Categotry Archives: My Story

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We Have Done Made It to Denver-ly (A Short Story in Three Chapters, or Maybe Four)

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Categories: My Story, Rantings, what I did today

Cyberspace is once again available to me, and I’m enjoying my first morning as a Denver resident at a nearby coffee shop before hitting my looong list of things to do to get settled. But here, for your amazement amusement, is the story of our trip.

CHAPTER 1: The Turbulent Take-off

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The Big Reveal (part 4: The Details)

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Categories: My Story, Things that are too good to keep

So if you’ve been following along, you now know that we are leaving Tulsa and moving to Denver in less than three weeks. (If you haven’t been following, read part 1, part 2 and part 3 to catch up.)

It might seem a bit sudden–and definitely the move date itself is coming up more quickly than we had anticipated–but honestly, we’ve been pondering this move for awhile. We didn’t say much to very many people, simply because we didn’t have details about how, when, where, and “We’re gonna leave sometime in the not-too-distant future” just seemed too vague. 🙂 We’ve spent most of this season not knowing how we could do this–and this last trip to Denver, enough pieces of the puzzle came together to prompt a commitment from us.

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The Big Reveal (part 3: The Twist)

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Categories: My Story, Things that are too good to keep

If you’re just arriving, I urge you to read part 1 and part 2 before reading this.

So after all the teasing and buildup about BIG change coming, I’ve taken two posts so far to drag it on as long as I can take the time to explain what we’re dreaming of, and why.

I’ve shared about wanting to see a creative community be born, one that doesn’t look like “church” or “ministry” as we’ve understood it before, one in which the arts can be genuinely encouraged and nurtured, and one in which the love of Christ can be freely expressed in a natural manner, without agenda. And I’ve shared our conviction that it needs to happen organically, not by “starting” something, but by embedding ourselves in a community and doing what we do.

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God Is In the Darkness (Part 1: Afraid of the Dark)

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Categories: food for thought, moments of truth, My Story

A bit of a disclaimer concerning this next series of posts. These are ponderings and questionings only, and not intended to be a statement of doctrine or theology. As with so many other things, I’m attempting to think outside the box of religious tradition, but not outside the boundaries of Scripture. So if you find yourself in disagreement with what I say here, please take it for what is is. I’m not holding this too tightly, and neither should you. Feel free to leave comments and discuss, but as usual, be nice. 🙂

Have you ever heard this riddle?

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Destiny, Overdone (part 2: Traveling Light)

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, My Story

In sharing some of my own story in my previous post, I shared how I grew up with a sort of “promise child” mentality, and how that caused me to have a warped view of destiny and calling. In this post, I’ll be talking about how God has adjusted my perspective. And forgive me in advance if I talk a lot about myself in this post; please know that I’m just processing some personal stuff, and letting you in on it. 🙂

After re-reading the last post, I can really see a need for a “part 2” (which I was going to do anyway). There really needs to be some clarification here. So let me start with that.

I think in some way, all of us have a desire to reach for greatness. It’s my belief that it’s part of our physical and spiritual DNA, because we were created in God’s image. It is why we dream, and why the enemy of our soul works so hard to suppress those dreams. But I think we get confused about what “greatness” looks like, and we set up these crazy standards for comparing ourselves with one another. We somehow get the idea that greatness can be assessed by having a certain set of skills or gifts, or by attaining fame, or by having any number of achievements, or by belonging to the “elite”, or what have you. Just like the posts I wrote recently about the idea of equality…”greatness” becomes a measure of comparison that suggests one person is better than others, instead of a character quality that informs our actions. And so with that mentality, when you load up a young person’s psyche with the idea that they are “special” and destined for greatness, it can really mess with their perspective. And that’s sort of how it happened with me. All the affirmation might have simply been for encouragement, but somehow it came across to me that either people thought I was better than others–or that I needed to be. That’s what I mean by great expectations; and that’s part of what informed my sense of destiny.

Of course, in growing up and getting knocked around a bit, eventually I learned that I wasn’t any better than anyone else. In fact, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that my sinful, arrogant, selfish self was nowhere near the image I was trying to live up to. And that filled me with an incredible amount of shame. Countless times, I felt like I’d forfeited my “destiny” by my own brokenness, like I’d failed God and everyone else, and would never become who I was “meant” to be.

Remember the 2000 U.S. elections, between George W. Bush and Al Gore–how the election came down to a few hundred votes in Florida, and how it took over a month and a Supreme Court decision before Bush was declared the winner? I wanted Bush to win, but I felt very sorry for Al Gore. I noticed that throughout his campaign he’d talked about his senator father, and how he’d been sort of groomed for this moment in history. You could tell he believed with all his heart that he was destined to be President–and when he didn’t win, for awhile he acted like he didn’t even know who he was anymore, like his whole identity had been attached to one moment that never arrived. This is a good example of what it is like to feel like you have blown your destiny.

So when God began to get hold of my perspective on this whole thing…you can imagine how freeing it was.

First, He began to reshape my performance mentality (which I think most of us struggle with, actually), and I began to embrace the idea that my identity was not in what I did or what I accomplished, but that my identity came from being God’s child. That although doing good has a reward, the Father delighted in me because I existed, and I could do nothing to make Him love me any more or any less. This is something I’m still getting into my soul; it takes awhile. 🙂 But this is freeing me from the burden of “great expectations.”

Second, He allowed me to experience deep failure. He let me spin the wheels of my religious thinking until I ran out of gas. In going through an extended season where no amount of praying and strategizing caused any visible change, I learned the futility of trying to do things on my own. I began learning that I am not responsible for what I cannot control, and therefore I do not need to try to control everything. This took a great weight off my shoulders.

And now, my picture of destiny and calling is changing. As I look at my life and see (like so many of us) that my journey looks nothing like I thought it would, sometimes there’s a sense of regret and remorse, and that voice that tells me “you failed” starts whispering in my ear. But when I can also look and see how much God’s hand has guided me over these years, how much healing has transpired, how hard times have shaped me, and how much blessing there has been along the way–I can’t simply write off all these years as lost. I see my beautiful family, I see the passion of the dream in my son’s eyes, like it was in mine at his age. I hear God’s voice in all this…God’s been working His plan all along, even if it doesn’t look like what I thought. And I realize that maybe destiny isn’t some goal I must achieve, some straight line I must walk flawlessly, or some mystical ship that’s going to come in if I just wait and hope and pray hard enough. Maybe what I’m living out now–maybe this is destiny. The fact that in all the twists and turns of life, and with all the bad choices I’ve made along the way–God has still worked His purposes, and is not finished yet. Maybe, from the standpoint of a believer, destiny is more about what God will do in us than what we will do for God. Maybe destiny is more about God having His way in spite of us, not because of us.

As for calling, and how our destiny ties into what we do with our lives…I see these things in a more relaxed manner nowadays. There are still deep desires God has placed in my heart, things that give me great joy and fulfillment–music being one of them. I’m realizing there is not one “special” thing I must do with this, but many potential things I can do with it. And when I operate out of these God-given desires of the heart, I am walking in part of my calling, and toward my destiny. And as I trust myself to God, I can trust Him to have His way, even if I don’t understand the path from time to time.

I still believe it’s a good thing to seek God for direction for our lives, and I still believe in dreams, and I even believe it’s good to affirm and encourage the young that they are special–as long as “special” means “unique”, not “better”. 🙂 When I talk about the burden of expectations, I’m not suggesting that we have no expectations at all, or no aspirations, or no goals. But when your identity hinges on those expectations, you are driven to pursue them for your validation–you are not free to pursue them for the joy of it. Whatever I do from here on, I don’t want to do it because I have something to prove, but because I love to do it. That, I believe, is the place where life is lived.

If you have lasted this long between the two posts…thank you for mercifully indulging me while I process these rambling thoughts. If I can explain what it means to be free from the “great expectations”–I guess I would say it feels lighter. I’m traveling light.

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Destiny, Overdone (part 1: "Promise Child")

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, My Story

For a combination of reasons I still don’t quite comprehend, probably going all the way back to the womb…I grew up with a “promise child” mentality. I have had an inflated sense of responsibility for as long as I can remember. I was a perpetual overachiever, was always considered the smartest kid in the class, had an acute sense of conscience bordering on torment, and showed an interest in spiritual things beyond my years. Also, my gift for music blossomed at an early age, which garnered me even more attention. And being an only child (read: my parents’ only shot at successful offspring) couldn’t have done anything but intensified the sense of expectation I felt. It seemed nearly every adult I connected with saw me as “special”, someone destined for some sort of greatness.

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How I Got Saved While Watching a Televangelist on TV, and How This Does Not Contradict My Previous Post

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Categories: food for thought, My Story

Yes, it’s true. My conversion experience occured when I was nine years old, watching a televangelist named Rex Humbard on Sunday morning television, waiting for my mom to get ready for church. And yes, it did change me, and yes, it stuck. 🙂 It was a genuine conversion to Christ.

But that’s not really what this post is about. Because the truth is, I don’t remember one word of the message that Rex preached that morning. And it wasn’t anything he said that convinced me I needed to be saved. Looking back, the convincing happened before that moment, and the TV show was just the vehicle to guide me the rest of the way. And that’s what this post is about.

In my last post, I talked about how we over-market the gospel message, and a watered-down version of it at that. So it’s a bit ironic that my salvation experience occured when, after the TV sermon, the announcer did the if-you-died-today-do-you-know-for-certain-you-would-go-to-heaven? thing, and led the TV audience in the “sinner’s prayer”. Basic, generic altar-call stuff.

But as I said…that’s not really what led me to that moment.

I spent my early years in the Episcopal Church with my mother, but when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old, Mom had a conversion experience. She started getting “serious” about God–reading her Bible and praying, doing the stuff I considered religious. She never preached at me, didn’t start bringing the hammer down. But…her attitude changed. Her temper softened. She was calmer, more peaceful. Not perfect. Just…different.

I never said anything about the change I noticed in her. I just…noticed. It made me feel like she had something good that I did not have, and I needed. At nine years old, I couldn’t have verbalized it this way. But I felt it inside.

Enter the televangelist. I got in the habit of watching Rex Humbard before going to the Episcopal Church on Sundays, because there was nothing else on TV at the time, and because I liked the hokey music. Week after week, the announcer would pray the prayer at the end while I stared blankly at the screen. But one day…it hit. I didn’t really know if I would go to heaven. And I wanted whatever it was my Mom had.

It was time. I prayed the prayer. I meant it. And I felt an immediate difference in my young soul.

The televangelist was just the opportunity. But the influence that drew me to Christ wasn’t convincing words on the television, or the method the announcer used…anything like that.

The real work of conversion happened when I saw the change in the life of someone close to me. The influence that drew me was in watching another life being lived unto Christ.

If I were to poll the believers reading this blog, I’d bet a large percentage would have a similar story. If we look back to the time when God was drawing us, and the moment we chose to follow Christ, many of us will see that there were relationships involved…people in our lives that informed and influenced that decision. That’s not always the case, and I’m not boxing God in here–I’m just saying that seems to be how most of us come to Christ. Even if we responded to some altar call or invitation, it was a friend or loved one who brought us to the meeting, or we knew someone whose life had been changed prior to that moment of decision.

So when I challenge our marketing methods for evangelism, I’m not saying they never work. I’m just saying we’re missing the point. God can use what He wants to use; in the Bible, He used a jackass once to speak his message. What I’m saying is that this thing of evangelism and sharing the gospel is really a lot more grassroots than we’ve realized. A life truly aimed toward following Christ, in my opinion, has more to do with sharing the gospel than any persuasion methods we can teach ourselves. And this makes sense; people remember what they see more than they remember what they hear. Our life humbly yielded to Christ, lived in the sight of others, speaks louder than any televangelist someone might happen to watch–because it is the gospel demonstrated.

Yes, we should verbally share our faith when we have opportunity. But I guess what I’m saying is we don’t need new marketing methods for evangelism, because they don’t do it justice anyway. It seems to me that the best way to spread the gospel has been with us all along.

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Confessions of a Recovering Self-Righteous, Judgmental, Legalistic Hypocrite (part 2)

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Categories: food for thought, My Story

(Part 1 here.)

As I mentioned in my previous post, my propensity for being legalistic and judgmental formed in my youth–a toxic cocktail consisting of equal parts overactive conscience, inflated sense of responsibility, overachiever mentality, impossible self-imposed expectations, and incredible guilt for failing to meet said expectations.

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Confessions of a Recovering Self-Righteous, Legalistic, Judgmental Hypocrite (part 1)

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Categories: food for thought, My Story

Geesh, do I gotta? After reading that title back, I’m not really sure I want to write this post after all…

Oh…all right. 🙂

One thing I’ve grappled with for most of my life, and especially as a youngster, is an overactive sense of conscience. I’m a lot better than I used to be, but there was a time when I couldn’t do anything without second-guessing my own motives and assuming the worst of myself. The only explanation I can come up with as to why I was this way is that as a kid growing up in a broken home, I developed a warped sense of responsibility and became an overachiever. At any rate–I had high standards for myself, and I beat myself up with guilt when I failed to meet those standards. I had a deep desire to be “good” (which isn’t a bad thing), but I tormented myself when I wasn’t.

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Broken People

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Categories: food for thought, My Story

Pastoring people has been an interesting journey for me. Not only have I learned some things about people in general–I’ve learned a lot about myself, including some stuff that was very hard to look at.

For a good part of my earlier years as a pastor, I felt personally responsible to fix people who were broken. I thought it was my job, and I thought I’d be failing as a pastor somehow if I didn’t. In my sincere efforts to fix people, I’d stick my nose into places where it didn’t belong, speak the “truth” to people when they were not ready to hear it–or my perception of the “truth”–and all sorts of other things like that, justifying my actions by saying it was my job. In fact, one of my favorite things to say in these moments was, “I wouldn’t be doing a good job as a pastor if I didn’t say this to you.”

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