Friday, January 13, 2012


Back when I was a youth pastor, I was younger and so full of hope. I was bright, optimistic and ready to take on the world. I guess anyone would be like that in my position. Life and goodness had been handed to me.

It took a couple years, but life finally reared its ugly head for me to see. Limitation, wickedness and irrevocability have been prevalent. The worst has shown it can get worse.

And now every time I try to put me back into the same place in the puzzle of youth ministry, I can’t do it. I am a puzzle piece who has changed shape. I keep trying to envision how I can fit myself back into the game but I feel like an athlete being sent into a game where there is no position for me. There has been no fit. 

I keep wondering what God could ever do with a heart like mine... 
until I was struck with a thought.

Imagine a little boy picking a handful of dandelions for his mother. He picks one and then another, and keeps picking them until his excitement to actually give them to her grows so great that he can pick dandelions no longer. He runs to her while cradling his prize and gives them to her with a beaming smile. She holds them to her heart because it’s the greatest gift… a gift from his heart. More precisely, I think, it is a gift of his heart.

Let’s face it. Dandelions are a bright yellow for a couple days before they turn to annoying white puffs and spread like, well, weeds.

But she sees love where anyone else would see weeds. The gift of the boy’s heart is made complete only in his mother’s eyes.

See the thing is that all I have ever wanted is to give my heart to God. Ever since I have seen more weeds grow in my heart, I thought God wouldn’t want me anymore.

Perhaps the things which I feel are weeds are the exact things which He wants from me. And then He will be the one to transform them into love.

“Everything which really needs to be done in our souls can only be done by God.” –C.S. Lewis

*** No, that is not me... found the little fella on Google.


“We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Have you ever seen someone who has the kind of eyes that tell a story?

Whether they are the eyes of a mother who just gave birth or the eyes of a prisoner in Auschwitz… eyes tell stories.

Every once in a while I get to catch a glimpse of someone’s eyes who are telling a story and here is the kicker… it is my job to listen.

I wish I was better at that.

Because I admit that I often judge people on what they do or don’t do. It’s stupid and I can’t stand it anymore. I think I need to stop and listen to the stories that wait in the souls of these people.

Jesus said to love our neighbors.

But how often to church people not even know their neighbor. I admit I don’t even know the faces of several of my neighbors… let alone their life stories.

It’s preposterous. And I can’t imagine Jesus would be like that at all. Even remotely.

Reality check… If you don’t know anyone who is hurting, then stop being blind to it.

We can’t pretend to love our neighbors if we don’t even know our neighbors.

“We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sunday, January 8, 2012

On Distant Shores

So I came across some old music of mine that I liked to listen to back in high school. Five Iron Frenzy was a band that was always at the top of my list of favorites. So on my trip down memory lane, I came across a song which I had always loved but now has new significance to me. Here ya go...

"I have been scarred so deep by life and cold despair,
and brittle bones were broken far beyond repair.
I have leveled lies so deep, the truth may never find.
And inside my faithless heart, I stole things never mine.

If mercy falls upon the broken and the poor,
Dear Father, I will see you, there on distant shores.

I have toiled for countless years and ever felt the cost,
and I've been burned by this world's cold,
like leaves beneath the frost.
On my knees I've crawled to You, bleeding myself dry.
But the price of life is more, than I could ever buy.

If mercy falls upon the broken and the poor,
Dear Father, I will see you, there on distant shores.

And off of the blocks, I was headstrong and proud,
at the front of the line for the card-carrying, highbrowed.
With both eyes fastened tight, yet unscarred from the fight.
Running at full tilt, my sword pulled from its hilt.
It's funny how these things can slip away, our frail deeds,
the last will wave good-bye.
It's funny how the hope will bleed away,
the citadels we build and fortify. Good-Bye.

Night came and I broke my stride,
I swallowed hard, but never cried.
When grace was easy to forget,
I'd denounce the hypocrites,
casting first stones, killing my own.
You would unscale my blind eyes,
and I stood battered, but more wise,
fighting to accelerate,
shaking free from crippling weight.
With resilience unsurpassed,
I clawed my way to You at last.
And on my knees, I wept at Your feet,
I finally believed, that You still loved me.

Healing hands of God
have mercy on our unclean souls once again.
Jesus Christ, Light of the World,
burning bright within our hearts forever.
Freedom means love without condition,
without beginning or an end.
Here's my heart, let it be forever Yours,
only You can make every new day seem so new."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Take Off

So I have has this recurring experience lately. I keep getting this weird feeling in my chest when I stop and think about life. Not just my life… but life in general. It feels like someone is reaching into my chest and squeezing my heart and my lungs so tight that I am not sure whether they are going to get squashed into a little red cube of oozy ex-organs or just burst out of my chest. It makes me want to go out on a 10 mile run but, yet, I also feel crushed.

Its not often you see a crushed man running down the sidewalk.

And, yet, that’s exactly what I feel compelled to do. As I get home from work at 11pm and I am walking up the stairs to my apartment, I want to turn the other way and run for a couple hours. As I sit here and write this post, I want to lace on my running shoes and go run to Kroger and back. As I live my life, I want to just take off somewhere.

It is not about the leaving. It is not about the destination. It is that I want to use my whole self. I want to push myself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

That is the bursting part.

But at the same time, I want to lie down. I want to curl up in the fetal position and cry. I want to not get out of bed one day. Or two. I want to be somewhere else. Or be someone else. I want to run away.

But in the middle of all of this weird upside-down and inside-out-ness that I have been feeling recently, I was asked a most unexpected question. I shared with a friend how desperately low, hopeless and helpless I had been feel lately and I admit I was hoping for some bit of advice that I would cling to as I endured this season of my life. But in the midst of my despair and depression, I realized that my biggest issue isn’t emotional uncertainly when my friend asked me, “What do you believe to be true about God these days?”

The question is still haunting me. My brain is coming up with answers, but my heart is struggling.

I was asked what do I believe to be true… not what do I think to be true. My issue isn’t emotional uncertainly… It is spiritual uncertainty.

And here is the real kicker. I don’t think my heart is uncertain about God… I think my heart is asking questions about me.

I think that is why I want to run. I want to know that if God calls me to something, I will go at the drop of a hat. Like Peter dropping his nets, burning his boats and going with Jesus, I want to know that I will do that.

I don’t want to be devoted to church. I don’t want to be dedicated to love. I don’t want to be a disciple without Christ. Those are things that I would call myself to. I want Christ Himself.

“Discipleship is not an offer that man makes to Christ. It is only the call which creates the situation.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

And where He is, there I shall be also.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


So when I went home for Christmas, my mom, dad and sister did their best to try to trick me into a conversation. They picked a hot topic that I would usually jump right on. Unfortunately for them, they underestimated my amazing level of “I don’t care about anything”. I just shut down and stared at the floor for the duration of their conversation. Their trick didn’t work.

It wasn’t until almost a week later that the topic hit me. I found an answer to a question that I didn’t know I was asking. What is missing from church? We all seek it… but very few churches seem to have it. What is it?

The usually answer that I had when I would ask that question was that I wanted to be part of a church that made a difference. However, thanks to Dietrich Bonheoffer, I have found the next clue in putting this mysterious puzzle together. What I find missing is “costly grace”.

It is easy to find cheap grace. It has been the latest trend in the American church. God’s grace does everything, they say, so everything can remain as it was before. It is the preaching of forgiveness without repentance. Communion without confession. Grace without discipleship. Grace without the cross. Grace without giving anything.

Sorry but we cannot enjoy the rewards of His grace if we are not actually following Christ.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye that causes him to stumble. Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

See, what has cost God so much cannot become cheap to us.

Is it free? Yes. Can it be earned? Never. But does that make it cheap? God forbid.

But that is the message that has been coming from the American church. We hear that we just “accept Jesus into our hearts” and we will live happily ever after.

I can find grace in plenty of churches. But I don’t find costly grace.

But here is the thing. I don’t want anything to do with cheap grace because cheap grace has nothing to do with Christ. That grace that Jesus offers is quite costly.

But where He is, there I shall be also.

P.S. 75% of this was directly quotes or paraphrased from Dietrich Bonheoffer…

Friday, December 23, 2011

Go ahead. Prove me wrong.

I just don’t know anymore. Some of you have asked why I haven’t written anything in a while. It’s because I don’t care. What difference does it make if it write? I just don’t know anymore.

See the thing is that I am in this weird place where I have that same answer anytime I ask that question. I just don’t care about anything anymore. I can’t even make myself when I know I need to. I am good at pretending like I care… but the sad truth is that I just don’t.

I have no answers. I really don’t know why I am like this.

Except for my awesome relationship with my wonderfully redeeming wife, I feel like I have no bright spots in my life. She is too good for me and I cannot express how much I guard my relationship with her.

Example. Here is my dialogue with a friend the other day…

Friend: “How long have you felt this way?”
Andy: “A month or two.”
Friend: “What was the last thing you cared about?”
Andy: “I don’t know. I don’t care.”
Friend: “Who was the last person who has hurt you?”
Andy: “Not sure. Probably everyone. It’s all one big mess anyway.”

I know I am not right. But I don’t know what to do about it.

The worst part is that I feel very alone and misunderstood in this.

What can you do to help? Care. Ask. Track me down.

Or don’t. I don’t really expect it anyway.

But maybe, just maybe, there could be someone in my life who would be willing to prove me wrong.

Even though I have little faith in humanity, I still have faith in God. I know He will teach me, guide me and refine me.

I am His. He will save me.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dwelling Place Part II

So I think this is an extension of my thoughts from the other night. This “part II” came from my desire to draw a practical application from my revelation the other night. In other words, what does it look like to be the dwelling place of God.

We are being built to be a dwelling place of God.
That is in progress.
Already started but not yet completed.

See the thing is that we are often tempted to seek after God’s presence. We want to find Him, or feel Him or get to know Him. I get that. But I think I want to set something straight about that sentiment.

If we have given ourselves to Christ, everything is different. Nothing remains the same.

He brings our dead hearts to life.
He covers heaviness with garments of praise.
He rewrites our names.
He unshackles our shame.
He sets our captive souls free.
We are an entirely new creation.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. -2 Corinthians 5:14-21

We are the only ones who keep us from God. “A man cannot serve two masters.” When we choose to put to death the things that are our masters, we are leaving room for Christ to create life in us.

And here is the real thing that I want to bring to our minds to ponder about; there is now nothing that stands between us and God. God made a way when there was no way. As we are being built to be a dwelling place of God, we are becoming the bride of Christ.

Seek Him. But seek Him by becoming reconciled to Him. Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.

The veil is torn. We were bought with blood and we can be His.

“When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing You’re beautiful”
                                                     -Phil Wickham

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dwelling Place

I have had this blog post simmering in my mind for the last couple weeks and it wasn’t until recently that I was able to verbalize it, support it and solidify it. It all started coming together when I came across the phrase “dwelling place.” But let me start with this story…

It was Moses who said it best. It was at Mount Sinai when God told Moses that it was time to move on. God says to Moses, “My Presence will be with you, and I will give you rest.” And it was to this statement from God that Moses responds with this little gem, “If your presence does not go with us, do not send us from here.”

I find this statement very intriguing. Moses didn’t want to leave the safety and presence of God at Sinai if God’s Presence was not going to do with them. Later on in the story, Moses didn’t even want to look upon the Promised Land if God’s Presence was not going to be there too.

Moses knew that the only thing that mattered is if he stayed in God’s presence.

So as I walk through my life, I have been noticing that I have been craving God’s continual presence. It seems that more and more I will be in the middle of a average day of my life and, in the midst of everything, all I will want is God to be there.

The second part of this story is that I came across Shane & Shane’s song "Without You". With the story of Moses in my mind, I came across these lyrics, “If Your Presence goes, I don’t want to stay. If Your Presence stays, I don’t want to go.”

I have started simply wanting to be in the Presence of God. No matter where or when that requires. So as all this has been swirling around in my brain, I came across this third and final thought.

“And in him you too are being built together to be a dwelling place in which God lives by his Spirit.” –Ephesians 2:22 

We are God’s dwelling place. God is not found in a building. He does not reside between the church organ pipes. He doesn’t sit in the pews with his feet up on the hymnal rack, waiting for us to show up to His dwelling place.

I am God’s dwelling place.  

When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look to see him there who made an end to all my sin. Because a sinless savior died, my sinful soul is counted free for God, the Just, is satisfied to look on him and pardon me. To look on him and pardon me.

See the thing is that life is doable when we are the dwelling place of God. All of the high points and low points are doable when God is with us.

But I don’t have to worry about finding God. I don’t have to worry about the next time I may meet Him. I don’t have to worry about living up to his expectations. I don’t have to worry about what is the right thing to do or say. I don’t have to worry about hoping my loved ones will find him.

For I am His dwelling place.

Accept and rejoice. For freedom is here.

No tongue can bid me thence depart.

I am not it

I have been on this journey recently where I have been learning and accepting that I am not what other people need. I can do little. I can only do what I can do. So the question has been so what can I do?

But here is the thing. I also had this tough realization yesterday that I am not the one that I need.

I cannot turn my heart of stone into a heart of flesh.

I just can’t. I am just not good at being good.

So I am going to set aside myself to make room for the One I need.

There is a lot more on this subject to come… I just wanted to get that out since I haven’t been able to write for a couple days.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Deus misereatur

In light of yesterdays post, I was reminded of another one of Jimmy Needham’s poems. Here is the link…

My favorite line is “this can’t be Christianity, it can’t be”

See the thing is that we all have this image of what Christianity is. But I can’t help but have this gut feeling that it sometimes becomes distorted or diluted. Like the way that an image looks after it keeps getting photocopied. A copy of a copy. After a while, the copy has more differences than similarities to the original.

And I am fine with that metaphor. But before you burn me at the stake, I simply want to clarify that it is the copy that gets changed… not the original.

What I love most about Jimmy’s poem is that he asks and answers a wonderful question:
Question: “Where’s the hope of a God big enough to cope with all of my hang-ups and insecurities?”
Answer: “There’s only one thing that pleases the Father, the God-man on the tree in the midst of the scoffers.”

I have shared with you that I often am tempted to despair. And, once again, I get tempted to despair at what I feel like Christianity is. But most often, what I feel like Christianity is turns out to be far from what it actually is. And it is times like these that I really need and appreciate reminders like Jimmy’s poem.

Is God personal? Does God care? Does God really know my insecurities? Does God care to save us? Does God forget how messed up I am? Does God really forgive? Is God really just? Is all this just a fairytale mess or more deeply real than we could imagine?

But here is the thing. My job isn’t to understand it all. The price has been paid and the path has been laid.

God doesn’t bind us to our doubts, questions and struggles… He releases us from them and sets us free.

The truth is… Love is liberating.

Deus misereatur “May God Have Mercy”