Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Mixture and the Dark

even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as light to you.

- Psalm 139:12

Robby was raised in rural South Carolina, and his family was pretty poor. They lived in a small town, and there weren’t many jobs to go around. But Robby’s dad was a hard worker, and he did what he needed to do to care for the family.

Over the years, Robby saw his Dad work a lot of different jobs... none of which paid a lot, or had a lot of worldly success attached to them. But his Dad was thankful to work nonetheless. For many years, he was the Night Watchman for the big textile mill at the top of the street, and for this, to this day... I am a proud grandson.

Because Robby is my Dad.

And his Dad is my Grandpa.

Back then, factories weren't filled with security lighting. There were no cameras and communication devices; no sensors or motion detectors. No three - minute response times.

In those days, the Night Watchman walked the long and pitch-black corridors... through the wide open rooms with giant monster-like machines. By himself. With a flashlight and a nightstick. This was my Grandpa's job.

Street lights outside played through windows onto the walls inside the building, making a million shadows. This building which inevitably moaned and creaked as the temperatures cooled after long work hours of the day. It was creepy at night.

And before his own bedtime, Robby would walk up the dark street each night with his Dad’s dinner and deliver it to him.

This was a big deal.

The mill rested (parts today still do) at the top of the street, with enormous tall and imposing brick walls, dark windows and large machine parts laying scattered like broken legs. As you walked uphill toward the mill, it felt like you were standing on a giant carpet that the mill had unrolled that day, just to lure you in. This is no exaggeration.

This big dark mill would look down on him as he approached. He would make his way toward the employee entrance at the back, where one bare bulb lit a rusty steel door.

He would walk right in.

And this young boy would go look for his father in the dark factory.

I remember the first time I heard my Dad tell this story. I was dumbfounded.

“Sorry Dad. I wouldn’ta done that. Bring your own Easy Mac or something.” I am sure that in that moment, he should have made a mental note to remove me from the will.

But it was his gentle tone and softened expression as he spoke that struck me:

“Oh but it wasn’t as scary as you would think,” he said. “I could see the light of my Dad’s flashlight in the windows, so I always knew where he was in the dark.”

There is a word for us in this.

In life, where fear runs rampant within our hearts, relationships, and even churches, it is hard to live courageously out of the love, grace, mercy and power that comes with the presence of God’s Spirit in us.

Because often, in spite of it all, we are still afraid.

Afraid of our failures.

Afraid of digging.

Afraid of loneliness.

Afraid of trust.

Afraid of failing.

Of hoping.

Of tomorrow.

And somewhere in the mixture of raging fears... whether we see or don’t see them... we get tossed about and have a hard time getting our bearings on what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, or how we’re even feeling.

Its hard to see in the mixture and the dark.

But maybe, like that young boy, we can take comfort that our Father’s light is so visible. It exposes the good places, the safe places. It reminds us of where our Father is, and shows us the way towards Him.

It reminds us.

He is there. And He does not change.

May I know this week; may you know this week... that we are not alone in the dark.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Accepting Lies

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
- 2 Corinthians 10:5

This week, Brian spoke on our church's vision - for the next several months and years. Its an exciting time at CenterPoint... because God is bringing such a wide variety of people from all walks of life together here. Rock on. Oh sheesh except for... well... the whole people thing.

Didn't I just write about the people problem?

More and more people are coming together to worship, grow, and serve alongside one another a CP. Which means its even more critical (as if it weren't already) for us to work for unity in the Body. So let me give warning on one way that unity comes under threat.

The lies that we accept.

Um, Jim, what does this have to do with vision?

Wow. Well, everything. This affects churches, families, relationships... everything we are directly involved in. There are always lies trying to creep into our hearts and minds... trying to affect the way we respond to people, embrace the Gospel... love other.

Take for instance the way many people 'project'. Do you know what it is? Buckle up Buttercup... this is a sentence-twister:

Its when I believe that you think something about me when really you don't, and the only reason I believe that you think it, is because in actuality, I either subconsciously think it about myself, or I fear it very deeply.

Thanks, Jim. That was crystal clear.

Long story short, what it means is, I've accepted a lie about you. I've 'projected' my own thoughts and fears onto you.

And now I see everything through the lens of this false belief about you. If you do or say something I don't agree with or understand, I now believe I know why. If you don't give me what I want or don't act how I believe you should act, I attribute it to whatever I believe about you.

This creates rifts. It can create distance, insecurities... and when left unchecked, it can breed deep resentment and anger.

Things get planted in our heads like, "I don't matter to them." or "They don't think I am ______ enough." It is a pretense or false belief that is destructive to the trust, mercy and vulnerability of relationships... some of the very places where God's love works to transform our lives. These lies set themselves up against people coming to know God.

So when was the last time you wrongly believed that someone thought something about you? Maybe you believed that you didn't matter to someone. Perhaps you assumed that they thought you were ugly or stupid or not refined enough.

Maybe you assumed someone was judging you. And maybe then, because this is what you were picturing, when they seemed to say "Hi" in a short or terse way, your anger was much closer to the surface... and now you have a reason to be mad... a reason to be hurt... a reason to... well, judge them back.

So who in fact, did the judging in this instance?

When was the last time this happened in your life? Probably yesterday, around the same time I was probably doing something similar. Happens all the time.

But oh, 2 Corinthians 10:5.

Today's living piece of scripture is about seeing far beyond the surface.

Seeing beyond the surface, because to take every thought captive to Christ is to leave no room for lies. To know that often we do what we do, think like we think, or react the way we react because of things lingering just below the surface.

Lies like to linger here.

To be honest, I'm very tired of accepting them. The lies I've accepted have at times strained my personal relationships, my self image, my church and ministry relationships... even my family.

So may our thoughts be truly held captive by Jesus and His love this year.

His love that says I am ok. That you're ok. His love that breeds unity... trust... hope in one another and in the common things we work for together. His love that flows like water; and may it wash us away in gratitude and mercy in the way we do all that we do as we embrace God's vision for us as His church.

And for us as His people.