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You’re an introvert. You love Jesus. You love His people. But you have a problem. You have trouble forging bonds with Jesus’s people.

You’re an introvert in a strange land:

A new church.

You’ve tried so many times. Big churches, and small. Baptist, and Pentecostal. You’ve tried the:

Megachurch (bonus points for allowing anonymity, but major demerits for the crushing crowds)

Independent, non-denominational Charismatic church down the street (where the elders in their sweat-stained shirts hunched over you in prayer, imploring God for the sign of the initial indwelling)

Finally, you settle on a community church. The people seem friendly, warm, welcoming. They invite you in. You join the small group. For the first time in a long time, you let your guard down. You get real, tell folks what’s really going on inside. Peel back the hood of your sweater to let them see you. The real you.

And it happens. Again.

Just when you were feeling comfortable, when you felt like you’d found a church family, the small group falls apart. “It’s not you,” they say. It’s not you… But this isn’t your first rodeo. You’ve been down this road.

You feel suckered. You feel gut-punched, the wind knocked out of your spiritual sales. “How could this happen again,” you ask yourself? How could I be so stupid as to think this would be any different?

You want that connection, you long for a spiritual intimacy with like-minded people, but it keeps getting denied you.

Why?

Where are the real people who’ll be there for you–the ones for whom you’ll be there for, too? Will the real, true Christians please stand up (please stand up)?

So it starts again. You’re again searching for the place to call home, for the people with whom you can do life. Will you find what you’re looking for? Your heart hurts. You want to lay down, to not try. But that still, small voice keeps whispering, “There’s something more.” But you’ve heard it a thousand times before…

“What’s different this time, God?” you scream at the sky. “What’s different? Where were you last one hundred times?” you wonder.

Why is this so hard?

Why does your heart hurt so much?

Where are you, God, and where are Your people in this?

If this is your best life now, you’re saying “Check, please.” Because, stick a fork in it, you’re done.

But you don’t want to be. It doesn’t have to be this way. But you don’t know how to make it better.

There’s got to be a better way…

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Today my wife and I are celebrating our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary. While it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses, it’s been good. It’s had its ups and downs, its victories, defeats, and disappointments. In short, its been a real relationship–one where it has been safe to know and safe to be known. My wife is a wonderful woman, full of life, love, and forgiveness. And I’ve needed every bit of it. If I were Catholic, and believed in their process of canonization, I would nominate her for sainthood.

I love you, Lisa! You’re my best friend now, forever, and always. I thank God for you everyday.

Happy anniversary!

Had A Hard Year?

randomlychad  —  November 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

Remember Friends, that much beloved ’90’s sitcom which ran for a decade? Remember the theme song?

“When it hasn’t been your day, your month, or even your year?”

Ever had a year like that? Ever had a couple of years like that? Where you go from victory to falling flat on your face? I have.

I went on a spiritual retreat a couple of years ago, and it was both literally, and figuratively, a mountaintop experience. I felt closer to God than I ever had. Apprehended Him as Father–as my Father–in ways I never had before.

That was in Summer.

And then came the Fall.

I thought I was hearing from God about the direction my family and I should go. It seemed that confirmation was around every corner. But my wife, bless her, didn’t see it that way. I wanted something for her she didn’t want for herself.

You all know how well that works out…

Then I found something out about myself which only deepened my confusion, furthered my disillusionment. While in that season of questioning whether I hearing from God, a family member let it slip that I might have been molested as a toddler. Whether it actually happened or not, it’s plausible because other family stories surrounded the purported molester.

If had been thinking clearly, I would have drawn a parallel (understanding that I’m no prophet) between myself myself and Elijah, who suffered through a season of blackest doubt after his greatest victory (over the prophets of Baal). But I wasn’t. Instead, I retreated into myself–feeling maligned, misunderstood, unappreciated.

Instead of investing energies in getting well, getting whole, I engaged in an online correspondence with a woman not my wife. Because it was safe, because there were no stakes. No one to hold me accountable. All the while telling myself that she (my wife) didn’t need to know because there was nothing going on. But the funny thing is that “where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” The looking forward to responses, the refreshing of my inbox, became an addiction to fill the needy beast of affirmation beating in my chest.

I was looking for validation and acceptance, and was willing to accept a substitute. Of course, as is often the case, I made more of this correspondence than did the other party. When it came to an end, it felt like I’d lost a friend.

But it was a friend I’d never really had in the first place.

The lessons here, I think, are these:

1) Setbacks will often follow victories. Be prepared for them. Decide in advance what you’re going to do.

2) There is an enemy of our souls who knows our proclivities, knows how to make the blacks look white, who knows our stories, and how to punch our buttons. It is when we are the weakest that he will pounce (like a roaring lion) the hardest.

3) Take personal responsibility. The enemy can only use what’s been undisclosed to shame and condemn us. Once it’s exposed to the light, once it’s confessed, it’s no longer a weapon in his hands. He has a vested interest in us keeping secrets, telling us that if we tell we’ll be shunned. It’s a risk, but confession is worth it.

How about you? Is there anything festering in your life that you need to confess? You don’t need to do it here, but find someone in your life–a safe person–and let them know. Confession is good for the soul.

Bad At Acquaintances

randomlychad  —  November 13, 2014 — 10 Comments

I don’t know about you, but I’m bad at being acquaintances. Friendships for me are more binary; they are on, or off. You see, I’m generally an introvert; as such, I’ve never had a lot of friends. And the ones I do have mean very much to me.

Probably more than is healthy, to be honest.

As an introvert, I find small talk boring. Much preferred is the diving into the deep, messy stuff of life. I’m finding, however, through age and experience that not everyone is wired like that. That in fact I may have someone in the friend column who has me in their acquaintance column.

We’re at cross purposes, having differing expectations of the relationship. This always makes me sad, and leaves feeling like an outsider. To be blunt, it never fails to catch me off guard. You would think I would have learned by now, but No! It hooks right into the latent abandonment issues bound up in my soul. It’s not true, but it feels like ever since my dad left my family over thirty years ago people are always leaving me.

I feel forgotten, wondering what I did to make them go. I wish it weren’t so, but I get pouty and lash out. Which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.

Who wants to be around that?

I’m trying to surround myself with healthy community, but it’s hard to let people in, you know? Heck, it’s hard to let God in, to relate to Him. <--Have you been there? Where all of your prayers feel like so much dust flung at an uncaring sky, dissipated by the wind?

That's the place I find myself in. Who am I in relation to:

You
Myself
God

I find my view of Him is still refracted by the prism given me by my earthly daddy. I want to let Him in--all the way in--but I don't know how.

He wants to be more than mere acquaintance. He deserves more. How do I, the man who struggles with frienship, give Him what He longs for?

Have you been there, my friends?

Grace is a subject inexhaustible. A well whose depths we could never hope to fully plumb, a tower so high we could never hope to scale its heights. Perhaps then it’s easier to begin a post on grace by stating what it isn’t:

Grace isn’t mercy.

Mercy, for the purposes of discussion here, is simply the withholding of something deserved. For instance, let’s say you’ve been pulled over by one of our boys in blue for speeding. Both you, and he, know you deserve that ticket. You were speeding. Instead, the officer lets you off with a warning. You’ve just received mercy. A deserved consequence has been withheld.

How would grace play play out in a similar situation (for the sake of argument, please bear with me here)? You were speeding in your battered, beaten old Chevy. You stop. The officer approaches your car. You figure you’re going to get a ticket for sure. You’re not getting out of this one. When the cop asks you to exit your vehicle, you know you’re toast.

And then…

Not only does he give you a warning, he also hands you to the keys to his supercharged Dodge Charger. He says it’s yours, and to go on your way. You deserved a ticket, and instead got a new car!

That’s grace, my friends. Erstwhile theologians the Newsboys put it this way:

“When we don’t get what we deserve it’s a real good thing.” (Mercy).

“When get what we don’t deserve it’s a real good thing.” (Grace).

Put another way, and let’s say you’re a parent, the difference between mercy and grace is the difference between merely withholding a deserved consequence from your child (mercy), and instead bearing that consequence yourself–and then taking your kid out for ice cream! While the two go hand-in-hand, there’s nevertheless a vast divide betwixt them. As defined by the theologians, grace is “the unmerited, unearned favor of God.” We did nothing to earn it, nothing to deserve it, and yet He pours it out upon us.

Why?

Because Jesus.

Not only did He take our deserved punishment on the cross, He now pours out unearned, unmerited blessings upon us. Like the example above, we deserved a ticket, and instead got the new car.

All we have to do is believe.

The late science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein coined the phrase “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” (TANSTAAFL). Respectfully, Mr. Heinlein I disagree. There is, and it’s called Christianity. Specifically, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8 says, “God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” All who call upon His name shall be saved.

Have you called upon His Name today? Have you experienced His grace?

You can–if you will but believe.

Thanks for reading!