Shattered Living in Compromise

February 14, 2010 at 5:18 am (Introspection, Leadership, Musings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

So many thoughts flood my fragile soul.  Just when I think I have what it takes to step forward and conquer the challenges that lie before us, a light breeze blows across the landscape and smacks me to the ground.  Like a grocery bag in the wind, it doesn’t take much to toss me about.  Forget the storms of life, I can’t even get out of the harbor.

Too many tell me to move one, let it go, lay it down.  All of which are great suggestions – and I’m trying.  But it feels as if my soul is empty of any source, sauce, or sanity.

Tonight, I was awoken by my son crying in the other room.  My short two-hour nap left me now wide awake.  In the dark, as I contemplated my options, I wondered what I could do to stifle the voices tonight?  Often I’ll find release in some mindless Internet-fueled entertainment.  Other times I’ll peruse the news, finding solace in the plight of others and the reminder that I am not alone, yet even quite blessed.  Often, sleep is elusive and only in the dawn do I begin to succumb to the fatigue of another sleepless night.

Formal, verbalized prayers are uncommon from my lips during times of trouble.  These past few months have been no different.  I rely on the promise that the Spirit interprets my groanings and cries.  Sometimes, during our walk down the beach-heads of life, we have to be carried into battle.  The alternative is to lie wounded in the surf and wait for the waves of the incoming tide to engulf our soon-to-be, lifeless bodies.  I don’t mind being carried.

Tonight, I lifted my family in prayer.  Tears fill my eyes as I realize I haven’t had the energy, means, or cognition to extend my thoughts outside of my own embryonic isolation.  As I prayed for my wife, my daughter, and my son – I felt the assurance and strength of my God.  I know He has been carrying them too.

In many ways, we will all carry scars from these events – and I don’t mind the wounds.  I’ve been wounded before.  Ultimately, these scars will blend with the others I carry; but my family?  This is a different story entirely.  The innocence lost – as I watch it ebb from their hearts, I begin to feel some of the pain Jesus must have felt as He stood on that lonely hill overlooking Jerusalem, surrounded by the crowd, He wept.  He wept for the souls lost and the pain of the process.

I would have stopped attending church awhile ago – had it not been for the needs of my family.  The Church is broken and has lost it’s focus, mission, and vision.  People perishing within the walls of a superficial community, but there seems to be no recognition of the blood pooling in the Foyer.  My faith in God has not wavered, but I continue to seek a community who are equally faithful and passionate.  A community that can lead and carry a broken family forward.

A couple of weeks ago, as I sat here writing, I received a text message on my phone: “I’m done with that church.  Let’s take the kids to SS and then go to the beach – or hiking or something?

I finished what I was working on, and retired to our bedroom.  After crawling into bed, I asked her if she meant that?  My heart barely containing my glee.  We talked at length, and that following weekend after the kids spent time in their classes, we drove to the beach and had a great afternoon!

It felt as if the pressure had been lifted from my shoulders – it’s the best gift I’ve received in ages.  And yet, I’m not sure this is a survivable plan for us.  When she speaks of church, which is never far from our conversational topics, I’ve noticed an increasing cynicism in my wife’s words and tone.  While this, in and of itself isn’t bad – it does pain me to see the innocence lost.  I’m one who has always thought that a healthy dose of cynicism will protect us from untoward abuse – but we were created to live innocent lives.

It is the love of God that sustains us.  I need Him to fill me to overflowing.  I need the overflow, not for myself – mind you, but for the care and thirsts of my family.  They need me to be back in the game.  Pray for us.

Lyrics to Washed By The Water (Needtobreathe):

Even when the rain falls
Even when the flood starts rising
Even when the storm comes
I am washed by the water

Daddy was a preacher
She was his wife
Just tryin to make the world a little better
You know, shine a light
People started talking
Trying to hear their own voice
Those people tried to accuse my father
Said he made the wrong choice
Though it might be painful
You know that time will always tell
Those people have long since gone
My father never failed

Even if the Earth crumbles under my feet
Even if the ones I love turn around and crucify me
I won’t never ever let you down
I won’t fall
I won’t fall
I won’t fall as long as you’re around me

[ Washed By The Water Lyrics on http://www.lyricsmania.com/ ]

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Is this the Destiny You Want for your Kids?

February 23, 2009 at 4:47 pm (change, Feedback Received, Introspection, Leadership, Musings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been contemplating my role as a spiritual leader.  If they don’t want me to be a prophet, a priest, or an apostle, what is my role?  I already know that I’ve not been called to be a traditional pastor – in the shepherd sense of the word.  My gift of mercy is too low for this and I tend to do more damage than good.  A friend sent me a link to an intriguing article that helped me to see a potential role as a poet – an artist who helps bridge the gap between truth and reality.

I actually see great potential for this role, however, my strengths are not well suited for this.  I love ideas, I love to write, and when I have the energy, I love to speak to groups of people.  However, I have a high need to see results.  It isn’t easy for me to sit back and wait for things to happen.  So, I’ve been thinking.

Well, in addition to moping, sulking, and grieving, I’ve been thinking.  I may have even been doing some denial, bargaining, and anger.  But, I’ve been thinking – I’m nothing if I’m not introspective.  Ok, I’ve also been doing some insomnia and depression – but that’s all – some bad eating habits, some insomnia, and some sulking – but that’s it.  Really!  All of that, and some thinking.

In the midst of all this thinking, I’ve had a couple of crucial conversations.  One person was seeking to change me – to fix me, if you will.  The other was seeking to enlighten me to the realities.  Though both conversations were intense, and both had relatively good outcomes, I was left more hopeless after each one.

“Hopeless?” You ask, “Why?”

I’m glad you asked.  I’m beginning to see more clearly the absolute desperate state of the Church in Western Society.  I’ve known that our culture has moved beyond Christianity as a belief structure that is relevant – let alone attractive.  We are a post-christian society.  I know that.  But, I’m coming to the conclusion that even our churches have given up on the beliefs and practices of Jesus Christ.

“What!?”

Yes, the church is good.  We are moral, we are good – to a fault.  We do the right things, but we don’t necessarily do things right.  We have the form of godliness, but we are denying the power” of God.  It really is no wonder that people see the church as irrelevant.  It is irrelevant to me, and I’m one of their leaders.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am a friend of God.  I am a follower of Jesus.  I take the Bible to be the inspired Word of God.  I believe the Church is called to represent Him on this world.  I have no doubts about who is my Creator, Savior, and Salvation.  I just don’t think the church, for the most part, is representing our mandate very well.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t do a lot of things well.  That doesn’t mean that we aren’t a good refuge for families, the disenfranchised, and others.  But, we have ceased to be a viable force in the lives of people – in the church and out.

What I’m talking about is greatness, or the lack thereof.  We have sacrificed greatness for the merely good.  We have good intentions, but you know where that road leads

I look around and I am struck by the fact that we have no young adults in our churches.  When kids get their freedom (ie; Drivers’ License), they start finding alternatives to church.  Many remain absent until they get out of school, get married, and have their own kids.  People start returning to church around the age of 30 (give or take).

I asked one of my friends (which was also one of the crucial conversations I mentioned above), if he thought the church was attractive to his kids (ages 20 & 22).  He said no.  I asked him if he thought the church was relevant to his kids.  He said yes – but then he launched into a long explanation of why it was his kids’ fault that they didn’t come to church.  It was classic – “blame the victimdogma.  I’ve heard it before, wrapped around a thousand stories.  “We have the truth – and THEY know where to find it.  All they have to do is come and get it.

I asked my other crucial conversation friend the same basic question.  “Is this the church you want your kids (4 & 7) to grow up in?”  It was one of the few times in this conversation that he stumbled.  “No,” he replied.

It was at this point that I began to ask my wife if we could raise our kids in this church.  As we discussed it, we were afraid to pursue the question to its end.  It is a scary question for those whose livelihood depends on the church that is supposed to take care of their children.

Once again, I settled into another round of insomnia, grief, and sulking – rounded out with some unproductive introspection.

I didn’t like where this question is leading me.  I don’t like leading questions.  Last week, it was only a matter of putting in my time until retirement.  Just stick it out, lay low, and don’t make any waves for the next couple of decades.  I don’t like the sound of that – but for the sake of my family, “I could stand on my head and stack BBs” (to quote my Dad).  We talked about starting a small home church where we could be fed – a place that provides the spiritual community that we are created to crave.

Just about the time I was coming to accept this choice – well, that’s when the Spirit gave me Part 2 of the quandary:  “Can my/our children survive this unhealthy state of affairs?”

The answer is no – in case there was any doubt.

Being a strategic and analytic thinker, my mind began to run ahead of the issue.  Where will we find spiritual community then?  Where will I work?  How will I support my family?  Where will we live?  How painful is this going to be?  There is also this thought: “Is God big enough to save my children, even if we live in Egypt?”

During the course of the two crucial conversations, I mentioned my employment concerns – based on the current state of the world economy.  Last year, I was confident that “I” could provide for my family.  This year, I’m not so sure.  It was at this point that God reminded me of Goliath’s threats to the Israelites, and David’s response.  “But,” I challenged, “David didn’t have a wife and kids.  All he had to lose was his own life.”

It was at this point that I became desperate for God.  I can’t do it.  I’m not big enough, strong enough, or capable enough – not to mention, I’m not smart enough.

I am a coward – and I am thinking cowardly thoughts.  So, yesterday, I turned it over to God.  I lay on the couch, in sleepless anxiousness, tossing and turning, and I gave it to God.  Then I slept.

As I left the house today I told my wife.  “We have to fight.”  We have to be smart about it, but we have to fight the complacency.  We have to fight the push to put us back into our place.  We have to work smarter (with God), and not harder.

I don’t want to.  I don’t have the courage yet.  I’m not ready.  I haven’t completely come through the stages of grief.  I don’t have the heart for the fight.  But, in my heart, I know – we have to fight for what’s right.  Not just for our kids’ sake.  Not just for our sake.  Not just for the sake of those who have decided that God has nothing for them.  But we have to stand up for God – to be reflectors of His character.  The Universe needs to see that God is not mediocre, He is not vindictive, unmerciful, uncaring, or un-hearing.  He lives – and He saves.

“David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.'” (1 Samuel 17)

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