Back in seventh grade my parents decided to get me a horse. We drove all over the place looking at all sorts of horses advertised as being great but arrived only to find they were too old, too fat, lame or just wanted to reach around and bite me foot every chance they got.

We finally arrived at a farm that had the most beautiful young quarter horse and I knew that was going to be my horse.

There was one issue though, he was only green broke. Basically, you could get on the saddle and control him a little but he didn’t neck rein well and still had lots to learn. Dad agreed with me though and we (meaning I wanted the horse and dad paid for it) bought that semi-wild horse.

His name on the paperwork was Bid Cee Red and I just called him Red. He really was a red horse and I thought his coat was the most beautiful color there was. We had him brought to our house and dad rode him a little to teach him some stuff and I rode him a lot.

For the first month, when I would first saddle him up and hop on I got the most unique view of the ground as he would tuck his head and kick his back feet up in the air trying to throw me. He tried to toss me off a lot of times but I stuck like glue in that saddle until he would settle down and then the riding began.

I had several friends that would ride with me and we traveled all over the farms around my house. Walking the trails through the woods and the paths around the fields was nice but I really enjoyed the running. It was even more fun when there were four or five horses running.

Their hooves pounding the ground filled my ears as the wind blew in my face. My body moved in the saddle in unison with the rhythm of the horse’s long strides and I felt almost like I was the one running. I would lean as far forward as I could and Red would feel my weight shift and try to increase his speed.

Next, the very best part would happen. We would pass the other horses one by one. As I moved past one of my friends they would kick and yell trying to get more speed out of their horse but there was nothing they could do. Red was faster and he was going to pass them. Red always got their first.

We would arrive at the big tree or top of the hill or whatever we had chosen as the finish line and laugh and talk about the race while the horses rested and caught their breath. Those were some of the moments of satisfaction I can recall from my youth.

I think about why those moments were so fun. I was basically out of control. I had given free rein to the horse and trusted him entirely to push his way through the other horses and win the race for me. My adrenaline surged as I balanced myself in the saddle and enjoyed the thrill of the race.

Why did I quit doing things like that? Doesn’t God want to add horsepower to my life? Doesn’t He desire for me to release control and let my adrenaline fill me with excitement? I am surely not supposed to be a boring old guy on my sofa in front of the TV watching my life pass me by.

Should I get up and go sky-diving right now? Maybe not. But I don’t have to be going through life with dulled senses because I am older. I can experience the beauty of the outdoors fishing in a mountain stream chasing the fish of a lifetime with a tiny piece of string and a little fly to bring him to my hand.

This goes for my spiritual life as well. I am not built to play it safe. I have to take chances. I have to experience times when I lean forward and go all in to do something where I have no control. All I have is my faith in God to get me through it. I have to forget my fear and enjoy the sensation of it all. I need to get caught up in His power and race toward a goal. Slow and steady may work on some days but not today. Today the wind is hitting me in the face, the pounding of the hooves is in my bones and I am riding.

Isaiah 63:12 Where is the one whose power was displayed when Moses lifted up his hand—the one who divided the sea before them, making himself famous forever? 13 Where is the one who led them through the bottom of the sea? They were like fine stallions racing through the desert, never stumbling.

Was following God a dull and mundane thing when Moses parted the Red Sea? No way, adrenaline flowed that day as the people walked between giant walls of water trusting that they wouldn’t fall in upon them. God has excitement to add to our days as well as those peaceful, tranquil times. I want to experience every aspect of God.

Psalms 21:13 Rise up, O Lord, in all your power. With music and singing we celebrate your mighty acts.

I am not playing it safe. Paul didn’t, his life was pretty exciting. He got bit by snakes, survived shipwrecks and tossed into jails and experienced all sorts of crazy things.

Acts 28: 3 As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, bit him on the hand. 4 The people of the island saw it hanging from his hand and said to each other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.” 5 But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. 6 The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw that he wasn’t harmed, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.

This is going to be a great day. I am trusting God for it.


Nose Out of Joint

I wrote this two years ago and it is a timely reminder for me today.

Yesterday I got my nose out of joint. Not in the way a couple of guys knocked it out of joint back in my much younger and more violent days or in the way that it was a little crumpled up after I smacked it into a steel tool box after diving into the bed of a pickup truck.

In fact, I guess that it was not really out of joint. There is no nose joint. That’s just a saying my dad used to come up with when I got my panties in a twist.

I got aggravated. I was pretty much aggravated about everything. I was irritated, frustrated and all kinds of other words that end with “ated”. Why? Well, I guess that yesterday morning I just wanted everything the way I wanted it, right at that moment, and that was not happening, not even close.

Today I am a lot less agitated. I could have pretty easily just got up and rehashed my disapproval with the sequence of events around me and gotten my nose all out of joint again. But an out of joint nose doesn’t ever fix anything. In fact, it causes me to make things that I perceive to be bad even worse.

I have to remind myself that I am not in charge here in this world. Life is going to mess up my plans. Most of the time it is a good thing because my plans are shortsighted and have the reach of a T-Rex. I need to do a humility reset.

When my plans and my needs and my wishes become the source of my happiness, I’m placing far too much importance on what I am doing. I need to be willing to drop what I am going to do so that God can do something better, even when I think what God wants is crazy is makes no sense. His plan never is like that. It is my plans that, in hindsight, tend to be crazy and make no sense. Why do I cling so tightly to them?

Matthew 5:5 God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.

I find myself struggling for what I want over what God wants, not realizing that I am attempting to squander a great inheritance.

I’ve got to refuse to allow my nose to get out of joint. My nose isn’t the smallest one around. I need to keep it where it belongs or I’ll lose my balance.

God has good plans for me. My plans are iffy at best, disaster is always an option. I need to find contentment wherever God takes me and no matter how it disrupts what I think is best for me.

The Bug

Last weekend I had a stomach bug.  It was a really big, ugly, smelly bug that seemed to push from my stomach through the top of my skull and back down through my entire…well, let’s just say it was awful.

Saturday, pretty much all I could think about was the bug.  I thought about how bad the bug was, how big the bug was, how inconvenient the bug was, how unwelcome the bug was, how long the bug would be encroaching on my body, how much of my body would remain after the bug left, blah, blah, blah.

I was bug obsessed as long as I was bug possessed.  I was bugged.

Finally, around 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning, I wondered where the bug had gone.  I didn’t think about it long because wherever the bug had gone, he was welcome to stay there, forever, or longer.

So, I suppose it isn’t so crazy to think about the paralyzed man, whose buddies decided to take him to this healer guy named Jesus, what he thought when he finally was face to face with Christ.

There was a crowd gathered and as it is difficult to carry a paralyzed man around, even with the most sophisticated equipment of the day,  So, they managed to get him up on the roof (this makes me think these were younger men that don’t necessarily weight the consequences of their actions but rather focus on the possible benefits), removed some tiles and lowered their friend down smack at the front of the line.

I don’t know if the poor paralyzed guy was dangling like a marionette or if he was lowered down on a board or what but the crowd surely shut up to watch.  I know I would and I rarely shut up for anything.

Luke 5:18Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, 19but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.”

Now, back to the bug, I was bug obsessed.  I hated having the bug.  I prayed, “God! Remove this nasty bug!”  I expected a bugectomy ASAP.  It didn’t happen that way.  I still don’t feel so great.

This human marionette was there to get un-paralyzed, to be healed, to be told to stand up and walk.  But Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus saw their faith.  He saw that they already knew Jesus could heal his affliction although it seemed like a permanent lifelong ailment.  He wanted to give more.  Jesus waited till this group of men, whose faith drove them to stop at nothing to see Jesus, reached him to say these words.

“Your sins are forgiver.”

And then, when the Pharisees questioned his authority to forgive sin, Jesus demonstrated it by bringing life into the weak and wasted limbs of the sick man.  Jesus gave more to the sick man, more to the friends that brought him to that place, more to the crowd of people and more to the Pharisees.  But for most, more wasn’t enough.

I sit here this morning learning from this nameless man and his unknown friends and their faith and faithfulness to each other.  Sometimes I am so focused on my bug that I don’t hear the really important thing that Jesus has to say.  Getting rid of the bug is temporary.  At some point, some bug is going to get me good.  What’s important is that I am forgiven.  I am forgiven.

I need to hear it loud and clear.  Jesus spoke it and it is so just like it was all those years ago.  Jesus always has more to give than I am asking, even if I don’t hear it.  Jesus is always doing more than just removing my bug.

The Bully

For years and years I had an invisible enemy and didn’t even know his name. He bullied me and slowly inflicted damage on me day after day and I never could quite put my finger on it. I watched him do the same to others and thought, “Oh, that poor guy. He really should just get himself by the bootstraps and pull!”

At times I would try to help out and found I was pretty good at that but it was hard and tiresome so after a while I would avoid them and hide away and let my own bully beat the stuffing out of me.

Finally, one day I managed to hear the bully’s name and was kind of surprised that he actually existed. His name was ‘depression’. I never had really believed this bully even existed. I thought that he might but I put him more in the category of ‘Bigfoot’ or some other creature that sometimes left footprints deep inside the soul but I had never really seen him.

When I finally did see him, I saw him in the lives of others and wondered where he went to hide. It turns out he was hiding in me. But before long he quit hiding. He went from being a stealthy invader that silently consumed me into a raging beast that tormented and ravaged me. Whenever I would try the old solution of “pulling myself up by my own bootstraps” (what does that mean anyway?) he would step on my fingers to disable my hands and poke me in the eyes to blind me to the truth and then he would fill my ears with lies.

He grew and grew. I was fertile ground for depression to take root and grow into a sort of ‘Swamp Thing’ that lashed out and tried to infect anyone that came too close to me. The bully started out as merely depression and grew into clinical depression and then became major depressive disorder.

The bully is hard to understand. Most people just don’t. Most people never will. But the bully is real and can cause hurt and pain even when there is no good reason for it.

When I finally admitted that I was being tormented by this evil thing called ‘depression’ (some people will say that depression is a disease, which it is, and that is isn’t good or evil; let me just respond with this: depression never ever makes anyone’s life better) I tried taking a pill or two and when that couldn’t defeat the beast, I simply admitted defeat and life spiraled into a black hole of darkness. I was subjected to one defeat after another. I created one fantasy after another that had no substance at all in order to attempt to climb out of this pit I was stranded in. Actions based on fantasy and skewed reality are never good actions. I can say this with absolute confidence based on years of personal research.

Finally, I came to a point of no return. It was do or die time and I became determined to do or die trying. I might as well die trying. If I didn’t, I was going to die without trying. So the doctor gave me some more pills. I knew they weren’t THE answer. They were, however, a part of the answer. I learned to listen to what others said. That sounds easy enough but it is a lot harder than you would think with the bully screaming in my ears all day long.

The most important part was involving God in this. Sure, I had prayed before, “God take this away. Make me strong. Make me normal.” But there was no way in the world that God was going to do all this as long as I was not obedient to his Word and went on being obedient to the beast. See, somewhere along the line, I failed at being the master of the beast and Satan saw the beast was in need of a master. He was glad to come along and fill the bill.

I’ve learned that I am not strong enough to beat the beast. The bully’s will is stronger than my own will. But he does NOT have to run out of control in my life. My obedience to God helps me insure that the bully keeps his hands to himself and I can live in peace. Finally, I can live in peace.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. 19 The righteous person faces many troubles, but the lord comes to the rescue each time.

There truly is rescue. God knows who I am and I am created this way for a purpose. I am finally seeing that purpose in my life after many, many years of not understanding my purpose. I have seen glimpses of that purpose in the past but they seemed impossible after the flaws and defeats came and wrecked my life. It turns out that God wasn’t performing some microwave version of instant Christianity in me. He was patiently working in me as I fought and failed time after time until I was ready to fulfill his purpose. He was patient, I was not.

I guess that’s it for today. It seems that I am only scratching the surface of this subject. It is at the heart of my study in Psalms. Once, I was satisfied with only rescue. God had more. Then I was more than happy with recovery. That is where I am now, but God has more.

I can see more on the horizon and I am no longer afraid.

So Worth It

I haven’t written a lot about what has gone on for the last week here at home.  I’ve been in flashback mode a little bit.

Starting on Sunday, my grandson was taken to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.  He was very sick.  I guess he had that kind of 24-hour stomach thing that lasts 72 or 84 hours.

So, I found myself back at the hospital that scares me into next week.  This wasn’t my first visit there.  I recall the first time.  It was really one of the most terrifying nights of my life.

We took my daughter, my grandson’s mother, there for an unknown ailment.  We didn’t know anything other than it could be really bad.  I was terrified because all the words I heard being tossed around were bad words and a lot of thoughts began to race around in my head that I just couldn’t handle.

Eventually the good news and the bad news came that my daughter had crohn’s disease.  The good news was it was not going to take her from us.  The bad news was it would not leave her.  That was the first of many trips to the that hospital, trips filled with pokes, tears, needles, expensive medication, fear and numerous other emotions.

This week I found myself back at that place.  I hope I never return.  I found myself in the old nightmare of screams and tears and being helpless.  This time I was torn between trying to console my daughter or my two-year old grandson.

I’m not cut out to be anyone’s hero or to be able to come to the rescue in times of crisis.  A time of crisis tends to knock my feet out from under me and when it is over, I feel like the useless person in all the movies that fled the scene screaming at the first sign of trouble.

It is easy for me to sit in that scary hospital now and regret that I was not better at being who I was supposed to be there.  My wife was so much better at it all.  She stood tall while I crumbled.

I don’t have a big analogy today.  I don’t have much.  I’m just a tired old guy that wishes things could somehow be different sometimes, that children could just be children and not worry about staying in a hospital and wondering what is wrong with them.

My buddy is home now and is on the mend.  Yesterday he was at our home running like a maniac through the house.

This morning, I sit here thankful that my little girl has grown up and given us a blessing like Oakley and I’m grateful for all the times he drives me nuts with his boundless energy and stubbornness.

I’m even grateful for all the days and nights in that scary hospital, sitting with my daughter not knowing just how to be dad.

Life never gets easy, at least for me, but is worth it.  Every struggle, every trial, every moment of confusion and even the times of sheer terror are worth it somehow.  I can’t explain why exactly, it just is.

I Feel Funny

People ask me, “Mike, what makes you so funny?” I tell them, “I put a piece of baloney in my shoe and I feel funny.”

OK, no one ever asks me that so I never get a chance to use that Steve Martin joke that is so old that people have forgotten it.

I have always tried to be funny. From the first day of first grade till now, I have been quick with a joke. Notice that I didn’t say quick with a good joke. I have been content with getting a laugh or a groan as a reward for my goofy sense of humor. I love being able to change the mood in a room by making people laugh. I wish I could do it all the time but even Rodney Dangerfield had an off night. Fortunately, he always looked funny, so there’s that.

I have learned some things about funny people, they aren’t always funny. Many, if not most or all of them use funny to mask the person they really are. The attention grabbing persona that draws everyone’s eyes toward them when they walk into the room is a bold way to deflect others’ view of them away from reality. They become someone fun and carefree and no one can see the fear and pain they are hiding.

It is just like the illusionist that expertly diverts our gaze and fools us into believing the absurd while hiding the reality unfolding right in front of our eyes. When we look close, past the humor to where the humor comes from we see disturbing things. There is sarcasm, hate, prejudice and pain that breed their words. Comedian after comedian has lost their lives after the humor wasn’t enough to soothe their broken emotions and other things came along to ease their turmoil.

I have used humor to hide my unhappiness with myself. I have used it as a way to judge others. I have used it to turn my contempt toward anything and everything into an acceptable way to lash out. I used it too much. I remember one occasion at a work Christmas party years ago. A guy I worked with walked up to me with his wife. He said, “This is the guy right here.” Then he looked at me and said, “Ok, say something funny.” I looked at him for a second and couldn’t think of anything to say and he actually seemed angry with me for not making his wife laugh. I was just a funny guy to him. If I couldn’t make him laugh, he wanted nothing to do with me. He had no idea who I was. I was a scared, broken guy that had successfully fooled everyone including my wife.

I am not saying that being fun and laughing is bad. It is awesome. I am saying that being a fake can have bad consequences in our lives. I have done the same with other renditions of the illusion of myself. Along with the funny guy, I have been the angry guy, the confident guy, the partying guy, the talking guy. I have used all my energy to hide the guy that I really am and let the real guy get sicker and sicker and sicker.

Thank God, the real Mike is feeling a lot better these days. I sit here every morning taking a look at who I really am. I look at all those things I haven’t liked about myself and try to figure out how God wants me to fix them. Nothing gets better by ignoring it. My pain doesn’t go away by making a joke about it or being angry about it. God’s Word applied to it will heal it though. Sometimes it will sting for a while but that’s a good thing.

The next thing I need to do today is come up with a pun that will really make everyone roll their eyes. I love that. Keep it real, peeps!

I Am a People

People can drive a sane person crazy. I’m not sure where people drive me because I live so close to crazy, maybe a mile past crazy.

People rarely behave the way I believe they should behave or even the way God believes they should behave. People filter all their actions through a layer of selfishness. So do I, I am a people, too. I’ve been trying hard to sand down that selfishness layer but it is still there dulling everything and fogging up the good that is around me.

In 2 Corinthians, we can see that Paul was an apostle but he was also people (or a person). He had frustration, anger, hurts, just like we not so apostle-like types. In fact, before God chose him, he was a zealous persecutor of Christians that thrived on these weaknesses. God called him to put these things away and follow him and do as he said. Thankfully, Paul did as he was told.

2 Corinthians 12:11 You have made me act like a fool. You ought to be writing commendations for me, for I am not at all inferior to these “super apostles,” even though I am nothing at all. 12 When I was with you, I certainly gave you proof that I am an apostle. For I patiently did many signs and wonders and miracles among you. 13 The only thing I failed to do, which I do in the other churches, was to become a financial burden to you. Please forgive me for this wrong!

Don’t skip over the scriptures there. I’ve always liked verse thirteen, it shows Paul’s aggravation and frustration and yes, that is sarcasm! Paul had devoted a lot of time and teaching to the Corinthians and they loved teaching, they just weren’t very particular what kind of teaching they followed. They tended to get away from the gospel and flavor it with whatever religion tickled their fancies.

Paul, gives them stern and direct credentials for who and what he is. He’s obviously not very happy as he writes this. He feels that they should have gotten this through their heads already.

I’m often angered by people that can’t grasp the obvious, people that see truth as what they want it to be rather than what it is. There’s a lot of that around the political and moral climate in this world at this time. Sometimes it seems to me that the truth should be so in your face that it isn’t difficult to decipher. But then again, I see truth the way I want to see it, more than I should, and maybe, just maybe, I am not as right as I believe I am.

Paul was right in his assessment. He was wholly devoted to God and carrying out the message of God even if it killed him. I tend to be willing to share the message even if it causes me to miss breakfast. I’m sure I need to make a deeper commitment. I need to do what God calls me to do regardless of anything, even people. I know I can blame others for my flimsy devotion to God but it is all me.

2 Corinthians 12:14 Now I am coming to you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you. I don’t want what you have—I want you. After all, children don’t provide for their parents. Rather, parents provide for their children. 15 I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you, even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me.

Paul was hurt, offended, insulted and angered by these people, yet he returned to them to love them, teach them and offer himself in any way he could to help them. I don’t know if I could have returned to them a third or even a second time. I know I am learning to do that one person at a time. I’ve made up my mind that people will let me down, it’s what people do often. That doesn’t make them bad or reduce their need for what I may have to offer. Maybe all I ever accomplish is the offering of myself. Who knows what God can do with that?

Making God Visible

It is easy to look at someone and see that they are really messed up. In fact, I have spent far too much time looking for the flaws in others and pointing them out.

The thing is, we are all human. There is not one perfect human walking around on this planet. Even if they appear to be the perfect human, the mere fact that they are human screams imperfection.

For me, the most important thing to remember when I read the bible is that it was written for humans. It isn’t written to frustrate us or demean us. It is written to help us make the most of our humanity.

One of the greatest flaws of humanity is the failure to see that our spirituality greatly enhances our lives. It is neglected and relinquished to playing the part of a forgotten relative sitting alone in a nursing home unable to function in a fast-paced busy world.

When the spirit is starved and dying, all that is left is my mortality. My actions become more meaningless and my mind begins to degenerate. My flaws overtake me and I become lost searching for answers to my dilemma laden life.

What’s a human to do?

James 5:17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

Elijah didn’t do this stuff to punish and put down the people God created.  He didn’t to make God visible to them.

I think I have used my humanity as an excuse for my lack of success in the spiritual realm instead of seeing how God wants to use it to make him visible to a world blind to him. I seem to forget that every single person God has in his hall of fame is a human.

2 Corinthians 12:9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

Elijah, Elisha, Abraham and all the other heavy hitters were just as flawed and broken as I am. But they learned to lean into a powerful, unfailing God full of grace and strength. They learned to build up the spiritual even though the human nature in them was weak and prone to goof life up on a grand scale. God strengthened them. God bestowed wisdom upon them. God took their meager faith and turned it into something supernatural.

That’s what God wants to do in me and you. He wants me to stand up bolstered by his strength, speak out with his voice and walk where he leads. I can’t imagine what happens next when I obey in this way when I become invisible and God is there for everyone to see.

Sharing Joy

At times, I have sat down and wondered why, if God has called me to do this, doesn’t the entire cyberspace open up and transport the words I bang out all over the darkest corners of internet-dom or realms of the digital media or worlds of binary construct.

I mean, although what I do has the severe limits of being a somewhat emotionally and spiritually crippled man, applying God to this changes that.  If this is what God expects me to do, well then, why doesn’t he do it big?

First of all, I am a very silly man.  It should be apparent to me by now, that God doesn’t really like to paint with a broad brush.

He isn’t the famous Bob Ross making the illusion of happy little skies with a two inch brush and phthalo blue and a little alizarin crimson.

He has made all of creation in every tiny, minute, nearly invisible detail.

I may wish to be the happy little sky that all eyes gaze on but I may be part of a tiny patch of scrub oak far away in the background.  I’m still part of a masterpiece, just not the part people walk away in awe of.

Second of all, I am not Jesus.  What I call success is often far more than Jesus saw in his lifetime.  Jesus walked around teaching and reaching.  Often his words went no further than the ears that were present to hear them.

Luke 4:14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. 15 He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

I am sitting here this morning wondering what he taught regularly in Galilee at this time.  Only the people that were there know for sure.  Was another beautiful Sermon on the Mount orated by the Son of God?  We’ll never know.

It was good stuff, people praised him.  But it isn’t in the scriptures.

If the very words of Jesus were so sparsely recorded, why in the name of Heaven would I expect more?

The real reason I do what I do is because I need to do it.  I really have to apply the “watch yourself” mentality to life.  If I think I am standing firm, be careful that I don’t fall.  It isn’t to become known as a some brilliant writer (there is no danger of that) or to be the happy sky in God’s masterpiece.

It is to speak out clearly about what I have to surrender so that God can use this mess.

I need to be happy with the few people each week that tell me that the words I have the privilege to type were just what they needed to hear.

Not many people are blessed with hearing or reading that about what they do all that often.  God gives me that gift.  I can recall hearing that what I did deserved a punch in the nose.  Those days are behind me (most of the time).

So although Bob Ross is no longer sharing The Joy of Painting to the world, I can still share the joy of letting go of my hurts, habits and hang ups with those that care to read and listen.

Jesus Use Someone Else

I can still hear the songs being sung in our old church. They still ring out like they did when I was a little boy. This morning one in particular comes to my mind.

Jesus use me.
Oh Lord please don’t refuse me,
For surely there’s a work that I can do.
Even though it’s humble,
Lord help my will to crumble.
Though the cross be great, I’ll work for you.

I hear the old voices as they harmonized, the instruments as they played. I hear my dad singing, leading the congregation and my mom playing the organ. Grandpa sat on the back row keeping an eye on me as he waited to take the offering.

The pastor sang loud and emphatically. Everyone joined in and sang how they’d carry the cross and do the Lord’s work.

As I grew older, I’d sing that song but it would haunt me. I knew for a fact I couldn’t live up to those words. I’d much prefer God use others and that it benefit me. I was asking God for a big break to become a rock star and to help me find my fame. I never once sat down with God to see if that was in his plan at all.

So my will didn’t crumble. It stood firm as life crumbled all around it. There was work for me to do but I was not going to do it.

Romans 8:6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

By allowing my desires, which I rationalized as not being sinful, (I was dying to live the sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle…only in a good way??) I was letting my sinful nature control my mind. When God asked me for faithfulness, I’d do something else. When God asked me to follow him, I went the other way. When God came in the room, I hid in the stack of fig leaves over in the corner.

My depression became worse and worse. I sought other evil to entertain me. I fogged my mind with chemicals. I pushed God further and further away and the beast that lived within me took over. He thrived on my disobedience and arrogance. I thought I was making myself great but I was allowing myself to be sold off into a torturous and evil slavery.

Whenever the thought to turn back to God entered my mind it was chased away by the hostile beast that was ruling over me. I would give God lip service but was very rarely able to taste the fruits of God’s love because I was never given wholly over to him.

Life isn’t easy now. It isn’t going to be as long as I wear this banged up body every day. There are struggles everyday. I can choose to struggle in bondage to my sinful nature or choose to struggle for Christ and inherit life and peace. I’m not going to breeze through the day being waited on like some rock star. Every morning life is going to hit me smack in the face. It can either hit me with God’s promises or the two-by-four of disappointment. I’m opting for promises.

Romans 8:17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

I’ve sought glory all my life and suffered for my efforts. I managed to come up glory-less. God’s glory is amazing. It takes a puny guy like me and fills me with supernatural strength and uses me for all those things I was once afraid to commit to do. Jesus use me…