Really random stuff

January 6, 2010

Sometimes what I have to say just won’t fit on Facebook.  Although it has started off that way, this is not only a blog about my walk with the Lord.  Quite often, I just need a place to blow off steam on an issue.  So I will do that also.  I certainly hope that anyone who disagrees with me will feel they have the freedom to talk back.  I don’t mind being wrong, it just does not happen often 🙂  I will approve all comments unless they are offensive or hurtful to someone else.  You can be hurtful to me, I can take it!



January 24, 2010

OK, I am just going to say it……It is easier for a woman to be a Christian than it is for a man!

I should just leave this post there and get under the bed right now.  “But Craig! How can you say that” ….”I’ll tell you”

God wants us to ask questions, intelligent questions.  He really does, he expects us to doubt, to be weak.  If we know all of the answers, we would not need faith, in fact, we would be God. (you probably know where this is going now)  and I am going to loop back around to that whole “humility” thing that God has been working on in my life.  So, the problem with guys is, we do not ask questions, we do not ask for directions, we do not even read directions that are handed to us.  One of the greatest fears a guy has is to look weak.  That is why community is so important.  If you will notice, a lot of the books of the new testament are letters written to groups of Christians (Churches) and it was intended and expected for the message to be delivered to the group in general.   This allowed for discussion and questions, debate.  Just asking a question is an admission that you do not know the answer and requires humility.  So when your pastor tells you in the middle of his sermon, that he is not sure about something, that he does not have all of the answers, I think you can at that point rest assured that you are truly be shepherded by a man of God.  A man who is seeking God’s direction and is willing to have faith in the Lord’s direction. It is a good sign anyway.

It is only in the last few hundred years, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440, that the concept of personally reading and studying the bible even became possible.  Before that, nobody owned a personal bible.   We are meant to work together on interpreting God’s word, to ask questions, to listen to other ideas, and it can be unhealthy to isolate ourselves.  Community, questions and doubt lead to the growth of faith and a better understanding of God’s plan for our lives.

Jim Jones, David Koresh and Marshall Applewhite professed to have all of the answers, they certainly were not asking questions, or, for that matter, allowing their followers to ask questions.

So rejoice in your ignorance, uhhh, I mean humility.

As usual, I want to stress that I am no biblical scholar and I can be way off.  I am certainly open to discussion on this issue (See how much I have grown.)

“I am telling you we are NOT lost, I wanted to go this way!  I have always wanted to see where this road went”

I am the King of Humility!

January 13, 2010

In fact, there is nobody greater at humility than I! I actually live on top of a mountain of humility! …..I have said this as a joke (kind of) to my kids all of their lives.  The are very tired of it I am sure.  Truth be told, humility is not a gift with which I have been abundantly blessed. (but you knew that).

When I say that I trust in the Lord to do all that he has said he will do, what does it mean when I tell God, “here you go, I can’t figure out how to deal with this so I am putting it in your hands”. At that point, shouldn’t I be able to just completely let go and trust?

I should,

but I don’t.

So I am dealing with a lot of stuff right now.  I have always been an emotional sap.  It is my fathers fault, I got it from him and Jason certainly got it from me.  So I am telling myself to be strong and let go of my worries, but to me that means shut off my emotions.  That is just not who I am!

So here is today’s problem.  A couple of weeks ago at church, one of the things I picked up on was the statement “Worry is Pride”  actually in my notes I wrote “worry is PRIDE!!!”  (I take a lot of notes in church, enough that my daughter gave me a journal for Christmas so I can quit scribbling on scraps of paper… She made me very happy).

I am a bit uncomfortable with how many times the word “humility” comes up but here you go:

1 Peter 5:5-7 (New American Standard Bible)

5You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.  6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

When I let worry (pride) take over, I am saying that I do not trust God.  Since my desire is to trust in the Lord, worry is the enemy.  However, this does not absolve me from my responsibilities.  So obviously there is a fine line here.  I am responsible for me and I need to accept that responsibility and do the things I know need to be done every day.  God is not exhorting me to be lazy.  I am actually sure about this.  There are things I can control and things I cannot.  If it is something I cannot control, I am pretty sure this knot in my belly is a sign that I still need work.

One thing I have learned the hard way, is that growth does not usually happen when everything is going smoothly.  Growth happens in hard times, when nothing seems to be going right, when I am forced to turn to God and trust in his grace.

Man, I am really growing right now.  Thank you Lord!

Growing older but not up!

January 12, 2010

So, my pastor said something a few weeks ago that keeps coming to the forefront of my mind. “God’s goodness is not all about my happiness”.  I instantly understood what Randy was saying, or I should say, what the Lord was saying to me through Randy. God wants us happy. God REALLY wants us happy, but he would fore-go ALL of my happiness for my obedience which, of course, would lead me into happiness.  Obedience is a very hard word to embrace.  It has a negative connotation to it.  But think about a child at the store who is out of control, he is fighting his parent’s will with every fiber of his being.  Does that make him happy?  Even if he got that box of cereal or toy that he HAS to have, would he be a truly happy child or a nightmare for his parents later on?  His needs right now are not healthy, but he believes everything will be perfect if he wins this battle and gets what he wants.  When a child is at peace however, playing a game, laughing, giggling, is there a more wonderful experience as a parent than to see your child happy?  You would do anything that was healthy for your child to make them happy.  I believe that is how God sees us, he wants us TRULY happy.  Not something transitory and ultimately hurtful.  That is why he sometimes says “no” and if I want to be happy, I need to learn obedience.

Which leads me to how I pray.

I can’t believe I try to bargain with God.  I am not so naive to think that I really have anything other than my obedience to offer God.  By that I mean I don’t (often) make God promises IF he answers my prayers.  What could I possibly have that he needs.  Quite often the things we think will make us happy, the things we pray most fervently for, are not what will draw us closer to God.  But I found a little loophole, what if my prayer is TOTALLY selfless????  AhHa!!!  Then, of course, he will have to give me what I am asking for because it is not for me, it is for the greater good.  Plus I get to feel pretty superior about it.  I will let you know how it works out.

My goal is to talk to God just like it was my best friend in the room.  I don’t bargain with a friend, we talk about what is happening in our lives and share the burdens and the joys.  Funny thing, it is always a two way conversation.  My time in prayer with God needs to look a lot more like that.

My son Jason thought it was funny when I said “I want to be more childlike, and yes, it is possible.” I want to get to that amazing place where my trust is absolute.  Where the crazy stuff that is always there in the background just fades away and I can be in that quiet moment where relationship is all that matters.  Then obedience would just naturally happen.  I will never, in this life, actually reach this point, but I need to keep trying.  I think I am getting real close on the child-like thing.  Or that is what everybody keeps telling me.

Do not try this without adult supervision.  I am no biblical scholar and this is just what I am thinking.  Please don’t let me screw you up.

I have one thing in common with Barrack Obama, Jack Welch, Brad Pitt (well, 2 things in common with Brad) Oprah Winfrey and Pope Benedict…..every one of us feels that we are getting away with something. If people knew the real me – the voice of doubt deep inside, the hateful thoughts, the insecurities I hide – if people could really know me as I know me, they would not love me. Let alone respect me.  I promise you, the President is thinking this, the Pope is thinking this, Oprah is thinking this, your Spouse is thinking this and even your Pastor is thinking this.  I do not care who you are or how much it appears you have got your life together, we all have that voice only we hear. We sometimes let that voice make decisions for us, we always let that voice influence decisions we make. We do not say or do the right thing because we are afraid of ……what? It is really a fear of being exposed as who we really are or having someone actually confirm what we already believe about ourselves.

I mentioned a book I have just finished reading, “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. It was not an easy book to read. Oh, the words were small enough for me and all that, it was just that it is a series of stories and vignettes woven together out of Donald Millers life and a lot of it really did not resonate with me. Every few pages, however, I would find some little nugget that really hit home. I love to read and it took me over six months to finish this little 240 page book. I would put it down for a couple of weeks and then pick it up and read 5 pages. I could not figure out why this book was taking me so very long to finish. I figured it out last week.

It turned out God wanted me to read page 231 on Friday, January 1st, 2010.

I was dealing with a lot of crazy relationship stuff. Things I had spent a lot of time in prayer about and it was not working out at all as I thought it should or even as I thought God had planned.

And then I read this on page 231 – “Love your neighbor as yourself” – We have all heard it many times and I think it is slightly important since Jesus was fairly clear on that point. Here is the actual verse.

Mark 12:30-31 (New International Version)
30: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31: The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”

‘There is no commandment greater than these.” I felt I needed to repeat that part.

It makes total sense and is very rewarding, loving others can’t be anything but good for all concerned, right? But Mr. Miller made me stop and think. Do I really love myself? What if I have this all wrong? Would I say the things I say to myself, you know, those things I don’t let anyone else hear, would I say those things to someone I really cared about? If I would not do that, why would I say those things to me? Do I really care about me?  Maybe what Jesus is saying was, how can you love anybody, friends, family or even God if you do not love yourself?  How can you accept love  from anybody, friends, family or even God if you do not love yourself.

Wow, whether this is what Jesus meant or not, how much would it change my life, and the way I loved others if I could somehow quiet that damn voice.  I think about what it would mean to not hear that voice……ever!  Stop and think about that.  Really.

I think I may have just described heaven.

Well, I am not yet in heaven, and I still have this sinful, human nature to deal with.  So, I am committed to talking nicer to myself .  I am going to try to not yell at me anymore and I am going to try to give myself the benefit of the doubt I would like to receive from others.  Hopefully, the people I love will notice that I can love them better.

I became a Christian when I was in the 8th Grade. I pursued my relationship with the Lord throughout Jr High and High School. Surrounded by great friends and inspired discipleship (Thank you Nels Edwin Berg, III, Mike Medill, Kevin Stevens and many more) I made it through adolescence pretty much intact. I have never met anyone who had a better experience in High School than me. I would not change a thing, I mean literally not one thing. It was awesome and I love the person I grew into. I married a wonderful woman who was raised Unitarian and like a fool, I just let everything become, well, ok. I pretty much turned my back on God so that my beliefs would not cause friction in the marriage. Looking back, that decision was such a horrible one to make for everyone involved.

Let us skip 23 years into the future. Wow, did that last sentence fill me with a sense of loss…..23 years.

I have described myself (accurately) as a bookmark between my father and my oldest son. Collectively, these are my two best friends. How cool is that to be able to say. They are both instruments the Lord has used to bring me back into his amazing presence. Actually, that statement is misleading. It is not like God abandoned me. And that is the point of this story….

God finally just said “enough! You know better Craig” Both Jas and Dad had been gently prodding me for quite a while, I was kind of paying the Lord lip service. You see, I knew all the right things to say. Then Jason sent me a number of books to read. I highly recommend all three.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
The Shack by William P Young

Other than the bible, no book has changed my life like The Shack. It is a total work of fiction and it is not doctrine. What it showed me, exploded in me is a better description, is what my relationship with the Lord could, and should look like. I cried so many times reading that book. I would be sitting on the deck reading and I would get so emotional I would have to put the book down and almost run from it. Sometimes it would be 3 or 4 hours before I could pick the book back up again. What God kept yelling at me over and over again is “I am RIGHT HERE Craig” His faithfulness to me is so completely overwhelming.

So everything was alright now, right? God spoke to me…loudly… I have got my stuff together now.

Have I mentioned how human I am?

So I kept telling God “I get it now” and then “Oh, now I understand” and the funny thing was, he did not believe me. Time and time and time again we kept coming back to the same issues. It was like groundhog day. I would say “yes God, I know, you are faithful…I get it. So then he would start all over. Everything, and I mean everything that came up was a recurring theme. In church, we started a series called Shepherds and Kings that was based on the story of David. But not David as a king, David as a young man. We were in 1st Samuel, and the message to Craig was Davids friend Jonathan, the son of King Saul. With everything to lose and nothing to gain, Jonathan was completely faithful to David, against his father and knowing that if David survived he was forfeiting his own claim to the throne. What an amazing story…of faithfulness! Week after week, I would tell God “ok, I got it”. Well we finally ended the lesson to my great relief, and the next week I traveled to Chattanooga to finally see my Son and his family including my new grandson. We went to church together on Sunday and guess what they were in? 1st Samuel. I could not believe it. Then Jason told me there was this amazing tv show I needed to watch called “Kings”.  It had only run 12 episodes on NBC and had already been canceled but it was available online.  So I said sure and he sent me the link.  It was a story set in modern times based on ……1st Samuel.  There was time after time God led me back to this lesson. What he was saying was “I am and have always been faithful to you Craig”.  I know there is nothing I have ever done or could do to earn that faithfulness. In fact, I turned my back on it, purposefully, for years. And yet there it is. It is weird how hard my heart had become towards God. I was always a good person, I was happy, I love people. Yet, as I started to seek God again, it was so hard. So very hard. I would start to pray and my mind would wander. I mean all the time. I resisted this relationship for so long, it is like I was programmed to fail.

So now we actually get to the point of this rambling blog. Community! Actually, I need to capitalize that COMMUNITY and FELLOWSHIP. For me, church (the people, not the building) is critical. I have really just begun to become connected to my church home. I also have the amazing benefit of my father and my son. Nothing comes easy, nothing worth having anyway. I fight against my will, I fight against my nature and I fight against the devils most powerful tool (the NFL RedZone Channel) to pursue with fervor my relationship with God. How amazing is it that the God who created the universe actually cherishes our relationship….and pursues me?

It is a great day to be Craig.

And I am always going to. Maybe my greatest strength (and weakness) is that I will always tell people how I feel about them. I want to live my life with as few regrets as possible. When my brother Todd passed away, it was the hardest day of my life. I had to tell both of my parents, individually, that their son had died. I have no idea how I did it to be honest. As we sat waiting for my father to come home, I remember my grandmother asking me how God could let it happen. I think my unprepared answer was perhaps the most true thing I have ever said. I told her that God did not kill Todd or even allow Todd to be killed (other than allowing Todd to have free will), that is not how God works. What the Lord had done, was enable the rest of us to come to grips with it by making sure that we all had the opportunity to smile when we thought about the last time we saw or talked to Todd.  Everyone in the family had a story similar to mine and all just as unlikely.

Two weeks before the accident, I was in Minneapolis and Chippewa Falls Wisconsin on business. I was just over 4 hours from Oshkosh and I had planned on driving over to visit. Kristen was just a few months old and I had not met my new niece. It was a long day and I was just too tired to make the drive. I got to my hotel and crashed on the bed. The Mariners were playing The Pilots (ok, Brewers) so it was on local TV. Early in the second inning, I realized my brother would be watching the game so I called him. We watched the game together on the phone for over two hours. Talking baseball of course but also about work, kids, wives… It was the last time I talked to my brother. It was also the deepest and most meaningful conversation we maybe ever had. I thank the Lord every day for that day. What if I had not made that call? What if I lived with the regret of not making that 4 hour drive for the rest of my life?

So that is just never going to happen to me.

If you are important to me, I am going to tell you. If I love you you are going to know it.

I have said for years that I would rather be disappointed than worried. What that means is I expect good things to happen and people to do the right thing. I want to always be surprised when this is not what happens.

(Edit) or Postscript would actually be more accurate.

I thought I should fill in a bit about my relationship with Todd.  I was one year and 12 days older than my brother.  Those 12 days mattered a lot to both of us.  Mom wanted twins I guess, she always dressed us in matching outfits.  Every family picture and even the pictures of us at Knotts Berry Farm as kids had us in matching cowboy hats, shirts, jeans and six-shooters on the hip.  Until I was in the 9th grade, Todd and I always shared a bedroom.  We fought like cats and dogs all of time.   I think it was normal that we did not value the relationship we had.  We were very different people.  Todd was a sports freak and I was a reader and dreamer.  Even though I was older, when we fought, he always won until a certain day when I was in the 8th grade.  You see, I could not hit him in the face.  Todd did not have that problem with me.  So one day, we got into a fight in the house, Mom and Dad were gone and Al (older brother) told us to go out in the back yard to fight.  So we did, with Al as referee.  Anyway, Todd hit me in the face and something just snapped in me.  The next time he came at me I hit him hard and he flew back and landed on his back.  He got up and came at me two more times with the same result.  It was the last physical fight we ever had and our relationship got much better.  When Todd moved to Wisconsin, I really missed him, so when the Huskies made the 1991 Rose Bowl, Todd flew out to Seattle and we drove down to Pasadena together to go to the game with Scott, my best friend.  I looked forward to spending this time with my brother so much I could not wait for the trip….Poor Scott.  Todd and I fought the entire time.  It was so frustrating.  So when we got home, I was talking to Mom about it.  I told her how frustrated I was that even though we had not seen each other for so long, we could not seem to stop arguing about stupid stuff.  She said something that changed my relationship forever with my brother.  She said, “It is because you are so competitive”  I said, “we are not competitive at all!” and she said, “maybe you aren’t, but Todd always feels you have to be better than him”.  What she of course meant and was too nice to say is that I was VERY competitive and I was making Todd feel like crap.  Well, the message hit home hard and I decided, that day, I was never going to argue with my brother again.  Period.  No matter what I thought, Todd was going to be right every time.  There would be no argument to win because I would not start one.   This completely changed my relationship with Todd.  It turned out my pride was the poison and once removed, I do not think I can describe how much better our relationship was.  I never told Todd any of this.  I did not need to.