August 30, 2007

Red Pill? Blue Pill?

Posted in books, church, spirituality at 11:03 pm by jimazing

…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 6:11)

The battle is real. The stakes are our lives and the lives of the ones we love. The good guys are not always the good guys and the bad guys are not always the bad guys. The tools we use to fight are not the ones we are used to… they are not the ones we have been given by the good guys either. It is time for us to wake up and see the reality that is around us.

red-pill-blue-pill.pngIn The Matrix, when Neo takes the red pill, it destroys the fantasy that he had been living all of his life. He finds out that the world is not at all what it appeared to be. All the pleasures that he had experienced were there simply to mollify him into complacency. The powers in control wanted him to be happy and not ask questions. All the while the “machine world” was literally sucking the life out of him. Here’s how I see it playing out in the present…

For some time, I have been going through a “crisis” in my faith. I have begun to question many of the beliefs that I always took for granted. I was raised in the church and the church was good for me. I have a foundation of understanding of the Bible that I could never have gotten if I had not found a relationship with God until I was an adult. There is something about the things we learn as children that make them stick. They become the foundation that our life is built on. That’s is not always a good thing, but I’m talking about good things. As an adult, I realize that the people who taught me those thing were flawed just like me. When I was a child, I thought the adults knew it all. I saw life in two stages, childhood and adulthood. Childhood is the learning stage where you are working your way into adulthood. Then it is over. As an adult, you have it all together. I was wrong! The ones who were adults when I was a child did not have all the answers. I thought they did, but now I know that they were full of questions and doubts just like me… Many of them, unlike me, didn’t ask the questions, or let their doubts see the light of day. Most of them, if offered, took the blue pill.

The Matrix

This story is about the Church. Just the word, “church” evokes emotion in me and probably anyone who knows the meaning of the word. When I hear the word, “church”, I think of buildings with steeples, store-front buildings, homes that people gather in, meetings on Sunday, meetings on Wednesday, meetings on Saturday night. I think of preachers giving messages, songs sung, acapella or with pianos, organs, drums, guitars, keyboards and let’s not forget the horns and violins. We talk about “going to church”, which (to people like me) means attending an event of some sort on Sunday morning. I have great memories of church and not so great memories of church. I cannot cover every thought I have about church, so what I want to focus on, in this blog entry is the Sunday morning event and how it is of such paramount importance. It was expected that “good christian people” go to church every Sunday. It was (and is) a duty that must be fulfilled.

The Red Pill

The struggles that I have been going through lately are very real and hard. I find that many of my friends from years past and present are going through similar struggles. Some of them have met me here on this blog in their comments. Others are blogging and sharing their struggles. Some have been at it for a while and others are only just beginning to allow themselves to ask the hard questions. While I want to encourage the examination of our hearts, I also want to add a word of caution. It may seem that those who constructed the churches are the enemy. They are not! They are us and we are them. More about that at the end…

The feelings we have are our own. Our feelings come from our values. When I find myself irritated “in church”, I ask myself why. Here’s what that conversation looks like… Not too long ago, I thought this was the most happening place around. What changed? It wasn’t them, it was me. So I ask myself why I am feeling irritated. If it is not about them, then what? What am I believing? What do I desire? Then ask myself if those beliefs are true and if the desires are good desires. I have learned that my irritation comes from a desire for the church to be about the people and not the event on Sunday morning. These are my feelings based on my beliefs and my desires. I own them.

The Church in the Bible is also known as the Body of Christ. It is the group of people who identify themselves with Christ. [Disclaimer: I am no expert in church history, I welcome corrections.] The early church in the book of Acts was a movement of people who were meeting together in their homes and having meals together. I get the feeling that they were friends. They lived in the same neighborhoods, their kids played ball together, they all shopped at the same Harris Teeter. I imagine their time together was talking about what they were experiencing in this new found faith as naturally as we talk about the latest movie with our friends. What I don’t see is an emphasis on meeting every Sunday morning to sing a few songs and listen to a preacher. I see an emphasis on the relationships between the people.

What I am not saying is that meeting for Church on Sunday morning is wrong. Please! Hear me. I am saying that meeting together in a building to worship together is frequently a good thing. Many people would say that the meeting itself is church. I disagree. The Church is not an event. I wish we had another name for the event. I think it would help separate the defensiveness that this topic frequently brings.

country-church.png In the book, The Present Future , by Reggie McNeal, the author tells of meeting with church leaders on Sunday morning at 11:00 in a restaurant. He asks them to look around at the people in the restaurant. While they are taking it all in, he asks, “Do these people look like they struggled with deciding to go to church this morning?” Of course they don’t. Most people today consider going to church to be an irrelevant waste of time. What reasons have we in the church given them to think otherwise?

The Blue Pill

We are missing the boat when we make Church all about a building and an event. I think of it as creating a box for us to fit in. The box is made up of our corporate beliefs and expectations of one another. When we are in the box, we feel safe because there are so many others just like us. Even worse we have also turned the Great Commission of Jesus to reach the world into “getting others into the box with us.” This irritates me because it seems to me to be so not what Jesus would do (read pharisaical). Who creates the box? Who maintains the box? We do, when we love the safety of our common belief systems more than we love God. That is hard, I know and it leads me to questions about myself that I am uncomfortable with. When do I create boxes? What boxes am I living inside today (very comfortably I might add)?

I belive that well meaning leaders throughout church history have created many boxes in order to give people a place of refuge, a sense of belonging and a common faith in God. These are noble motives and great, positive desires. Many if not most of the original leaders of these movements were sincere and hearing from God in their calling. But their followers over the next generations followed the leaders rather than the Lord. Over time, it became about defending their faith (the box) rather than seeking God.

There are many reasons for the boxes that we have created, but I want to stand up and shout. The boxes are not the point! Jesus said that the world would know us by our love for one another. To me that means breaking down the walls that divide us including denominational walls. Not that there are no differences, but because our love (Christ’s love) transends the differences. We love one another and honor our differences. What a concept!


In closing, I want to share some of my sincere concerns for myself and for my brothers and sisters who are seeking God and seeking to understand their hearts.

  • I want to avoid passing judgement on others who do not believe as I do, or deliberately using my “liberty” in such a way that it causes someone who is not ready to hear it to stumble.

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. (Romans 14:13)

  • Creating division as in “us and them”. My desire is for unity, but not at the cost of being the person God created me to be. If the cost of unity in the body is everyone-being-an-eye, then I am not interested. Like my buddy, Curt says, Christ is calling us to unity in our diversity. I won’t say what body part I am, but I will say that it is necessary.
  • Beliving in nothing. I am becoming more and more aware of how easy it is to criticize what exists. It is easy to tear down. It is much harder to build up. I find myself disenchanted with the church as it exists today in 21st century North America. However, I want to be about helping to define what it should be rather than pointing out what it shouldn’t be. I love Jesus, but I do not identify with much of what is done in the name of Jesus today. I want to be known as one who is helping to reshape the church and redefine what it means to be a Christ follower or a Christian today.

August 26, 2007

Getting Un-Stuck

Posted in personal, spirituality at 5:05 pm by jimazing


A few months ago, I was stirred as I read this article, Feeling Stuck? Getting Past Impasse by Timothy Butler. Sometimes I like to try things out before I share my opinion. As I have applied the lessons, they rings true for me. It has changed my outlook and the way I approach life greatly. As I shared the lessons with my church group this morning, I realized it was time to share it with my blog community too.

Getting Unstuck

mudpuddle.jpg The first step in getting unstuck is realizing that I am stuck. It comes to me as a frustration or irritation. It feels like I’ve been here before many times and I didn’t like it. Yet, at the same time, it feel inevitable. Maybe I am doing something for the millionth time that I know I shouldn’t… but I just cannot help myself. Or maybe I am avoiding or procrastinating something that needs to be done. Maybe it feels like outside forces are pressing in on me, forcing change that I didn’t ask for and I do not want! I feel powerless to change me or the circumstances.

I feel stuck, (like my son-in-law, Mark with his jeep in the mud, but it isn’t fun). Just spinning my wheels. Going around in circles and never getting any closer to what I want. The most important life lesson, I have learned from this is that, as uncomfortable as the feeling of impasse is, it is necessary in order for me to grow. If I don’t feel the discomfort, I will have no reason to make adjustments.

Climbing the mountain

impasse.jpg Picture a narrow path around a mountain as an upward spiral of growth. As I move along the path, I am moving upwards towards a healthier life (physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally). Along the way, I encounter difficulties. I can ignore them for a time… but by choosing to ignore the impasse, I am also choosing to ignore the upward path. I may travel along happily around the mountain and be surprised to find myself back at the impasse. The impasse is unforgiving. It will not let you progress untill you deal with it. Like the person driving the car up the road in this photo. They are not getting up the mountain until they get past the bus that is sideways in the middle of the road

I can change plans, or I can just go around the mountain again, but when I return, there it will be. I can only go up the mountain (grow) by dealing with the impasse. How many people spend their whole lives running up against the same impasse over and over and over and… I don’t want to be like that.

Applying the principles

Dr. Butler has divided getting-past-impasse into six neat phases. While I don’t think life usually works out so elegantly as to fit the phases, it does give us a lens through which we can observe and learn… and grow. He starts with recognizing the impasse, moves to learning other ways to view and deal with it and ends with acting on what we have learned. I encourage you to read the article to understand all six phases and begin to give them a whirl.

There are two tools that Dr. Butler does not mention that, as a Christian, I feel are very important. The first “tool” is prayer: When I climb up on Daddy’s lap and tell him my troubles, He is faithful to listen and extend grace in my life. Grace in this sense is both forgiveness and help. That grace/help leads me to the second “tool”: My community of faith helps me to get through impasses in my life (I Pet 4:10). When I am vulnerable with Jeanie or one of my close friends and share my problems, they can listen, understand my situation and share their thoughts and advice. With their perspective, I can see things very differently, which helps me to rethink my approach. They also hold me accountable to do what I say I want to do. (“Accountability” sounds legalistic, but I don’t mean it that way. The difference between legalistic accountability and grace accountability is that with grace accountability, my community is merely encouraging me to do what I said I wanted to do. Legalistic accountability is telling me what I ought to do that I didn’t agree to).

So there you have it. To keep moving up the mountain is to get through the impasses that we face. It takes willingness, insight, faith, vulnerabilty and courage, but it is worth it. I encourage you to name an impasse in your life, imagine yourself on the other side of it, write it down, pray, seek counsel, courageously face the impasse and lastly, leave a comment to tell me what happens.

June 26, 2007

A Doubting Place part 3

Posted in I wonder, spirituality at 10:29 pm by jimazing

The comments on the previous two installments of this wrestling with doubt have helped me. There’s a natural ebb and flow to life and I’m not exempt. Thanks for asking good questions and for drawing me out without offering fixes. That is what I asked for. My friend who comments as “ded” asks…

“Do you doubt God as an entity (your story of being invited on His lap would say you don’t), His goodness (ditto) or what man has determined is the way you must be before Him?”

Ded, the answers depend on when you ask. I am thankful for a strong faith in God. I was raised in the Southern Baptist church where I received a mix of godly teaching and a lot of other stuff that “shouldn’t” be in the mix… but there they are… I have seen God at work in my life and the lives of so many others, and I just cannot walk away from that. God is faithful. At the same time, I have questions and doubts that are very real.

To my fellow Christians who are very bothered and disturbed by this whole line of discussion, I ask you to be patient and stick with me. I have not abandoned the faith. I am trying to be real. If it is too hard for you to read or to follow, don’t try. Everyone is not at the questioning place that I am at, nor should they be. This is my story. Although I have been asking these questions for a long time on the inside, I’m just beginning to feel free enough to ask them on the outside. My desire is not to cause anyone else to stumble.

My questions and my doubts are RAW because that’s how I am feeling them. Sometimes I have no doubts at all. Other times, I doubt the very existence of God. That usually doesn’t last too long because of the experience I have. God has been faithful to me. He has guided me through so many difficult times.

Another whole class of struggles that I feel are due to the polarization caused by the conservative political front in the US. These people seem to equate conservatism with Christianity and that angers me. God is not a Republican. I think that one reason that I feel such strong emotion about the politicization of Christianity is that I used to do it. I used to be so “in your face” about my beliefs. After all, I had all the answers. Now I find that the older I get and the more I learn, the less I know. The Jesus that I read about in the Bible got upset with the religious leaders for politicizing their faith and weighing down the people with burdens they could not bear. However, He was compassionate, full of grace and forgiveness to the “sinners”. What I see in the conservative Christian movement is just the opposite. I see power struggles and condemnation of “sinners”. I have a question to throw back at them. What would Jesus do? Really?

Being this raw, real and honest is not fun… but I believe it is good. I heard N. T. Wright tell an interesting story about this particular species of ant. These ants follow one another unquestioningly and if they are not careful, they have been known to eventually form a huge circle. Now imagine all of these ants following the one in front of them because that one knows where it is going. Eventually they starve to death because of their behavior. I don’t want to follow unquestioningly. I think that God is big enough for my puny little questions. If not, he’s pretty small.

June 22, 2007

A Doubting Place

Posted in I wonder, spirituality at 10:20 pm by jimazing

In what I am about to write, I do not want to be fixed. I want to be heard. I welcome responses with questions that will help draw me out.  I welcome affirmation of me and my heart’s cry. But save your fixes and your answers for another time. I just don’t desire that right now.

doubt.gifYesterday, I heard a story about a young artist whose father is a pastor and his sister is a missionary, but he does not follow Christ. He says that he can see how God is real to his father and his sister, but he cannot see that for himself. I had to raise my hand and say out loud, “Me too.” I told the two men I was with that it is easy for me to see Christ in them. It is easy for me to see what great men of faith they are. It is easy to believe for them. In me it is hard. I doubt. I question. And when I doubt and question… I do it hard. I am so full of questions. I won’t list any of them here because I asked to be heard, not fixed.

I used to know all of the answers. I used to be able to quote chapter and verse quite literally to answer all of the questions I find myself asking. Those answers ring hollow to me. I am living a depth of real life that I never imagined 30 years ago. The easy answers don’t work at this depth. There’s a part of me that wants to answer all the questions and move on. But there’s another part of me that recognizes that the questions are essential. I ask them because something inside of me compels me to ask them. I ask because I want to know (but not right now:) )

Right in the middle of my doubting thoughts tonight, I saw the Lord move in a mysterious “coincidence”. I took Jeanie down to see Area 15 in Charlotte. (I’ll explain Area 15 later… hopefully tomorrow). It is in a pretty bad part of town, but Jeanie and I rode down so I could show it to her. We drove past and were heading out through the neighborhood. A few blocks away, there were two cars blocking the road and I was uncomfortable with the way things looked. I didn’t know if this was a drug deal or what, but I backed up into the intersection I had just ridden through. As I backed, I saw another car wanting to enter from my right. Thankfully, they stopped and waited for me to back up and turn. As we passed them, Jeanie said, “That is Greg and June.” I could hardly believe it. I turned around and followed them. They stopped at Area 15 and we pulled in behind them. Here we are in one of the worst sections of Charlotte, visiting with old friends and they also have two of my good friends whom I went to France with in 2004, Frankie and Alex.

I didn’t realize it but Charlotte 24-7 (part of Area 15) was open for prayer, so we went inside. The atmosphere was welcoming and peaceful. It was as if the God that I doubt so much was inviting me to sit on his lap and tell him what was on my mind. That moved me. Charlotte 24-7 moved me. The circumstances moved me. Being with my friends moved me. Being in an atmosphere of prayer and worship moved me.

What an enigma I am. I worship the very God that I doubt.

April 3, 2007

What’s next?

Posted in personal, spirituality at 9:23 pm by jimazing

For the last several months I have been focused on two events. My daughter, Erin’s wedding and the 10K bridge run. Now that these are past, I find myself asking again, “What’s next?” My “to do” list has grown and my “to be” list beckons. What’s a “to be” list? It’s a constant question nagging at me to know more of who I am. What makes me tick? Does my life matter? For many years since reading and re-reading the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I have struggled with my Personal Mission Statement. Answering the question, “What am I here for?”

A tight group of my friends and I are exploring this together beginning with our values. Together we are wrestling with defining what it is we value in life. I find it difficult to narrow down and nail down what I value. There are so many things that I value in different ways. I think that there are different ways to approach this whole exercise in naming values. I can identify values by where I invest my scarce resources. My friend Mark (who writes a blog here) calls this revealed preference. We value what we value because… well, we just do. This is revealed by examining what we are already doing. In Matt 6, Jesus said, “…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That makes perfect sense to me, and it is a start, but it isn’t enough.

There’s a part of me that wants more than just whatever feels comfortable in the moment. This part of me realizes that I have tendencies to do what I don’t want to do. I also know that I can make choices that will get me to what I’m after in the long run (even though they are not comfortable). I know that I’m no good at fighting my urges alone. I need the power and Grace of God and the help of my friends. I know that God has made me the way He made me for a reason. As I learn more about that reason, it will help me know what I want to value and where I want to go. Ultimately, I want to live for Christ… and if you know me at all, you know that when I say that, I do not mean becoming more religious. I mean being the best damned1 Jim Anderson that I can be, infused with the Holy Spirit of God living in me.

I don’t fully understand it, but i know that God is calling me to be more me and more Him at the same time. One thing I am sure of… when I am fully me and God is fully Himself in me, it will look like no other person in history. We aren’t supposed to be identical. He gave us different gifts, strengths and talents for a reason. He loves variety!


1Sorry mama. I know you don’t like bad language, but I needed to write that word. It wasn’t against you, it was for me.

February 20, 2007

Can a Muslim become a Christian?

Posted in church, Current Events, spirituality at 1:50 pm by jimazing

I experienced a stark reminder yesterday that all Christ followers do not believe what I believe. I was connecting with someone who I met at church a couple of years ago, but I had not seen in a while. He and I chatted about church. He’s in the process of looking for another church to attend and my family has visited a couple of other churches too. I told him about one that we had enjoyed visiting. But when I mentioned that the pastor was a former Muslim, he said that there was no way he would ever go there. He couldn’t ever trust a Muslim.

I was flabbergasted! From the beginning of knowing about this church and its pastor, I thought it was very cool to be this close to a man who made such a radical life change (he left his family and his homeland) to follow Jesus. He can never go home again! Not knowing quite what to say to my friend, I asked him if he believed that God was unable to reach someone who is Muslim? He only said that he would never trust one of them. I asked him whether God could reach a Hindu, and he replied that he didn’t have any particular mindset about them… only the Muslims. He said he believes that they are the “root of all evil in this world.” I challenged him about that. He said, “I’m just being honest.”

I sincerely thanked him for being honest. I believe that honesty is the only beginning place from which we can find healing in Christ. If we are not honest about where we are, God cannot influence our lives. Jesus said that the truth would set us free. (Although I’m taking that quote out of context, I believe it is true). We cannot move forward if we are less than candid about our starting place. Having said that, personal honesty is still just a starting place. God loves us where we are, but he loves us too much to leave us there.

I challenged my brother to reconsider his (honest) position on the matter. If God cannot reach someone because they are Muslim, then none of us stand a chance. We are all on equal ground before him. None of us “deserve” his favor.

Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11

I disagree with my brother’s position wholeheartedly. I believe that our only hope is in the sovereign, undeserved grace of God. I feel passionately about this. My passion is not against my brother. My passion is for my desire to see the healing peace of God in this world. My passion is for partnering with Jesus to bring a little bit of heaven into this hellish world that we live in.

whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward. And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. Mark 9:40-42

I remember a story about the ten Boom family in the Netherlands during WWII. There was a scene in The Hiding Place in which Corrie’s father, Willem, who was a Christian, sewed a star of David on his sleeve to confuse the Nazi oppressors. He said that if we all wear them, they won’t be able to tell who’s a Jew and who is not. I like that.

I don’t want to hide terrorists from justice. At the same time, I vehemently oppose generalizations that reduce the problem to “us and them”. I understand the basis of the mistrust. I understand that there is a people group who by and large hate Christians. I understand that they mean to harm us and will do so at any cost. I do not believe that all Muslims fit this mold. Call me a fool, but I believe that God can and wants to touch the hearts of Muslims and Christians.

I pray for the shalom of God in this world beginning with me.

February 13, 2007

The Secret

Posted in church, Current Events, movies, spirituality at 9:00 pm by jimazing

I was unfamiliar with The Secret until a friend asked about it tonight. I just did a quick search and my first inclination is to say “SCAM” Here’s what I read on Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

…As put forth in the film, the “Law of Attraction” principle posits that our feelings and thoughts affect real events in the world, from the workings of the entire cosmos to interactions among individuals in their physical, emotional, and professional affairs. The film also suggests that there has been a conspiracy to keep this central principle hidden from the public.

Read the rest of this entry »

December 23, 2006

Christian–The Noun

Posted in I wonder, spirituality at 2:41 pm by jimazing

The word, “Christian” is a noun. You remember nouns from high school English class, right? A person, place or thing. The proper use of the word is something like, “I am a Christian.” The problem is that we have created an adjective from it. Rob Bell points out in his book, Velvet Elvis, that when we use Christian to describe, books and music, at best we blur the meaning and at worst, we say things that are untrue.
For example, what is “Christian” music? Is it music that is performed by Christians? Is it music with words about God from a Christian world view? (Whoops, I’m already in trouble. What is a Christian world view?) I am a Christian and I am a musician. When I play music, is it Christian music? What if it has words that don’t talk about God? What if it has no words at all? Is it still Christian music?

Is Christian music, music with a Christian theme? Is it worship music? Is Christian music the same thing as gospel music? What if it is performed by musicians who do not consider themselves to be Christians? I once knew a guitar player who was not a follower of Jesus and yet he loved to listen to (and perform) country-gospel music. Was it Christian music when he played it?

Do you see how quickly things get ugly when Christian is used as an adjective? Many of us Christians like to join together to find a consensus towards a goal or against something or someone else. For instance, the religious right want to make a Christian world view equivalent to republican world view. I think we do that sort of thing because it feels good to have our beliefs validated by others who believe the same thing we do. While validation and consensus sounds like a great thing, it is counterproductive to our becoming more like Jesus. “Christian” does not work as an adjective.
According to the Bible, God has given each of us unique spiritual gifts. I like to think of these gifts as talents and strengths given to us by God and blessed by Him to help us be the Body of Christ. Just like a body with many members, we all have unique functions. (Functions is not really the right word. It implies something I don’t mean. I am talking about “being” the Body, not “doing something”). I am at my best in the Body of Christ when I am being who I am in a Godly way. When I begin to change because I am concerned with what someone will think, I am moving the body towards conformity and away from being Christlike. A body was never intended to be an eye or a hand or a toe or a spleen or a liver. We need all the parts functioning the way they were created to function.
The best thing we can do as Christians is agree on the basics that make us Christians. After that, we should be able to hold our different beliefs and views. We should discuss them, learn from one another and most of all respect one another when we disagree. Agreeing to disagree is not a bad thing, but we cannot truly agree to disagree until we know that we disagree. We can only know that we disagree by listening to one another. Can we listen without agreeing? Of course we can.

By retaining our own views, beliefs, talents and strengths, the body becomes much more healthy. In The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki says that groups are smarter when the individuals can think and act independently of one another. I believe that the Body of Christ is smarter and more effective when everyone is able to bring their own perspective to the table… not to convince everyone that they are right and the others are wrong… but to share their perspective.

If everyone has a different perspective, how can there be a single “Christian” world view? There cannot be. “Christian” does not work as an adjective.
When we discuss a particular topic in my small group and we start moving towards a consensus, I frequently find myself asking if our consensus view is true of the universal Church. If it is not, I push back. The reason is that when we reach consensus in our little community, we shut off our brains and our hearts. That is counterproductive to our being the Body of Christ. Consensus implies that we are all the same. It feels good, but in my experience it is usually unhealthy. It feels good in the same way that having an advantage over my opponent feels good. This is not a game that we win or lose. The Body of Christ is not about being against non-Christians, it is about being Christ to them.
Being a Christian is about following Jesus. There’s so much more to following Jesus than having a cute Christian bumper sticker or Christian key chain fob.

I suggest that we stop using Christian as an adjective. It is too confusing and when it is not confusing, it is comforting for all the wrong reasons. Will you join me in reinstating “Christian” the noun?

October 4, 2006

Sometimes I like being the dad

Posted in family, spirituality at 12:47 am by jimazing

Yesterday was a treat for me. I got to do one of those really cool, fun dad things. My daughter, Melody had an interview for entry into the UNC Medical School! On the way down she practiced and I encouraged. On the way back, we just enjoyed one another’s company. Towards the end of the trip, we watched the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen. No joke, it must have lasted half an hour from start to dark. What a blessing.

Jordan Lake

While Melody was interviewing, I had a date with my creator. With no idea exactly where I was going, I found myself at Jordan Lake. It was as if I had a personal invitation and escort to this place (see the photo). Isn’t it beautiful?

I opened my Bible and felt drawn to the Psalms, but which one? Having a hard time being able to be completely serious at any given time, even holy momentsI thought to myself why not, 42. After all every Hitchikers Guide fan knows that 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything, right? As if God had to top my silliness, in verse 6 He says,

When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse
everything I know of you,
From Jordan depths to Hermon heights,
including Mount Mizar.

Remember where I was… “Jordan” lake.  Imagine jousting with the one who invented jousting. It was as if He was saying, “You think you are so clever.” I wondered if he arranged that whole thing (location and psalm) just for me.

From the beginning of the Psalm, I was totally blessed. I found myself praying the words as I read them…

I want to drink God,
deep draughts of God.
I’m thirsty for God-alive.

I know how thirsty I am after a good run. That dry cotton-mouthed feeling that tells me not so subtly, “Hey, you need a drink!” I want to recognize that feeling with God. I want to know how thirsty I am and meet him where he is. To connect with his heart and share mine with him.

These are the things I go over and over,
emptying out the pockets of my life.

Emptying my pockets before him! What a picture. I sat down and started writing what I was feeling and what I desired. One thing after another, I poured out my heart. I wrote about things I was angry about, sad about, happy about… emptying my pockets.

My life is God’s prayer.
Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He’s my God.

What an awesome God. After crying out to him, he puts a smile on my face and reminds me that he is my God.

July 13, 2006

About Jo

Posted in hope, spirituality at 10:28 pm by jimazing

I have exciting news, but first a little bit of context: Two years ago I traveled to France, with a group called La Clef. We went to play music and share Jesus with the people in the region around Carcassonne (the walled city). Staying in the youth hostel, we met up with an odd fellow who was a 35 year old drifter. We nicknamed him, Jo. There is so much I could say about him, but suffice it to say that he was militantly opposed to Christ. He told us stories about how he and his ancestors had been repressed for centuries by the Christians and he wanted nothing to do with it… except… he followed us around like a puppy. Out of the six concerts we played, he was at five of them!

All was not pleasant with Jo and some of the team questioned why he was hanging around so much. They were wondering if he was a distraction or if he truly was seeking God. (extremely good questions to ask). I will always remember our leader, Greg’s statement in response. He said, “If God cannot reach Jo, then we are all in trouble.” By that he meant that none of us is good enough to come to Christ on our own. It is only because of God’s love and sacrifice that any of us have a chance.

Fast forward to today. One of the young men on our trip who’s heart beats strongly for the French people recently left for France. He now lives among them so he can tell them about Jesus. I just got the following email from him…

Just to let you know, last night I got a call from Jo in Carcassonne…incredible what Jesus is doing in him, Jim. He in so many words is at the point of begging me to tell him about Jesus…his memory of us there 2 years ago was etched on his heart, and the Lord is drawing him. In his words, he wants what I/we have…he’s ripe for the picking…and about to give his whole life to Jesus it sounds. I was flabbergasted. He will likely come to Marseille soon to visit. So pray for him, that’s for sure.

What an awesome example of the power of Jesus. I pray that God will reach Jo and change him… just as he reached me and is changing me.

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