Thursday, May 27, 2010

What stirs up your affections?

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:1-2
We live in a time when we grow bored of things pretty quickly. We have weeks where we have a favorite song, then we move on. We have a favorite television series, then we move on. A favorite past-time, then we move on. A favorite restaurant, then we move on. Yet, praise be to God, we can never learn all there is to learn about Jesus. God calls us to dwell on Jesus Christ, and there is no limit to what He will teach us. It will take an eternity to get into the depths of Jesus Christ. I read in my Bible today even, the last verse of the the book of John: "Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."

So in Colossians above, we are asked to set our minds on things of God and not on earthly things. So what are some practical ways to do this? There are a few basic principles that are true of everyone. I could go into each of these in greater detail and how they benefit all Christians, but my dad told me if I'm going to blog more often I should consider writing shorter blogs :) So I'll just list them here: Scripture, Prayer, Rest, Meditation, and Community. These benefits of each of these are spelled out many times in the Bible. However, there are other specific things we can do that are not necessarily right for everyone, but are right for you. So ask yourself these two questions:

1. What stirs your affections for Jesus Christ?
2. What rob you of your affections for Jesus Christ?

Matt Chandler asked these two questions of us on Sunday and I've been trying this week to consciously think about these things. Consciously note times during the day when your affections are stirred up for Christ. These are different for everyone. I'll give you some examples.

I see true worship from my dad in music. I've seen him broken and humbled before God while listening to My Redeemer by Nicole C Mullen. He has numerous praise CDs in his truck and is always showing me different powerful songs that have touched his heart. He even buys DVDs of praise bands and congregations in worship. These are things that notably stir his affections for Jesus.

My mom's affections are stirred in her friends. She has other women in her life who are God-fearing women, Beth Moore types who talk about the wonderful things of God with each other. I see true happiness in my mom and a love for Jesus pours out of her when she talks about the community she has with these women. Being in their company stirs her affections for Christ.

For me, I'm continuing to ask myself this question, and one thing I notice that stirs my affections are when I see and read of other's experiences with God. I probably quote Donald Miller too much, but in the preface to Blue Like Jazz he says,

I never liked Jazz music because Jazz music doesn't resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad theatre in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes (watching him), and he never opened his eyes.

After that I liked Jazz music.

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.

I used to not like God because God didn't resolve. But that was before any of this happened...
My path to finding God was different than his, but I think about his illustration of Jazz music, appreciating it after seeing the passion this man had for playing it, and then relating that to having a love for God when seeing other peoples affections for Him, and I can relate. I think this is just one of many things in my life that stir up my affections for God, and I want to continue to seek these things throughout my day and be conscious of them and dwell on them, as God asks us to do.

On the flip side, regarding what robs you of your affections for Christ, these things are almost always not inherently immoral. It's important to be aware of these morally neutral things. Almost always, they are not intrinsically evil, yet because we as man are, we tend to elevate them above where they should be. So what are these things that we make idols in our lives - we're all guilty of it. Be consciously aware, and set your minds on things of Christ, realizing what is earthly and what is Godly.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Your Story is Bigger Than You Are

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out wiht a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. An the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:54-60

Kind of makes you feel all warm and tingly inside, doesn't it? If there was a sarcasm font, I would use it there.


Yesterday I went to The Porch at Watermark, a church here in Dallas. The message was very moving for me and I want to unpack it here. The basic outline is not mine, I'm going off of my notes from last night, but I'm adding my own illustrations and thoughts about what it meant to me personally.


Let me start by putting the passage above in some context. When you read Acts, you're reading stories of the early stages of Christianity. It's full of passion and sacrifice and suffering and miracles and salvation and it's EPIC. If it were a movie I feel like it'd be right up their with 300 or Braveheart with Mel Gibson as the lead screaming "freedom!" Verses 54-60 (above) come in right after Stephen gives a powerful speech to the council and the high priest after being seized on claims of blasphemy. These claims are similar to what Jesus faced before dying on the cross - persecution for preaching the gospel. The entirety of Acts 7 is Stephen's speech to the council. I just went back and read it myself and encourage you to do so as well. He accused the council and the teachers of the law of resisting the Holy Spirit and murdering the "Righteous One." They were mad - mad enough to stone and kill him. And that's where the passage above comes in. Then following that passage, we see Saul (who later becomes Paul) ravaging the church and killing men and women who follow Christ.


Alright so now you have some background. What I'm mainly going to talk about is living life to the fullest, and living your story, the story God wrote for you, the adventurous, epic, bigger than you, story.


I became a Christian at a very young age. I'm thankful that I was taught the good news of the gospel so young, and was thus saved out of alot of sin and heartache that comes with living a life without God as a rock and the Holy Spirit in your heart. But I also never had this huge awakening moment where I pulled a complete 180 from a life of darkness to a life of light. As a result, I am guilty of being complacent in my relationship with God all too often. Because He is full of grace and mercy, I am always growing in my faith, but it's not always at my own initiative. I can be comfortable, and happy; I'm optimistic and things generally go my way. When they don't, I lean on the Father; when they do, I give Him thanks. But how boring is that? That isn't a life that God calls us to. Is that adventurous? Is it epic?


A story of epic adventure always involves risk.


What does that mean for us now in the culture in which we exist? What risk is there to take? We live in America where we aren't persecuted for believing in God. We face our own set of challenges and cultural influences, but we don't fear being stoned for standing up for the Faith. We drive nice cars, live in nice houses, have pets, and nice clothes, and gadgets and computers and ipads and iphones and everything we could possibly need and we are comfortable. So what risk is there to take? You won't find the answer here. Part of your story, part of your adventure - part of my story, and my adventure, is figuring out what risks we can take.


Here's a quote by Francis Chan:


“The truth is that the Spirit of the living God is guaranteed to ask you to go somewhere or do something you wouldn’t normally want or choose to do. The Spirit will lead you into the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be. The Holy Spirit of God will mold you into the person you were made to be…”


Last night, the preacher said this: "Take a risk. Let's go write a story." And I was excited. He gave an illustration about taking his little girls to Disneyworld. He talked about how he has one of the nicest strollers around. It's like the deluxe of the strollers. It's comfortable and they love it. They almost always fall asleep in it it's so comfortable. But then once they got on the rides at Disneyworld and were taking risks (for a 3 year old) and were being adventurous, he couldn't get them back into the comfort of their stroller. He had to park it somewhere while they ran all over the theme park. My thought is that that is exactly what taking risks does to you. Once you start living an adventure, you don't want to go back to the life of comfort you were living before. The risk no longer scares you. It excites you.


Many years ago I read a verse in Isaiah: "Here am I! Send me!" - Isaiah 6:8. That verse has stuck with me for 15+ years. I didn't set out to memorize it. And though arguably it wasn't hard to memorize because it's only 5 words, I have never forgotten it. I think the reason for that is that it terrified me. I wouldn't have admitted that to myself then. As a Christian we are called to die to ourselves daily, to take up our cross and follow Him. It stands to reason that we should be willing to go where God calls us. But for me, that verse was more than obeying God, and more than living out my faith. It meant going some place that was uncomfortable. It meant shaking my world up a bit, and taking a risk. Somewhere along the way, and I only recently came to this realization, so maybe it's been a recent occurrence, it doesn't scare me anymore. It only excites me. I also believe now that as I set out to take risks, and I set out to live the adventure God has waiting for me, the risks only lead you into more of an intimacy with God. With an intimacy with God comes an ear for His words, His truth, and His guidance. And with that comes living a life to the fullest. "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full" (John 10:10).


Risks will always present obstacles. The response is up to us.


Note Stephen's response to the "grinding teeth" of the councilmen. He "gazed into Heaven" at Jesus. He didn't look at the circumstances and the trials around him or at his problems. A mob of men with stones in their hands I think would constitute as a problem. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Our circumstances are what change. Jesus should be the focus. In everything, it all comes back to Jesus. My prayer for myself is that I would be so captivated by my Father that I am willing to wait and wait and wait just to be in His presence. When we have obstacles in our lives, we are called to gaze at Jesus.


Your story is bigger than you.


Look at the passage in Acts again. Stephen's speech in all of Chapter 7 is about the great story. It's a summary of God's promise to Abraham, of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, all the way up to Jesus. It's the great story. And now Stephen is playing his part. He's living his adventure. And when his story seems to end, when he is stoned to death, his garments are laid at the feet of Saul. Saul ravages the church. Christians are scattered, yet the gospel moves forward. Saul becomes Paul. All because Stephen's story is bigger than himself. Paul, as you know, goes on to write half of the new testament. Everything we do in our lives affects other people's stories.


Your story is bigger than you and what you do with your story is up to you.


One of my most favorite authors is Donald Miller. He recently wrote a book called "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." Coincidentally, the book runs right alongside this idea of living out a great story. As a quick summary, Donald Miller wrote Blue Like Jazz, a New York Times best-seller; you've probably heard of it. Some guys wanted to make a movie out of the book, so they spent some time with Donald Miller writing the script. But as they were writing, they changed his entire life to make it appealing to a large audience. This sent Donald into a sort of depression, because he realized that he hadn't really done much with his life after writing that book. There was this high from having a best-seller, and then he didn't really do anything else that exciting. And so though the process of writing this screenplay, he began to think about what makes a story great. Alot of what he said matches what I wrote above. A story involves risk, an inciting incident, a character who wants something and won't stop until he gets it. There's more involved, but the point I'm making is that he set out to live a great story and has done some amazing things since. He rode his bike from the Pacific Ocean all the way to the Atlantic. He started a mentorship project for children in need of a father-figure. Among other things. He's living a greater story now. And he inspired me to live a greater story.


This is one of the reasons I decided to do Timothy Team. My world as I know it flipping upside down for me to go do this for a year. It's all in God's timing and He made it clear to me that this is what He wants me to do. But in essence, it's a risk. I am taking it, and I see it as being an adventure and an experience.


Back to A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and your story being bigger than yours, there's a quote that sticks with me from that book.


He said to me I was a tree in a story about a forest, and that it was arrogant of me to believe any differently. And he told me the story of the forest is better than the story of the tree... At one point I turned when I heard a tree drop a heavy limb to the ground. I sat by the fire until the sun came up; and asked God to help me understand the story of the forest and what it meant to be a tree in that story.


In my own story, I want to be the central character. But the story is not central to anyone else but me. We may all want life to congratulate us and to be comfortable, but that's not what it's about. We are a small part of a much larger story, and the best we can do is find the places where our story can weave together with the stories around us. That's being the body of Christ.


And to close, I want to share a quote my mom emailed to me recently. I don't know what I want to do for a career in my life, it's one of the great questions I'm asking now. But I do know that I want to live a great story, a great adventure and take risks. And I want to do as this quote says:


Don't ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

-Gil Bailie

Live life and live it to the full.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Return home and tell how much God has done for you." - Luke 8:39

I decided to do a little light reading this morning. I'm house-sitting at my Aunt and Uncle's house and Aunt Diane always has an abundance of books around to read. Here's an excerpt from "Walking with God" by John Eldredge.

When Ernest Hemingway wrote Green Hills of Africa in 1953, he felt he was taking a worthy risk: "[I have] attempted to write an absolutely true book to see whether the shape of a country and the pattern of a months action can, if truly presented, compete with the work of the imagination." How much more valuable might this be if we could share with one another the stories of our true encounters with God - not the mountaintop ones - but the everyday encounters, as they are lived out over a year.

I started thinking about this and how powerful it could be - in my own life and in the lives of those around me. I believe I am most overcome with humility and awe when I look back over recent events in my life to see God's hand in everything - even the minute details. I believe God calls us to do this and I don't do it enough. How powerful and moving would it be if I did this daily? On a grand scale, I think in pausing to see my daily encounters with God and to write them out, I will be able to better discern the voice of God and have an intimacy with Him unlike anything I've ever experienced. Additionally, how much more of an impact would it have on my life, on my outlook, on my attitude?

Now having a daily relationship with the Lord is not a new concept to me. I've heard and experienced the benefits of that my entire life. But I'm coming at it from a different angle - to actually take note of his presence and where I think He is moving and what He is showing me -
and to tell others about it. Seeing and hearing about God from others is uplifting. I don't think our culture - even in Christian circles - encourages this enough. Sure, there are Christian leaders who write books or blogs and tweet and tell others about Christ and the many wonderful works of God, but they are essentially being paid to do this. They have made a living out of crusading for Christ. Don't get me wrong, I am not lessening their impact. I am thankful for them and the effect on my life, and I am not saying that they wouldn't be doing this if they hadn't developed a career around doing so. I am merely pointing out that as a culture, we don't talk about the everyday little things that God does in our lives. And it is DAILY. I certainly don't. I talk about the life-altering things. I talk about the major mile-stones and give credit to God. I talk about the sermon I heard at church and the effect it had on me. But I don't talk about the "everyday" enough. If I'm being honest, I don't even acknowledge the glory and power of God, or the daily outpourings of His love to
myself on a daily basis.

Each of our lives is a story to be told. God is the author and He is in the details. And as Ernest Hemingway hinted, it's more powerful and worthy of being told than anything the imagination could produce. And we should be talking about these things. To each other. Not holding them in and tucking them away, checking them off in your mind as personal growth. We are a community and the body of Christ, and hearing of each others encounters with God encourages us all to grow and moves us into a deeper intimacy with our Creator, which is ultimately why we were created and what we are commanded to do.
36"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." - Matthew 22:26-40
So this is my quest: to share my daily stories of my true encounters with God.

I believe this quote from Frederick Buechner is poignant:

There is something more than a little disconcerting about writing your autobiography. When people have occasionally asked me what I am working on, I have found it impossible to tell them without an inward blush. As if anybody cares or should care...

Bud I do it anyway. I do it because it seems to me that no matter who you are, and no matter how eloquent or otherwise, if you tell your own story with sufficient candor and concreteness, it will be an interesting story and in some sense a universal story...

If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that he speaks to us largely through what happens to us, so what I have done in this book... is to listen back over what has happened to me - as I hope my readers may be moved to listen back over what has happened to them - for the sound, above all else of his voice ... [For] his word to us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling. (Now and Then)

Monday, November 9, 2009

I am what I am

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Pioneer Woman has a cookbook!

She's also going on a Griswold style book tour and will be in Dallas Dec. 2nd! I am CAPS LOCK EXCITED. Alicia and I are going to put together some sort of gift for her, selfishly hoping she'll blog about it. And maybe a note, lightly suggesting that she invite us back to the ranch for a evening of wine and cooking. You know, we wouldn't say NO!

Glee - All the Single Ladies

I have a love hate relationship with television. I hate it so much that I refuse to own one. I love it so much that I watch television online anyway because I just can't stay away. And it's that time of year again. Fall season. Where my after work life is filled with premiers of my favorite series and new premiers. This season, I am already loving GLEE. It's hilarious. I love Wednesdays because of Glee. So I wanted to share three clips with you. The first is Beyonce's video to All the Single Ladies. The second is Glee's reenactment of that video. The third is the football team's reenactment. And you can bet that I have reenacted it a few times on the dance floor myself. Hilarious. Enjoy!

You actually have to link to Beyonce's video. I can't embed it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mVEGfH4s5g




If loving Glee is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Playing Around In Photoshop


Is this photo awesome or what? Please tell me it is! I've always liked the picture- mainly because it makes me look like I can play a guitar. A picture tells a thousand words, right? No one ever said those words had to be true! But now my newly enhanced vintage-esque photo editing makes me look like I can really play.

Here's the original.


Sweet.

If loving photoshop is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Quigley

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Watch my Aussie pup Quigley attempt to retrieve a water bottle for me. He has a bit of a hard time grasping it in all of his enthusiasm.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Check out this CD!!

All star GOSPEL CD with mainstream artists - paired with gospel choirs - with their own style. Glory hallelujah!









Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Video montage of Abby's Visit to LA!

Abby visited me in LA this weekend and we did about as much sight-seeing as we could fit in. I don't know how we did it! Here's a collection of the shots. Enjoy!
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