Living with Blinders

large_12199929424These past few months have been interesting to say the least…we’ve left the church that we thought we would always be on staff with, we’ve left the house that was absolutely perfect for our family, we’ve left the town that had many of our closest friends — many of the things that are most “comfortable” are now behind us.

This journey has caused us to evaluate many things in our lives: what we believe, how we believe, what we hold most near and dear to our hearts and it has caused me specifically to realize the blinders that I have been wearing as I go through my life. Our journey into the city has landed us in an area unlike any we have ever lived in before. Compared to my hometown (Chipley, Florida), Loganville was a bustling metropolis, but it’s nothing compared to living in Atlanta. We are living in an area that has over 12,000 people inside of a one mile radius from us — and that number goes quickly over 100,000 if you expand the circle a little. It isn’t just the number of people that is different than Loganville or Chipley. Both of these towns are very conservative, and that is not the case at all in Atlanta, specifically East Atlanta Village. I have joked with friends that EAV has more Rainbow flags than American flags — but in all seriousness that is absolutely the truth! We’ve seen life, and the way others live that is a much different life than we were accustomed to.

Another aspect that we have seen differently in the past few months is church. When you are on staff at a church it is difficult to visit other churches (for the obvious reasons.) Over the past few months we have visited several different churches, some like what we were used to, and others not as much (an Episcopalian and Presbyterian church among those that were not quite the typical experience for us.)

Through all of this change, all of this seeing things differently than I was used to I have realized my life has been lived with blinders on — (you know those things that they sometimes put on horses to keep them focused forward). I have lived my life with a narrow focus, only seeing things from my perspective, from my traditions, from my beliefs, from my presuppositions about how others live. I doubt I would have ever been bold enough to say it, but I have lived as though the only way to be right is to think like I do.

(To be clear: I am not talking about issues of clear Biblical standards, so don’t hear me promoting any form of universalism. However – we tend to get hung up on things that aren’t those clear items in Scripture, but rather our preferences, traditions, and beliefs…)

And frankly, that’s just sad.

I wonder if many of us would say this is true of our lives. We tend to seclude ourselves into groups that think just like we do, dress/talk/drink/party/live just like we do, and demonize any that dare to do things differently.

I wonder if the issues that we are facing in our great country — the partisan divide that separates us, the racial tension that is now tearing us apart, and other divisive aspects are made worse, if not directly caused by our unwillingness to see and engage those who do life a little differently than we do.

I wonder if those of us inside the church are guilty of complaining and attacking those who do church differently than us because we aren’t willing to have a conversation with them, to realize that they are just normal people just like us.

I wonder if we have elevated our traditions, our way of life, to the point that we think it is the only “right” way to do things. (I’m looking at you Southern Baptists…and I’m looking at me.)

I wonder what would happen if we were to remove these blinders and go across the street to have conversations with those who aren’t exactly like us.

I wonder what would happen if we were to take the time to learn the names of “that person” that we disagree with. Learn their story. See life from their perspective. Get to know the person behind the tag that we have placed on them.

I think we would all be surprised to see the difference it would make.

We might just realize that people in the city are way more friendly than we would have ever expected, that the liberals can be just as awesome as the conservatives, and that the Presbyterians even use the Bible in their church services just like the Baptists do…

Join me in taking the blinders off and seeing the world, the people around us. We might just like it more than we thought!

photo credit: pmarkham via photopin cc

Why are we not Christ-centered?

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 9.58.38 AMOne of the reasons we are not as Christ-centered and cross-saturated as we should be is that we have not realized that everything — everything good, and everything bad that God turns for the good of his redeemed children — was purchased by the death of Christ for us. We simply take life and breath and health and friends and everything for granted. We think it is ours by right. But the fact is that is is not ours by right. We are double undeserving of it.

1) We are creatures, and our Creator is not bound or obligated to give us anything—not life or health or anything. He gives, He takes, and He does us no injustice. (Job 1:21).

2) And besides being creatures with no claim on our Creator, we are sinners. We have fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23). We have ignored Him and disobeyed Him and failed to love Him and trust Him. The wrath of His justice is kindled against us. All we deserve from Him is judgment (Romans 3:19). Therefore every breath we take, every time our heart beats, every day that the sun rises, every moment we see with our eyes or hear with our ears or speak with our mouths or walk with our legs is, for now, a free and undeserved gift to sinner who deserve only judgment.

-John Piper “Dont Waste Your Life”

Serving Others…

“The second service that one should perform for another in a Christian community is that of active helpfulness. This means, initially, simple assistance in trifling, external matters. There is a multitude of these things wherever people live together. Nobody is too good for the meanest service. One who worries about the loss of time that such petty, outward acts of helpfulness entail is usually taking the importance of his own career too solemnly.”
-Bonhoeffer “Life Together”

The Worst Vacation Ever

photoA month or so ago we decided to make plans to take a family vacation during a week in May. Vacations aren’t something that we are able to do a lot of with my work schedule and with our family (few places are “Karson friendly”) but this was going to be different because one of our college students volunteered to come along with us and be Karson’s caregiver for the week so that he could get the attention he needed, and the other boys could still enjoy the vacation. It literally had the makings to be such a great week for our family- we felt like a break from everything would be good for everyone…

The night we had settled the details I came home to a jury summons for the Monday of our vacation week…when our plans were to leave the Saturday prior…and it hasn’t gotten better. We decided we could just move everything back and still get a vacation, but then the plans to be gone the following Sunday didn’t work out (Sundays are a work day for me so I have to make sure certain people are going to be able to be there if I am going to be out). Then they picked me to serve on the trail jury that starts Friday (who knew a Pastor who was an ex-Fireman would be chosen), and then kids started dropping on Tuesday. Most of Wednesday was spent in the ER with a sick Karson…and Thursday hasn’t been so great either.

It has literally been the worst “vacation” ever. Nothing has gone according to plan. When we decided to try and redeem the week and spend time together as a family I made a mental list of all of the things around the house that I needed to get done…none of those things have happened. It’s been the most unproductive, frustrating week for me. To make it better, I have had a lousy attitude because things haven’t been going the way I envisioned them.

Yesterday evening I was reminded of something…I was failing this test. I had allowed my entire focus to be how things weren’t going they way wanted them to go, and not what God was trying to teach me through this time.

Instead of focusing on the negatives of the week I want to direct my mind, direct my heart to focusing on the positives like:

  1. Since I was already off I didn’t have to take time off to help out with the sick kids, including taking Karson to the ER yesterday.
  2. Since I was already off I didn’t have to scramble at the last minute to get someone to teach my favorite students last night (shoutout to Blake for being willing to teach.)
  3. We have an amazing network of friends reaching out to us with well wishes and prayers.
  4. We are so blessed in that ER visits are not the norm for us. So many families have sick kids and spend so much time in hospitals.

There are scores of other positives as well, many more than the negatives. Ultimately I think that this chaos and the problems of this week can be attributed to spiritual things. Our family is stepping out in faith into the unknown, but into what we believe God has for us, and it goes without saying that this will bring about spiritual attack.

This week will still go down as the worst vacation ever, but we aren’t bitter about that. We’ll joke about it even…because we recognize that this life is not about our enjoyment. God is still sovereign…