Archive for August, 2011

Healthy Tension


Switchfoot is one of my all-time favorite Christian bands.  Last week I wrote a post using some Queensryche lyrics (you can link to that post here), so this week I thought I would balance that out.  I had the opportunity to see Switchfoot in person a few weeks ago at Rock the Desert.  They did an amazing job – fighting dust and the suffocating west Texas August heat.

Yesterday, I ran across this music video of theirs from the song, Dare You To Move.  As I watched, I really listened to the words for the first time in a while.  The words that caught my attention and have stuck with me up to this point are these:

Welcome to the fallout
Welcome to resistance
The tension is here
Tension is here
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be

I have been wrestling with these words.  I often feel that tension – in fact, I would say that I feel that tension each and every day.  I feel the tension between who I am and who I could be.  I also feel the tension between how it is and how it should be.

You see, as a follower in the Way, I firmly believe that God has called followers to push for the change that would move our world from what it is to what it should be.  In fact, I have committed my life to the struggle that is part of that tension.  Anyone can go with the flow – that is easy!  It takes courage and strength to push for change – to call our world into tension.

How about you?  Are you living in tension?  Maybe you should be!

I dare you!

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When is the last time you saw God working around you?

Last Wednesday, I had prepared for our Bible study that evening.  I had been through my notes and re-read the passage for discussion.  As I prepared, I knew there was more to be said than what I had on paper but I could not seem to wrap my head around it.  I prayed for God to speak through me and open all of our hearts – which is my normal prayer before I speak.

As we began our Bible study, I had barely moved into my first point when a lady in the back of the chapel answered a question that I had asked.  All of the sudden, the truth of the passage opened up to me and we spent the next 15 minutes having great discussion around what that meant for our church.

As I drove home, I realized, God had shown up.  It is not that God is not normally present – the Bible teaches us that God is always with us.  But in that particular instance, I could see God at work.

I find that the problem is not that God is not working everyday, all around me.  The problem is with me.  I don’t slow down long enough to see.  My sensitivity to seeing God at work has been numbed by all the sights and sounds of this world.

Take time today to slow down and really look for God at work.  The question is not whether God is working – the question is whether or not you will see.

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Last night at church, we talked about God’s power.  We looked at what Paul faced throughout his ministry.  We know, from reading in the Book of Acts and the letters Paul wrote, that he was an amazing giant in the faith.  He endured persecution and imprisonment, he was ship wrecked on the way to share the Gospel, he was rejected and beaten by different villages.  He endured all kinds of challenges but never once do we see in the New Testament that he was deterred from following through with what God had asked him to do.

I find it interesting that Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12 talks about his weakness.  You can read about it here.

We are not told what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was but there is no denying that Paul felt that it rendered him weak when it came to following what God had for him.  He asked God three times to remove it.  God answered by saying, “No – it is through your weakness that my strength comes through.”

Is God able to show strength through your weakness?  Have you thought about it?

God created you to be capable of doing many things.  But maybe you have thought to yourself, “If I just had more training, I could lead that small group.”  Or maybe you have thought, “Once I retire, I will have more time to do what I know I should be doing for God.”

What I find in myself is that I tend to work within what I deem to be my strengths.  I feel I know what God has gifted me to do and so I strive to make the most of it.  This approach is Biblical and I feel it is what God would have us do.  But I am left with the question, “What am I attempting to do today that if God does not show up, I will fail?”

Are you planning on attempting to do something today that is a little out of your comfort zone?

When we take the first step to venture out beyond our comfort zone, that is when God can do his best work.

Venture out today.

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If you live in west Texas, then this is a special day.  What’s so special you may ask?

High school football.

Even if you don’t live in Texas, as long as you live in the America, high school football is a big deal.  BUT . . . if you live in west Texas – it’s a huge deal!

People take off work early to travel hours to watch 16, 17 and 18 year olds put on pads and take the field.  Car windows (or in west Texas – truck windows) are covered in shoe polish with encouraging words and images to spur their teams to do their best.  The fields are prepped and ready for action.  The fans fill the stands and get settled in anticipation of the kick off.  Everyone is wearing their school colors and waving flags and pom poms.  And usually their is that one really annoying person with the propane tank full of rocks sitting right behind you – shaking that thing incessantly – to the point that you want to take it and . . .  but I digress.

The point is, Friday nights in west Texas have become THE community event.  People who would not really socialize on any other day of the week, sit side by side on Friday night for a common cause – to cheer their team on.

How cool would it be if that same sense of community could be found at church?  Think about it – people from all socio-economic backgrounds, from all parts of town, from all different races – coming together for one common purpose – to worship, learn and grow together.

So today, here is my challenge for each of us: head out to support your local team this evening.  As you sit in the stands, take a look around and then offer this prayer:  Lord God, may my church become a place for community that far surpasses what I see here tonight – and use me to make that happen!

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This may come as a surprise to those of you who have not read my ramblings until recently (those long time followers already know this about me) but I am a rocker at heart.  OK – the secret is out.  My typical music in the car is Christian rock, but every once in a while, I move to a station further up the dial and listen to some classic rock.  Yesterday, I was headed to watch a couple of our students play volleyball at the high school and the radio was set to the rock station.  A song came on by Queensryche that I recognized but had not really listened to closely before.  More or less the song dealt with escaping into a fantasy world where the singer was free of pain and struggle.

The words that struck me were these (actually the title of the song as well):  silent lucidity.

I don’t know why I was taken with this concept but I began to think about what that meant and how different the world might be if we were all a little more lucid in our thinking.   Lucidity is unhindered clarity of thought (my definition – but close to Webster’s).  What if our world was filled with folks with clear thinking?  It would be a better place.

We all have the capability of thinking more clearly – but our primary problem is that we spend very little time thinking at all.  Often, this is particularly true of our walk with Jesus.  Our lives are so filled with doing that the majority of us leave little time for thinking.  I am guilty of this each day.  I fill my calendar with good things but rarely do I include time to just think – to sit and listen for God’s promptings.

Today, take some time to strive for silent lucidity.  Pray that God would speak clearly to you today!

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This past Sunday we talked about the fact that we all carry burdens.  We have things in our lives we wish were not there.  But when we come to church, we feel like we have to hide those things.  I was reading one of my favorite authors (Thomas Merton) this morning and ran across this passage in New Seeds of Contemplation:

For me to be a saint means to be myself.  Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and discovering my true self.

Trees and animals have no problem.  God makes them what they are without consulting them, and they are perfectly satisfied.

With us it is different.  God leaves us free to be whatever we like.  We can be ourselves or not, as we please.  We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal.  We may be true or false, the choice is ours.  We may wear now one mask and now another, and never, if we so desire, appear with our own true face.  But we cannot make these choices with impunity.  Causes have effects, and if we lie to ourselves and to others, then we cannot expect to find truth and reality whenever we happen to want them.  If we have chosen the way of falsity we must not be surprised that truth eludes us when we finally come to need it!

Merton is talking to believers.  God gives us a choice to be the person we were created to be – the person God intends – or to be someone else.  We have a tendency to want to make people believe we have it all together as if to show who we really are would be less attractive or would be less lovable.

The community of believers has to be a real community.  None of us are perfect – so why do we want others to believe it is so?

My challenge to each of us today is simply this:  Be Yourself – Be REAL!

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First Day of School Prayer

The first day of school.  Kinda brings back memories doesn’t it?  I remember having to get up and get  ready for school when I really didn’t want to go.  I didn’t have anything better to do, but I just didn’t care for school.

Somewhere along the line that changed and I realized I wanted to be a life-long learner.  But when I was the age of my kids – all I could think about was basketball, girls and getting out of school.

This morning I watched my middle son drive off with my youngest son as they headed off to high school together.  This is the first time as a parent that I have not had to carry at least one of our kids to school.  I guess I am feeling old but it would appear they are growing up!

As I watched them walk out the door together, I could not help but think to myself how they each have their whole life in front of them.  Ethan is a junior and Bryson a freshman.  They will have decisions along the way that, once made, could redirect their lives forever.  As a parent, it is a little scary to think about.

But my trust is in the Lord.  I have placed them in God’s hands today.  Today I pray for my kids, and all kids, as they begin school.

Lord God, I pray today that you will protect our kids.  Please grow them into the responsible people you want them to become.  Develop them into sincere followers of Jesus so they can make a difference in their schools, in our communities and in our world.  Amen!

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Wow!  It is hard to believe but today marks a significant milestone in this area of my ministry.  Today is post number 500 for Clay In The Hands.  It doesn’t seem possible that I have been involved in sharing my musings that many times since April of 2009.  But here we are – number 500.  So today, I thought I would list some things I have learned through this experience.

  1. It is really hard to have anything to say if I am not focusing regularly on my walk with Jesus.
  2. I have had to learn to be much more observant in order to see God at work around me.
  3. God can use the thoughts I share in ways I could not have imagined or planned.
  4. How humbling it is to have people actually read what I share here.
  5. How much better Mac’s are than PC’s – OK that was not necessarily learned through my efforts here – but it is true none the less!
  6. The joy I have experienced when someone from another part of the world sends me a message about how they have been affected by this ministry.
Those are just a few things I have experienced through this effort.  So I wonder how God will work through the next 500 posts?
Thanks so much for reading!
Be blessed today!

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I have been silent for a few days.  I have to admit, it has been different to be away from the keyboard.  Actually, being away from technology has been difficult.  I spent 4 days on a trip to Colorado with a group of 11 men.  We did not even have cell service where we went much less internet.  We saw the sights from a jeep, we had worship around a campfire, we got to see rain (which is not a usual sight here in west Texas).  I even tried my hand at fly fishing.

You know, when I was in college, I contemplated getting an ear ring (not for long – but it did cross my mind).  But I never once thought about piercing my nose.  But I am here to tell you, if you don’t cast that fly just right, you could come home with a new piercing.  A note for the future – when you are fly fishing and in the midst of casting, don’t attempt to change the direction of your cast.  I learned that the fly will pierce the skin on a person’s nose – and it might even draw a little blood.  Lesson learned!

The best part of the trip was building relationships with a group of guys I had not had the opportunity to get to know very well before the trip.  It is always great to hear a person’s story.  I was reminded that being a part of a body of believers is getting to know one another.  It is hard to really care deeply for a person if you don’t know them.  But why does it take getting away and being secluded with a handful of folks to make that happen?

Here is my challenge for you today – think about the acquaintances in your life.  Who can you set aside a little time for today to really get to know them?  Take the time to invest in a relationship today!

Now where is that antiseptic cream?

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In Spite of My Plan

Have you ever had one of those days?  Yesterday started out to be “one of those days.”  I got up at my normal 6:10 to get my youngest son up and off to cross-country practice.  I took him to practice and then returned home to get ready for work and a busy day.  At 7:25 I headed back to the practice to pick him up.  His run yesterday was much longer than normal so he did not make it to the car until about 8.  So now I was late.  I ran him back home, darted into the kitchen to top off my travel mug of coffee and then back to the car and down the road.

I made good time through town and out on the highway for the 24 mile drive to Littlefield.  I had my day mapped out and ready to go when I arrived at the office.  I parked the car and got out, opened the back door to grab my backpack (which contains my laptop) and – – yep, you guessed it – no backpack.  My “life” was sitting beside my chair at home – 24 miles away!

I went into the office and told my ministry assistant what I had done and then went back to the car to make the drive back home to get my computer!

I suppose it goes without saying that my scheduled plans were shot!

But I have to tell you – the day went fine in spite of me.  I had a good premarital counseling session (for which I did not feel as prepared as I like due to be being rushed), I had a great visit with a wonderful man who just lost his wife last month and actually got some things done to boot.

I was reminded that God can work in my life whether it is through my plan or in spite of it!

So today, I say – have a plan.  But don’t be so tied to it that you fail to see God at work around you!

Be blessed today!

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