I Didn’t Know What to Post Today, So Here’s an Awesome Video

Sometimes, we just need to worship.

Something brushes past me when I watch this – a chill, a whisper of God’s enormity, over the horizon and around each corner.

The universe bows.

I hope, in the midst of Monday’s renewed chaos and noise, that this will remind you of God’s infinite reach and beauty.

 

A Contentment Story that Won’t Stay in Vegas

You know the saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?”

Not this time. You’re hearing it.

Don’t worry, it’s not tawdry.

A couple years ago, I was acting as chaperone for a senior trip. My students had chosen Las Vegas for the destination, and despite their penchant for mischief, the week had gone well (i.e. nobody arrested or kicked out of the hotel). Perhaps it was just the desert heat sucking all the energy out of them; after all, they were northern kids. But whatever. They’d had fun, seen things they’d never seen before (water park, amusement park, strip, restaurants, taxi rides), and there we were at the Vegas airport ready to fly home. My trip leader’s only regret was that she hadn’t been able to see the “Old Strip”; apparently there was a former Strip before the current one we’ve all heard of.

But a problem struck. One of our students was not being allowed past airport security. Vegas TSA was apparently deciding that his ID wasn’t sufficient – even though Montana’s TSA had found no problem with it.

So one of our students was stuck in Vegas.

And since the student was male, and I was the only male chaperone on the trip, guess who had to stay with him?

This guy.

The trip leader handed me a benjamin and an apologetic grin. I had to escort an antsy, somewhat reckless 18-year-old back home, across the country, by bus. And to make things better, it was 7 in the morning and the next Greyhound north to Salt Lake City didn’t leave until 10:15pm.

Did I mention that I was already missing the wedding of two good friends – including a former student I’d mentored for four years – to go on this trip?

Sigh.

So the student and I grabbed a taxi to the city Greyhound station, plunked our butts firmly down in some highly uncomfortable seats, and settled in to wait. For 14 hours.

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Act in Faith, or Stand Still?

turtleYesterday, our youth group discussed faith in action.

The Scripture was from James 2. We discussed how true faith is not created by action, but will create action. If you want a job, you don’t just sit around and pray; you get proactive, take a shower, send out applications and resumes, network. If you want to help the needy, you don’t just sit around and pray; you get creative, volunteer, brainstorm, sacrifice. There’s a part that’s God’s to do, and there’s a part that’s ours; God’s will is a collusion of the two.

I was also careful (after having given a poor impression at first, like I seemingly did above) to tell my teens that prayer in itself is action. We sometimes say of a situation that “All we can do now is pray.” All we can do? That is the greatest possible action! The fact that we resort to prayer after exhausting all our own resources tells us how backwards our view of the world is. Prayer does stuff. If you’re sick, you don’t just lie on the couch and post miserable Facebook memes; you get intercession, call some believers to lay hands on you and pray for your healing, as if you believed James 5:14-15 is actually true(!). Like heat from a flame, real faith will be given away by the action it generates.

But this morning, I got to thinking.

There are times when faith means no action.

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“Everything Beautiful in Its Time” – and Only Then

winterI’ll never forget that May snowstorm a few years ago.

It was only a couple inches, but with the snow sopping wet and everything in full bloom, the trees didn’t have the strength to withstand even that much. It looked like a hurricane had blown through. Branches littering the streets, trees sagging into yards and onto power lines…my mother, out for a walk, had a branch come crashing to the ground only feet away from her.

Things aren’t beautiful outside their time.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Or try the other side. Ever hoped guiltily for a winter that would dart unexpectedly out the door in February and leave us with an early spring? I have. A good friend once said that spring “feels hopeful.” Certainly more so than winter. I don’t enjoy the brownness of the earth in winter, the gray skies, the inability to smell anything. Some people feel more alive in the crispness of winter air, but not me. Winter is a season of dead. The long, dark nights offer depression, like I’m living on Mars. Give me one month of winter to snowboard and make Christmas look right, and then we can be done. Coming up at eleven: What my car thinks of winter – uncensored! (Why do I live in Montana again?)

And sometimes, spring indeed comes early. A sneaky glee springs within me in those years.

But it’s not beautiful outside its time.

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God Will Keep Giving You Chances

catchIn January of 2015, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse had probably the worst game of his life.

During the championship match to decide the participants of Super Bowl XLIX, Seahawks quarterback Wilson threw four interceptions, all of them intended for Kearse. Most of those passes themselves were accurate; two of them bounced off Kearse’s hands, and two of them he just didn’t seem to fight all that hard for. Not the kind of stat line that wins you games.

Given that this carbuncle took place during a time of frustrated prayer for me, I assumed it was an answer from God and started looking for a spiritual application.

‘Cuz I’m like that.

At first, in that all-too-common stage of putting words in God’s mouth, I figured his lesson to me was something like this: “You’re Russell Wilson and I’m your coach. Stay in the game; keep fighting like Wilson did.” After all, Wilson is epic, and he’s the one in the trenches while his coach does the thinking, planning, observing, and instructing from the sidelines. Perseverance is a tool of the kingdom. Made sense.

But God broke in and reshaped my thoughts.

I’m Russell Wilson. You’re Jermaine Kearse.

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Sexist “Locker Room Talk” isn’t Okay, Young Men of God – No Matter How Many Women Condone It

wastelandI’m no better.

I have, in the past, engaged in sexual sin. That it was not as open, egregious, or law-pushing as Donald Trump’s recently revealed sin (which I will not repeat here) is irrelevant to God. A glance is evil in his sight. Stark reality, no? Yet that is the clear message of Jesus.

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)

We cannot boast of “lesser sin”. We can only repent and strive.

Fortunately, God and I are winning. At this moment, lust is being held at bay in my life through his power, and I am enjoying the freedom and joy of knowing that I’m on his ordained track. Praise be to him. And only him.

It is from this freedom that I write to you, young men of God. For you must hear something.

As a youth leader, I have striven to help raise young men of God like you. Among the qualities I’m charged to engender is respect for your sisters in Christ. This means setting you against the world with blunt warnings from an early age, for the world does not play nice. You are on my heart, and I want you warned. You men of the kingdom need to know that the world will tempt you. Peer pressure, rationalization, even bullying when you don’t play along…the world will throw in everything but the kitchen sink.

And sadly, one of the defining traits of this world’s moral decay is so-called “locker room talk” – crass, sexually charged talk of women among male circles.

I am no stranger to locker room talk. I spent four years in the Air Force, where I spent time in dormitories, hangars, and launch trucks getting inundated with filthy speech of all sorts. Not even remotely could I claim to have virgin ears today. Some things don’t necessarily stick. F-bombs roll off my back now; I barely notice. But the degrading talk of women – the graphic descriptions of pornographic material, the exploits other men carried out in high school, their contempt for their wives – has been harder to forget. I remain a virgin, but I learned way more about the birds and the bees from those men than I should have. After that, it was three years teaching at a rural high school, where the kids had been raised rough and their tongues rougher. They knew more about sex than I did. And they weren’t afraid to share, even if it cost them a detention.

I’m sincerely glad that the blood of Christ and years’ worth of passing time have mostly cleansed those memories. I’ve worked hard for that. By God’s grace, I look forward to relearning it all from my future wife, in a pure and far more truthful way, on our wedding night.

But the stunning thing, and the trap that nobody warned me about?

Not all women despise this behavior.

Through it all, there were women who tolerated it, laughed, even joined in.

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Six Things I Told My Past Self

timeLast week, on a roadside after a delivery, I found a small, unmarked box containing a time machine.

Weirdly, it didn’t appear in any pictures or videos I tried to take with my phone. It wasn’t a huge device, either, closer to the size of a toaster. Unlike the ones in movies and TV shows, it seems you can actually only do so much with this kind of technology, no fitting in a whole person or any such. It would, however, accommodate a small letter. 

The instant I realized that, I knew what to write.

I had to drive down to Phoenix to take the exact GPS coordinates of my old Union Hills apartment, so the device would land when and where I wanted it. I set the sequencer to place it there in late 2004 (the dial wouldn’t go further into the past than 15 years), hoping that my younger self might find it and. at the very least. face the next few years better equipped. Then I pressed the big red button. Thank goodness for big red buttons.

The device vanished soundlessly. Nothing in my life appears to have changed. Either it didn’t work, or it did work and the result was a separate branching timeline with which we can’t interact. I guess I have no way of knowing.

But I can share what the letter contained. Maybe, if you’re further back on the trail God once assigned to me – well, I just thought it might be of help.

 

 

I know things are tough right now. Man, are they tough. Everything feels like a suffocating mattress of isolation and confusion. That “amazing plan for your life” you heard about isn’t materializing, and you’re struggling to readjust to adult life away from home. You feel hurt, helpless, and hopeless.

You are under attack.

That’s how you need to see your present circumstances. That’s the lens you need. Things are actually going okay for you, but the onslaught of lies and fired-up emotions is making it hard to see – and threatening to sabotage it all.

There are six things you really need to hear. I hope you will be willing. Part of you doesn’t want to hear anything except “things will change tomorrow”. But if you will listen, you could find a much better life for yourself in the next few years.

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