Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Only the Details Have Changed...Have I?

A woman celebrating 24-years drug-free stood up at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting that I was attending with a very good friend of mine (who was himself celebrating a courageous 90-days of life drug-free).


She shared that she started using chemical substances when she was 15, and had walked into the life-rescuing doors of NA when she was 21. And it had hit her that morning...she has been sober 4 times as long as she was a user. Cool birthday, huh?


But what cut me to the heart, causing my own self-examination, was what she shared next.


She said, "I was thinking about how screwed up I was when I walked in these doors 24 years ago. And tonight, all I can think about is how screwed up I still am now. Don't get me wrong, the message we live works (if you work the message), but what I am opening up to in this realization is that I don't have a drug problem (he who has ears, let him hear), I have a living problem."


She said some more stuff, but I was drifting off on the truth of this for me. Wow, me too. I have a living problem.


This all came to mind today because I opened up my journal archives and found this little piece below from about this time 4-years ago in 2004. I'm sad to say that I'm still a novice at the inner life. And I'm sad to say that while I have taken some ground on the list of outward things that were a distraction then then, I've replaced them with what I consider in some ways to be an even "shallower" list now.  


I want to eat what I want to eat, with no adverse consequences.

I want to change the world by doing what I'm doing, with no major changes.

I want to rest when I'm tired, with no exceptions.

I want to exercise if I feel like it, and still progress physically.

I want to have oneness with God, and I want it to come effortlessly.

I want my wife and kids to think I'm the greatest, whether I am or not.

I want intimate, mutually transforming friendships, and I want them to conveniently fit into my routine. 


I'm still a novice at the inner life, which I must admit that even the dabbling that I have done in it has produced the greatest treasures and advancements of my life. But when I look at how focused on external things I was then, and how much I'm focused on external things now...I realize...right along with my sister at the NA meeting...


I have a living problem.


I love you all. And most of you know me enough to know that what was true then is still true now...and paradoxical and difficult as this living in two worlds is...I love this.


Here's the piece from 2004...



 “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” – King David


“Spiritual people can quickly withdraw inwardly because they never totally give themselves over to outward things.” – Thomas a’ Kempis


“People are hindered and distracted in proportion to how much they involve themselves in external matters.” – Thomas a’ Kempis


“In my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body.”St. Paul


“With people, there is the way things really are, and there is the way things are said or seem to be, and they rarely match. Some understand this reality in themselves enough to notice the difference between the two in others.” – Yours Truly


“Your beauty should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.”St. Peter


I am a novice at the inner life. I am still too focused on sharing what I find there immediately with those around me to stay there long enough to enjoy its treasures simply for myself and my God. I am still given over to outward things. Namely…


I want to be respected by people I respect.

I want to be trusted by people I love.

I want to be physically comfortable.

I want to be emotionally comfortable.

I want to be a doer.

I want to see results of my effort with my eyes.

I want to make an eternal difference in people.


All of these things take effort. Outward effort. And frankly, they are easier treasures to get than the inward ones.


What is your list? What are the outward things that are so worthwhile that you see the inward life as something that is “impractical” or “only meant for a few”?


I’m a novice at the inner life, like I said, and while I’m drawn to it these days, I’m scared of what it will cost. My extroversion? My energy? My playfulness? My people skills? These are fears that keep me from getting before God every day. My flesh says that the inner life is boring, no fun, stoic, and reclusive behavior. But my spirit jumps to life when I “go there”, has fun, is fully engaged, and breaths new life and love into my relationships “out here”.


We’re stuck between two worlds in this life, aren’t we? I love this.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Semper Fi

"I've started realizing that boot camp is about challenging you beyond where you've ever been challenged, in every aspect, and instilling in you the drive to push through it." - my friend Kevin Parish, in a letter he wrote to me from his training to be a United States Marine
"So far, I've been more tired, more sore, more frustrated than I think I ever have been, but I'm starting to feel like there's not much they could throw at us that I couldn't handle. It's pretty amazing." - My friend Kevin...a little bit later in the same letter
Kevin has been a special gift to me from God since I met him when he was in elementary school. He continues to be one to me now.
He speaks of and understands boot camp as I desire to speak of and understand life.
I feel like life is about challenging us beyond where we've ever been challenged, and that generally speaking, there are two kinds of people: the kind that do all that they can to avoid such tiring, soreness-producing, frustrating circumstances and those that embrace the circumstances and if they are wise, learn to love the challenges to the point of even being eager for them...signing up for them when given the opportunity.
If someone can embrace life on these terms (as a challenge to shape and mature them), then they avoid suffering far more effectively than those who actually make the avoidance of suffering (their comfort) their goal.
It's so ironic. 
Kevin did that, in a way, by signing up for the Marines. He chose suffering. Sure didn't have to. He has a college degree, is very gifted and intelligent, has a loving mom and dad that care about him deeply, and resources, relationships and talents that give him many options. But he chose the Marines, with eyes wide open, for exactly what he is getting...circumstances that challenge him to mature, be shaped, and grow.
I agree with him. It's pretty amazing. 
He told me there are 11 Leadership Principles that drive the U.S. Marines training philosophy:
1. Be technically and tactically sound.
2. Know yourself and seek self-improvement
3. Know your Marines and look out for their welfare.
4. Keep your Marines informed.
5. Set the example.
6. Insure that the task is understood, supervised, and accomplished.
7. Train your Marines as a team.
8. Make sound and timely decisions.
9. Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates.
10. Employ your command in accordance with its capabilities.
11. Take responsibility for your actions.
These principles are nothing but a list of principles for the casual reader of them. But to Marines, who have chosen to be trained in the fire of these principles, they run very deep. They are actually adjusting their lives, feelings, motivations, intentions, and perspective on everything in order to  conform to them.
As I read through them, I realized I could probably find a Bible verse, if not an actual teaching of Jesus himself, that pretty much embodies each principle. Those verses are nothing but a list of verses for the casual reader of them. But to Christ-followers, who chosen to be trained in the fire of Christ's values, the run very deep. They actually adjusting their lives, feelings, motivations, intentions, and perspective on everything in order to conform to him.
Semper Fi means "always faithful". It's a mantra of the Marines.
I'm not a Marine. But I'm one with the intensity of the Marines for their values and to their values. My values come from Christ...and I'm striving, also, to be always faithful.
Semper Fi.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Are they Christian's or not?

"Pakistan and India have spent so much time disputing their borders in Kashmir that they don't have the wherewithal to learn how to operate as neighbors. If they would learn to operate as neighbors, they would have the relationship with which to resolve the disputed borders." - Yours truly, after reading an article in Time magazine yesterday on the issue
"Love your neighbor as yourself." - Jesus, when summarizing the point of all of God's laws
"Who is my neighbor?" - a listener of Jesus, asking the fair and obvious next question.
"Everyone." - My summary of Jesus' answer to that listener
If a group of people in Zimbabwe are feeding the widows and orphans of their nation, preaching the name of Jesus Christ, and then bowing down to Allah 5 times a day in the direction of Mecca for prayer...are they Christian's or not?
If a group of people in Nepal are giving to the poor and needy, living and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and hanging up prayer flags daily to pray to the Hindu god Shiva...are they Christian's or not?
If a group of people in China are spreading the message of Jesus Christ house to house, depending on God in prayer, but do not sing songs to God in their worship gatherings...are they Christian's or not?
If a group of people in Egypt live perfectly moral and upright lives, and do everything they can find in the Bible what the first century church did during their worship gatherings, and are careful to do nothing more or less, and do so faithfully, but never speak of Jesus Christ to anyone but each other...are they Christian's or not?
If a group of people in Amarillo meet weekly in order to share each other's stories for purpose of knowing one another deeply enough to take off the masks and help each other become more like Christ, but they never sing at their gatherings, take the Lord's supper, and sometimes they don't even pray...are they Christian's or not?
"Who is my brother?" is one of the titles of a book written by a wonderful man in the fellowship of Churches that I call home. The title articulates a question that has dominated the minds of my "tribe" of Christ followers (and others as well) for many, many decades. It seems to me that we have "disputed our borders" with such zeal and commitment that we have an undeveloped (at least underdeveloped) capacity for being neighbors.
I'm totally done with that, in all honesty. Maybe a better way to say it, I'm free from all that. 
I call all human beings my brothers and sisters. I spend zero time trying to treat anyone as anything other than family (yes, in Christ). Every human I meet is at a remarkably different level of awareness about our oneness in Christ, and this affects greatly how they live, how they respond to my love and acceptance, and what the parameters of our relationship ends up looking like practically in the day to day.
I love them all the way I want to be loved. Looking for the good and true in them, finding our common ground there (no matter how small or hidden, it is there), enjoying the fellowship that comes from that, and then letting our differences be explored by each other as we live and pursue life to the full.  
The questions "Are they Christian's or not" or "Who is my brother?" -- questions that have been the subject of countless debates, tens of thousands of hours of back-breaking Bible study, the source of an embarrassingly large amount of disunity and division among well-intentioned Christ followers -- as it turns out, are questions whose answers are COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY TO KNOW and USELESS in following Christ, in sharing Christ, and in ushering in the Kingdom of Christ.
Who knew?  
We can debate this all we want (and I have within me more zealously than I ever with another human being), but I have lived both lives. And I can tell you this - the life I lived that thought it necessary to distinguish between "Christian or not" left me in the company of Christians debating it. The life I now live in which I spend zero time figuring that out, and all my time loving all people as brothers and sisters in Christ, leaves me meeting lost people (in and outside the church) who are VOLUNTEERING to learn the message of Christ. Seriously, there are some weeks that I meet a new a person who is looking for life every day. I'm not exaggerating.
And I'll tell ya...the Bible's message starts really jumping out at me when I live this way. It is humbling. It is lively. It is the good fight. It is grace.
So, my call of the day to the world of Christians - bypass all unnecessary questions and ask the one that will put you in alignment with the God of the Universe, who's agenda is to break into the this world of people and rescue their hearts from darkness (which is very real) and bring them into light (which is also very real) - ask the question, "Who am I to love as a brother today?"

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Social Praying vs. Social Drinking

Author's Note: I'm doing a sermon series on Sunday's about prayer. This week, I'm going to be talking about Jesus' claim concerning praying with other people, or in other words "social prayer". The term made me think of "social drinking", and then the following was what came out of me for a bulletin article. But I decided that it sounded too much like an article about drinking than prayer, so instead of just deleting it, I decided to send it to you for your consideration and feedback. Enjoy.


Eph 5:18 – “Do not use wine for something that the Spirit of God can do better.” – Paul, in Ephesians 5:18 (BRV – Brian’s Revised Version)


You've heard of the term “social drinking”? It’s a word that is used, mostly by Christians (to distinguish themselves in their use of alcohol from those who use it to get drunk), but also by alcoholics (to discuss their own capacity or incapacity to be around people who drink without taking one themselves). Drunkenness is prohibited specifically by the writers of scripture, and therefore, so the thinking goes, is prohibited in the lives of Christians. Drinking socially, however, is not specifically condemned (and is even exemplified in scripture) and therefore is considered “permissible.”


I wouldn't argue with that. Technically speaking.


But Andrew Murray observes that “So many Christians imagine that everything that is not positively forbidden and sinful is permissible to them. So they try to retain as much as possible of this world with its property and enjoyments. The truly consecrated soul, however, is like a soldier who carries only what is needed for battle.”


Oddly enough, while so many Christians defend their right to indulge in (moderately, of course) this world's “property and enjoyments” freely, boldly protecting (if not promoting) their right to do so, they oftentimes take issue with the suggestion that they should freely take Heaven’s “property and enjoyments” and expand them, too, into all arenas of life.


Social prayer is one of those things. It is amazing to me how many Christ followers are self-conscious, some to the point of thinking themselves incapable, about praying together. They’ve deemed their prayer life a private thing, which is true, but it is not the whole truth. So, the irony that some Christians practice social drinking in front of the world feeling as if it is faithfulness to Christ will not practice social prayer, even with their spouses, let alone with fellow believers, and yet still feel faithful to Christ.


I’m not trying to say that social drinking “is a sin” as much as I am saying it is an entanglement with the worldly way of life that many Christians are uncomfortably bold about. Additionally, I’m not even trying to say anything about social drinking as much as I am trying to promote social praying.


Why? Because Jesus gave a special promise for the united prayer of two or three who agree in what they ask. He said, “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in My name, there am I with them.”


Oh, that Christians would be more prone to deem their drinking the private thing, rather than something to fellowship around with other believers, and then move prayer to the status of a social thing around which they enjoy their time together.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

How I Vote

I asked my son Jakin (5 years old) today at the Bread Shop if he knew who he wanted to be president, as we ate our slices of cinnamon chip bread with butter and honey. He said confidently that he did. I asked him who? He answered....
"John Bush."
I laughed out loud. Partly because my five year old boy has a strong political opinion, with conviction in his voice. Partly because if reporters had been there to record it, I could imagine the Democrats making a political commercial that said, "See...even a 5 year old boy knows that a vote for John McCain is a vote for 4 more years of Bush!" And I could see the Republicans making one that said, "See...he's already half-way towards the right decision at only 5 year old!"
I don't usually vote. I pray, which I believe is a far more powerful influence on the outcome of the election than my vote, and it also allows for my 1) humility to be exerted in not knowing who would be better for Christ's Kingdom to be advanced, 2) laziness in being a tad uninformed about the men and issues and relative importance of each concerning my freedom to live for Christ day in and day out, and 3) passionate desire to care deeply about my country and direction it goes, without arrogantly asserting that I should know.
Many decry my morality in not voting. "What would happen if every Christian had your attitude, and didn't vote?" I got asked this year. My answer? "If every Christian skipped voting, and prayed to God with as much activism and zeal as many do with their political activism, what I think would happen is that we would change the world for Christ with more vigor and effectiveness than any US election every could." 
In Ed Fudge's excellent grace mail on the subject (copied below), he articulates well much of how I feel. He votes. I don't. Another example of people having deep philosophical agreement that results in different outcomes. But for what it is worth, "My name is Brian Mashburn and I approve this message."
>>>From Edward Fudge on 11-2-08:
"This Tuesday, November 4, 2008, millions of Americans will go to the polls and register their choices for President and Vice-President. For the first time ever, voters will choose between two sitting U.S. Senators for President, neither of whom was born within the continental United States. A number of gracEmail subscribers have asked my political opinions; others have kindly sent me theirs. And several, from both ends of the political spectrum, are so confident of God's will that there is nothing left to discuss.

Today, most Christians in the USA consider voting to be a moral duty, unaware that notable believers from Tertullian (2nd century) to David Lipscomb (20th century) have taught that Christians ought to have no part in earthly government whatsoever. My own father held that view, which I respect but do not share. On the other hand, my father's father, an Alabama sharecropper, was almost a Yellow Dog Democrat (one who would vote for a yellow dog if it ran on the Democratic ticket). Almost -- but not quite. In 1928, faced with the choice between presidential candidates Herbert Hoover (Republican) and Al Smith (Democrat, but also Roman Catholic), his other prejudices prevailed and he stayed home altogether.

As this Election Day approaches, room does remain for careful thought. We had as well acknowledge it -- millions of intelligent, conscientious Christians throughout the United States will pray for divine wisdom this Tuesday, search their hearts for God's will, then mark their ballots in opposing columns. These thoughtful believers all understand the need to make judgments informed by scriptural principles. The fact is that when they read the Bible, different things stand out. No political party or candidate measures up to all of God's standards. Every political option is less than perfect. Because believers prioritize differently those biblical principles they share in common, and because they relegate biblical duties differently as between the individual and the state, whenever these believers attempt to discuss specifics, they usually talk past each other.

But there are some matters on which we can all agree. God rules the world, and -- whether through our vote or in spite of it -- governments rise and fall as he ordains (Dan. 4:32; Rom. 13:1-2). Regardless of our political opinions, as believers we are commanded to pay our taxes, to render honor to those holding office (Rom. 13:6-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17) and to pray for all those in authority (1 Tim. 2:1-4). It is wrong to speak evil of rulers (2 Peter 2:9-10). Any nation that fears the Lord will reap blessing, and any country that ignores or defies God will pay a price (Prov. 14:34; Psalm 2:1-12; Rev. 18:1-24). And, when all is said and done, our citizenship is in heaven -- wherever and whenever we happen to live on this earth (Phil. 3:20-21; Acts 17:24-27).

Copyright 2008 by Edward Fudge. This gracEmail may be reproduced or remailed without further permission but only in its entirety, without change and without financial charge. Visit our website here or go to<<<


Friday, October 31, 2008


"You pray for me, then I'll pray for you, you pray for me, then I'll pray for you." - My son Jakin, to his buddy, pretty much laying out the greatest plan for friendship and brotherhood that I've ever heard.
This last Tuesday night, a group of about 35 guys, representing at least 7 different men's groups, gathered in my basement to celebrate, remember, re-connect with, and be inspired by Christ. It was a great time. We sang, shared, ate, confessed, laughed and prayed together. The connections we made to each other, to God, and to what we are about still has me on cloud nine.
And what we are about is this: we meet together with a few other men in order to take the masks off and help each other become more like Christ. It is a fellowship of fearless friendships.
My youngest son Jakin (5) was hangin' around Tuesday afternoon while I was arranging the basement with some simple chairs, and when I set out a small table with some loaves of bread and drink. I didn't think he was paying much attention.
But the next day, my wife called me from the house. where she was hangin' with Jakin and one of his best buddies, Jake. She called to inform me that the two boys were downstairs in the basement. My son Jakin had come in with Jake and asked for chunks of the leftover bread from the night before and for "two cups of juice". Then Carrie asked what he wanted them for...
My little boy informed her that he and Jake were he headed down to the basement to pray.
While Carrie prepared their sacred meal, Jakin laid out the plan to Jake. "Okay, when we get down there, you pray for me, I'll pray for you, then you pray for me, and I'll pray for you."
And they did.
After Jake got picked up by his mom, Carrie asked Jakin what they prayed for. He told her, "Jake thanked God that I was his friend, I prayed for Jake, and the bread and for God's blessing. And for none of to get sick. Then we played."
That's pretty much what I do in the basement with my buddies on Tuesday nights, too.
Thattaboy, Jakin. Thattaboy, Jake.
One of my buddies from Tuesday nights, Shane, brought his teenage son with him for the first time this past Tuesday. He told me that while he and his son Eastland were leaving, his youngest son Baylor (also 5) asked if he could come. Shane let him down gently, but Baylor, of course, persisted. So Shane told him, "you can do your own group, Baylor." Baylor, who calls it "man-group", hasn't stopped talking about it ever since. He started listing his 5-year-old band of brothers that he would invite right away (and I was so happy to hear that Jakin was on his list).
Thattaboy, Baylor.
I told Jakin that he needed to call up Baylor and invite him into his man-group with he and Jake, and Jakin said, "Okay. Actuwawey, tell Baylor he can come over and meet with us every day."
Thattaboy, Jakin.
Eastland, Shane's oldest son, as they were going home started talking about what they just experienced, and Eastland said that a group of Christian brothers that he had just started meeting with the week before could possibly be his version of what his dad had.
Thattaboy, Eastland.
Wow. What I wouldn't have done to have been a part of the kind of real fellowship, brotherhood, and the mutual fighting for each other's hearts that I am a part of now way back when I was their age. Of course, I didn't know what I didn't know back then.
But I know now. I know now that "church" is made up of people in real relationship with each other prompted by their mutual pursuit of actually shaping their lives to look more like Christ's.
I know now that "church fellowship" is the kind of deep, penetrating friendships that goes down below the surface of things to the "things behind the things"...down to the very heart...where the realm of the Kingdom of God resides.
I know now that "church service" is what I offer to people when I offer them my life for the purpose of helping them become more like Christ in theirs.
And, please God, let me and my brothers be teaching our kids how to live these things early.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Making it happen" vs. "Letting it happen"

"As soon as you trust yourself - deeply and truly, based on humility, not pride - you will know how to live."Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 
"Am I going to die?" - My son, Shade, in the midst of a new, painful, and uncomfortable experience driving to the E.R. after falling and hitting his head
"There are many, many days when my work is simply to accept, bear, and endure all things, while continuing to believe (in Him) and hope (for another), no matter what - days when nothing seems to have a place, point, or purpose, when all around me seem desperately lost and screaming, either giving up or lashing out." - Jim Spivey
"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." - 1 Corinthians 13:7
One of the epic struggles of my life has been between the "make it happen" vs.. the "let it happen" approaches to things.
Having been a card-carrying member of the former, and having been totally taken out by it, I had to (painfully) let it go. It was stealing life from me.
And now being totally sold out to the the latter, and learning every day a little bit more of what that means, I'm so grateful to God...
* For Christ's example of it.
* For how much simpler it is.
* For how much more effective it is.
* For how it gives me something to die for that matters.
* That in my dying, I find the life I was always trying to "make happen".
Some think that a "letting it happen" lifestyle means to been apathetic, when it actually means humbly caring with your whole person without the need to control.
Some think that a "letting it happen" lifestyle means to be a lazy do-nothing, when it actually means "being with" the pain of the world as it happens every day without need to escape it.
Some think that a "letting it happen" lifestyle means running from responsibility, when it actually means to take full responsibility for "staying in the pain of yourself and others" with nothing to lean on or offer but hope.
Some think that a "letting it happen" lifestyle means being an inappropriately passive human being that ends up as a doormat of sorts, useless in fighting for or defending (personal or global) justice, when it actually means to lay down the sword of "forcing" things "because it's right" and picking up the much weightier, more powerful sword of "winning" people "because of love".
We all lack imagination enough to distinguish between the two, and it has been my constant call to sit in this space with people while we figure it out together. And I'm totally clear that it is much more "for me, from God" than it is "for others, from me". 
How many times and how many people, after "hitting their heads", totally disoriented by the new and uncomfortable experience they are encountering, ask some form of the question that my son asked on the way to the hospital, "Am I going to die?"
"No, buddy. Your not going to die," I told him in the car, selfishly grateful that it was true.
His job in that car was to just "let it happen" - the pain, the disorientation, the dependence on others, and ultimately, the care, the healing, the restoration, and total awareness of the lessons that come from the experience. 
It takes a profound humility to "let things happen" bear with, endure, hope and believe all things...and to not let fear for our lives keep us from it. It's costs us everything, and the price is so worth it.
It's not what he needed to hear at the time, but I can hear the echo of a line from my favorite movie of all time, Braveheart, as I write this email, when William Wallace says, "All men die. Not all men truly live."
And Jesus, right behind that, saying, "Whoever loses his life will find it."
I love you.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Giving Away the Best Possible Life

“What would you like me to do for you, son?” – The question God asked me this weekend.

“Make me a powerful multiplier of groups who live Christ’s life together.” – What I want God to do for me.

I have a life that I want others to have.

I don’t mean that I think I have “arrived” at some pinnacle of perfection.

I don’t mean that I want others to do what I am externally doing with my life.

I don’t mean that my life is easy. Or without temptation. Or absent of difficulty.

But I have a life that I want others to have.

It is deep in my heart, and I long for others to experience it. It can (inadequately) be described as a peacefully intense love for God and an intensely peaceful love for people. It is so much more than that, but words escape me.

It’s an ironic life, too. Because it allows for my imperfections, for me to be an unfinished man, without my using them as an excuse to do nothing, or feel hopeless, unworthy or unqualified. Since it is primarily inward, it provides an experience of joy no matter what I choose to do externally with my life. And best of all, it provides a peace (that passes understanding, maybe?) no matter what temptations or difficulties come my way.

It is a life of love.

And I love this life.

And I want it for every other human being on the planet.

And I labor to give it away daily. It costs me everything, and it pays me back in everything that matters.

It gives me a deeply personal relationship with God that, even when I exert all the energy of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, its riches are not depleted. What’s more, it gives me deeply personal relationships with people around me who I would die for and who would die for me (Jesus says there is no love greater than this…no wonder it is so satisfying). Better yet, I have people that I would live for and who would live for me (which is really what Paul means by “dying daily”).

I can safely say that know people, and I am fully known.

The freedom and security in such depth of relationship, both with God and with people, is staggering.

And I want it for everyone.

I live for God and with God. And I live for people and with people.

I am daily being impacted for good and daily making an impact for good.

It is quite simply, in my humble opinion, the best possible life.

It is the life of Christ.

And I shamelessly want to be a powerful multiplier of fellowships who live it, are learning to live it better, and giving it away to others.

For a long time I’ve asked God “how?” How do I best pass this way of life on to the multitudes that need it?

But when Jesus asked me this what I wanted from him, I didn’t ask how. I just asked him to do it.

So I’m listening and working for this, and full of faith that it will happen...and excited to see what happens.

When I came home Sunday night, my kids were sleeping soundly, and my wife was in the living room with her intimate sisterhood…girls who are becoming more like Christ together. She greeted me sweetly and with a very knowing look told me a brief story about how my oldest son (8 years old) decided to pick up a piece of paper and write down a bunch of his favorite things. She handed this too me…

Of course, my face beamed at the whole thing, but my heart gently leapt inside my chest when I read the bottom about his hero. It was a mixture of deep satisfaction and hope, but also of sobering responsibility and fear.

My wife then said, “After he wrote that and was going to bed, he said, ‘I want to write one more thing, then I’ll go to bed, I promise.’ You have to go check it out…he left it on the desk next to his bed.”

Excited, I made my way to his dimly lit bedroom where he was peacefully sleeping, and I grabbed the little slip of paper he left under his pencil on his little desk. I choked up as I read…

“The life,” he said. Not life…but “the life”.

Now I know he’s 8. There will be a season, if not longer, where he won’t feel this way. Not looking forward to it, but eager to persevere through it and learn from it. But for now, in the quiet of my son-turning-young-man, I fall on my knees in gratitude and hope that Carrie and I live “the life” in a way that this note captures my kids’ hearts now and when they are old…come what may.

I prayed… “Please, Father, let this be so…in my wife and kids first, and then through our family to the world…show me how to stay in, teach, and multiply “the life.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Sacred Weekend

I'm sitting in an airport just a few hours away from my reunion with my family, and just a few hours removed from finishing a weekend retreat with about 100 students from Pepperdine University.


It was a great weekend for me personally for at least a half dozen reasons:


  • They wanted me to share about following Jesus - pretty much the only thing I feel passionate enough to talk about
  • This is my first "speaking engagement" in a long time, and I re-engaged my old ego-based demons associated with that - quite the humbling experience
  • I got to engage in toil side-by-side with a sister-in-arms that I really respect, who has honored and encouraged me by being attentive to my life-long journey - and I got to see and participate in a work she is dying for daily.
  • I got to meet another capable, gifted, and loving couple who has joined her in the work there - and I instantly loved them both deeply.
  • I experienced a very loving, global-minded, receptive, transforming group of college-age students who are eager to "figure it out" in their own hearts while also looking for ways to "change the world" for it’s good.
  • I got to bond personally with a few of these folks, and experienced the powder-keg of energy and desire that resides deep in this generation - and it made me want to connect with, learn from, guide, and make room for them to "do their thing"...because when they do, watch out! It will be very, very different, and very, very good...more like Christ.


I'm still trying to explain to myself what I witnessed in these "kids" this weekend. In one respect, it was just a typical college-age, Christian weekend retreat...complete with beautiful hills and trees, mess hall, swimming pool, football field, and boys and girls cabins (and Fabio (yes, I said Fabio), the cook, and his crew provided very acceptable food).


But as I talked about Jesus, about his heart and desire for them, about his sacred calling for their lives, his sacred motive of love, his sacred strategy for changing the world through relationships...I saw a common desire lighting up behind their eyes.


A desire for a better life. A better way of life. A better way of "doing Christianity".


And while I was very encouraged, and excited...I think more than anything, I was affirmed. I was validated. Does that make sense? As I said, I'm still figuring it out, but I confess that sometimes I think that I'm crazy. Seriously. I walk around wondering if I am the only one feeling the way I am feeling. 


But this weekend, I was clearly presented with evidence that I am not.


I was very blessed this weekend by this group, and they were very gracious to let me share about my life and passion, about Jesus Christ and his life, and how he wants to use us to change the world globally by loving very deeply, personally, and "transformingly" locally. Just like Christ (who changed the world globally having never travelled more than, what, a hundred or so miles locally).


I shared about a God that I am very excited about, but I do that all the time, and I'm just insecure enough to think that maybe no one wants to hear, or no one needs this God like I do, or no one understands just how incredible great the life He offers is.


One of the students had set up an "e-card" station -- full of paper, paint, colors, markers -- for everyone to sit down and create an "encouragement card" for each other. A beautiful heart named Abby told me she would make me one (after I complained out loud that I was feeling left out), and she made a "crayon card"...and on the inside she wrote:





I sure would never have thought to put it that way, but that is exactly how I feel...I know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but He's also new every morning, and so whenever I find something new about God (or rediscover something old), through Christ, I feel like the kid with a new box of perfect crayons and I want to share him, and my excitement about him, with EVERYONE so they can see how awesome He is!


As it turns out, Jesus let me feel him again, through these young and energetic and "open to life" students, many of whom are hungry for guides and mentors who will be open to them and their vision for a new world, and will join them in forging it.


I would be honored to be one, and I hope I have something to offer them, but I sure know that they have a whole lot to offer me.


Across the generations, across the nation, let us all join Christ on his sacred mission of changing the world...starting with ourselves.



Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Silence and Solitude

(I have been home from this time of silence and solitude for weeks, but am only just now posting it. Sorry for the timeline confusion.)
"Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." - Genesis 1:2
I am two weeks into my annual 3-week sabbatical from my regular duties and routines that I perform on behalf of the Southwest Church of Christ.
This is my fourth one of these. It was given to me by the good and gracious people of the Southwest Church of Christ, who enable and support me in my attempt to live the life of Christ in their world here in Amarillo.
Each year, I have included within these three weeks, among other things, 3 days with a mentor of mine, 3 days with my kids (one full 24 hour period exclusively with each one), and 3 days of silence and solitude.
I began my silence and solitude today.
Of all the things I do, I most look forward to this. But I also find it the most difficult.
I look forward to it, I think, because my intention is to have nothing to do but be with God. It is a romantic thought, to be sure, and one I can't let go of. I long to be with God (although sometimes I have to settle for longing to long to be with God), and retreating "away from it all" with the intent to be with Him just feels right. Also, it always seems to be costly and inconvenient for me and those around me, enough so for me to be tempted to see it as an impractical luxury. It's almost like something is opposing my practice of it every year, which anyone who knows me knows that that just makes me want to fight for it all the more.
But the biggest reason I'm so attached to it is because of Jesus. He did it.
After Herod beheaded Jesus' cousin John, Matt 14:13 says that "when Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place."

After a full day of ministry and the people were coming and the demand for Jesus was growing, it says in Mark 1:35 that "very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed."

From the beginning of his ministry to the end, he modeled this for me. There is the 40 days of solitude and prayer that Jesus had after his ministry-initiating baptism, and there was his desperate, night-time retreat into the Garden of Gethsemane for a some intense solo time with God at the end of his ministry.
And even if I didn't have all the examples, I have Dr. Luke's summary observation in Luke 5:16 - "Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed."
When I'm at my best, I'm retreating often, too, to lonely places and praying. At my best, I go out to the Palo Duro Canyon weekly for extended time with God, in addition to regular "retreats" into myself wherever I am in my busy day, finding that lonely spot where I am most aware of God.
But this annual 3 day event always tests me. What do I do? What part should the Bible play? Should I study? Should I read? Should I sit in the lotus position all day and meditate? Should I fast? Should I organize each day with a theme? Should I spend the time interceding for people? For my family? For the church I serve? For the lost?
Each year, regardless of my plan, it seems I spend much of my time trying to NOT do things, more than figuring out what I'm going to do.
So today, I spent hours just sitting on a bridge, by a lake, in the rain (it's a covered bridge), surrounded by incredible landscapes of threatening clouds and rumbling 10-second long surround-sound thunder...calling my thoughts away from my regular distractions, calling my body not just do something, but stand there. 
It was way hard. I've taken a special interest in prayer, and feel like I've prayed a lot in my life, but I still found myself uttering the words, with very real humility and confusion, "Jesus, teach me to pray." I found myself agreeing with something I read once, "when it comes to prayer, we are all still beginners."
I prayed the Lord's Prayer, sort of empty, hoping for some magic to pop out of them. I did several other things as I was straining to hear God's direction for me, and as uneventful as it was, I just feel good and like I'm where I'm supposed to be.
So, this first half day is pretty typical of what I've experienced each year doing could be described quite accurately as "formless" and "void". Which took me right back to the beginning, to the quote from Genesis above...and it struck me! Both the "darkness" and the "Spirit of God" were present there over the formless and void earth.
So I'm right where I need to be...getting out of "planning" and "thinking" and "git-er-done" addictions and just being in the darkness of the void of activity that I'm here to practice, expecting once again for the Spirit of God to be there.
Dear Father:
Flare up my love for You, O God.
Ruin my life.
I have built a life of loving others in Your Name,
And would trade it all for oneness with You.
I love You more than I love my work for You,
but, oh, how I love to work for You.
Where I am too comfortable, disrupt me.
Where I am ignoring You, hurt me.
Get my attention, once again.
Mold me into the image of Your son, Jesus Christ.
Let your Kingdom come and will be done,
Here in me as it is in Heaven.
Let me live in the present alone, O God.
Save me from my past! From my future!
Only let me be still and know You are God.
That is enough for me.
Enjoy me, O God, the creation of Your hands!
And open my eyes to be aware of your delight,
That is enough for me.
Here I am, I am Yours.
Examine me and find every offensive way.
Help me not run from your refining fire.
Help me not run to the noise of the Olympics,
Or the hiding place of helping others in their needs,
Or the avoidance tactic of "doing your work."
Help me not run to the priority of "family" if it is taking me from You.
Give me the nothingness, the emptiness, the darkness
That so many of the prayer master's write about.
Give me the unlearning that I need,
The detachment from the slavery of needing to please men, or myself.
Give me total apathy for the politics and ways of this world,
enough for me to be Yours alone.
And then, Jesus, make me useful in this world,
For Your Fame, my joy, and Your son's glory.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Coming Down - Mountain Chronicles V

"God was very good to put the 'going down' part of mountain climbing trips at the end." - Your truly, while coming down the mountain
"What are you, O mighty mountain? Before [God's man] you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of 'God bless it! God bless it!'" - Zach 4:7
We woke up to our last morning on the mountain. Before us was the task of packing everything once again on our backs, hiking down the 6.5 miles that we hiked up, and doing so with the deadline of when the Durango-Silverton train would arrive at Needleton.  
There was much excitement stirring in us. We had a lot to come down for. Among them:
* Four ice-cold cans of Dr. Pepper than we hid near the train stop in the chilly waters of Needle Creek,
* The comfort of an "indoor" experience on the train.
* The concession car.
* Accessibility to a toilet.
* Hearing the voices of our families once in cell phone range.
* A car that carries us up-hills with the mere push of a pedal.
* A hotel hot-tub.
* A warm shower in the hotel.
* A feast of non-freeze dried food we would celebrate over that evening.
* A bed in a climate-controlled room complete with a pillows, lights, sheets, blankets and a TV.
It's amazing how those things that I take for granted all of the time, most of which I don't really need, become such motivators when I've been deprived of them for just a short time.
But more than anything, the most immediate and inward reward for me would come from what awaited us on the other side of that bridge over the Animas River. When we would take our packs off our backs for the last time and sit on the railroad ties waiting to wave the train down, the deep and satisfied feeling of faithfulness. The feeling of following through. Of doing something that mattered even when it was hard, inconvenient, and full of doubt. The feeling of getting to say "we did that" and "we did that together".
There is a deep excitement in the anticipation of doing something.
There is a different, but equally deep excitement in the actual doing of the something.
And there is also an excitement that comes with the thing being done, and it's transition into becoming a memory. I think I love them all, but this one is strangely special to me.
Memories are awesome. I'm not sure why. Maybe because they represent things that are permanent and unchangeable in a world where it seems there is not much of that. 
Beautiful memories are tools for our current joy, funny memories are tools for our current laughter, painful memories are tools for our current healing, and formative memories are tools for our current teaching. All memories, in the sharing of them, are tools for our current relationship building ("baptism" into the fellowship of men that meet in my basement on Tuesday nights is to take a turn in the "hot seat," where you share your whole story from birth to now. An impossible task without memory. We always initiate this ritual with the words, "make us your friends tonight" - meaning: tell us everything). Memories are just cool.
My buddy Keith wrote me today and said he has enjoyed reading these chronicles with his son, and that he is amazed at how much he has already forgotten. Me too.
But I don't worry much about that. I know I have forgotten some of the greatest stories. But honestly, they seem to come right back whenever I need them or they need to serve a purpose that God wants served through or in me.
Anyway, we had a great and relatively speedy hike down. We found our hidden Dr. Peppers, went across the bridge way before our deadline to catch the train, sat down and sure enough, the feelings I was most looking forward to came rushing in. It was awesome.
The only thing we now HAD to do was wait. I love times like this (okay, in my frantic and normal days, I hate times like this...but in this setting, I loved it...and I need to learn to love it more). Waiting forces me into the present. I can't do anything else that I MUST do, so I have to find something TO do. I looked around with hours to kill, and, Hey! Look! There's my son, Shade!
That may sound strange that I noticed my son Shade since I have been with him 24-7 for days now, but that's how it is, isn't it? I've heard it said that "you are where your thoughts are," and even in the constant presence of my beloved son, I find myself leaving him for other things that aren't right there. (This is often how my prayer life with God seems to go, too. And appointments that I have with people in my office. And date night with my wife.) So, with nothing to do but wait, and rediscovering that I'm getting to be with my son...
Shade and I spent the couple of hours there exploring around this Needleton spot. We found a boarded up old outhouse that I'm sure was used by the gold miners back in the day while waiting for this same train (Shade squeezed in and used it before he called me over to check it out). We found what looked like an old ticketing station. We went down by the river and found an incredible outcropping of stones, where we searched for unique ones to take home as gifts for the family. We found a perfectly round one that looked like a ball for Jakin. We found one that would stand up and had the shape of a cross engraved in it naturally for Shade's mom. We found a heart shaped one for Callie. And then, believe it or not, we found one in the shape of a cannon for Shade Canon Mashburn to take home. We also found a very nice campsite down the tracks a bit...we laughed that we were sure it was there for mountain climbers who didn't make the train deadline and had to set up camp here until the next day...and we were glad we made it!
The blessed train horn bellowed in the distance, and Shade got on the tracks as the engine came around the mountain. He and I did the special wave of his arms that they told us to do to stop the train, it did, we loaded up and settled in for the 3 hour ride back to Durango.
Side note: As the train started to inch forward, a backpacker dude came running across the bridge from the wild, yelling for the train to wait, which it didn't, and the four of us looked at each other with deep compassion for the guy. We were smiling, though, because we understood exactly what that guy was feeling.
I was glad not to be him, but at the same time, there was a part of me (small...very small) that likes when things happen that take my choices away. If I HAD to stay one more night in the mountains, I would've done it. And it would've ended up great. It would've had all the secret treasures that "forced waiting" has.
It was very easy to enjoy the train ride down. It felt so good to be moving, and not by our own power.
What a grace this trip was. The lessons continue to this day. The memory of it is still serving us actively. Almost like Christ is still moving in us through this trip, but not by our own power.
The mountain represented a wild challenge for us. A mighty and overwhelming challenge, in so many ways, and we were walking into it. Having made it successfully, I connect with the spirit of the quote above from Scripture: "What are you mighty mountain? You have been made flat ground (achievable, explorable, experiencable) by God before our feet. You, the challenge, have become our blessing and teacher. God bless you! God bless you! God bless you!"
"'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty." - Zech 4:6