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Monday, June 25, 2012

Buried Talents, Missed Blessings, and New Hula Hoops

Last week was turbulent and filled with unrest. It was good for me; I arrived at some much needed conclusions and revisited my plans for life. But it came with a heavy price and not a small amount of hurt.
When one looks back on ones life and finds it wanting and incomplete, it is especially sad. Last week I was sad. I am sad this morning. I have been in a period of deep repentance for several days now and it continuous this morning.
I have been repenting because I made some decisions very early in my life that caused me to miss the mark and veer from the direction God had for my life. To be honest, part of the reason I got off track was my own deep respect for ministry and a desire to do it “right” if I was going to do it at all. I was 16 when I felt a distinct, unmistakable calling on my life for ministry. I treated that calling with such honor and respect that when I missed it the first time, (as related in a previous post) I held it in such high regard that I felt unworthy to try again. This was foolish and only showed my lack of intimate knowledge of God. I only knew the harsh legalist of my childhood, and not the God who called me with an irrevocable calling and who would not rest until I was heeding it.
The past few days I have been in a prolonged period of introspection, and repentance for each decision I made subsequent to that decision that “I wasn’t cut out for ministry”. It has been hard and it has hurt.
Several years ago, I was standing along the Delaware River back home at Battery Park in Old New Castle. It is my favorite place on earth to be contemplative and introspective. I was talking with someone who was struggling at the time. He told me he was “living right”, active in church, tithing, reading the Bible each day, spending time in prayer etc. But, he said, he was still struggling badly. The ends weren’t meeting, his work was struggling, and he was not “blessed”. We talked for a long time and finally I said to him; “Listen…imagine you are standing inside a Hula-Hoop right here” I drew an imaginary circle on the ground and continued. “If this hula hoop is your life and you can honestly say you are doing all the things you know to do and you are right before the Lord and He is not blessing you, there are only two reasons that can be. One, you aren’t being honest and there is something in your life preventing Him from blessing you, or Two, it is time for you to move to another Hula Hoop and if He blessed you any further in this one, you’d stay in this one.”
As it turns out, this person wasn’t being entirely forthright with me and he was hiding some secret sins. God’s blessing could not fall on him because his life was in the way.
But the advice, and the analogy remains as some of the best advice I have ever given anyone. Last week I took this advice for myself.
In my life I have always been somewhat successful. I taught myself carpentry and got good at it and had a decent business. Decent but not particularly prosperous. I spent ten years in the mortgage business and was very good at it. I was nationally recognized for both my knowledgability in the business and for my marketing. I was very good at my job. And yet, in the height of the industry, when guys with far less ability than me were making $750,000, my best year was $104,000.
My recent conclusion…there is a vast difference between being a success and being blessed. I was a success. I had learned a business from the ground up and had achieved recognition. I made some money and had a few things. But I was miserable. I was so unfulfilled that every single day I would beg God not to let this be the way my life would go for the next 25 years. There was something missing. I was not blessed.
The word “blessed” means “Hilariously happy”. So happy that you can’t contain it. So fulfilled that you’d work for free...heck you might even pay to do the job. So happy that you might not have everything you want, but your happiness with what you have is so deep that it’s all the same. That is being blessed.
I was not blessed. Neither was I happy.
The opposite of blessed is opposed, I think. At least for me it was. I was opposed. I was constantly rowing my boat into a strong wind. It was harder for me to make less money than the other guys in my industry. I was never happy. There was always something missing. I was unfulfilled and miserable and most certainly not blessed.
A blessed man always has enough…regardless of what his checkbook says. A blessed man always has a nice car, even if it’s old and beaten. A blessed man is so consumed with happiness and thankfulness with what he has, that he seldom notices whet he doesn’t have. A blessed man has something others want. I most definitely didn’t have that.
Last week I realized that my lack of happiness and my lack of success and my always feeling like I was fighting against a rising tide and a swift current was because God couldn’t bless me. Not if He wanted to move me from my Hula Hoop.
Last week I caught the last ten minutes of Charles Stanley as he taught on Jesus’ parable of the Ten Talents. I love this parable. Here is something interesting…and just like Jesus. The Talent was an actual unit of currency in that day. So this wasn’t Jesus making up a word. Jesus could have used another currency. He could have used a Drachma, or a Farthing, or pieces of silver, or a mite. But he used a Talent. He was clever like that. The dual meaning is obvious and needs no explanation.
The servant who buried his talent was afraid. He knew his master was a tough man who demanded the best from his people, but who rewarded them well. He knew the talent was special…that’s why he buried it instead of leaving it on his dresser or carrying it around in his pocket. The talent was an extra gift. It wasn’t part of his daily job description. He still had that and apparently still did those tasks. This distribution of talents was a chance for the servants in the story to shine. A promotion of sorts. “Here” said the master, “here is something extra. I believe in you. Go make something with this.” Was his order. Two of the servants did just that. They placed the talents where they would grow and gain value. (A type of evangelism where more souls were added) the third servant was so overwhelmed by the extra gift and so blown away by the show of confidence his master had given him that he froze in fear and hid it in a safe place, desiring only to return it someday in pristine condition.
The third servant was punished for his wickedness. He hid his talent. He buried the gift.
I was that guy.
For about 28 years now, I tried to pacify myself with attempts at business success. I was certainly living “right”. I was active in church, regular in my bible study and prayer, tithing regularly, I taught bible studies and even functioned as an interim youth pastor for a year at a church I formerly attended. But I was not doing what I was here to do and I had hidden my talent.
Because of this I could not be blessed. I lived almost my entire adult life without that extra dimension of God’s richest blessings. Where others had doors blow open for them…I found locked door after locked door.
Even sadder is how this hurt me in my soul. I have not been deeply satisfied and fulfilled in years, except in my fatherhood.
Last week I repented for burying my talents. I repented for forsaking the call I have on my life. Now I am praying for God’s deepest blessings to begin to pour on me. I need them now more than ever.
What of you? Are you successful and not blessed? Is there real hilarious happiness in what you do or are you trudging through bog after bog trying to find a smile that long escaped your lips. Can God bless you where you are?
Or is it time for a new Hula Hoop?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Some final thoughts on Jerry Sandusky...

Friday morning brings heat and humidity to Nashville. And it no-doubt brings heat in the form of  anticipation to Centre County PA, where the jury is now sequestered, deciding the fate of Jerry Sandusky.
From the time this thing unraveled in November, I have not posted about him at all. My posts were always about JoePa and defending the mindless attacks that were levied at him, as PSU obviously manipulated the venom toward a coach who they were now finished with, and were going to throw under the bus in an effort to buy some time to order their houses and hide the emails that prove their guilt.
I could rant about what was done to JoePa but it is pointless. As I predicted to my friends...Proverbs tells us "A Good name is to be valued more than treasure" and Joe's good name...and that of his wife and family...survived and remains. In fact, real truth seekers probably never doubted. To me it was always don't live your entire life with that kind of integrity and do the things people tried to blame on Joe.
But what of Sandusky? I've not written anything about him, and with good cause. He's a monster. His sort of sickness is the deepest most depraved that exists. The dad in me wants to drive to State College and run him down with my SUV.  The anger in me wants to get a job in whatever prison he ends up in, so I can wring my hands and laugh as the prisoners extract their own form of justice. The outraged Christian in me wants to petition God for a pay-per-view of Hell when he finally arrives.
But the Christ in me has a broken heart. Why...?
A couple of reasons really...first of all, I believe I broke Christ's heart yesterday when I posted on FB-- after revelations that Sandusky even molested his own adopted son--that "there isn't a spot in Hell hot enough for him".  If I truly believe in Hell, and truly believe in the price Jesus paid for all sinners, (not just sinners like me who do a lot of really bad things but nothing "that bad"...but sinners like Jerry Sandusky too), I would understand that I have no right to hate this man. I hate what he did. I hate the pain he caused those boys and their families and his family. I want him punished and he should be...thoroughly. But to demand his soul be somehow excluded from grace...I think that breaks Jesus' heart.
Before my closest friends start to worry that I have either become some sort of whiny liberal, or that I read Rob Bells book and sold out to his heresy...I assure you neither is true. What Jerry Sandusky did was horrifying and he should never see the outside of a prison again. In fact if there was a death penalty for his crimes I would not be against it being administered here.
But I am a Christian. And Jerry Sandusky has a soul. And that causes a problem for me.
The problem is that Jesus died for people like Jerry Sandusky. When the whip fell across His back and tore the flesh off until you could see his bones, that was for Sandusky too. When the crown of thorns was jammed into his skull until the blood flowed, that was for Sandusky too. When he said "It is finished" while hanging on the cross like a side of beef left to dry in the sun, he was announcing to his Father...and to Satan...that the work of redemption was now complete. And that plan included Jerry Sandusky, if he would receive it through Jesus' atonement.
As a man, it is practically insulting to me that Jesus would have offered this monster redemption. In my own mind I have repeatedly drawn lines where I imagined God's grace won't cross. The point of no return. Child molestation certainly fell on the wrong side of that line. The problem is there is only one actual's the point where a person says "No" to the grace of God and refuses the redemption He offers through faith in Jesus. That...and only how a man ends up in eternal Hell.
Jesus didn't die for a list of sins...He died for sin in general and sinners specifically. All of us.
I remember the first time I had this sort of rending of heart. It was in the days after the Columbine shootings and the picture began to emerge of the emotional state of the shooters. Two boys who were outcasts, angry, and who were essentially ignored by their own parents who were too busy chasing a nice lifestyle to notice that their sons were moving further and further from reality. Did they love their kids? Of course? But they ignored their pain. The tragedy is there was someone who did not ignore it. Someone who seized upon it and began to systematically enlarge it until it became madness that ended in murder. When it was done, those two boys were as dead as the victims they left in their wake. The person was Satan and when Columbine ended, and his two ministers of death lay in pools of their own blood, he was already somewhere else looking for another broken human being through which he could perform more evil.
Since this Sandusky thing began, deep inside of me there was this image I tried to block out. At first I thought it was just the part of me that wants to believe the best in people. But then I read a little snippet of a police report from Victim number 1. When Sandusky met with the boy's mother and he told her he had done wrong, that "I know you'll never forgive me...I wish I were dead". Something in that statement bit at me. Because I believe that no man grows up wanting to bugger little boys in the shower. No man wants to be a monster like this. Jerry Sandusky probably lives with more self-hatred and buried shame than anyone you know. He was a legendary football player and then a legendary coach at a legendary school under the most legendary Head Coach outside of Bear Bryant. He was the guy you'd probably think most likely to kill someone with his bear hands if he ever caught them doing the very crimes he was committing. And yet he couldn't control these sick urges and he became what he no-doubt detested.
Something in me remembered that under his horrible, monstrous, deviant acts, there is still a human soul, and Jesus valued that soul enough to die for it too. Just like mine.
Somehow I imagined Satan...invisible in those shower stalls or in Sandusky's basement as the horrors unfolded year after year. I imagined him laughing a sinister laugh, drooling at the pain he was engineering for both the boys and their attacker. Then when Sandusky was caught...he just moved along to find another person with even deeper wounds who he can use for even more nefarious purposes. His work with Jerry Sandusky and those boys is done...and like a plague of locusts, he simply moves on to find a new crop to ruin, leaving Sandusky to face the penalties and those boys to try to live on beyond those years of darkness.
Am I excusing this monster in any way? Absolutely not, and I hope no one misinterprets this in that way. But I was guilty of losing my focus on who was really working behind the scenes. And I was guilty of forgetting the reality of what I claim to believe. And I was guilty of turning my head at the truth that Jesus loved this man too. I can't do that if I really believe what I say I believe and if what I believe is really true.
We evangelicals are famous for saying that we "Hate the sin but we love the sinner". This time it's difficult.
But it's not optional.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Calling out for your help...

Hey folks I need your help! Please click the link and watch the video. Thanks everyone!

Kickstarter fundraiser for Ragamuffin Christmas

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Avoiding a lifetime of regret...a word about heeding the call

It's Tuesday June 19. This is going to be very confessional...
A month ago I walked with my class at Liberty University and received my Bachelors degree 28 years after my freshman year. I told that story as it unfolded so I won't revisit it here. There's no need.
But what I want to write about...what I need to write about here is the month and a week afterward.
Leaving Lynchburg that Sunday afternoon I was elated. The world held promise for the first time in years. I felt like a huge gaping hole in my heart had finally closed. It had...but it exposed one that remained open and in the 5 weeks since that day the hole that remains has grown deeper and wider and has pulled in everything around it like a vortex. I have been battling new questions and new restlessness and fighting with a sadness that lies deep inside me. The past week has been difficult as God has revealed what caused this gap. Now I have to try to devise a way to fill it somehow and reclaim as much of the lost ground as I possibly can.
Last Sunday (a week ago) morning I went to the 9 AM service at my church. I lasted maybe 3 minutes. Virtually as soon as the opening song was beginning, my heart could not stand the turbulence it was attempting to restrain even one more second. I got up and left. I walked to my truck and put the key in the ignition and felt the anger and restlessness building. For the was not in the least bit directed at my church. Nothing had happened in that service. Nothing outside was making me angry. This was inside. Instead of sitting in church last week, I sat in the park near my house. The park where I walked countless miles when I was homeless. The park where I used to take Morgan on nice days when she was with me and my office grew boring for her and she wanted me to push her on the swings.
I sat there in a place where I had so many wrestling matches with God, interspersed with so many happy "Dad Moments" and I wrestled again. I yelled and punched the steering wheel and begged God to tell me what it would take for me to be happy. Where is this hole in me that keeps sucking out my joy?
Some of this is easily explained. The last 5 1/2 years have been very hard. Losing my home, then losing my career and being unable even to rent anymore. Living in my car, working an endless string of odd jobs that were enough to fend off hunger and keep gas in the tank but never enough to rise from the ashes. Watching my daughter grow up in front of me with a huge four-year gap where we could not spend our weekends together. No vacations. To be honest...I need a rest. I need a vacation. I know it's something that people throw around "Man I need a vacation" is followed by an ad from the Florida travel bureau. But I really do. I have endured over five years of the most emotionally draining, painful, disappointing, wearying, hope-destroying hardship I've ever known. and I need a break.
So Sunday a week ago I was at a nadir of sorrow and loss and depression and the horrifying feeling that even my degree didn't fill the hole I thought it would. It filled a hole...just not the hole.
I would love to piously tell you how I was crying out to "Gawd"  and "pressing in" (one of those Christianese terms that make my skin crawl) but I was not. I was, by this time, crying readily and asking God between sobs "what the hell else do you want from me?!" I'd love to lie and tell you that even in my darkest despair I kept a clean tongue...but I can't. Thankfully that was the worst of it...somewhere in my soul there were far more coarse words waiting to bubble up but they were kept at bay.
Maybe it's me...but I find a pattern in times like this. There is the rage outburst...the shaking of my fist at Heaven and grinding my teeth and clawing at the ground. The time where the restraints are broken and the beast in me (Thank you Johnny Cash) comes roaring from his cave. This is followed by the emotional breakdown...tears...which for men are hard to admit to. After it's all out...comes the moment where...tired and broken and weary and hurting and desperate...we meekly ask the same questions again. Only this time we are serious about wanting the answer not our answer. Sometimes those two are the same...frequently they are not.
So after this anguish of the soul and the subsequent breakage of the dam, came the softer questioning.
"God...what do you want from me?" "What am I supposed to be doing?" "Why do I still feel like I'm lost and drifting?"
We've all been there. If we've lived on this earth long enough we have all been there...and many times at that.
God has a unique way of answering us at times like these. For me, He often does something to reveal His perspective on the matter at hand...sort of letting me know that He not only was paying attention, but there was something I had not thought of that He had. And He graciously shared this perspective with me so that I would know that whatever His actions or lack of them in this was not because of rejection or callousness. He got it.
I was sitting there in my truck, pretty wiped out from the emotion and the wrestling and He spoke one sentence to my heart. He's done this before. A sentence that, on it's own, makes little or no sense, but when seen as a key, it unlocks a sequence of deeper answers and the pictures goes from foggy to clear in one brilliant moment. The word He whispered to me..."I must be about my father's business..."
He was not saying this as a statement of His was a command. And it was at once a rebuke as well. Here's where the story hits deeper water...
I grew up in church. Not the best church I could have attended (for a litany of reasons not worth exploring), but a church that did preach the Gospel and did bring you to a place where a decision needed to be made. From age 9, I was involved, active and engaged in this church. I went to the Christian High School there. When I was 16 years old I felt the undeniable calling in my soul to enter ministry of some sort. I didn't have the desire to pastor a church necessarily, but I knew I loved studying the Bible, I loved speaking, and I deeply loved sharing my faith with strangers. I also questioned the status quo more than some of my peers and it occasionally got me in trouble. I fell in love with the great writers of the Faith. At 16 I was reading Ravenhill, Tozer, Augustine, St. Thomas More.
I graduated High School in May of 1981. My burning desire was to go to college that fall. I wanted to go to Liberty Baptist College. (As LU was known back then) It was LBC or nowhere else. Now, I grew up in a house where furthering your education was far from encouraged. In fact it was viewed as something to deride on a daily basis. Who did I think I was, wanting to go to college?  I have recounted bits and pieces of this over previous posts and I won't revisit it here. Simply because giving the perpetrators any additional space here is not worthy of my abilities.
I didn't get to college that year. This broke my heart in ways I am only beginning to grasp. It took three more years before I went to school. In August of 1984 I entered LU as a freshman at 21 years old. At Christmas Break, my mother let me in on the secret that everyone in the world knew except me...that my father was not the man I thought he was and in fact, was someone else altogether. I can't even begin to explain the mix of emotions that ran through my soul. I was relieved on the one hand, because this explained the total lack of anything remotely resembling a bond between her husband and myself. It explained why my endless, desperate, tragic attempts at winning the love of the man I thought was my father were always met with ever-deepening frustrations and disappointments. On the other hand it plunged me into a spiral of questioning and confusion that tore my heart in pieces. If all this was a lie...what else was a lie? And what is the truth?  Imagine the hard drive being yanked out of your computer as you are busily working away...that's as good an analogy as I can give.  At the completion of that year, I was again faced with not returning. The money had been provided...but it never made it to Liberty University. It never touched my hands either so draw what conclusions you may. I was already spinning wildly from the revelations about my heritage and lineage and now I wasn't going back in the fall for my sophomore year, and it was because the people who were supposed to have my best interests at heart had their own ahead of mine. They enjoyed the camcorder and the TV...I missed going back to school.
Last Sunday God showed me how these things were interlocking pieces of the puzzle I had been desperately trying to solve. When the sudden discovery of my parentage was thrust upon me, and then followed up by a total abandonment and betrayal of the most cherished dream I had it burrowed itself in my heart and became became a seed. What grew up was an orphan.
I've recounted this previously so I won't do it here. But what God spoke to me 9 days ago when He said "I must be about my Father's business" unlocked the tangled mess in my heart.
The fall of 1985, when it became obvious that I was not returning to LU my heart broke. I was beyond disappointed. I was crushed. And it was the people I thought I was supposed to trust who did the crushing. The hole in my heart grew to a canyon and I began a subconscious search to fill it. I was not at all who I thought I was...and now I was not going to become who I thought I would become...who I desperately wanted to become. Who I was meant to become. I spent the next 27 years trying to coax my father into a relationship by being "about his business". When I didn't go back to Liberty that August of 1985, I found a job at a local roofing and siding supply company. Within 8 months I had quit that job and started a roofing company with two friends. I pursued construction as a career for the next 18 years. I never loved it but I liked the work. I love the craft and the feeling of making something. I desperately wanted so succeed in this career because my father...and all of the men in my family...worked in this industry in some capacity. I was trying desperately to make myself a Daliessio. So I threw myself into it. But I hated the business and never really poured myself into it as a life. Because deep in my heart I was called to something else. I was supposed to be about my Father's business...a life of ministry and using the gifts and talents I was given. Instead I was about my father's business in a vain attempt to gain his attention...and eventually his fatherhood. Something that to this day remains unrealized.
The bottom line is...I messed up. I lost sight of the one thing that God had put me here for and tried to fill that hole with many things. I missed my calling. I blew it.
I am 48 years old now. I have a Bachelors in Religion from the predominant Evangelical University in the country. I am starting my Masters in the fall. I am longing to maybe regain what I lost. I yearn for my calling again. Years ago..when I was still in High School I prayed a prayer one night. I asked God to be sure about this call. I told Him I'd rather be a good businessman than a bad minister. I asked him to bless the thing I was supposed to do...not the thing I wanted to do if those two didn't line up. He has been answering that prayer for over 30 years. But it wasn't until 9 days ago that I realized it.
He has prevented me from ever becoming a successful businessman, because He always had in mind for me to be doing the work he called me to. I have battled a headwind all these years. Where I thought He had abandoned me, He was simply granting my request...sort of in reverse. Instead of making me a success in business because I was never meant to be in ministry, He never gave me any enduring success in business because I was never meant to be doing that.
Last Sunday he showed me in great detail. I had forgotten about that prayer. Forgotten about that oath I took when I was maybe 16 years old...the oath to do His work well or not at all. He has been holding me to it all this time.
Now I am 48, divorced, broken, tired, needing a rest. Beyond that I am sad. I am sad that I missed my chance and that there will always be a hole in my heart now. That there will never quite be a filling of the gap that lives where my calling took root but never grew. Divorce precludes me from certain areas of ministry and that breaks my heart.
I am writing this for those of you who are in ministry right now...or those who feel a call to it. Those young men and women who feel like God has a wild ride of service in your future and you aren't sure. Those men who take to the pulpit every week and who are battling with something secret that threatens to ruin the work God has done. I am begging you not to quit. Do what you have to do but never give up on your calling or your vision. Because the empty life of second best will never be good enough. The midnight whispers of what was and what might have been will never fall silent. The disappointment will never diminish.
I can say honestly that I fought my divorce with everything I had. I was wronged and I chose forgiveness anyway. I wasn't perfect and I contributed to the problems, but there were no scriptural grounds for the divorce and I was powerless to stop it. To be honest I feel its a bit unfair that I can't do certain things because of someone elses decision, but I understand it and respect it. But it goes deeper. I missed. I am entrapped by the great what-if. I have enough courage to be open about it and beg you once again...if God has a calling on your life...don't quit on it. Don't make a momentary decision, whether it's about a wrong relationship or a missing father or a lifetime of poverty because ministry doesn't pay or any of the thousand things that drive a man to relinquish his position in the ministry. Don't settle. Because in the end, there is nothing there to settle on. I wake up some nights with a sermon in my heart that burns to be preached. I get ideas for a book and the desire to write is so strong that I break down in tears. I see myself speaking to kids like I was and I remember that I am not doing this and it is the single most hollow feeling I know. I long to function in the gifts God gave me. Gifts that never went away and in fact, are more polished and prepared for use than ever before. And I am daily frustrated with no opportunity. It hurts in ways I can't describe. It sucks the flavor and texture out of everything I try to put in it's place. Trust me...stay true to your don't want to be here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Anonymous Confessions of a Middle Aged Pervert

*I wrote this blog originally over 5 years ago. It's amazing to look back on my life and see the path after I walked it. This blog is relevant because of some decisions made this past Sunday. I'll share those in the future but for now I am reposting this blog from 5 years ago because I know there are others who find themselves at a crossroads of life decisions, or who maybe have it all...but really have nothing at all.

Proverbs 17:20a “A man of perverse heart does not prosper…”
I read this verse October 17, 2006.  I was in my spare bedroom / study at my old house in the country. I loved that place. I had five acres and all sorts of wild animals frequented my land. There were deer, turkey, hawks, owls, and various turtles and lizards. I had a garden that was much too big for a single dad with one child, but I loved growing things and so I happily gave away what Morgan and I couldn’t consume by ourselves.
Describing that house is important to today’s topic because it’s part of what I had to give up when I decided to stop being a pervert.
Now, it would be a lot of fun to string this out for a while and let the gentle readers dangle, anxiously awaiting a salacious explanation for this confession of something dubious. But I won’t do that. Let’s get right after that wonderfully strange title…
Whatever night it was, I was lying on the floor of my study reading the Bible and praying. That sounds so magnificently pious, doesn’t it? Maybe I should add that I was weeping and beseeching…really go for the Holy Hat trick…but I was just reading and sometimes I am more comfortable on the floor.
Anyway, I was reading in Proverbs and came across the verse above. I read through it on my way to verse 21 and God said “whoa! Not so fast kid” I was glued to that first portion of the verse and particularly to the word pervert. “A man of perverse heart does not prosper” “Okay God” I asked, “what does this have to do with me?” He tugged on my heart a little and said “are you prospering?” Well this was a two part question and I knew it right away. Part one was “are you prospering” in the practical sense. Was I making it? Was I succeeding as we humans most frequently define success…in dollars? The answer was increasingly becoming “No”. Business had begun to turn down. The mortgage mess had hit my market and things were just then beginning to retreat. I knew that I was going to have to sell this house I loved and move from my spot in the country. I had already downsized my office and cut all staff; it was just me at the office now. I was struggling financially and the worst was yet to come.
But there was a more probing question God was asking me that night. It went deeper than how much money I had in the bank and how nice a car I could afford to drive.
He seemed to be asking my soul “are you prospering? I didn’t understand the question at first…or I didn’t want to answer it honestly. One way or the other I asked Him, “Lord what does this have to do with being a pervert?” “I’m not a pervert!” I instantly began envisioning the definition of “pervert” that I had always known and that most of us hold to. Some dirty old man in a trench coat who flashes women while they jog or leers at school children on a playground. Some white collar exec who runs up thousands a month on porn sites or who frequents brothels. You know…a real pervert.
The God does what He so famously does…makes me laugh as He teaches me a lesson.
In a flash (pardon the pun) he spoke one word to my heart. A word so full of biblical truth and so flowing with wisdom I would never be the same. He said...”Peroxide”.
Yep…Peroxide. Look it up! It’s all over the Bible. Ok…it’s not. It isn’t in the Bible at all. But here is why that word rattled me. What He did say after whispering "peroxide" to my soul, was “remember your organic chemistry classes?” I said “yes Lord…how could I forget? I had to take Chem.107 three times!” (I didn’t really say that to Him…although I did have to take Chem. 107 a third time) Then He reminded me of what the prefix “per” means. In chemistry, you can add a second molecule to certain chemical chains and get a substance that looks, smells, and acts identical to the original. The new compound, however, is very different. But there is virtually no way of knowing which is which. Here’s an example…using the word peroxide.
The chemical formula for water is H2O. Everyone knows that. Written out as a chain formula it looks like this: H-O-H. Two hydrogen atoms bonded by one oxygen atom.
Technically water is “Oxygen Di-Hydrate or Di-hydrous oxygen.
Now…Hydrogen Peroxide has a chemical formula of HO2 the chain looks like this: O-H-O. Very similar. Hydrogen peroxide is actually the accurate chemical name. It’s hydrogen with a “pair of oxygen” or per-oxide. Clear as mud? Hang in there. Pour a glass of water and a glass of hydrogen peroxide and set them next to each other. They look identical, they smell identical, and they are both inert. They have a very very similar chemical formula. But internally they are very very different. Drink the glass of water and you are refreshed. Drink a glass of Hydrogen Peroxide and you will likely die. Peroxide is a topical disinfectant. (Technically it’s an oxidizer) If you consumed it in more than a swallow it would kill you quickly. But for all intents and purposes you couldn’t tell it from water.
You can find this principal throughout organic chemistry. Perchloric acid is an oxidized version of hydrochloric acid. It looks and smells like hydrochloric acid. But it is foundationally different.
Okay…back to Proverbs 17. So I’m stretched out on the floor and I read how a man with a perverse heart won’t prosper. And God asks me if I am prospering practically…and I say no. And then He asked me if I was really prospering at all. And the knife stabbed me in my heart. No I was not. I was not happy. I was not fulfilled. I was not anything at all like I’d hoped I’d become.The picture I'd painted as a kid was not at all what was hanging on my wall.
Then He connected the dots. “Son…” He whispered,”…you are a pervert.” I didn’t recoil this time. Because I understood where He was going. I read the verse again. “A man of perverse heart…” In my mind I dissected the word perverse. Per-version. I managed to move past the seedy connotations and saw what God was saying. Just like Hydrogen Peroxide is an altered version of water, so I had become an altered version of what God had called me to be. I was a per-version. I was attending church, active in our men’s group and in my weekly small group. I had become faithful in tithing and giving beyond that. I was living right and spending time in bible study and in prayer.  
But I was a perversion.
I was clinging to a plan for my life that God did not authorize. On the surface I looked like I was hitting on all cylinders and this was God’s best for me. But inside I was unhappy and unfulfilled. I used to try to imagine myself in the mortgage business for twenty more years and I would cringe. “Please God…there has to be more” was my silent prayer. In my honest moments I knew God had other plans for me. But I reasoned that I had made so many perverted decisions that I was destined to be a perversion for the rest of my life. I had decided to grow my mortgage business. I had spent money on marketing and lead development and wasted both money and time. None of those things were evil or sinful. But they were not God’s best for me. They were close to His best…they looked like His best, they made sense from an earthly, human standpoint and I thought He had authorized them. But because of the tricky nature of perversion, I didn’t think there was anything to question. All the signs pointed to me being right where God wanted me.
…Until that evening He called me a pervert.
So now…
Now I am becoming the version that God intended. I am essentially out of the mortgage business. Not by choice but because there isn’t much left of that industry. I am rediscovering the gifts God has given me and every day is exciting. I love functioning in the calling He has on my life. I have endured much heartbreak and disappointment but He has graciously allowed me the privilege of documenting my journey for others to see.
I am prospering more now than any point in the last 10 years. Not financially but internally, spiritually and emotionally. God will supply my needs as I become more and more like the person he intended and less of the perversion.
I wonder about the majority of us who wander through our lives missing God’s best.
The bible says “as your soul prospers so you will prosper”. That has nothing whatsoever to do with my wallet. It has everything to do with my heart. The more yielded to God I am the happier I will be. What about others. If you are reading this and it struck a chord…think about it. What did God have in mind when He hung that star in the heavens with your name on it? What part of the grand plan are you? Are you prospering in your soul? Are you really happy inside with who and what you are? Is where you are exactly where you are supposed to be?
Are you a pervert or the real deal?

Monday, June 4, 2012

New series starts tomorrow...

Hey gang...
It's been a difficult two weeks, for reasons I won't bother going into here. But it has been fruitful as far as introspection and inspiration are concerned.
Tomorrow I am beginning a new blog series called "The Dad-shaped Vacuum". It will run concurrently on my fatherhood blog ( as well.
I took the title from one of my favorite quotes by an early church father, Blaise Pascal. Although not a first-century leader of the faith, he was a great thinker and philosopher whose emotional cries of yearning for God have always captivated me. He is known for his famous "Night of Fire" writings, penned during a long, sleepless night of prayer and searching for God. He is best-known for the following quote, which has been wrongly attributed to everyone from Augustine to Tozer:

"What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself."    [Pascal, Pensees #425]

The new series is going to be sometimes autobiographical, sometimes observant from the lives and experiences of others, and sometimes pure research-driven. It is intructional, and confessional all at the same time.
The main theme running through this series will be this..."We relate to God our father as we related to our earthly Father". This can be a blessing or a curse. The good news is that if this statement didn't bring a smile to your face, there is a solution.
I'm excited and fearful of this series all at the same time. It is part of my widening ministry amongst dads, particularly divorced / single dads. Please read and re-read the quote above and give it some serious contemplation.
Until Tomorrow...