Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Jakinian Language

"So, regarding singing your song, the real question here is, do you want to fit into a little box with your life and your song, kind of like singing along with a "popular" song that doesn't quite fit you, but is acceptable and "nice," or do you want to risk everything to BUST LOOSE and CO-CREATE! -identifying and celebrating what is unique and extraordinary about you." - Jim Spivey
"Live a life worthy of the calling you have received." - Paul (emphasis mine)
"Train up a child in the way they should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." - Ancient Proverb (emphasis mine)
My youngest son Jakin has started developing his own language. It's called the Jakinian Language, or Jakinese, depending on how he feels. He loves adding words to his vocabulary, and it is slowly infiltrating how he and I communicate and interact. He has attempted many word-creations, but these 5 have stuck in our memories and have become real parts of our vocabulary.
Shaka-Baka (shah-kah-bah-kah) - "I love you."
Moshe (mow-she) - "I'm sorry."
Aka-Bakee (ah-ka-bah-key) - "See you later!"
Taleequah (tah-lee-qwah) - "Could you please come here?" or "Come here." (depending on tone of voice)
And my personal favorite...
Sekasakee (see-kah-sock-ee) - "It's singin' time!" (After which it is culturally appropriate to bust out in song).
Jakin is 4, and he has yet to figure out that he is supposed to learn and behave and communicate within "what already is" and thinks that he can just go around making a unique contribution in order to "co-create what is".
I pray that God grant me the freakin' grace to never break him of this.
It is his creation, and my job is to encourage this entrepreneurial spirit in him by being a participant with him in it...and I'll tell you what, it is a joy, and it brings joy to both of us as we participate in his creation, and it has even brought joy to those who have had the privilege of overhearing us. You should see the smiles it produces out of thin air!
Maybe it seems silly, but I'm telling you what this actually does and produces - it transforms otherwise mundane, normal, regular, popular conversations and interactions between a father and son into a creative, exceptional, special, intimacy-building experience. And dog-gone it, isn't that the whole point of life anyway? That may actually be a pretty good definition for the word:
Life (lif) - a creative, exceptional, special, intimacy building experience.
The Bible says that Jesus came to give us this...and to give it to us to the full (Jn 10:10).
I must fearfully confess that I almost squelched this whole thing of his, right at the outset of his experimenting with it, as an inconvenient, childish, silly, immature waste of time with a wave of my hand and roll of my eyes. Oh God help many wonderful and beautiful things have I so mindlessly destroyed with such ignorant apathy and dismissal!? So many of us grow up and "outgrow" our creativity, and I guess the creativity in others (of any age) makes us mad, or regretful, or guilty, or feel with a wave of the hand and roll of the eyes we dismiss them.
As Jakin grows up, if I will train him in this way that he should go, his own unique way...then when he is old, he won't depart from it. He'll keep on going around thinking he is supposed to make his own unique contribution rather than fit himself into some "preconceived and proven" job or some pre-determined cookie cutter role. Rather, he will co-creating with God with ever-increasing significance and impact. And at a time when I'm about to preach a sermon about "joy to the world" during a season when people pay a tad bit more attention to actually doing so, I'm now acknowledging and mourning all that "is not" because of the boxes that all of us people think we and those around us are supposed to operate in. 
Thank you, Jakin, for busting loose and allowing me to be a participant in co-creating something that is unique and extra-ordinary about you. I want to be just like you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The response of devastated husbands

Last week, my friends Bryan and Roman both received terrible phone calls about their wives. They were each in very serious car accidents.
Bryan is a shepherd among a group of Christians in Africa that I have grown to love. And Bryan is one I truly respect and am grateful for, because he is advancing the Kingdom of Christ through his love.
Roman is a shepherd among a group of Christians in Amarillo that I have grown to love. And Roman is one I truly respect and am grateful for, because he is advancing the Kingdom of Christ through his love.
Bryan's wife was killed in her accident, and Roman's wife is still in unconscious in critical condition in the hospital. I wanted you to read a piece that each of them have written in response to their respective tragedies. After you read them, you clearly see how God get's glory through his people...those in the midst of tragedy and those who dare surround them, joining them in their pain, as agents of healing.
One final note from me: In Roman's piece, you will notice my little brother's role in "being Christ" to Roman's family. This kind of zeal, commitment, sacrifice and loyalty is not unusual for Craig, it is his daily life, and I have been a blessed recipient of it all of my adult life. He and his wife Vicky are some of the very finest I know. Roman is in Craig's men's small group (accurately dubbed "The Unit" by Roman's son, because of their intimate partnership and cooperation in becoming more like Christ together and delivering Christ to the world), and their community is a model of what being the church is all about. It is not my intention to diminish the roles that all the others are playing (actually, most of them are also a part of Roman's "small groups", be it at work or at church), only to highlight the great pride I take in my brother.
FROM BRYAN: "To all friends and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
This is just to acknowledge your condolences and best wishes following the death of my dearest wife, Rose on 3 Dec 2008 following a road traffic accident.. having lived with her for 30 years she had become in "inseparable" part of me according to my human thinking but the Good Lord had other ideas. Some events and signs leading to her death have left me in know doubt whatsoever she is in the hands of our Lord Jesus right now. I am convinced the Lord took my wife and therefore am happy for her. It is the void she has left in my life and that of the children that is irreplaceable and is the source of my heartaches. I simply don't have an idea of how I will cope without her but pray to God that He will pull me thru as He has always been Gracious to me. The very fact that He gave Rose to me as a partner is clear evidence that I have always found favour in His eyes. Please join me in prayers to enable me to overcome.
The sad thing is that although I have always known that she was a very good partner, I have only realised the extent of her goodness after her departure, How I wish I had shown her more appreciation during her lifetime on this wretched earth.
The presence in our home of so many Christians, family members and other friends during the 6 days of mourning were an appreciated source of comfort which I will always cherish. All the kids were also able to come home and join me in time for the burial.
My simple advice to all is that we should appreciate our spouses whilst they are alive."
FROM ROMAN: "God put it on my heart to share and give thanks to those who have responded to my family in this crisis. Whether checking up by phone, praying, asking others to pray, doing menial tasks for me, buying a meal for me, (or a phone), you are appreciated. I know there are people that have done things that I don't know about and have come by to visit and I did not see. I give thanks to God for all of you. I recognize all of you who have thought of my family during the day and said a prayer. All is appreciated. I do want to and think it is right to recognize those who have gone above and beyond and I already know now that I will forget someone and even miss someone because they have done it behind the scenes. Just know all of you are appreciated.

You all need to know what a minister Craig Mashburn has been to my family. Yes, I said Craig. On day one he was there and took my phone to exercise the warranty on it so I would have it. This was after I shattered it on the floor in my pain. The company told him I must be there myself. He just bought me another one and had all my information on the phone transferred to the new one. He is the first one here in the morning and the last one to leave. He has been here 12 to 15 hours a day everyday. He does not leave for lunch unless he is taking some of my family to eat. He runs interference when we are too tired to respond. He forces us to eat and sleep when we need to. He has done and will do anything we ask. He has made the biggest impact on my children. They both love him. He has played makeshift volleyball games in the waiting room. Instant messaged across the room to both my kids with bursts of laughter. One night he left and I got to my car a few minutes after and he was scraping ice off my windows. I teared up. Austin told me last night, “Brian and Craig are so different, but they have the same heart.”

My last post I gave Bryan VanMeter credit for cleaning my wife’s bloody rings and he let me know that it was his sweet wife that had done that. What he did do was almost as loving. He shot three pheasant on Sunday and fried up two breasts and gave it to me. Now that is love. He has been here everyday at least once a day. He has engaged with my children as well.

Michelle Mitchell is picking up our mail 20 miles from her home and going through and organizing our bills. I understand she and another have been raising funds to help our family. She is here everyday at least twice a day. Wade has been here every day as well.

Landon Collard and Justin Nash are here daily for emotional support and making sure my mind is in the right place, helping me see what God is doing, helping me to help my children process this, and keeping me accountable in my relationship with God in this haze. Friday, they both plan on supporting me as I see our car in person and the place of the accident. Craig Mashburn will make that trip as well.

Tammy Nash is updating you guys with information from this web site. Knowing Tammy, she is doing a thousand other things that I do not know about and/or have forgotten.

Betty Golightly got past this accident with my father and ministered to his heart regarding his painful ordeal. She reminds me of Biblical truth everyday. She tells me about the awesomeness of our God and what he has done in her life to help in times such as these.

Melissa’s work crew in Clarendon have driven up here numerous times to visit and call at least twice a day. They cleaned all our stuff out of the mangled car. Her lunch bunch sent lunch money for my family. The whole college for only the second time in it’s history have donated hours of leave for Melissa to continue her pay while she is out. There are professors who have stepped forward to teach Melissa’s load for no compensation to assure our financial security.

My work crew has donated money for our meals as well and came back with a second money donation for meals. Barry Gilbert is doing his job and mine until I return. (real sure I will pay for that later) Charlotte Robledo, my co-worker’s wife arranged a big basket of snacks that has still not run out. I am told that leave donation will be in order if I run out as well. Jane King, my God wise boss and friend has kept me spiritually centered. Jay Kantor, has agreed to help negotiate replacing our car with a dealer locally. They have representatives here about every day. Jeanette has baked twice and brought every kind of coffee creamer you could want to go with this bad hospital coffee.

My mother has done laundry and cooked and is taking care of my rambunctious dog. She has rearranged her life to be here.

Melissa’s uncle has brought a huge motor home to a nice park only a couple of miles from here so we do not have to drive home twenty-five minutes one way. We are also able to sit in shifts and drive there to sleep and eat and just relax.

Countless friends have brought their kids to entertain mine and have taken them bowling and to movies an to eat or just to be here to keep them company. Though I have been given tons of money from friends, family and work friends, there are those that will not let me spend it and have bought my family meals.

I have forgotten as many things as I have mentioned. I tell people I have an emotional concussion and my memory is scattered, discombobulated, and gone. Just know in the moment when you have ministered to me and mine, it was special and encouraging. I feel held up by a thousand hands. You all who have done anything for me and mine are the hands and feet of Christ my savior. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!"

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What I want for Christmas...

I want to love people just enough... 
...just enough for them to know they are not alone.
...just enough for them to know that I am okay with them just the way they are.
...just enough for them to remember that they need not deserve love in order to have it.
...just enough for them to feel space in their lives to reflect, inspect, and introspect.
...just enough for them to believe that there is more, better, and deeper life and that it is available to them.
...just enough for them to find themselves in my life and my story unfolding.
...just enough for them to feel like their existence and life deserves a party.
I want to love people just enough to shake up their status quo in any way that will give them more life.
This is how I want to love. This is how God has loved me. This is how I want to love all of you.
Merry Christmas. I love you.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Way of the Reformer

"Only a few people read that and cry." - my friend, Jim Spivey


This essay that I'm sharing with you was written 100 years ago. But I read it yesterday. And I had to share it with you today.


Why? you may ask.


Because I must share my heart...for better or worse, I would suffocate and die without doing so. It is burden that many run from, and I can not blame them. But there are also those who receive my need as their gift, and work with me to understand it, and they are my dearest of friends...most especially those who then use it to address and share their own hearts with me and with others. In my world, we are participating in the very work of God as we thumb our noses at the drivenness so presumed and expected by the world and take the time to engage our hearts. "The Kingdom of God is within you," my Lord says, yet even in the church world, drivenness calls "Kingdom work" things that we do externally, and "Kingdom growth" the addition of people to the church. Kingdom work external inasmuch as you are engaging with other people in their own inward work. And Kingdom growth is the expansion of God's rule in the hearts of men.


I feel so explained by this essay. And since it is by a man who wrote it over a century ago, I don't feel so alone, strange, or abnormal. At the very least, I know I am not the only one with my particular set of abnormalities.


I both apologize and refuse to apologize for how glorious this guy paints the picture of what he calls a "reformer". Humility demands that I apologize for applying such glory to myself. Honesty demands that I admit this is exactly the kind of glory that I want to have.


It is long, but if you can not read it slowly, I advise you to not read it. This is more of warning, than a demand, because if you read it fast you will only be able to say "I read that thing", not "I heard it's heart." And the real tragedy in it would be your unawareness of it.


And just for the sake of a little bonus self-disclosure, I bolded some of the statements that particularly stuck out to me.


I love you all.




THE WAY OF THE REFORMER, from an essay entitled The Power of Truth by William George Jordan, published initially in 1902


"The reformers of the world are its men of mighty purpose.  They are men with the courage of individual conviction, men who dare run counter to the criticism of smaller minds and hearts, men who voluntarily bear crosses for what they accept as right, even without the guarantee of a crown.  They are men who gladly go down into the depths of silence, darkness, and oblivion, but only to emerge finally like divers, with pearls in their hands.

He who labors untiringly toward the attainment of some noble aim, with eyes fixed on the star of some mighty purpose, as the Magi followed the star in the East, is a reformer.  He who is loyal to the inspiration of some great spiritual truth, and with strong hand and heart leads weak, trembling steps of faith into the glory of eventual certainty, is a reformer.  He who follows the thin thread of some startling revelation of Nature in any of the great sciences, follows it in the spirit of truth through a maze of doubt, hope, experiment, and questioning, till the tiny, guiding thread grows stronger and firmer to his touch, leading him to some wondrous illumination of Nature's law, is a reformer.  He who goes up alone into the mountain of truth, and, glowing with the radiance of some mighty revelation, returns to force (through the power of his conviction) the hurrying world to listen to his story, is a reformer.  He who seeks to work out for himself his own bold destiny, the life-work that all his nature tells him should be his, bravely, calmly, and with due consideration for the rights of others and his duty to them, is a reformer.


These men who renounce the commonplace and conventional for higher things are reformers because they are striving to bring about new conditions; they are consecrating their lives to ideals.  They are the brave aggressive vanguard of man's progress and God's promise.  They are men who can stand a siege, who can take long forced marches without a murmur, who set their teeth and bow their heads as they fight their way through the smoke, who smile at the trials and privations that dare to daunt them.  They care not for the handicaps and perils of the fight, for they are ever inspired by the flag of triumph that seems already waving on the citadel of their hopes and dreams.

If we are facing some great life ambition, let us see if our heroic plans are good, high, noble, and exalted enough for the price we must pay for their attainment.  Let us seriously and honestly look into our needs, our abilities, our resources, our responsibilities, to assure ourselves that it is no mere passing whim that is leading us.  Let us hear and consider all counsel, all light that may be thrown on every side; let us hear it as a judge on the bench listens to the evidence, and then makes his own decision.  The choice of a life-work is too sacred a responsibility to the individual to be lightly decided for him by others less thoroughly informed than himself.  When we have weighed in the balance the mighty question and have made our decision, let us act, let us concentrate our lives upon that which we feel is supreme, and, never forsaking a real duty to others, never be diverted from the attainment of the highest things, no matter what honest price we have to pay for their realization and conquest.

When Nature decides any man as a reformer she whispers to him her great message, she places in his hand the staff of courage, she wraps around him the robes of patience and perseverance, and starts him on his way.  Then, in order that he may have the strength and endurance to live through it all, she mercifully calls him back for a moment, and makes him ... a dreamer and an optimist.  For the way of the reformer is hard - very hard.  The world knows little of it, for it is rare that the reformer reveals the scars of the conflict, the pangs of hope deferred, the mighty waves of despair that wash over a great purpose unfolding - except to a very devoted few.  Men of great purpose and noble ideals must know the path of the reformer is loneliness.  They must live from within a very tight circle rather than in dependence on broad and diverse sources of help from without.  Their mission, their exalted aim, their supreme object in living, which focuses all their energy, must be their primary sources of strength and inspiration.  The reformer must ever light this torch of his own inspiration and tend to it.  His own hand must ever guard the sacred flame as he moves steadily forward on his lonely way.


The reformer in morals, in education, in spiritual awareness and practice, in sociology, in invention, in philosophy in any line of aspiration, is ever a pioneer.  His privilege is to blaze the path for others, to mark at his peril a road that others may follow in relative safety.  He must not expect that the way will be laid out and asphalted for him.  He must realize that he must face injustice, ingratitude, opposition, misunderstanding, the cruel and harsh criticism of contemporaries, and often, hardest of all, the wondering reproach of those who love him best.  Leading a great purpose is ever an isolation.  Should a soldier leading the forlorn hope complain that the army is not abreast of him?  The glorious opportunity before him should so inspire him, so absorb him, that he will care nought for the army except to know that if he lead as he should, and do that which the crisis demands, the army must follow to survive and be victorious.


The reformer must realize without a trace of bitterness that the busy world cares little for his struggles, it cares only to join in his final triumph; it will share his feasts, but not his fasts.  Christ was alone in Gethsemane, but - at the sermon in the wilderness, where food was provided, the attendance was four thousand.


The world is honest enough in its attitude.  It takes time for the world to realize, to accept, and to assimilate a large new truth.  Since the dawn of history, the great conservative spirit of every age, that ballast that keeps the world in poise, makes the slow acceptance of great truths an acceptance for its safety.  It wisely requires proof, clear, absolute, undeniable attestation, before it fully accepts.  Sometimes the perfect enlightenment takes years, sometimes decades, sometimes generations.  It is but the safeguard of truth.  Time is the supreme test, the final court of appeal that winnows out the chaff of false claims, pretended revelation, empty boast, and idle dreams.  Time is the touchstone that finally reveals all true gold.  The process is slow, necessarily so, and the fate of the world's geniuses and reformers in the balance of their contemporary criticism should have a sweetness of consolation rather than a bitterness of cynicism.  If the greatest leaders of the world have had to wait for recognition, should we, whose best work may be trifling in comparison with theirs, expect instant sympathy, appreciation, and cooperation, where we are merely growing toward our own attainment?

The world ever says to its leaders, by its attitude if not in words, 'If you would lead us to higher realms of thought, to purer ideals of life, and flash before us, like the handwriting on the wall, all the possible glories of development, you must pay the price for it, not we.'  The world has a law as clearly defined as the laws of Kepler:  'Contemporary credit for reform works in any line will be in inverse proportion to the square root of their importance.'  Give us a new fad and we will prostrate ourselves in the barren dust; give us a new philosophy or way of life, a new worldview, a higher conception of life, morality, and spiritual truth, and we may pass you by, but posterity will pay for it.  Send your messages C.O.D. and posterity will settle for them.  You ask for bread; posterity will give you a stone, often called a monument.


There is nothing in this to discourage the highest efforts of genius.  Genius is great because it is decades ahead of its generation.  To appreciate genius requires some level of comprehension and some of the same characteristics.  The public can fully appreciate only what is a few steps in advance; it must grow slowly to the appreciation of great thought.  The genius of the reformer should accept this as a necessary condition.  It is the price he must pay for being in advance of his generation, just as front seats in the orchestra cost more than those in the back row of the third gallery.  . . .  There is nothing the world cries out for so constantly as a new idea, and there is nothing the world fears so much.  The milestones of significant progress in the history of the ages tell the story.  For example, Galileo was cast into prison in his seventieth year, and his works were prohibited.  He had committed no crime, other than being in advance of his generation.

The modern world says with a large sweep of the hand, 'the opposition to progress is all in the past; the great reformer or the great genius is appreciated and recognized today.'  No, sadly, this is not true.  In the past they tried to imprison or kill a great truth by opposition; now we gently seek to smother it by making it a fad. 


So it is written in the book of human nature:  The saviours of the world must ever be martyrs.  The death of Christ on the cross for the people He had come to save typifies the temporary crucifixion of public opinion that comes to all who bring to the people the message of some great truth, some clearer revelation of the divine.  But truth, right, and justice must triumph, and always will.  Let us never close the books of a great work and say, 'it has failed.'  No matter how slight seem results, how dark the outlook, the glorious consummation of the past, the revelation of the future, must come.  And Christ lived but 30 years; and He had twelve disciples - one denied Him, one doubted Him, one betrayed Him, and the other nine were very human.  And in the supreme crisis of His life 'they all forsook Him and fled,' but today - His followers are millions.


Sweet indeed is human sympathy, the warm hand-clasp of confidence and love brings a rich inflow of new strength to him who is struggling and the knowledge that someone dear to us sees with love and comradeship our future through our eyes is a wondrous draught of new life.  If we have this, perhaps the loyalty of two or three or six or ten, what the world says or thinks about us should count for little.  But if this be denied us, then must we bravely walk our weary way alone, toward the sunrise that must come.


The little world around us that does not understand us, does not appreciate our ambition or sympathize with our efforts, that seem to it futile, is not intentionally cruel, callous, bitter, blind, or heartless.  It is merely that, busied with its own pursuits, it does not fully realize, does not see as we do.  The world does not, because it cannot see our ideal as we see it, does not feel the glow of inspiration that makes our blood tingle, our eyes brighten, and our soul seem flooded with a wondrous light.  It sees naught but the rough block of marble before us and the great mass of chips and fragments of seemingly fruitless effort at our feet, but it does not see the angel of achievement, beauty, and gracefulness slowly emerging from its stone prison, from nothingness into full being, under the tireless strokes of our chisel.  It hears no faint rustle of wings that seem already real to us, nor the glory of the music of triumph already ringing in our ears.

There come dark, dreary days in all great work, when effort seems useless, when hope almost appears a delusion, and confidence the mirage of folly.  Sometimes for days, weeks, or months your sails flap idly against the mast, with not a breath of wind to move you on your way, and with a paralyzing sense of helplessness you just have to sit and wait and wait.  Sometimes your craft of hope is carried back by a tide that seems to undo in moments your work of months or years.  But it may not be really so; you may be put into a new channel that brings you nearer your haven than you dared to hope.  This is the hour that tests us, that determines whether we are masters or slaves of conditions.  As in the battle of Marengo, it is the fight that is made when all seems lost that really counts and wrests victory from the hand of seeming defeat.


If you are seeking to accomplish any great serious purpose that your mind and your heart tell you is right, you must have the spirit of the reformer.  You must have the courage to face trial, sorrow, and disappointment, to meet them squarely and to move forward unscathed and undaunted.  In the sublimity of your perfect faith in the outcome, you can make them as powerless to harm you as a dewdrop falling on the Pyramids.

Truth, with time as its ally, always wins in the end.  The knowledge of the inappreciation, the coldness, and the indifference of the world should never make you pessimistic.  They should inspire you with that large, broad optimism that sees all the opposition of the world can never keep back the triumph of truth, that your work is so great that the petty jealousies, misrepresentations, and hardships caused by those around you dwindle into nothingness.  What cares the messenger of the king for his trials and sufferings if he knows that he has delivered his message?  Large movements, great plans, always take time for development.  If you want great things, pay the price like a man.


Anyone can plant radishes; it takes courage to plant acorns and wait for the oaks.  Learn to look not merely at the clouds, but through them to the sun shining behind them.  When things look darkest, grasp your weapon firmer and fight harder.  There is always more progress than you can perceive through your senses, and it is really only the outcome of the battle that counts.


And when it is all over and the victory is yours, and the smoke clears away, and the smell of the powder is dissipated, and you bury the relationships that died because they could not stand the strain, and you nurse back the wounded and faint-hearted who loyally stood by you, even when doubting, then the hard years of fighting will seem but a dream.  You will stand brave, heartened, strengthened by the struggle, re-created to a new, better, and stronger life by a noble battle, nobly waged, in a noble cause.  And the price will then seem to you  . . . nothing."  


Final note from Brian: And now, dear reader, if you have made it this far...and you have paid the price of listening...and you have resonated with anything in this (and it is not to your shame if you have not)...I would love to hear the cry of your heart that it awakens.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The New Normal

"That is completely normal." - a commonly used phrase, but for completely different reasons (but most recently and powerfully used by my new friend Rick last Tuesday night in my basement)
They way most of us eat is completely normal, but it's not good.
They way most of us think is completely normal, but it's not healthy.
The way most of us act and interact is completely normal, but it's not best.
The way most of us go about success is normal, but it's not right.
The standards most of us use to measure ourselves are normal, but they are not Christ.
Don't get me wrong...I find so much comfort, and hope you do too, to know that some of our deepest, darkest struggles, habits, and behaviors (the ones that are self-defeating and bring us death) are not unique to me. It is quite nice to know that I am normal.
But there has to come a point when we who follow Christ confront normal, and create a new normal.
For those that follow Christ...
It is normal stay in things when they are hard.
It is normal to forgive everything of everyone.
It is normal to share our deepest thoughts, sins, and struggles.
It is normal to share our ideals, dreams, and joys.
It is normal to suffer humiliation for our faults and not be crushed by it.
It is normal to be patient with our kids.
It is normal to honor our parents even when they are undeserving.
It is normal to sacrifice anything temporary for the good of someone else's temporary.
It is normal to consider who we are around and be sensitive about what comes out of our mouths.
It is normal to defend people's hearts from the wounds that come from others.
It is normal to defend the hearts of those "others" that did the wounding.
It is normal to love and want the best for our enemies.
It is normal to use prayer as our answer for everything.
It is normal to suffer for the joy of it.
It is normal to swallow our pride for our spouses daily and like it.
It is normal to be free.
It is normal to feel peace.
It is normal to have joy.
It is normal to live in ways that bring about life to the full.
It's the new normal. And if we are not in the process of creating a new normal, we are not in the process of bringing about the Kingdom of Christ.
Most people I know that do not have the above as their "normal" are normally:
1. Not following Christ.
2. Pretending they are following Christ.
3. Calling what they are doing following Christ.
4. Following Christ part time.
5. Saying they don't need Christ.
6. In love with their own potential for Christ.
7. Disbelieving that the "new normal" is possible at all, calling Christ an "impossible ideal".
My desire is to constantly be creating a "new normal" for my life, and helping others do the same. It is grueling, sometimes slow, confronting, emotion-producing, status quo breaking, opposed work. And it is the best possible life.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Question: "Colder or Warmer?" Answer: "Yes."

"Make them one, Father." - Jesus Christ
My daughter was dipping her feet in the bath water that I was running for her so I could find out if the temperature was to her liking.
"You want it colder or warmer?" I asked.
So I turned the knob a little warmer and asked her to feel the flowing water. She looked at me, and said, "Warmer!" a little more emphatically.
"Okay!" I said, with an emphatic tone of my own, to point it out the inappropriateness of hers, as I made the water a little warmer.
She felt it, and looked at me with an incredulous look as if I was intentionally disregarding her instructions. My 5-year-old looked right in my eyes and said to me loudly, slowly, and as if I was only a 2-year-old, "WARM-ER!"
I felt the water to make sure I was, indeed, making it warmer...which I was. It was actually starting to get uncomfortably hot. I said, "Callie...I'm making it warmer, but it's starting to get hot."
Then she yelled, "I don't want it hot...I want it WARMER."
With an explosion of understanding sweeping through me, I realized that Callie was asking for something dramatically different from what I was delivering. In terms of water temperature, she knows 3 categories: "cold", "warmer", and "hot". So when I asked her if she wanted it colder or warmer, then she felt it and it was hot, she said "make it warmer."
The tension that was growing between us because of our slightly differing understandings of the same exact words lifted completely as we figured that out. But it took some work.
Oh, how I see this happen in our church. For example...
Everyone wants more evangelism - but to some that means getting more people in the building for Christ, and to others it means getting more people out of building into the lives of others for Christ.
Everyone believes in Bible study - but to some that means getting people into Bible classes more, and to others it means getting people into Bible living more.
Everyone believes in baptism - but to some that means giving baptism the same "salvational" weight as we give Christ himself, and to others it means using it as yet another of Christ's means of transforming people into his own image.
Everyone believes in worship - but some think it's what they do on Sunday morning, and others think it's what our lives are.
Everyone believes in God - but some think He's a divine police-man, some that He's a gentle Santa Claus, some that He's a frowning parent, some that He's a demanding boss, some that He's an uninterested Other, and still others think that He is just like them, whatever they have come to be.
These misunderstandings are not a huge problem of any consequence, in my opinion. At least they don't have to be. If all of us will just "stay in the tension" that is created because of our differing understandings of our Christian vocabulary lists, then we will actually and usually find an explosion of understanding of each other that will allow us to communicate, agree, and serve each other and with each we follow God, worship God, baptize people into God, study the Bible about God, and evangelize the world for God.
Back at the bathtub, when Callie and I finally understood one another, it took humility from me to accept her definition of the words we were using (especially since I "knew she was wrong"). I then was able to teach her my definition of the same words. The laughter that she and I shared as we "played back" the tension we were throwing at each other actually increased our joy in that moment. If it hadn't happened, it would've been an uneventful filling of the bathtub.
I think many us run from the discomfort of misunderstandings between us way too soon. Too soon for us to know each other's hearts, too soon for us to feel the tension, too soon for us to have the explosion of understanding that would make us intimate allies. That would make us one in Christ.
But if we stayed long enough to become one, then we would have the glorious honor of being an answer to Christ's prayer to his Father recorded for us in John 17 - "Make them one, Father."
I wonder what Christ meant by that? "Make them one"?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Vast and Overwhelming need...

"At the deepest levels of a man's heart, we are all the same. We need life. We need love. We need others. We need real. We need truth. We need Christ. When a man looks into others at these deepest levels, we see ourselves in everyone. Then and only then, we know exactly what they need, and how to call it forth from them. As we create our own platforms for doing so, we position ourselves to love others as God intends." - Yours Truly
There were 11 guys in my basement a week ago Tuesday night.
We gathered as we do each week, looking for truth, friendship, help, challenge, hope, acceptance, and life.
4 of us remember about a year ago, when we were a group of 8 guys looking for the same things together, but finding it hard to stay engaged with each other with so many of us in the basement. We prayerfully cast lots, and made two groups of 4. 
Those 4 were there along with 7 more that have joined us looking for the same thing. The conversation moved as it did about a year ago, all of us speaking of the need to be fewer in number in order for us to stay vulnerably engaged in the fire of each other's lives.
So we committed to pray and come back together last night with our desires and convictions concerning our group splitting up again. We all squeeze our teeth at the perceived "loss" of what we have, but the desire and need for life presses us forward into constant transformation thinking, season of life understanding, and Kingdom growth living.
We assessed ourselves and our situation openly and honestly, and in community: 
* This group of 11 guys includes one brand new guy, and we haven't had time to give him "the floor" because there are so many of us.
* We counted between 10-12 guys who weren't there, but have visited us regularly, and we know they need this kind of brotherhood and fellowship, but they probably feel like 1) they are imposing on us or 2) we can't give them the attention they need because there are so many of us already.
* We listed 8 guys who we know need an invitation to this, but we have been hesitant to invite them to our group because of the size.
* We saw among us 4 guys ready to lead, so long as they go out with at least one other from our group (2 by 2 sounded familiar to us).
These, among other things, convinced us. And after we all shared all week with each other, and then each shared our convictions about "who we want to be with" and "who we want each other to be with" honestly, we fairly effortlessly divided into 3 groups. Ego's weren't hurt, excitement was built, a plan in place, relational commitments to each other restated, and up we came from the basement. As each of the 3 groups spoke informally as we were leaving, they were already talking about the guys they knew they needed to invite into their fellowships. "Wow," I thought, "The need for this kind of Christ-centered fellowship is vast and overwhelming."
This was just trying to happen.
To encourage one another, and to celebrate and share how God is working to advance his Kingdom in our hearts and the hearts of other men, (and maybe also to wean ourselves from each other) we decided that we would all gather back in the basement on the first Tuesday of each month, for the time being, and worship God together. We'll get to meet each other's friends and just let the unity of what we are all doing, trying to become more and more like Christ, living more and more abundantly in the life he's offering, just saturate all of us.
Pray for us. We want more life. And we want more men to have more life so that more families have more life so the more people in the world find the best possible life available to human beings.
Christ's life.

Small Group Leadership Training

"Go and make imitators of me." - Jesus Christ
"Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." - Jesus imitator, Paul
"A group of people are in unity, not when they are in uniform outwardly, but when they are in uniform inwardly." - Yours Truly, Jesus imitator wanna-be
We have a bunch of leaders at the Southwest church (including, but not limited to, the elders and ministers) who have committed to being in or leading a small group of people who meet for the express purpose of  becoming what God intended us to Christ.
If they want to create an atmosphere that is life-giving, then they must:
1) genuinely love God,
2) genuinely love all people,
3) be on the journey of becoming more like Christ themselves, 
4) be willing to help others on the journey of becoming more like Christ.
The truth they have learned, and I from them and among them, is that they can do none of the above without doing all of the above. They've learned this from the Bible, from their experimentation with love, form their regretful experiences in lacking love, from their own hearts, and from one another.
Every group of people, large or small, if they are any kind of group, ends up with an internal vocabulary that communicates much more among them than the actual words themselves. Our group has a list of "elements" that make up what we call an "atmosphere of life". We find that Christ himself created this atmosphere when he walked among us on earth, and we are attempting to create this same atmosphere as we walk the same Christ did...and only with his help.
We have some words, that while we want them to communicate clearly to everyone, communicate in ever-increasing clarity to and among us as we learn to live them out.
This group of leaders is giving this (living out thing) a go, some for the first time, some once again, and some in their continuing efforts. In support of them, and out of great faith in them, and for the sake of the world, I (humbly) offer this list of elements that continue to communicate deeply and meaningfully to us, and hopefully through us.
I love these guys and galls, and am with them in the incredible work of Christ that God has gifted to them.
If they want to create an atmosphere of acceptance, then they must unconditionally accept themselves in all their imperfection and messiness.
If they want to create an atmosphere of teaching, then they must learn all that they can that really matters and then share it freely and constantly.
If they want to create an atmosphere of modeling, then they must do only those things that bring them life.
If they want to create an atmosphere of accompanying, then they must be willing to go with people into their hardest places when it is uncomfortable for them to do so and stay there for an uncomfortable amount of time.
If they want to create an atmosphere of invitation, then they must build a life that is "inconvenience-able".
If they want to create an atmosphere of challenge, then they must tell the absolute truth in absolute love.
If they want to create an atmosphere of remembering, then they must bring all things back to what Christ has done as their reason for everything they do.
If they want to create an atmosphere of celebrating, then they must value any little step towards life, by any one, and be eager to point it out to everyone as such.
If they want to create an atmosphere of freedom, then they must be operating out of their freedom.
If they want to create an atmosphere of guidance, then they must listen to God on behalf of other people.
If they want to create an atmosphere of transcendence, then they must believe that God is afoot in every relationship they are in, that God is showing Himself in every moment and every thing, and that He will be appropriately amazing when we see Him..
It will cost them their lives...and it will give them their life. Life to the full, by the word of Christ. 

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I don't know how many of you watched "Star Trek: the Next Generation," but on that show there was an very sophisticated artificial lifeform, an android name Commander Data. He had a super fast, mega-capacity brain that could take in truckloads of information and process it and analyze it with lightening quick speed and then apply it effortlessly to any given situation that the Starship Enterprise crew found themselves in.
I haven't been able to do that with my trip to Zimbabwe. I'm having to take very small chunks, because it seems that no matter how small it is, I'm able to wring out an infinite amount of valuable information.
The culture was very different over there. The political climate, the assumptions of society, the economic situation, social norms...all very different. But that's not what surprised me most. What surprised me was how much is the same.
An example: I met a man named Edmore. I and the team got quite a bit of time with him during our 4 night stay near Wedza, because he was an employee at Imire Game Park ( and usually served our breakfast and dinner. I really got to know Edmore, and had a few very cool personal and spiritual conversations.
Let me back up by telling you about the Apostolics in Zimbabwe. As we were driving through the capital city of Harare, we would see groups of people in clean white robes either walking along the road, or gathered out in small huddles off the road under a tree or on an outcropping of rocks. When we asked the preachers who they were, they called them "Apostolics". It was explained to us that it is a group that claims Christ, but has the distinction of being polygamists. They are also distinctive, it was explained, because they believe in "prophetic words from God". And, by the way, they wear the white robes because of the description of the saved in the Book of Revelation that says they will all be wearing white robes. So, they figure, hey...let's go ahead and get started! And they meet out in fields under trees, never in church buildings (I'm not sure why...but I like it).
One of my last visits with Edmore included me asking him if he had any kind of church home. He told me he was a part of an Apostolic congregation. I asked him if his group lifted up Christ as the means and point of everything, and if Christlikeness was taught as the goal of humanity and the gift of God, and that the life we have in Christ will last forever. He surprised me by saying yes. I told him what many of my Church of Christ brethren in Zim told me about them, and asked if it was true. He said that the prophetic stuff is true, and that anyone can claim "a word from God" on any point of doctrine or practice, and the result has been many divisions of groups, prophets taking those who agreed with him "to another tree in the field". He said that some of those divisions practice polygamy as a result of this (he used an example of a prophet saying "God gave me a vision that that man should marry those 3 women"). He said there are many sects within the Apostolic church, and gave me the names of a couple, one of which stood against polygamy and another which practiced it. He said that his group was neither, and would better be described as a Christ-centered group.
I told Edmore that the Apostolics sound very much like the Church of Christ in America. That over the years, mere men would claim a "word from God" and then move the group that agreed with him "to another tree" to worship on Sundays. The only difference is that Apostolics claim their particular "word from God" came by the Holy Spirit in a vision, and Church of Christ folks claim that their particular "word from God" came by the Holy Spirit through the Bible. I told him that the church I run around with in Amarillo, TX would better be described as a Christ-centered group, too.
We then shared in humble laughter that most of the divisions of Apostolics in Zimbabwe, and most of the divisions of the Church of Christ in America, would all describe themselves as Christ-centered (just like each of us where doing right there!). Wow. We are all so the same.
Edmore finished our conversation by saying, "I have been thinking about trying to meet with a Church of Christ."
"Why are you considering that?" I asked.
 "You know how you and your team have been preaching Christ? How he needs to take up actual residence in the heat? How he should really be touching our real heart?"
"Yes." I replied.
"Being with your team has touched my heart," Edmore replied.
I told Edmore that that is the only reason I would want him to leave his current group of Christ-followers to meet the groups of Christ-followers that we were running around with. If it would truly help him and his family become more and more like Christ in his life and in his heart.
The next morning, I got up early before we left, and drove Edmore to his humble house where I got to meet his wife and his daughter (he also shares the burden of taking care of his brother's two children due to their parent's death to AIDS). I gave his sweet daughter a little toy that my daughter sent with me to give to some special girl, along with a used jacket and some fruit bars. Her reaction almost brought me to tears.
You see, when you are grateful to someone for something in Zimbabwe, you gently pat your two hands together towards the person you are thanking, almost like applause, only way smaller gestures and gentle enough to make no noise. When you are VERY grateful to someone, you go to your knees and lower your head, and you do the same thing.
So you can see why I about lost it when a used stained jacket, a couple of granola bars, and a McDonalds Happy Meal toy filled this little girl with gratitude enough to go to her knees (you can see it in the attached photo, along with a picture of Edmore and his family).
May God bless this family and help them. May God bless my family and help us. Whether it is by the church group, by the family group, or by the individual man...we are all so the same.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Between Worlds

I am on a plane between Harare, Zimbabwe and London, England.
I am ready to see my wife. I am ready to see my kids. I'm ready to see my church family.
And I miss my new family in Zimbabwe.
There is no way to comprehensively cover the goings-on in my heart from or during the last two weeks of my life. And I have yet to see how they will integrate into and shape my life to come.
Do I want to move to Zimbabwe? Yes. Do I want to take my whole family there with me? Yes. Do I want to stay in Amarillo? Yes. Do I want my whole family there with me? Yes. Do I love the poor and hurting people I have briefly come alongside of in the villages of Africa? Yes. Do I love the poor and hurting people I have briefly come alongside of in the neighborhoods of Amarillo and Houston and Honduras and Guatemala and Australia? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
I have too many "yes's" that I want to give my life to, but only one life to spend and pour out in love for God and love for people. I have too many nations that I love. I have too many individuals that I love. They cry out for my life to be poured out for them, as does my Master and Teacher Jesus Christ, as does my own soul and heart's desire.
Once again, I must turn to the living God, completely undone by the immense hunger and thirst in the world, whether in a land that is profoundly wanting or in a land of illusionary "plenty". Whether it is from the ugliest and most sinful places of my flesh, or from the most noble and selfless places of my heart, it seems I must run to grace to find any peace, joy, comfort, and satisfaction at all.
How busy my heart and mind are right now. I must either drown them out by the distracting and numbing drug of on-flight entertainment, or by mind-clarifying and heart-shaping prayer. The former is easier, the latter is healthier. The former costs nothing, the latter could cost me everything. The former is understandable and excusable and might give me some rest, the latter is inconvenient and scary and might give me life...fuller, truer life. Decisions, decisions.
The question for folks in the state I am in is, "what shall I do?" And the answer can not come quickly, unless God thunders it down unmistakably from Heaven in a loud and clear voice, or it will surely be a logical, compromising, rationalizing, but good and commendable response.
For example, I can not, with integrity, consider not moving to Zimbabwe without, with integrity, consider moving to Zimbabwe.
On what does a follower of Christ base a decisions like these with integrity? The age of his children? The practicality of the decision? The cost financially? Ease of life? Difficulty of life? Whatever would be "harder to do" is no basis for any decision, as if difficulty that has any merit all on it's own, any more than making a decision on what would be easier.
No, I must walk with God daily.
I must be resolved to know God by knowing his son Jesus Christ with the help of the Spirit. And then, in that constantly growing relationship, I should be attentive and listen, longing for the direction of God. And in each moment that I hear Him, I should obey.
There is no other way to experience God. There is no other way to make any decision for the follower of Christ. Christian logic isn't human logic at is obedience. Obedience is the only logic a Christ follower has. And obedience to something demands hearing a command. I guess this is why so many Christians use human logic to make spiritual decisions...they don't listen. They don't even expect God to speak.
For now, I know that God wants my heart to be broken like his heart is broken. He has made that clear to me. He has said as much to me, many times and in many ways, before and during this trip to his nation of Zimbabwe.
That I can do. This I will endeavor with all my energy to obey. 
And while I long to "do more" as a result of my brokenness, I can't. There is too much of it. And I haven't received my assignment yet. I read that a baby duck must stay trapped in it's egg for 28 days exactly for it to be hatched into a fully developed duck that will function and grow as it should. Take it out on day 27 and it will die.
So for today, on this long flight home, between worlds, both of which I love and want to die for in the name of Christ, I sit with my broken heart, allowing it to be broken, even fighting for it to do so, so that it can develop fully into something that will function and grow as it should.
May God help us all.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Off to meet Christ in Zimbabwe

Note: this is the first of two "bookend" emails from my last two weeks which was composed of a journey to the nation of Zimbabwe. I had not the time nor inclination to miss a moment of my experience by writing, and I didn't have email access for my laptop anyway, but I wrote this piece on the way there and the next one (coming shortly) on the way back. To try to describe all things in chance. I love you all for sharing with me in my continued journey towards Christ, and hope to God it plays some useful role in yours. And for all of you who supported me in this through prayer, finances, and taking care of my family while I was gone...I am eternally grateful.
I'm on a plane, sitting between two mighty warriors of God, going with them and 3 others just like them to a foreign land that is thirsty with no water, hungry with no food, oppressed and in need of freedom, desperate and in need of hope.
I don't have enough water, food, clout or money to even touch the needs that I am about to see and touch.
But I'm going anyway.
In a way, I feel like a deceptive swindler. I have been asked to go to Zimbabwe to teach and proclaim Jesus Christ to others. But I know full well in the secret places of my heart that I accepted the assignment in order to have Jesus Christ taught and proclaimed to me. Truly, in a very real and practical way, I believe that I am going to Zimbabwe to do nothing less than see and meet Jesus Christ. 
I know I am going to have my heart broken...and I intend on letting it happen.
I know I am going to learn better what I mean when I preach that "everyone needs hope."
I know I am going to see more clearly what the word "poor" means in a land of little, to come home and see more clearly what the word "poor" means in a land of plenty.
I know I am going to have to leave part of my heart in this new-to-me land...and it will be for "me" much more than it will be for "them".
Ninety-something percent unemployment. Average death age of men is thirty-something. The number of orphans due to aids, sickness, and hunger is staggering. 5000 percent inflation in the last year (the next highest nation was in the 30's, I think).
I called my friend who is from Zimbabwe, and who is running a feeding program for hundreds of those orphans. It costs him his life. He gives every penny he can earn and raise to the single-minded cause of feeding hundreds of kids a small "survival meal" per day. In the winter, he has to use some of that money to get blankets for those kids so that he has kids to feed a survival meal to.
When I first met my friend, it was winter in Zimbabwe, and he told me of the dozens of orphans that crammed into the pews of a church building (where these kids received their daily meal) for a worship service on a Sunday. By the time the service was over and the kids filed out, two of those famished, freezing children fell over on the pews dead. Last night he told me of the news from a family who hung themselves rather than die the slow death of starvation that they have long been on and feel creeping in.
God help me.
God help me believe there is hope for them. God help me believe there is hope for me.
I took my two oldest kids routinely to school this morning with a little more attentiveness to the beauty of my routine - with a particular emphasis on "them". My youngest son and my sweet wife took me to the airport this morning. I was doing okay until the small gathering of friends that came to see us off surrounded us, and one of our shepherds tearfully prayed for us, and then I opened my eyes (I know, I know...I'm not supposed to do that when I pray) and looked down just in time to see a tear from the eye of my wife hit the ground next to my feet as she was loyally and supportively standing beside me.
I am so rich. I met Christ in who I left this morning, and will be meeting Christ in who I meet tomorrow, and on top of that, I am meeting Christ as we speak, in the people I'm traveling with.
I started this piece in Dallas, and I'm in Detroit now, where we will meet one of the additional members of our team, and then will leave for London, where we will meet up with two more members of our team (the veterans), and then we will go to Harare, Zimbabwe.
Pray for me. Pray for us. Pray for them. Pray for you.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Maturing to Demand Nothing

"I have never known the freedom of undemanding love like we are experiencing." - My friend who lost his young son, concerning the love he is receiving from the family of Jesus.
"I am trying to give everything and require nothing." - My friend who is fighting for his fragile marriage and family, and learning how to be a Christ-like husband to his wife and father to his children.
We are so convinced that we need something from someone that we expend incredible amounts of time, energy and effort to get it. Be it through persuasion, manipulation, rallying opinion leaders to our side, throwing fits, hostile takeovers, emotional blackmail or whatever...some do it as second nature and have stopped even noticing it in themselves or others, let alone confronting it in order to consider a better way of life.
Have you ever know the freedom of undemanding love?
Do you know the freedom of giving undemanding love?
After growing up in my particular brand of dysfunctional family (we all have one), I was convinced that I needed my family to change in order to have peace, joy, and contentedness. So I expended incredible amounts of time, energy, and effort thinking about it and trying to get it. I had plenty of other things to do, but underneath was this undone thing that I really thought I needed. It was the day in history when I explosively "felt" the undemanding love of God that I began the journey of letting all that go. Sure enough, not only do I not need my family to change a thing for me to be happy, but I could still care deeply about them changing without ever needing it to happen. Ironically, I think I became the best change agent possible for a human being on the day that I stopped needing anyone in my family to change.
My next challenge was the first cousin of this one, although I couldn't see its relation at all, and would've argued against it, at the time. See, my family's dysfunction brought out the very best of my church family's dysfunction toward us. So while I didn't need anyone to change "for me", I started working for and with my church family to change "for the world". I was convinced that I needed the church to change in order to have peace, joy and contentedness. So I expended incredible amounts of time, energy, and effort thinking about it and trying to get it. I had plenty of other things to do, but underneath was this undone thing that I really thought I needed. It was the day in history when I "saw" that the connection between my "needing my family to change" and "needing my church family to change" was the same tune, different verse. So I applied the same undemanding love that God gave me, and that I gave my family, to the church. Ironically, once I didn't "need" the church to change (and again, it had nothing to do with apathy), I think I became the best change agent possible that a human being can be for the church.
I believe that God sent me a family that "needs fixing" and a church family that "needs fixing" so that he could engage in his beautiful work of fixing me. Not that I'm fixed, or that he is done, but I give Him the glory that I am past the days where I am, as a rule, ignorant of myself when I'm feeling any need from anyone for anything.
Having said that, I want all of you, my friends who read this, to know something.
- I love you just the way you are. I promise to always do so.
- I have no expectation of nor do I need you to change one thing one thing for me to love you and appreciate you in all the beauty that God has placed in you.
- I desire with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength for you to change - in any way that will give you more peace, joy, and "life" - and would do anything for you to be able to do so (except need you to do it).
- I will always look behind your behavior for it's motivation, and will assume that it makes perfect sense - no matter how bizarre or irrational it appears to you or anyone else - once I love you enough to understand you.
- And I will reflect back what I see to you for your (and my) continued healing, whenever, but only if, I feel invited to do so.
This is my loving resolve and commitment to my family (which now includes my own wife and children), to my church family (past, present, and future), and to anyone in the whole world who finds their way into my life (and I into theirs).
And finally, as I finish this piece where I sound so sure of myself and so confident and committed, let me give you this story as an offering of my continued weakness in this realm...
I was at lunch with a friend yesterday. He and I are both leaving next week for trips out of country to love in the name of Christ. He has become one of my favorite people to hang with. He is not from my family or church family, but is one of those "in the whole world" who stumbled into relationship with me, and he has been a very large highlight of my life over the last year. He has ushered me into his relationships, too. I have been blessed to meet his mother, step-father, his son from a past life, his office, his friends. We both think way more highly of the other than either of us think of ourselves, and in relationships like that, you can demand from each other without being demanding.
I was feeling quite lively yesterday as we talked, and as I was "reflecting back to him" what I was hearing him say in a somewhat comical and condemning fashion, and we shared in the laughter that comes from honesty, truth, being uncensored, and having total acceptance and undemanding love for one another (in other words, "brotherhood"), I said, "It's hard to be friends with me sometimes, isn't it?"
Looking back on that quick, spur-of-the-moment question, I think I was feeling a little insecure. I think I was still "needing him to be okay with me" the way I am (the way I described in those 5 points of resolve listed above). I would hate for anyone to feel like it's hard to be friends with me. But to demand that everyone (or anyone, for that matter) say that it's not hard to be friends with me would not be the undemanding love that I myself am so desperate for, and am doing my best to offer to the world.
Shew! It's a life-long journey, isn't it? And I praise God that there is always more ground to take, and that He intends on taking it, without needing me to.