replacing a head gasket. Kinda surprised. The jeep actually drove all the way home to Georgia. Good for them.