It Would Be Nice

When I originally started to write this post, I could feel the depression sinking and taking hold. No good reason to be so melancholy or so dramatic. So I started to write and I could feel the sadness and self-pity seeping into every word. I could feel the emo-side of me trying to get attention and get some comfort. I mean, that is why you post really melancholy things at times. At least, that’s true for me.

But then I sat back and realized how pathetic I was being. Yeah, I had to pour out a substantial portion of my savings to fix my car. Yeah, I wish two months flew by and I was already graduated. Yeah, I wish I had a different job, one that I really loved. BUT who I am when things aren’t going right is going to decide what my future looks like. If I get that “dream job” and the job gets hard, am I going to stick it through or cave like I am now? Do I wish I had someone to comfort me? Absolutely. But right now, the Lord is that comfort. I don’t need to turn to others, no matter how much I would like that.

We all have times in our lives where we need the support of others, and that is why the Lord puts them in our lives. But (there are a lot of those in this post) they aren’t the answer to our problems and they should never be our savior. We put people on a pedestal that they should never have to stand on. People should never be given that burden. And I have in the past, used others to soothe my frustrations and issues, putting a burden on them that they shouldn’t have to bear. And I refuse to do that again.

I’ve learned, both through trails and error, that if I want to be a good boyfriend and future husband and father, I need to be able to stand on my own two feet. And when I fall, I need to turn to the Lord first and then my spouse. If I get that order reversed, I will wear her down and wear her out. It creates an unhealthy relationship and I have no desire to experience that or introduce that type of behavior into a relationship.

The lies I buy into, shape how I view my day and my situation. I buy into the lies that “I’m alone”, “No one cares”, and “I’m nobody special.” I understand why others feel like that and I constantly attempt to persuade them that it just isn’t true. However (that’s a fancy but), do I believe my own propaganda? Do I allow my own advice to permeate my soul and really change me for the better? When faced with the lies that I constantly face, what do I do to combat it? Do I shrink inside of myself and over-analyze my day? Magnifying the bad and ignoring the good?

If I want to change my outlook, I have to change my thinking. When I try to fill the Christ-shaped hole in my heart (one that is still healing from an improper transplant where I replaced Christ with a person and my body rejected it), I experience loneliness, despair, and depression. When I allow God to speak truth to me and give me peace, through His gentle voice and through people, I still experience those same emotions but I understand what they truly are and what place they have in my life. The same circumstances and tribulations will come but its not what happens that decides my attitude, its how I respond.

The title of this blog started out as a whiny poem but when I realized how silly I was being, I changed my tune and completely erased the poem. However, I’m going to leave the title as a reminder to myself of what happens when we focus on the what-ifs and our selfish wants. “It would be nice” if everything went my way, but that’s not how it works. “It would be nice” if relationships were simple and girls were easy to understand, but they’re not and they aren’t supposed to be easy or simple. “It would be nice” but I understand that nothing is as bad as I make it and nothing is as dire as it seems.

It would be nice, if everything made sense, wouldn’t it? But then I could never solve the jigsaw puzzle.

Need to Please

I was contemplating the different things going on in my life and I discovered something. We are all, in some way and to different degrees, slaves to the “Need to Please”. We need to be liked or loved by someone. We need to be at peace with our friends. We need to be at peace with our bosses and employers. We need to peace with those in our churches. We are forced, daily, to please others.

Before I continue, I need to clarify something. I am not talking about the necessity of doing what we are told and treating others with respect, whether this is at work, home, school, or church. I’m talking about the inherent, self-conscious, detrimental NEED to make sure that everyone we encounter is pleased with our behavior and is not in conflict with us. This is demonstrated through what could be perceived as sacrificial, others-focused behavior that may be deemed as humility or a servant’s heart. Thinking of others first and more highly than ourselves is great. BUT if it comes at the cost of allowing others to walk all over us or causes us to revolve our entire world around one person, then it has gone beyond what is healthy.

We are built with a Christ-shaped hole in our hearts that, when combined with a lack of self-confidence and healthy self-image, causes a black hole affect. We are constantly searching for something to quell the sense of loneliness and someone to make us feel loved and valuable. People suffering from this “Need to Please” are unable to trust, unable to believe that someone truly loves them, since they perceive love and acceptance through the lens of pleasing that person. They are constantly working towards a goal they can never achieve, since the finish line always backs up and they find themselves trying to perform rather than just live life. This creates additional pressure that can end relationships and strain friendships.

How do I know this? I too suffer from this syndrome.

I’ve discovered that my fear of being alone, combined with my non-confrontational attitude (which depends on the person) and insatiable desire to please whoever I’m with at great cost to myself, fuels this inherent need within me.

What does this look like in practice? No matter what time I get a call, I have to respond. I over-analyze every text I send and every word I say, apologizing even when I shouldn’t. I constantly have the fear of offending that other person and constantly feel the pressure to please that other person. I refrain from being honest because I don’t want to “make waves” or upset that other person.

Not healthy.

I understand myself well enough that I know that I can, and will, change this. I trust that God is making me into who He wants me to be because He has put people in my life who trigger this behavior and then He taps me on the shoulder and points out the flaw, revealing it for what it is. A monster is only dangerous when its under your bed. Once you can see it and fight it, it loses half its strength right there.

And I’ve seen my monster and I’ve been forced to be honest with myself and evaluate my behavior. God, in His infinite wisdom, is constantly leading me into territory I’m not comfortable with. He isn’t driving out my “Need to Please”. He is just redirecting the focus back onto Himself, where it should’ve been in the first place. And what I have found is

Freedom.

I am free to make mistakes. I am free to fail. I am free to upset others when the situation warrants honesty. I am free to be alone since I’m never truly alone. I am free to be me and be ok with the fact that I might lose a relationship or two because of that. I’m free to not be driven by the need to be perfect for someone else or do everything possible for them to like me. I’m free to remove the mask and let them see my heart, my honesty and genuineness of spirit. I’m free to stumble and fall. I’m free to make a fool of myself while I’m learning how to “court” someone. I’m free to not be stressed or worry. I’m free to make bad decisions and once I realize my mistake, I’m free to move past my mistake and try again.

I am free to not be concerned about the what-ifs or maybes but rather just step forward in faith and trust it’ll work out.

The Lord has used my weaknesses to prune out the idiosyncrasies and bad habits that I have picked up along the way. The Lord has blessed me so that no matter what the result is I have learned so much along the way. I’m not the kind of person who is confident, but the Lord has pushed me into situations where honesty is needed and confidence in Him is required. And I’ve learned the hard way that His way makes so much more sense and, even though its hard, its so much more fulfilling.

He has introduced me to some amazing people and I won’t embarrass one person in particular by naming her. HOWEVER, I will talk about this person because of how impressed I am after spending time with her. I’ve learned that many of the things I’ve assumed to be true about others are not always true (yes, I generalize at times and judge a book by its cover). Sometimes when someone says I don’t know, they actually mean it. I’ve never met someone with the genuineness of heart and love for the Lord that I’ve seen in this lady. The grasp of the Bible and the desire to love others and treat others with respect was incredible. I never thought when I first met her that the person underneath the surface would match the person I thought I saw. Guess what? I assumed and I was wrong. The Lord humbled me mightily and pointed out glaring issues in my life when I compared our lives. I praise God for the lesson that, thankfully, was private between Him and I and not public like He has done previously.

I know I’m not the only one struggling with this “Need to Please” so let me tell you this: You are special just the way you are. You don’t need others to complete you. The only Person you need is Jesus. You were uniquely created by Him to serve Him and be yourself. You don’t have to be ruled by the need to please your parents (although you should respect them), or your friends, or any boyfriend or girlfriend. If you can’t please your parents now, then maybe it has nothing to do with you. Maybe you are fine just the way you are and you are loved by heavenly Father. It is such an addicting drug to fool ourselves into believing “If I just change this” “If I just do that” then “maybe they will love me, maybe they will tell me they’re proud.” It is an endless cycle that doesn’t help anyone and hurts everyone.

Get rid of the need you have inside of you to please others and just focus on being who you are. Focus on being a person that the Lord would be proud of. It hurts me so much to watch friends of mine struggling to gain approval from people who don’t know how to show it and should’ve given it to them a long time ago. It hurts me to watch the faces of my friends when someone they love says the wrong thing, hitting the button that destroys them. I can see it clearly, even if everyone else doesn’t seem to notice.

I wish I could convince you that what I say is true, that what I say changed my own life and that what I’ve experienced is the real deal. That the God I claim to serve is truly Almighty. That if you just listen and believe what I have to say that you can find peace. I’m not saying its a miracle drug or a magic cure but it is the rock that you can hold onto when the parent disapproves, when the job you loved is lost, and when you’re left behind when another dies. The truth that I wish you’d believe is that life is never over even when it feels like it is. You can continue on even though you have to leave behind that special someone or something, dead and buried. The pain may never fade and it may be terrifying to move on but it can be done. The “Need to Please” doesn’t need to extend beyond the grave and tie you to that moment in time when you’re whole world was turned upside down. It is the most difficult thing to do but you will find freedom and peace in the road beyond.

Clarity

A fading glimmer,

Found in a glance,

Pulled as if from a trance.

Freedom found in the

Absence,

Rather than the occupation

Of thought.

Belief found,

Doubt destroyed,

Wings extending wide

Come along for the ride.

Leaderless

But never thoughtless.

Confounded and stunned

But confidence never undone.

I once was simply devoted,

Now the idol is cast aside

For true worship.

Never again a slave,

Now that the cost of freedom is known.

The scars run deep,

Sometimes to the bone.

They knit together a stronger me,

Who wants more than

To simply

Be.

Therefore I can.

No goal too great,

No wish exists solely in the realm of cloud nine.

Everything I want will be mine.

I am not greedy,

I am not blind.

I know the cost,

I gladly pay.

I know that blood, sweat and tears

Are the ingredients to this miracle potion.

I cannot have

Unless I want it more than you.

I may desire,

But that does not equal ownership.

I want

Therefore I work.

I need

Therefore I acquire.

I love

Therefore I desire.

Worth Every Step

You just have to believe,

No matter what you see,

No matter what you think,

You might have, maybe saw,

See through the disguise,

Because Satan is wearing them all.

Blind yourself to the past,

Open your eyes to the future.

One is crystal clear,

The other cloudy.

Try hard,

Love harder.

Unconditional is vulnerable,

But the rewards are great.

Smash the mirror

When it lies,

Plug your ears

When your eyes fill with tears,

And don’t let anyone near.

Safety lies outside proximity,

The comfort zone lined with mines,

Loneliness your only company

And soon regret will join the group.

A trifecta from hell,

Let the demons dance,

Throw a little parade

Because nothing is decided,

Nothing is sure,

The score actually isn’t tied,

I lied,

And now the devil is gonna lose.

When you see imperfections,

I see something beautiful,

Something unique to you.

A story you could tell

A thousand times over,

And I still won’t get bored.

You’re not someone I ever could have ignored.

And when you realize that

Happiness won’t take so many tries,

No matter how many good byes,

And pain won’t be a surprise,

No longer an overwhelming flood,

At least for those cleansed by his blood.

Peace is the serenity

When you’re found the end of your rope,

And nothing you do will make it change,

You’ll find yourself free of cares.

So ready to just let go,

The long drop, full of promise,

But I won’t let you go.

Safety is nowhere to be found,

Certainty isn’t assured,

At least not right now.

Long road from where you’re standing,

Worth every step.

Describe Me

Describe Me.

Do it in one word or less,

I would call me Blessed.

Anointed by your blood,

Prodigal Son called home,

Broken on the Cornerstone.

Driven by emotion,

Ruled by passion,

Believer in the moments

Deciding sorrow and success,

A path that lies carefully between hot coals,

Failure just one misstep away.

Capitalize on the moment,

Believe it to be true,

Intuition never lies,

Listen to what your heart has to say.

Bewitched by a smile,

Youthful fantasies,

Can’t they be true for just a moment?

Describe me,

Just one more time, I say.

Romantic,

Uncertain,

Free.

Free to fall,

Free to fail,

Free to decide what I believe.

I will give my all,

Even if

Its all given in vain.

Patient,

If the prize is worth the wait.

Impatient,

If the goal is so far away.

Contradiction,

Existing simultaneously

Inside of me.

Eager,

To succeed,

To experience the heights of success,

To escape the depths of my failure.

Valuable,

Friends, family,

And those who occupy that special place

Of now but not yet.

Two titles,

Neither truly one or the another,

A beautiful combination,

That describes a relationship,

Uniquely a friend,

Hopefully future family.

Describe me,

Vague,

Complex,

Contemplative,

Distant,

Thoughtful,

At least when I wish to be.

Loud,

Friendly,

Sarcastic,

Emotional,

But only if my heart is stirred,

By a soul as deep as my own.

A soul, surrounded by hazel leaves,

That sees so deeply into me.

Lost in the maze of my own mind,

Forever to wander,

Longing to be found.

Connection undeniable,

Context absent,

Riddle remains.

Unless you hold the key.

Describe me,

Confusing.

Is This All There Is?

I can feel my heart stirring,

Yearning for something more,

Something greater,

Something grander

Than what I’ve done before.

Punch in, punch in,

Go home, go to bed,

Go to sleep,

Mundane,

Everyday,

Commonplace.

Is this all I will ever be?

Is this all I will ever see?

The grass may not be greener,

But at least it is on the other side,

Which is anywhere but here.

Movement,

From one space to the next,

From the car to the desk

And back again.

A waste,

Useless transition,

Devoid of purpose,

Simply fueling greed and avarice,

The idols of this system.

I don’t want to be a pawn,

But I have no desire to be king,

Can’t we play a different game?

One where we are not opponents,

But teammates,

Striving for the same goal,

One that could fill this void

And make me whole,

Oh, Lord,

Give me back my soul.

My heart is missing,

Where did the thief go?

I am a machine,

Lacking instructions,

So I stand here,

Mindless,

And yet, self-aware.

Even this automaton understands

That this world is broken,

And striving for the almighty dollar,

Is stupid.

We maintain the status quo,

Happily cut off from the rest of the globe,

In our cookie-cutter neighborhoods,

Inside glass houses, not really homes,

Maybe it is time we throw stones.

Factories using the bones of its workers

To cut the overhead,

Waving the American flag,

What a joke.

I look to that homeless, traveling preacher

We call Jesus,

The broke prophet and savior,

And ask,

I thought your burden was light

And your yoke was easy, Lord?

And He replies,

It is,

But your hands are too full of other things

Besides your cross.

You’re too worried about your loss,

And you have yet to find your life,

Drop to your knees and pray,

That calamity never finds you,

Because you and I

Are miles away

And I won’t be there to hold you,

When you find your arms are finally emptied,

Yourself abandoned and broken,

The weed you’ve been smoking

Isn’t enough to calm the pain and the nerves,

Shaky hands, heavy heart,

Not the man I built,

Deviating from the plan from the start.

I told you to follow me,

But you didn’t see an easy path,

So you balked.

I took the high road,

The one that would’ve made you strong,

While you went into the valley of death

Which was missing its sign

But you couldn’t read it anyway.

Too blinded by ambition,

I’m sure you wouldn’t have listened.

The climb too steep,

The road too hard.

I tried to persuade you,

But you didn’t come when I called,

Little sheep,

Don’t you know your master?

Now your stuck in the middle of an ugly disaster,

Self-induced,

Now you’re looking for me,

But you can’t see,

That I was always there

Just right beside you,

Hugging and loving on you,

Bruised and battered,

Shielding you from the storm,

Trying desperately to keep you warm.

Is this the Jesus you follow?

Because He is certainly my Lord,

And He weeps at the democracy,

I mean, the hypocrisy that exists

Within our churches.

This festering disease we call

Nothing new,

Our motto,

Our anthem,

What should actually be written on our signs

We so proudly display.

Maybe, the name of Jesus

Should be what is missing,

Since we clearly worship a different lord.

No need for justice,

No need for change,

Wake me up again from my apathy

When my attention is actually needed.

The web is spun around our heads,

And we’re slowly being sucked dry,

While we are still alive,

But just barely.

The statue of liberty,

Has become a symbol of tyranny.

We blame the government,

That’s easy,

Big target,

No worries about the cross-hairs turning on us,

The indifferent, pew-sitting mob,

Crying out like the crucifixion scene rabble,

Calling for the heads of state

Just like they called for Jesus’ head on a plate.

We yell so loudly at the politicians,

And yet,

We don’t even tithe.

We have more than the widow’s mite,

But when the call for generosity goes out,

There’s not a Christian in sight,

When so many are suffering for the sake of Christ.

We should be ashamed of our mediocrity,

Junior Varsity Christians,

Sitting on the bench,

Perfectly content.

Is this all there is?

I point the finger of blame at myself,

I too am a Christian who is sitting on the shelf.

I feel the pull of despair,

My Lord being drowned out

By the raucous sounds of the everyday.

Depression sets in,

And the Devil tallies another win.

Am I a Hellraiser?

Does the Devil fear what I can do?

Or am I a side note,

Footnote,

Small little blip on the radar,

An afterthought in his plan?

Is this all there is?

Or is there something more?

Why God Why?

Every day it seems a new tragedy is on the news, tugging at our heartstrings. Every day it seems the world is getting worse and worse. We hear about mother’s drowning their children, children being sold into sex slavery by their starving parents, and millions dying of either starvation or preventable diseases. While the tears are flowing, we can’t help but ask ourselves (if we are honest) why is God is allowing all of this? Why isn’t God doing anything?

If God is so powerful and so loving, why doesn’t He stop all of this from happening?

Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people and why do bad people seem to go unpunished? Both of these questions, haunted Old Testament prophets and are two of the main reasons I’ve heard Atheists give for their beliefs. And if I’m honest with myself, I don’t blame them.

I understand why God doesn’t stop every bad thing from happening. Even bad people have free will and bad things happen when imperfect people are given the ability to choose poorly. But what I don’t understand is why God lets certain bad things happen.

Why did God have to allow the Holocaust? Why did God allow six million of His chosen people to be ruthlessly exterminated like they were not any more important than cattle? Why did God allow the Rwandan genocide where several million people were butchered by their friends and neighbors? Why does God allow the sex trafficking industry to exist, and not just exist, but flourish?

Do these examples speak of man’s depravity? Yes, I believe so. But when someone comes up to me asking where was my God when his or her mother/father/sibling/husband/wife died of cancer/aids/car accident/war/drugs/gun shot what do I tell them? What do I tell the little boy who walks up to me and asks why did my mom have to die when the terrorists attacked? Why didn’t God stop them?

Why God why?

I was reading through the book of Hosea and read this “Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the LORD said to Hosea, ‘Call her Lo-Ruhamah (which means ‘not loved’), for I will no longer show love to Israel, that I should at all forgive them.'” I stopped, shocked by what I had just read.

Now, I had read Hosea before but this time, the reality of God’s command hit me. You are to name your daughter NOT LOVED. This isn’t just symbolic (as far as I can tell from scripture) but the name the child would for the rest of her life. The name she would hear every time her father said her name, “Come here, NOT LOVED.” Then I read on and saw her brother’s name, “After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. Then the LORD said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”), for you are not my people, and I am not your God.

Wait, wait, wait, time out, Lord. You want a father to name his two children NOT LOVED and NOT MY PEOPLE? How could you ask someone to do that, Lord? How could ask a father, who loves his children so dearly, to have to call them by those names? Lord, don’t you understand how difficult that must be for Hosea? Don’t you understand how heartbreaking that would be for him? How is he going to look his children in the eye every time he looks at them?

Why God why?

Why does the Lord ask us to do things we don’t understand? Why does the Lord ask to do things that are difficult, that are hard, and that hurt? Why would the Lord command Hosea to do this?

I know that for me, I’m not sure I could follow the Lord’s command here. How could I ever call my child, not loved? I’ve seen the damage and hurt that comes from the brutality of parents, who don’t understand the power of their words. I’ve seen the devastation caused by careless or hurtful words and I could never burden my child with the thoughts of

My parents don’t love me.

They don’t want me.

They’d would be better off without me……

Maybe, it would be better if I was never born.

Why God why?

When I read the Lord’s command to Hosea, my heart ached. I could just imagine the conflict that raged within him at the request of the Lord. Hosea already was told to marry (and not divorce) a prostitute and have kids with her. Now, I could see him looking into the eyes of his newborn daughter, thinking of a name for her, and hearing the Lord speak to him, “Name her, NOT LOVED.”

“Wait, what, Lord? You want me to name her what?” Hosea asked.

“Name her, NOT LOVED.” The Lord repeated.

Why God why?

This is difficult picture to imagine but understand where the Lord’s heart is at that moment. He is telling Hosea to name his daughter because God is going to no longer show love to Israel, His child. God’s chosen people, His wife, have played the harlot for so long, ignoring all of the Lord’s commands and becoming so sinful that the Lord is grieved that He is going to no longer show love to them. But even more damning is the second child’s name, NOT MY PEOPLE.

Israel, God’s chosen people, have that name taken away from them because of their disobedience and sinfulness. The title that every Israelite finds their confidence and identity in is stripped away by God. “For you are not my people, and I am not your God” the antithesis of what made Israel, Israel. Israel had become so godless that they were now literally God-less.

We focus so much on the difficult decisions that Hosea had to make, under the command of God, that we forget that God in Hosea 2 is going to go romance His prostitute of a wife and win her back to himself.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her…. In that day,” declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master… I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD. I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

God planned on romancing Israel all along, but He understood the cost of their disobedience and that it had to be punished. God instructed Hosea to do the things that he did because through those lessons Hosea would understand the depth of the Lord’s love and sadness for Israel. Only Hosea could understand how the Lord felt and truly be the Lord’s messenger. The heart of the Lord, although angry, was never full of bitterness. He never desired to punish His beloved, but knew He had no choice. His desire all along was to have His people remember what He had done and worship Him. He desired a close relationship with them and would do anything to get them back on track.

God knew the only way that His people was going to return to Him was after a difficult lesson that would cleanse them of their sin of idolatry. The story of Hosea’s love is also a story of God’s love. Reflected in every command to Hosea, no matter how difficult they are to understand, is a glimpse into God’s heart. We should grieve for Hosea since the commands God gave were hard indeed but we should also remember how hard it was for God to view His people as disowned and not loved.

So didn’t the Lord understand how difficult His commands must be for Hosea? Didn’t He understand how heartbreaking that would be for him? The answer to both questions is an emphatic yes. The Lord understand exactly how Hosea felt. And now,

Hosea understood exactly how the Lord felt.

Would It Better If We Did Nothing?

I find it interesting that no matter the topic, we find a way to fight. I was unaware of the resurgence of the topic “the Invisible Children” until Facebook exploded with the discussion of Kony and the bloodshed and horrific acts that his army has committed. Videos appeared, comments were posted, and posts were liked. And then, as humans tend to do, we missed the point entirely.

We forgot that people were dying and complained that we weren’t talking about child soldiers in other countries, that we only care because its popular right now, and that we only post because, well, we’ve always cared about the children in Uganda (sarcasm not my own). I think every one of those comments misses the point. So what if “I only care NOW” at least I care AT ALL. So what if we aren’t talking about child soldier in other countries at least we are talking about THESE SOLDIERS. We look at these situations and see the emotions not the heart. I admit that it does frustrate me that there are millions of other tragedies that don’t get the attention they deserve because they aren’t “high-profile”. However, let me ask you this

Would it better if we did nothing? Would it make you happy if we just didn’t do anything at all?

I understand that in many of these situations, people only care because they watched a video and it broke their heart. Maybe they will forgot in a month or a week or even a day, but what if they don’t? What if one post on one person’s Facebook makes a difference? What if it took us getting off our fat, lazy American butts and just simply spreading the word to change the situation? So, honestly, I don’t really care if you like the posts, I don’t care if you agree with them. I’m just happy anyone is saying anything at all.

With that being said, let me defend those who are frustrated with the attention the Invisible Children are getting. We as Americans love the glamorous tragedies. We love the stories that pull at our heartstrings and we fall head-over-heels in love…. for a little while. The question should be asked what about the other kids? What about the sex trade issue in Arizona? What about the fact that sex trafficking is the number two illegal industry in the world right behind the drug industry? Shouldn’t that get JUST AS MUCH ATTENTION as the Invisible Children?

The answer, of course, is yes. Why? Because every act of injustice breaks the heart of God and should cause us to rise up and seek to eradicate that injustice immediately.

Do I want to see children abused, used, and killed? No, of course not. But my heart is especially sensitive to the plight of children. Some people in this world feel more strongly about helping drug addicts, or sex slaves, or those with mental disorders than they do about helping children. Am I going to judge them for that? Am I going to judge a missionary who doesn’t leave Arizona? Am I going to judge the missionary who only wants to go to Rwanda? No. Why? Because God has wired each of us individually and for very specific purposes.

So why can’t we all rally around one another and support one another? Why can’t we defend the cause of the Invisible Children while bringing up other cases, honestly desiring justice to be done in BOTH situations? Why can’t we stand up as one and strive to eradicate the exploitation of children while also striving to eradicate the sex trade industry? Why can’t we support one another in our individual pursuits of bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth? What I’m saying is

Why can’t we just get along?

Seriously, why do we act like fools, jostling for position, claiming OUR CAUSE is greater than someone else’s?

Should we stand up and ask honest, tough questions concerning the silence of other nations, despite the bloodshed that takes place there, the exploitation that occurs? Absolutely, but if you want to complain to me when I stand up for one cause and its not YOURS? Remember this,

Would it better if I did NOTHING?

 

Every Story Must have a Heart

What makes a good story?

Is it an epic setting like Pandora from Avatar? Is it a bunch of great characters like the cast from Harry Potter? Is it a fully fleshed-out world like Lord of the Rings, with fully-formed languages and histories for the mythical races? Or is it something more down to earth that under girds everything you are building like the concrete at the base of a foundation?

A story without a heart, isn’t a story at all.

Every example that I mentioned, including Avatar even though it barely made the list, have a heart. In Avatar, the world pulls you in and you want to care about that world. You want it to survive, you want the good guys to win, and you certainly want the bad guys to pay. In Harry Potter, you feel for the characters when they are hurting, mourning, or rejoicing. You feel like you know them and you understand what they are going through. Lord of the Rings is a perfect example of how to balance setting and character development. No one has ever met an elf or stopped a dark lord, but we understand friendship, sacrifice, and loss. By the end of the story, we hurt like they hurt, we’ve cried tears for their loss, and have come to grips with the cost of doing what is right. What sucked us into that world and made us believe, even a moment, that the story was real?

It was the story’s heart.

Now, when I say a story has heart, I’m saying that the author tapped into the very basic things that make us human, and infused those characteristics in the characters. We all have friends, enemies, hopes, dreams and we all have an inherent desire to be understood, to feel like someone else knows how we feel. Why does the “death” of Harry Potter have such emotional weight to it? Because we understand the sacrifice, we understand deep down how his friends feel, believing that he really is dead. Why do we root for Frodo to climb Mount Doom and destroy the ring? Because by that time, we want Frodo to be free, we want the Shire to be safe, and we want evil to lose.

The story has stopped being “just a story”. It has stopped being a robot. Even a mechanically sound robot with fully functional and working parts is still a robot. It is foreign (although fascinating) to us. But the thing is, we don’t care if the robot breaks or “dies”, we can just get a new one tomorrow. No, this robot has become human. It has traded in its heart of metal, gears, and oil and now has a real flesh and blood human heart. It can feel pain, sadness, despair, and joy. We care if it breaks, we care if it dies. It stops being an “it” and becomes a he or she.

All of these literary devices are great tools to help build great characters, but what these stories also have going for them is the setting. We believe in the lie the author is telling us. We believe in the mythology because we want to. We want dragons and goblins and fairies to be real. We want wizardry to exist and we really wish there was a world called Pandora. The setting gives the characters a world of their own and, a really good author, makes the world change based upon the choices of those characters. For instance, have you ever noticed that it is almost always raining outside when a tragedy, like the main character’s wife dying, happens? This is a great use of setting to convey a subconscious idea to the reader. And you know what? We buy it every time. We believe in the characters because we believe in the world they live in.

However, my favorite books are the ones that explore simple human stories, especially stories of people dealing with extreme hurt and pain. I love books like Lovely Bones, Willow, If I Stay, and Redeeming Love because the focus is solely on the characters and how do they deal with tragedy. How would you react if you felt you were to blame for your parents death? What if you truly believed that the pain of cutting was far less painful then the thought of dealing with your own guilt and shame? That is the question Willow asks and that not many people truly want to answer or deal with. The concept that challenged me was Willow’s belief that it was easier to deal with physical pain, cathartic even, then to deal with the emotional pain of losing her parents. She had numbed herself so much that she wasn’t sure she could even handle her emotions anymore. This is a powerful picture painted by the author where the story takes center stage and the setting is complimentary, although still important. After all, the setting must still make sense. It must reinforce the story being told and be a reflection the inner thoughts and feelings of the characters.

What about Lovely Bones? What is its “pull” or “hook”? That story centers around a different kind of tragedy, set in a normal neighborhood and with a normal family. What would you do if someone in your family, a young member of that family, was brutally murdered? What would you do if you were in love with her, even at that young age? What would you do if “you felt her spirit fly through you to leave the earth”? The “hook” of this story is multifaceted but is primarily built around two things. One, the everyday, normal setting juxtaposed with the horrific nature of the crime. Two, the aftermath of what took place as viewed through the eyes of the murdered girl in her version of heaven. The story follows the family and community as they attempt to move on and also how each person deals with the event in their own way. The power of that book is in the simplicity of the language and the realistic reactions and decisions of the characters involved.

I could continue on with my thought on the two books (and I might in the future, we’ll see) but I will end with this. A good story is not about what kind of horrific material you can fit in or how crazy a world you can create, although both have their place. It is about who populates the world of your story and could they be transported to earth and blend in? And if they can’t, do their abnormalities make sense? Are they unique, or odd, for a good reason? You could be writing a story about a robot, set in the distant dystopian future and make that character so real that he could be your next door neighbor. He could shoot lasers out his eyes and speak only in pig-latin and be completely believable to your audience. If, and only if, he has a heart.

Excuse me

Knock, knock. We all knows what that sound means. Either you’re telling a joke, or someone is at the door. Now, if its three o’clock in the morning, your reaction may be a little different then if it was three o’clock in the afternoon. Add loud music, alcohol, and large group of guests and the likelihood is the visitor at your door is not a late-arriving guest. Add flashing red and blue lights coming from your driveway on top of that and your reaction might now be close to panic. You know who is at the door and you know there could be serious consequences, so the next thirty seconds might be the most important of your life.

You open the door and your heart almost stops. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize a police officer when you see one. Two things could happen here. One, the officer could be polite and give you a warning or two, the officer could be brash, reading you the letter of the law. Those are the two options available to the officer. But, I guarantee your neighbors are not thinking about options. They are thinking about silence.

So lets rewind the situation and switch out the police officer with a kindly old lady. She’s four foot eight and maybe weighs eighty pounds soaking wet. She has a quiet, little voice asking, quite politely, “Excuse me….. Excuse me could you please quiet down?” Which one demands more respect from you? Is the little old lady going to instill the fear of God (so to speak) within your heart? Or is this officer with the ability to give you a ticket, or in the case of underage drinking (God forbid), arrest you right then and there. So which one (right or wrong) demands more respect in your mind? The officer or the old lady?

Don’t we treat God like that? Don’t we look at God and think “Well, He can’t punish me right now. So I’m not afraid of Him”? What we don’t realize is that the Lord does show up sooner or later as the police officer, but He doesn’t want to have to do that. He wants to come as the small, quiet voice and encourage us to follow Him, to listen to Him. He wants us to willingly obey and doesn’t want us to experience the inevitable consequences for our disobedience. He knocks quietly on the door of our heart and politely says, “Excuse me, could you please listen?”

The comes a time, however, where the Lord must hold us accountable for our three o’clock debaucheries. He ditches the still small voice and instead, grabs His bullhorn and riot gear. We have ignored Him for far too long and He is forced to get our attention another way. Many people have asked me “Why can believer’s live like their hell-bound and still go to heaven? Why can’t they abuse the gift they’ve been given?” I answer, “Because that’s the freedom of the gift. God doesn’t require obedience to accept His gift.” Then they ask, “So God just sits back and lets His people get away with murder?” Absolutely not.

God is a God of grace and mercy, which the American church focuses on ALOT. However, that is not all of who God is and doesn’t describe Him in His completeness. God is also a God of justice and will hold us accountable for our deeds. God doesn’t require obedience to get into heaven but He does hold us accountable for our actions. God doesn’t sit back in heaven and do nothing when we choose to live lives that are entirely against His will. God doesn’t sit in heaven and turn a blind eye to our behavior. No, God punishes those He loves. I know that when we hear the word “punishment” many of us think “That sounds like a mean God.” But don’t parents “punish” and “discipline” their children? Isn’t that done to correct their behavior, teach them the proper path, and hold them accountable? Isn’t that why God in the scriptures instructs us to punish children for disobedience, just as He punished Israel for theirs?

It is difficult for us to understand but the love of God is demonstrated just as much in His mercy and grace as it is in His justice and wrath. This may seem to be a counter intuitive understanding of “wrath” but God’s wrath stems from His hate for sin (not the sinner) and His desire for all men to never experience pain, suffering, and hardship at the hands of another. God’s wrath is seen when His people do nothing just as much as it is when ungodly people sin mightily. What was Jesus big complaint with the Pharisees? They favored legalism over mercy and did not have a proper heart attitude towards God’s people, including the poor, the wicked, and the outcast. What was God’s big complaint against the Israelites in the Old Testament? They failed to follow Him. A failure to obey on both accounts.

I speak from personal experience that I only hear God’s voice plainly in my life when He challenges me. I only have a consistent prayer life when He challenges me to be better and holds a mirror up to my face saying “You like this girl, you want this ministry, you want to follow me? Well, does your behavior reflect a godly man?” Every time I’m forced to answer “No.” I have to go to spiritual bathroom and wash up a little bit. I need to get back in the word, studying what He wants from me, and then I get back on my knees and ask for guidance from Him. He then challenges me again to follow Him, to take up my cross (you notice if you’re holding a cross, both your hands are full?) and drop everything else that hinders me from serving Him.

God is teaching me right now patience, humility, and a proper understanding of who I am. God is teaching me that the thoughts of “You’re not good enough. Of course, she doesn’t care about you. You’re over-doing it. You’re not doing enough. You’re annoying. You’re mean. You’re rude. You’re pestering, on and on and on” are actually all lies. That those thoughts don’t stem from God’s voice. That the still small voice has decided a battering ram is needed to get my attention and break me out this vicious cycle of self-pity.

So what do you do when the Lord’s whispers “Excuse me”? Do you listen? Or do you wait until the battering ram is banging against your door? I would encourage you to listen right away, no matter how much the instructions of the small voice terrify you.