What is in a name?

This past week at Lifechurch.TV, pastor Craig Groeshel started a new series called Getting Past your Past. I will be totally honest here. When we sat down at church I just wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t in the mood to sing. I wasn’t in the mood to listen. I have no good reason for this. I was just in a funk. That usually is the case when a good message is about to be given. Fortunately the fog lifted and what followed was awesome.

Pastor Craig asked this question near the beginning of the message: What negative label follows your name? This could be anything. Do you know what yours are? Mine started to pop up in a hurry. Granted, I know them well so it didn’t take much thinking. I have two that have bugged me for years: fat boy and quitter.

When I was a teenager I had a fat boy complex. I used self depreciating humor quite often to get a laugh. Looking back I see a huge problem though…I wasn’t fat. I was a husky kid, but when I hit my growth spurt I spent several years skinnier than I ever knew I was. See below. What did this view of myself get me? I promptly gained 40 pounds after high school. I graduated at 190 and weighed 230 the next year. (The freshman 15 is one thing, but 40 pounds..good grief.) I have lived with this false label for a long time. I wasn’t a fat boy. I am bigger than I want to be right now, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. This label doesn’t own me. God created me for more than that.

Summer 1995

I have also lived with the label Quitter. There isn’t a sport that I have played that I haven’t quit. I played basketball in high school and when it was time to pass out the jersey’s I was one of two guys that didn’t get one. I saw no future with it and I quit. I signed up for the football team my sophomore year and made it through 3 a days and quit. I played a season and a half of baseball and wasn’t happy with it so I quit. From the paragraph I just wrote it seems that label would be true…but it isn’t either. I am not a quitter. Looking back I realize I chose other things over the sports. I chose to sing in the choir and had some success at it. (Went to college with all tuition paid for two years singing.) That label doesn’t own me either. There are several more important things that I have not quit at all. I have been married to the same beautiful woman for 12 years. There is no quit in my game. I am, however, more selective about what I start these days. Had I chosen choir in the beginning back in those days there would have been no need to play the sports. Singing was what I enjoyed doing.

Through the message I have been encourage to go back and look at many of those negative labels that have attached themselves to me over the years. As I look at each one and examine them closely I am finding that they are inconsistent with what I know to be true. As a follower of Christ I am a new creation. I have been made new. Labels that may have defined me at one time no longer have to. God has purpose for my life. Holding on to the past and being crippled by it is not it.

Are there any labels that have defined you in the past? What are you doing to overcome them? Were they valid in the first place? The service was eye opening. I am so glad I shook the funk and really heard what was being said.

She’s got nothing on you

Hang out with me for long enough and there are a few things you will pick up on: I love my wife and son like crazy, I enjoying cooking very much, I talk to myself in funny accents (I can do more than 10), and…I am crazy about my wife. There are other things that make me me, but two of these four really define me.

I was listening to the radio today and a song came on that I haven’t heard before. The chorus said something like this: ‘beautiful girls all over the world I could be chasing, but my time I’d be wasting cause they got nothing on you.’ I had to sit back and smile. I feel that way about Marixa. She is the one for me. There is no other.

Strangely enough, the song reminded me of a verse from Proverbs 31:29 that I had just read not too long ago: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” (NLT). Loosely translated: they got nothing on you.

I can think of many reasons why I feel like Marixa has surpassed all the others. She is a beautiful woman. She is a wonderful mother. She is the best friend I have ever known. She is brilliant. She is so very creative. She is compassionate. All of these reasons are good ones, but they are not the reason I can say with confidence that she has surpassed all the other women in the world in my eyes. What is my reason? She is my wife.

There is no one in this world that is like her for many reasons, but this is the one that I want to address. I fell in love with Marixa. I asked her to marry me. In front of our God and our family and friends I pledged to love her and cherish her above all others for all of my life. I chose her. I choose her still. She surpasses all the other women in this world because she is my wife. She is the one I made a covenant to love and cherish.

There will never be another. There is no need. I already made my choice. They have nothing on her. Does this ring true in your marriage? It is my prayer that you can say the same thing about the woman who wears your ring.

Now that is Weird.

For the past few weeks at church we have been involved in a series called Weird: Because normal isn’t working. Our pastor, Craig Groeshel (LifeChurch.TV), has been challenging the church to take a good look at what the world calls normal and urging us to be Weird in a good way. (In this context weird is a very good thing…keep reading). It has been an eye opening experience.

What is normal in America today? Normal is broke. Normal is fat. Normal is divorce. Normal is doing things because everyone else is doing them. Normal is depressed. Normal is stressed. Normal is without hope. Who wants to be normal? Not me.

We have been called by God to live differently than that. The key point that has been repeated over and over the past couple of weeks goes like this: If you want what normal people have do what normal people do. If you want what few people have do what few people do.

This is an issue that Marixa and I have become very passionate about over the last few months. (You can read her take on it here.) We have been evaluating what we do. Is it because it is the way it has always been done? Or because we have chosen to do it that way through thought and prayer? This relates to how we spend our money, how we treat our relationships, how we care for our bodies, and many other things.

I have a confession to make. I have been so normal in many areas of my life that it disgusts me. I have made some of the worst goofs with money that can be made, because it was normal. I have made some of the worst decisions with my health, because it is normal. I could go on for a while here. I have come to this conclusion: normal stinks.

Why do we fall into the rut of the normal? It is the path of least resistance. To be weird you have to work at it. You have to think about what you are doing. You have to walk a different path than those you disagree with. To be weird you have to do what few people do. That is the hard part. That is the rewarding part.

I am reading through Craig’s book of the same title. It is amazing how simple this stuff is and still so profound. Is your life overwhelmingly normal? Are you looking for something different? Want to be a little weird? Pick up the book and check out the sermon series at www.lifechurch.tv. 

The wayward son…a retelling.

He stood at the corner. The sign he held in his hands spoke volumes. Times were tough and money hard to come by. He hadn’t bathed in a week. Lord only knows where he had slept the evening before, if he had slept at all. Didn’t he have a home he could go to? What brought him to this corner? Where did he get the marker and the cardboard for his sign?

His tired shoulders slumped as the cars passed him by. The hunger pains racked his body, but not as bad as the despair did. Times had not always been like these. There had  been another day, years before. Before the women. Before the booze. Before the needles. Before despair.

He lifted his face. The streetlight changed to red once again. Slowly he panned the cars for generosity. A window rolled down and he walked to the  person seated in the car. Two dollars. That was better than most people did. He muttered a thank you as the car drove away.

The streets were wet from the rain of the day. His clothes were sticking to his body, but at least it was cooler than the normal heat of an August day. How had he sunk this far?

He had been comfortable once. He had lived in luxury. His father had a strict set of rules that he chose not to abide by though, and in anger, one day, he demanded his share of the inheritance and left. Never to look back. Never to be constricted by those rules again.

The thoughts of years passed flashed through his mind often as he watched the cars go by. Arrogant people passed by every minute. But he knew well that very few had been as arrogant as he. Thousands of dollars he had, all of it he squandered. In a short amount of time he had nothing.

Too ashamed to go home, he stayed where he was and tried to work to make his way. Habits die hard. Expensive habits die painfully. His life was now broken and, he thought, wasted.

There had to be a better life than this. The life of one of the workers in his father’s employ was so much better than what he was now doing. Even if he couldn’t return as a son, he would ask his father for a job. It had to be better than his life now.

So, he picked up his backpack containing everything he owned in the world. It was many miles back to his father’s house, but the journey was underway. It would take several days to make it back, but it had to be better. It just had to.

His legs were tired. His feet sore. He climbed the hill in front of him. His father’s house was down on the other side. It wasn’t much further. As he reached the top of the hill he paused for a moment to catch his breath. He looked down on the valley where he grew up. It was familiar, but he knew it would never be as it was. Never again would he take it all for granted, even though none of it was his.

He started walking down the hill. To his amazement, he saw a man running toward him. The man was older and well dressed. Why was he running? Who was this? It was…his father. His father was running to him. Immediately he felt fear, but that was soon gone as he realized his father was smiling…and crying.

With a swift embrace, the father took the son in his arms and pulled him close. The son’s clothes did not stop him. The smell of the man did not stop the father. The father’s son was home and he rejoiced and cried as he held him.

“Father, please forgive me for my stupidity. I have come back to ask you for a job. I don’t deserve to be your son, but I will gladly spend my life working for you to repay the cost I have been to you.”

“Son, I have waited for you. Every day since you have been gone I have searched this road for you. I believed in my heart you would return. Now you have. You are my son and you will always be my son. I love you. Nothing has ever changed that. You may work with me as we live our lives as family. Come, we must celebrate for you have come home.”