Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Pirate looks at 50

"He will keep you from every form of evil or calamity as He continually watches over you. You will be guarded by God Himself. You will be safe when you leave your home, And safely you will return. He will protect you now, And He'll protect you forevermore!"Psalm 121:7-8 (From The Passion Translation)

"Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.  I have made you and will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you."
Isaiah 46: 4

Old as the hills, new everyday.
It's in the bones like it's DNA.
First taste is sweet 'til it rots in your mouth.
Another old friend who rats you out.
All of the time in this life, can't loose the ties that bind.
They shackle our feet, we trip, we fall, we crawl.
I was born in the mess of it all.
Then You rescued me, rescued me, Lord, with a touch of Your hand.
Another captive free again.
Who else in heaven could do this but You?
You rescued me, rescued me Lord, with a love out of mind.
Oh, You know I love it when,
everyday I am rescued again.
"Rescue," by the Newsboys

So on this date, last month, I turned 50 years old.  That morning at church, my friend asked me what 50 feels like.  I had to respond honestly that I had no idea.  I wasn't sure what 50 IS supposed to feel like, nor if I did, that I felt it.  My hairline is pretty much the same as it was in my 30s.  I have a little gray, but it always turns blond in the sun.  I'm physically stronger than I was in my 20s.  I have no major health problems to contend with.  Most people never guess I'm as old as I am. (Which may be due to a serious streak of immaturity on my part.)

I don't know.  I don't feel "Middle Aged," or what ever the term is now.  I guess I feel like I'm in my mid-30s perpetually.  I suppose it's all relative anyway.

I will say this, this particular fact, this entire past year, has for reasons I don't understand, caused me to become very introspective. (Which is something I'm pretty good at to begin with.) I've been reflecting back on these 50 years, and I've come to some conclusions.

But before we get to that, here's a song...

If you are like me, you grew up in the "American Evangelical Bubble."  That great, self-imposed ghetto that Christians live in.  Our parents protect us with rules designed to keep us from falling into sin.  We have christian friends. We often go to christian schools.  We go to christian rock concerts and festivals.  We even have christian coffee mugs.  AND, to quote Steve Taylor, "We only drink milk from a  christian cow."

Even as a kid, I was keenly aware of this self-imposed exile.  I always thought it to be a bit odd, but what can you do when you are 13?  Also, I'm not saying that this is bad or wrong.  What I would say is that it is incomplete.  You can't protect your kids.  Only God can do that.  As a parent, your job is to prepare them, and there is a difference.

I'll stop on that, because to expand on that thought is for another post.


Getting older has one great gift, and that would be the gift of "Perspective." (Hair on the back and in the ears, not so much.) Perspective comes from years of experiences over the course of a life, that then changes the way you look at things.

At this point in my life, I have made enough mistakes, good choices and had enough unexpected events happen to me to realize that life is a lot more complicated than I did when I was younger.  Again, perspective is a great gift if you are willing to embrace it.

When I was a kid, I had my life all planned out.  I distinctly remember walking home in 7th grade telling myself, "I will join the army at 18.  At 20 I will be in college.  At 21 I will be married.  Before I'm 30 I will be a medical doctor."  Life is great when you are a kid. (This was a step up from wanting to be a garbage or fireman when I was 5.)

Needless to say, none of that happened.  

The funny thing is that by the time I graduated college, I had no idea what I wanted out of life.  What I did know was that I wanted to walk with Jesus.  I was pretty clueless about that thought, but I did mean it.  I can honestly say that an adventure began out of it..."An Unexpected Journey," if you will.

So, with that in mind, here are some things that I have learned about myself and life in the course of 50 years...

#1. My greatest sinful struggle is selfishness.  I love to be the center of the universe.  I am selfish with my time, my money, my thought life, my body, my heart, my mouth...pretty much every area of my life.  It's like a super power, and I'm not even an X-Man.

I like to rebel against God.  I am selfish, and will willfully choose not to spend time with him.  Odds are, I am not the only person out there who has this problem.  It is with this in mind that I have to say that God blessed me with a rather nasty head cold this week. (This is my one and only week of vacation for the year.) So I have nothing better to do than slow down and reflect.  An odd blessing, but one never the less.

People need to truly know their sinful issues and struggles if they every plan on turning them over to Jesus.

#2. Never trust a Christian who hasn't been broken.  By broken, I mean going through God's boot camp; it could be the death of a loved one, a struggle with addiction, some terrible accident or tragedy, a mental health issue...something in which you are forced to come face to face with all of your helplessness, finitude, brokeness and humanity.  These times are completely unpleasant in the moment, but they give you an understanding of your need for grace, mercy and total dependence on God that you cannot get in any other way. (The great part is that if you live for a long time, you will have multiple opportunities to experience these awful situations.)

Now please do not misunderstand, you CAN trust other believers who have yet to go through times like these.  But you can only trust them to a certain extent.  It's not that they want to hurt you, or violate your trust.  It is simply that until they fall flat on their face, and God picks them up and cleans them off, they are incapable of truly comprehending your own situation, along with the need for empathy, mercy and grace.

At this point in my life, I have had many boot camp experiences. (Which probably means that I am not learning my lessons very well.) My favorite one was many years ago, and it caused me to end up on the therapist's couch for over 2 years.  It was a nervous/anxiety breakdown of public, and it really did a number on me. (I liked the first one so much that I had another one about 6 months later.)

I recall one time where I was in a parking lot screaming at God for letting any of this happen.  I called him every name in the book, and accused him of every vile sin imaginable.  In retrospect, it must have been the equivalent of a 3 year old having a tantrum, while the parent looks on in a bit of amusement.  That's my take on it anyway, because he didn't give me the big squish for it, and instead was very patient.

#3. God will ALWAYS have your back!  When I look out a head of me, I get scared easily.  I am very uncertain of the future.  When I look behind me, I see a perfectly straight line. (As per the cartoon at the beginning, the straight line is probably when God was dragging me along.) I don't understand the current circumstances I am in, nor do I understand the bad times when they are happening.  But I do understand them after the fact.  And it points to one unescapable conclusion...

God is faithful!!!

Every good thing that God has given me, he has used for me and his kingdom at the same time.  More importantly, every bad thing I willfully chose and tough time I had to suffer through, God has used for my benefit and his kingdom.  If I had never gone through the whole breakdown thing, I never would have been able to work with at-risk students, many of whom I call close friends to this day.

If I had not been forced to confront my own desperate need for grace and mercy, I would not see the need to fully extend it to others.  Plus, I would almost certainly be much more quick to offer judgement.

God has protected me from myself and others at every step of the way.  There are some stupid choices that I have made that should have cost me much more than they did.  God had and has mercy on me.

While I consider myself to be an enemy to no one, there have been numerous people who disliked and even hated me, for what ever reason.  God has protected me from them.  In some instances, he has even humiliated them...which I did not come to know until a long time later.  This is why revenge is beneath me.  God has taught me that vengeance truly is his, and I shouldn't waist my time with it.

It so often sounds trite when we sing "Great is thy faithfulness," and other hymns like that, but it really is true.  The number one thing that I have come to understand at the age of 50 is that no matter what I do, no matter how faithful or rebellious, wise or foolish, saintly or sinful I am, his loves remains stedfast and his faithfulness is rock solid.

I still do not fully understand why my life is the way that it is, or what the future holds for me.  But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is always here for me every step of the way.  I also know that he will delight in putting what I just wrote to the test on many, many occasions.

Considering in the light of all eternity that awaits me when I am fully reunited with him, I'll try not to get all worked up over it, and keep in my mind that victory is his.  In the mean time, it's been an interesting adventure to say the least.  Who knows what he has up his sleeve for tomorrow?

Father in heaven, my Lord, Jesus the Messiah, I was born in this mess but you have rescued me every day and in every way for far longer than I ever deserved!  You have shown me that your amazing love is true!  You amaze me every day with your love, patience, mercy and grace!  I will praise you!  I am 50 years old, and because of you, I ain't the same.



Saturday, April 5, 2014

Anger & Atheism

"A fool says in his heart, "There is no God.""
Psalm 53:1

"How do you hate someone you say doesn't exist?"
Josh Wheaton

So a little over a week ago I went to see the movie, "God's not Dead."  I went with a small group from my church.  A bunch of us try to get together about every other Friday to just chat, pick each other's brains, and so on.  We decided to see this film.

To be honest, most so-call "Christian" films tend to make me break out in a rash in unmentionable places.  Most of them strike me as being an hour and a half long tract stuffed in your face.  No subtlety what so ever.  I'm not trying to be mean to Kirk Cameron, but so many of these movies are simply preaching to the choir.

This movie was different.  I actually really enjoyed it.  For one thing, the actors actually knew how to act. (A rarity.) I also liked it that not everything was resolved at the end.  Not everyone became a christian.  That's the way it is in real life.

The premise of the film is that a college freshman is forced to defend the existence of God before all of his classmates by his militantly atheist professor.  In the process, he loses his girlfriend, his family is upset, and so on.

And that's all I'll say because this isn't movie review...


Atheism.  Atheism is fascinating to me.

I've known plenty of atheists, or at least people who call themselves atheists.  In fact, there is a pop culture phenomenon in America today of a sort-of Instant Atheist.  I recall an interview a few years back of Seth McFarlane, the creator of "Family Guy," explaining that he didn't believe in the god of George W. Bush, and was thus an atheist.

I thought to myself, "We'll I'm not sure if I believe in that god either.  But I don't think that makes me an atheist."  It's my opinion that this pop phenomenon is not particularly deep, nor intellectually rigorous.

For the record, I'm not interested in bashing atheists or agnostics.  What they believe is their business, and no one answers to me on judgment day.  I have more than enough on my own plate to deal with before I go around stepping on people's toes.

But I did want to write about what I have observed.  Obviously, there can be exceptions.  But I'm going to break down what I have noticed over the years.

The Casual Atheist:  I think that the pop phenomenon could fit into here.  However, I first ran into these types when I was teaching in the Czech Republic back in 2000.  The Czechs aren't real keen on any type of religion, due to the fact that the catholic church was often used to keep them down.  It's an understandable reaction.

To the average Czech, they just didn't give the idea of God much thought.  If they did, they were kind of creeped out due to past history.  They just figured that "This is it.  This is all we've got.  So just live."  They weren't terribly hostile to "God."  They just didn't have time for him.

These were the first real atheists I had met.  It wasn't deep and well-examined.  It was simply a way of living.

The True Atheist: At the last school that I taught at, I had a very good friend who could fit into this category.  She was a great help to me at this school.  She was very gracious and kind...and laughed at all of my jokes.

I call her a "True" atheist, because she admitted that if you were going to be an atheist, then you had to admit that life was meaningless.  Whatever meaning you found in life was that of your own making, and it was no better or worse than anyone else's.

For more on this, try reading any of the works of Jean Paul Sartre or Albert Camus.  They were French existentialist philosophers and atheists.  I obviously don't agree with them, but they were brutally honest about the meaninglessness of existence.

Anyway, my friend didn't hate people of faith.  She just told me that I had rose colored glasses.  She told me in no uncertain terms that we are all just a result of a cosmic accident.  There is no higher calling or purpose, and when you die you are just worm food.

Hey, at least she was honest.

If there is no God, then the universe does not care.  You/we/I are just random accidents.  There is no universal morality, no true good and bad.  It's all relative.  You might not "Like" certain things, but you can't claim that they are inherently right or wrong because there is nothing to base that on except yourself...which is no more important than anyone else's.

I knew one other guy who I would call a True atheist.  He admitted everything I just wrote. (Heck, that's who I got a lot of it from.) Since there was no true purpose in life, he decided to be a libertine.  He spent his youth getting with ever chick he could.  He was going to squeeze as much sensual pleasure out of life that he could.  I respected him for it.

The Angry Atheist: If you are familiar with Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens, then you will know this type.  They are both brilliant men who can debate you into the ground.  I've heard them argue with various Theists, and they usually make them look foolish.  These guys absolutely hate with a red-hot passion any idea of "An Imaginary Friend." (Dawkins' term.) The idea that you might take your child to Sunday School is a form of child abuse in their minds. (And I am not making that up.)

However, I have a problem believing these types.  I really can't think of them as true atheists.  I'm not trying to be mean, but every time I hear them trash the idea of God, the more I think they are firm believers in his existence.  They totally believe in God.  They are simply really pissed-off at him!!!

They don't hate the idea of God.  They hate God.

 "How do you hate someone you say doesn't exist?" is asked by the main character of "God's not dead."  Every single time I hear a militant atheist talk, I want to ask that question.  I don't mind having a respectful discussion with anyone.  I enjoy it...including atheists.  But these militant folks?  Hmm.


The psalmist wrote that "A fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'"  Which is a brilliant observation.  The psalmist does not say "Head, Mind, Soul,etc."  He chose a different word.  The older I get, the more I understand that.

We think we are rational actors, but the truth is that we are not.  We believe what our hearts want to believe.  Just think of the kooks that get all their news from some talking head on FOX or MSNBC.  They have already made up their minds what they want to believe.  Now they are simply looking for someone to tell them it's true.

What ever is front and center in your heart is, in fact, your true God.  You can say you don't believe in him, but I don't believe you.



P.S.  Peter Rollins is a philosopher out of Belfast.  Which is why it's hard to understand what he is saying.  He is part of the whole Emerging Church thing. (Which makes him evil in the eyes of some.) Say what you will, I would love to listen to Pete, or even Rob Bell, debate Dawkins or Hitchens.  THAT would be fun.

Divine atheism from Peter Rollins on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Naughty Noah

"I'm afraid that as Evangelicals, we think that a work of art only has value if we reduce it to a tract."
Francis Schaeffer

"I will only be satisfied with Hollywood once they accurately present Jesus as a Mid-western boy from Iowa, with an American accent and dark-blonde, feathered hair...just like the pictures of him in the "Christian" bookstores."

Soooooooooo, there is a bit of a stink about a movie that comes out this Friday.  Frankly, I'm shocked, SHOCKED I say, that Hollywood would take liberties with the bible!  How dare they not keep in line with biblical accuracy?  "VeggieTales" certainly did.


It has been noted before by many that American christians tend to begin so many responses from a defensive, fearful position.  This strikes me as this being the case once again.  It's been interesting to see the response of so many people on social media to this upcoming film.  Most of the people who are knocking it, admit that they haven't even seen it.  They simply have their facts on good, solid "hear-say." A pastor, or someone in some type of authority told them that the film was bad because of this or that.

It's no surprise to anyone who knows me, that I have a rather high tolerance for controversial things.  I'm not afraid of that sort of thing.  If anything, it simply stokes my curiosity.

When I first saw a trailer for the Noah movie a few months ago, my initial reaction was, "Sweet, they got Russel Crowe to play Noah."  It was not, "I hope they use the proper exegesis of the text."  I had no expectations that Hollywood would get it right.  They NEVER do!

Even when it's a movie about a bible story where the film maker wants to get it right or be accurate, they still never do.  In Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of the Christ," he took artistic liberties.  In fact, one key scene, where Jesus is being nailed to the cross, Gibson got it wrong.  He shows Jesus being nailed through his hands.  The Romans didn't do that.  They put the nail through the wrist, so that the condemned would stick there and not tare off.

The thing is, most bible movies aren't made by Believers, anyway.  They just want to tell a good story and do it artistically.  So they are going to use artistic license to tell their version of the story.  If you understand that ahead of time, it will save you a great deal of grief and frustration while you munch on your popcorn.


A day or so ago, a friend of mine posted this article on Facebook.

I thought it summed everything up very well.  In particular, I like the quote from Francis Shaeffer.  Christians seem to like movies, music, art, etc. that sells Jesus.  If it doesn't bring you squarely to the face of Christ, then it isn't any good.

Christians seem to like self-imposed Ghettos.  We have Christian coffee mugs, Christians T-shirts, Christian bumper stickers.  We seem to insist of labeling everything as either "Christian" or "Non-Christian."  We likes us a nice black and white world.

I don't see the world that way.  It just doesn't make sense to me.  If Paul is correct in Romans that, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,..." then I don't need a label to see the truth of God all around me.

I've said this before, when I hear a work of Beethoven...or even a guitar solo by Neil Young, I can hear God testifying to himself through the creativity that he has given every human being, whether they are one of his followers or not.

CAVEAT: I fully admit that there is plenty of crap out there that doesn't honor God in any way, shape or form.  Often times, you will find said crap in your local Christian bookstore with a Jesus label on it. 

Preach it, now!!!!


A couple of decades ago, "The Last Temptation of Christ" came out.  It had Willem Dafoe as Jesus and David Bowie as Pontius Pilate. (David Bowie?!?!) Anyway, a lot of christians really got their undies in knots over this film.  There were even protests outside of many theaters.  The irony was that the film wasn't based on the bible.  It was based on a novel written by some goofy Greek Orthodox priest/monk.

Needless to say, I went to the movie.  After watching it I can honestly say that if it hadn't been for the "Christians" bringing all of the attention to it, the film would have died in a week.  It was a real "Sleeper" in every sense of the word.  Thanks to the protests, the film actually made money.

Actually, there were two things that I really did like about the film.  #1. The soundtrack is EXCELLENT!  It was written by Peter Gabriel.  If you can ever get your hands on a copy of that CD, do it!

#2. When Willem Dafoe as Jesus starts to preach to the various crowds I thought, "Yeah!  That's probably exactly like Jesus' style of interaction."  I was impressed.  Other than that though, a pretty dull film.

I was going to Bethel Seminary at that time.  I remember a professor talking about the film in class.  He said that the movie was probably a bad idea.  Then he asked our class if anyone had seen the film.  I was the only one to raise a hand.  He gave me kind of a stunned look and asked me why.  I replied...

"I figured that since so many christians were giving it all this free advertising, I kind of owed it to them to go see it."

So with that in mind, I'd simply say to not be afraid or get worked up about "Noah."  It's Hollywood.  What are you expecting?  Finally, it's Russel Crowe, dude...Russel Crowe.



Here's the trailer with some of Peter Gabriel's music.  It's not perfect, but it's pretty good.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Confidence & Christ

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive  mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:15 & 16

I team teach Sunday School for the Youth Group at Living Waters with two other adults.  It's fun because you get so see so many different perspectives on the same issue.  This past Sunday we were talking about discipleship, and how Jesus insists on being first.  He insists that whatever we hold to in our lives must be given over to him so as to adequately follow him.

To some, Jesus' insistence on being #1 in our lives could come off as arrogant.  Sometimes I think that, too.  But then I have to remind myself; why would I go out for a McDouble burger when I have perfect piece of seasoned stake sitting on a dinner plate on my table?

If Jesus really is that perfect, that beautiful, that ideal...that obvious, then why settle for anything else?


The character of Jesus fascinates me.  So much of what we could see in the gospels are easily missed because we tend to treat scripture like a block of wood.  In incarnate form, he had all of the normal attributes that we have...just slightly more intense I think.

We know that Jesus got angry in a righteous way.  He hated seeing his father exploited for money. (Makes you wonder what he would think of so much of the church in America these days?) He got mad at the religious leaders for their legalistic ways.  In fact, it appears that Jesus hated religion in general.

We know he felt sorrow and sadness.  He wept at the tomb of his buddy, Lazarus, even though he was about to bring him back to life.  He seemed to really enjoy little kids.  He was also amazing with the kindness and mercy that he showed to "the least of these."

One of the things that is not directly mentioned in the gospels, but is glaring at you right between the lines is Jesus' self-confidence.  This isn't the type that we so often display, an arrogant self-confidence.  "I'm all that and a bag of chips."  No.  It is more of a matter-of-fact, "I just know who I am," kind of confidence.

One character trait that Jesus never seemed to display of any kind is fear.  You never see Jesus afraid of anything or anyone.  I'm guessing that this came from his self-awareness, his confidence of who he was and who his father was.

When Jesus was being accused and mocked by the Sanhedrin, he barely utters a word in his own defense.  When he was hauled before Herod, he didn't say anything at all.  I love the conversation that Jesus has with Pilot in John's gospel.  Pilot is freaking out over the situation.  He doesn't want to kill Jesus, but he is too much of a coward to stand up to the religious leaders.

When Pilot heard this, he was even more afraid, and went back inside his palace.  "Where do you come from?" he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave no answer.  "Do you refuse to speak to me?  Pilate said.  "Don't you realize I have the power either to free you or to crucify you?"

Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above."
John 19:10 & 11

The theological term for that is "B*llsy!"  
(Sorry, I just couldn't think of a more appropriate expression.)

You just couldn't intimidate Jesus.  He knew who he was.

When I think about that, I contrast it to so much of what I see in the church in America these days.  The church these days seems to live in a constant state of fear.  Before he died, Chuck Colson noted in an essay he wrote for the book "Un-Christian," that when it comes to politics, the church almost always begins from a defensive position.  Th-th-th-hat's fear, folks.

I have a friend who, by using the most bizzare interpretation of Luke 22:36 I've ever seen, says that Jesus wants us to own assault rifles in case we need to over throw the federal government.  He listens to a crack-pot preacher who has moved to Montana because God told him that it is the tip of the spear of the fight for freedom.  Fear.

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  
Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both both body and soul in hell."  
Matt: 10:28


In the letter to the church in Philippi, Paul warns about having confidence in the flesh, i.e. yourself, the things of this world, your religious works, etc.  That's not difficult for me because I generally don't have a lot of confidence in myself.  I am wracked with self doubt.  I don't second guess myself.  I quadruple guess myself. (It's like a hobby.)

I take a lot of comfort in those lines from the book of Hebrews that I posted at the top.  I don't really understand how Jesus could be tempted in every way, in the same ways that I am, but that's what it says.  That's a lot of temptation.  And yet he remained sinless.

Scripture tells us to place our confidence in Jesus.  He is the perfect High Priest.  Like I said, I don't understand the "How" of his being tempted like me, I but I like it that he was.  I like it even more that he remained sinless.  I like it even more that I can now approach the throne of grace with confidence.  Not because of something I did (Which ain't much, I can tell you that.), but because of all that he did.

I'll place my confidence in Jesus' self-confidence.



P.S. I was going to post the video "Baddest man alive" by the Black Keys in honor of Jesus.  But it has some bad language in it.  Since I already used one bad word in this post, I figured I'd use one instead.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

"Old friend, come back home."

The word of YHWH came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because it's wickedness has come up before me."  But Jonah ran away from YHWH and headed for Tarshish.

And you know what happens next.

But YHWH provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to YHWH his God.  He said: "In my distress I called to the Lord and he answered me.  From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry."
Jonah 1:1-3 & 1:17-2:2

Old friend, come back home.
Even though you always were alone.
You had to push against the fates, just to make it, make it through the gate.

Old friend, come to me.
Everything I was, I used to be.
I went north and I went east.
Follow in the footsteps of some beautiful beast.

I know you don't believe me
when I believe in you.
I know it could get much easier
if you want it to.
"Old Friend" by Sea Wolf.

I have aged more since about this past October than I think I have in about 15 years.  A couple of weekends ago, I went up with our Youth Group for a Winter retreat.  While up there, one of my friends came up to me and asked if everything was O.K.  I told him that I was under a great deal of stress.

My friend pulled me aside and told me that he was going to give me some advice that another fellow from our church had offered to him.  He said, "Slow your ass DOWN!" (He had a distinct grin on his face when he offered this.) He said that the way I looked, I was either going to be in the hospital or the looney bin within a month.

So we were coming home of the bus from the retreat.  It didn't have proper heating, so my feet were cold and my whole body ached.  A certain Middle School girl leaned over and asked me how old I was.  I told her to guess.  And thus the following...

"Well, you have a lot of gray hair.  
So you must be really old.  

I had a distinct urge to shove her off the bus.

A bit ago, I was driving home from the Sunday service.  I had the radio to the nation's greatest radio station, 89.3 The Current.  A song came on that I had never heard before.  The tone and the lyrics hit me right in my soul.  You can call me crazy all you want, but I have seen God use all sorts of music to communicate to me before.  It felt as if he was singing directly to me.  It made me cry in the car.

Give it a listen.

So Jonah runs from the Lord.  Jonah is actually a comedy, even though most people don't know that.  God calls Jonah to go to Nineveh.  That city was the capital of one of the most evil empires ever to exist.  Jonah plans on running to Tarshish.  Tarshish was located in southern Spain.  It was considered to be paradise.

How could you possibly find God in paradise?  He's too busy doing his work in a place of sin, wickedness and evil.

I'm good at running from God.  I do it more than I care to admit.  I've been running from God for many months now.  Don't kid yourself.  Going to church on Sundays & Wednesday nights doesn't mean you're not running.

God's mercy & love are not like our concepts.  God's mercy can be severe, and his love can be relentless.

In his love, God brings a storm that gets Jonah cast overboard.  In his mercy, God causes Jonah to end up in a whale's guts for 72 hours, only to be barfed up on a beach.

In his mercy, God stripped everything away from Jonah until all that was left was God.

I've been running from God for a long time.  God has been stripping things away from me during all of this.  I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that I have been paying a high price.  To quote one of my favorite philosophers; "I feel like butter scraped over too much bread."

I have a terrible time waking up first thing in the morning and sitting down with God.  I have a worse time before going to bed.  During the rest of the day, I find all sorts of excuses and distractions to hold him at arms length.  I willfully seek them out.

I really don't want to end up sitting in a belly full of fish bile, plankton & weeds.

The two areas where I find myself connecting with Jesus most easily are when I am outdoors, either in nature or driving around in it, OR when I write.  Either when I am writing in this blog, or working on my book, I can literally feel his pleasure.  I feel alive!  In particular, when I am writing stories in my book, it's like he is right there with me telling me what to say.

Maybe that sounds crazy.  I confess, I have some minor mental health issues. (Yeah, like you don't.) But it's not crazy.  Jesus connects to people according to how he has wired them.  We are his creation.  He knows what he's doing.

This has been dawning on me over the past few days.  Even as I write all of this now, it feels like an anvil is lifting off my shoulders.

I have let my job, family health problems, a recent ugly interaction with a far-right, fundamentalist  screwball, facebook, videos, willfulness, and on & on & on come between me and the lover of my soul.

I am too tired to run anymore, and I'm not even sure where Tarshish is anyway.

God rarely shouts.  
He tends to whisper.  
And sometimes he sings...even on the radio.

"Old friend, come back home."