Wednesday, November 30, 2011


When I say the word surrender, what kind of images come to mind? For me, the first image is the guy against the wall, in the spotlight, with his hands and feet spread being frisked and handcuffed by the cops. I also envision the army, heads hung in shame, waving the white flag in defeat. And I think this is the idea many of us have when we think of surrender. Surrender is this negative thing for us! No wonder when we talk about surrendering our lives to God it seems like such a terrible ordeal. It’s as if our surrender to God is a punishment for all of these terrible wrongs we have committed. Like God's plan all along has been to make cookie-cutter molds of each one of us. To get us in line. To have us follow marching orders. None of that is, in essence, what surrender is all about.

I want to paint a different picture of surrender; but before I do that, we need to go over a few things. There are some lies about what it means to surrender that need debunked. Let me tell you what surrender is not. It's not about giving up my Sunday to go to church. It’s not entirely about activities I now avoid. It's not all about avoiding fun or certain people. Surrender is not about passivity, conservatism, or pacifism--or any other ism, for that matter.

Surrender, in reality is the solitary thing Christian faith comes down to. Something so simple, yet so profound; and not to mention, so freakin' difficult! How easy it should be for us to just surrender to the very God of the universe. The one who created everything--including you and me. The one with plans to prosper and not to harm us. The only one who is truly good. And the only one who willingly laid down his life for us!

Surrender--to relinquish control. Why is it so difficult? I'll tell you why it's so difficult--at least for me--because I no longer make my own decisions. Well, I guess I do, but it means it is first filtered through Godly counsel, Scripture, and perhaps God Himself.

Surrender is a proactive, conscious decision to align our lives with the teaching and life of Christ. Living a life of surrender is about learning to walk with God. It is about transforming and renewing us into what we were created to be. So, you see, surrender is much more of a positive thing than we realize. This may mean there are certain actions I do away with. I might even have to limit or avoid some behaviors. And to be frank, surrender may involve cutting off certain relationships.  Attitudes may need to be suppressed or put away entirely. But none of these is the goal of surrender! When viewed under this microscope, surrender really isn't about avoidance at all.  It is about learning to walk in fellowship with God. This means it is about giving up the normal, the ordinary, the mundane. It turns into laying aside my monotonous plans for life in pursuit of something bigger and better, far beyond myself.

With this view of surrender, it should become a little easier to do. To realize that God owes me absolutely nothing, but desires to give me everything! Allow me to take a moment and make this personal. Often, I have felt that God owes me, all because I accepted His call to ministry (very reluctantly if you know the story). Really? What better could I have done with my life? If anything, I owe God for making something of my life and giving me something real to live for. I owe him for not just the promise of new life, but the reality of the new life he has given me.

In light of this, I want to surrender more and more everyday!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I would like to take this time to tell you about the most painful (physically) moment in my life. It wasn't in college when I broke my ankle in one of those stupid inflatables for kids. Nor was it any of my 8 tattoos--although the one on the inside of my bicep ranks right up there. No, the most painful moment of my life was born out of boredom and stupidity one evening in a friend's basement in high school. Before I go any further, I'd like to emphasize the stupidity of this and the fact that I was in high school (translation, I was naive). Here is where I should also preface this with the warning: Do not try this at home!

One night, in an un-sterile environment, one of my best friends pierced my nipple--yes, my nipple! I won't even go into the details, but I'm sure you can use your imagination and get an idea of how painful it might have been. It was so painful, in fact, that I was only able to pierce the one. Granted, I haven't experienced giving birth (nor will I ever experience it--just to clarify), but I might rank having your nipple pierced right up there with child birth on the pain scale.

If you are human, you likely aren't a fan of pain and suffering. If that is you, I am in the same boat. However, I read something a while ago that got me to thinking and is changing my perspective. I stumbled across a statement something along the lines of "the most powerful words in the English language are 'me too.'" Most of us don't wish one another to go through the same pain and suffering we experience, yet on the other hand it is extremely comforting to know someone else has been there. It makes the pain and suffering more bearable to know that you're not alone. That others have been there...and survived (or perhaps even thrived afterwards). The knowledge that there is hope makes whatever pain and suffering comes our way a little less, well, painful.

Even in our most painful experiences (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) none of us has even come close to the torture and agony of my savior. He was mocked, tortured and crucified. But even the physical and emotional pain combined didn't compare to the pain he experienced the moment his father turned away and withdrew for just a moment. Yet, Christ endured it all, as Scripture says "for the joy set before him...enduring its shame." I can't speak for you, but surveying the last 28 years of my life and the pain and agony (most of which I was responsible for myself), nothing comes close to what Christ endured. Granted, there were some pretty painful times; times I even thought God was absent, but in reality he was there! And I can't even begin to imagine (nor do I want to) how things would have turned out differently if God had turned away, like he did in that moment Christ was hanging on that cross for you and me.

And here comes the point to all of this. We, like Christ, are to endure the pain and suffering that comes. I have to tell you I'm not (nor is Paul) talking about suffering simply for the sake of suffering. There is no significance or joy found in suffering without a purpose. For example, starvation is not a positive thing. Our 3 for $3 challenge on the other hand, was a way we were able to "suffer" and catch a glimpse of what it's like to be hungry. The suffering had no meaning when it was separated from its purpose. The significance came when our pain and suffering gave us a bit of solidarity with those who go hungry on a daily basis. It was deep with meaning because it created (hopefully) a paradigm shift and drew us closer to the heart of God. It allowed us, to a point, to be able to say "me too!"

Not only are we to endure suffering, but we are to find joy in it as well. There is a big difference! I have endured plenty of pain. My countless hours in the tattoo chair, my relationship problems, and my rebellion from time to time will all attest to that. But I am unable to say I have found joy in all of it. However, there is a change rising within me. One that is allowing me to catch a glimpse of joy through some of my pain and suffering, because it is expanding my horizons and opening doors of ministry I never thought possible. The pain and suffering I have endured through my lifetime (which is minuscule compared to many) is developing within me a heart of compassion. I am able to see that while the pain and suffering was never God's plan, he is using it in ways unimaginable. I am still a long way off, but I find that in some ways, my pain and suffering allows me to relate a little more to Christ (which is weird to say, I know). I can tell you from experience, when it's all said and done that there really is joy found in that kind of suffering. I can't explain how it works, nor can I explain why it works. But I can promise you that this joy of knowing Christ, in his pain and suffering, is the only thing that will bring you through the messy parts of life in one piece.

Last, but certainly not least, you should know, the pain and suffering will come! It is inevitable. Of course, I don't need to tell you that because, you live on Earth and are already privy to this reality. As disciples, we can't say Jesus didn't warn us. He made it pretty clear, "if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." There really isn't much more to say, other than perhaps "Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect (mature) and complete, lacking in nothing." And it is through that pain and suffering we are united and are given a testimony and a witness which none can deny. It is this, according to Henri Nouwen, that allows us, like Christ, to be a wounded healer--meaning our "me too" moments allow us to help others through the healing process.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


When I was little--scratch that, 'cause I'm still only 5'4".  When I was younger, I was afraid of the dark. Any of you that know me will find this hard to believe since I am so rugged and manly, but it's true. At night, when I was heading to bed, I would turn off the light and sprint across my room. About three feet away from my bed, I would jump and launch myself directly into the middle of my bed. Why? Because I was certain there was something living beneath the box spring that would take out my feet and suck me under if I got too close in the pitch black. I am elated to report to you that this fear no longer holds me captive. I calmly walk to my bed and crawl under the covers every night--alone, without the use of a night light. You laugh now, but you would have developed the same fear being a small child and watching the movie Little Monsters.

We have a bad experience and, often times, allow it to shape and form the way we live our lives. All of our decisions in that specific arena of life are dictated by that one experience. That is what we call fear--a circumstance, situation, or outcome that causes feelings of dread or apprehension. Fear is the very thing that creates a paradigm shift and keeps us from taking similar risks again. To many, our fears may seem very plausible; and to a point, they may be. However, they move from the plausible to the implausible when we allow them to control and dictate the trajectory of the rest of our lives.

Fear is like a disease! It creeps in, often times unnoticed, and cripples us. It becomes detrimental and debilitating to our very existence. Granted, there is such a thing as healthy fear. To fear God is a healthy fear, according to Scripture. Healthy fear can keep us from making un-wise decisions. But most often, our fears would fall under the category of the unhealthy (even our fear of God has moved into the realm of unhealthy for many of us). As I already pointed out, fear becomes unhealthy when we give it control. It is this fear that makes someone sleep with the light on, never go outside, keep relationships on a superficial level, never commit to marriage, not share their faith. The fear of death would lie on the same playing field as the rest of these. I think you get the picture.

The sad reality is that this is where a majority of us live our life everyday. We live in a perpetual state of fear. This fear holds us back. It keeps us from pursuing things beyond ourselves--the very things we were created to do. When we give fear control, we live far less significant lives than we were intended to. Unfortunately, I am no different from the many. This is where my life has been spent the past several years. Far too long, I have allowed my fears to hold me captive. My fears have been determining the course of my life. Because of fear, I have been eeking my way through life, missing numerous opportunities. Well today, I say no more! No longer will my life be controlled by fear (and regret).

A big fear of mine has always been the fear of failure. By nature, I am a very competitive person. It is hardwired in my DNA. If I know I can't succeed, I usually won't even make an attempt. Knowing this, it is time I make a conscious decision to combat this fear. Here on out, I vow to take risks, even if they will inevitably end in failure. Afterall, I cannot predict the future, so I will never know the outcome until I make the attempt. For the last 4 years, this fear has kept me from pursuing the calling God placed on my life. What if I pursue my dream and fall flat on my face? Can I really make a go of it? Am I even gifted in this area? These are the questions that continually plague me. Please understand, I am not fishing for compliments or a pat on the back. I know the answer to these questions has less to do about me and my ability than my faith in God's ability.

My divorce brought a fear of rejection to the surface. Granted, most of us have this fear innate within us; but, for me, it grew exponentially when the one I vowed to give myself to heart and soul rejected me. Not that I'm the only one that has gone through this, or ever will go through this, but it hit me pretty hard. There was a sense that it was my fault; that I had pushed her away; that I was to blame. I lived with the tension of that fear and guilt for months thinking I wasn't deserving of love and wouldn't find it again. For the better part of a year I built up walls to keep any female at bay. I wasn't going to allow women to hurt me again. And to be completely honest, this is still something I have to be on the lookout for.

Again, these may sound like legitimate fears. But I want you to see why they are not ! In Scripture, John tells us that "perfect love drives out fear." The reason we fear is obvious—we lack perfect love. Since we are imperfect beings, we are incapable of displaying perfect love; however, you should know we are all capable of receiving perfect love that comes only from our heavenly father. If you and I would begin to trust that He knows what He is doing and has our best interest at heart, we could overcome our fears. The result would be phenomenal. It would change the way we make every decision (not to mention the way we see everyone else). His perfect love will drive our fears away. Then, and only then, can we face our fears head on!