Addiction

Flying Paper Airplane

Anytime something feels amazing, or meets a deep desire, it’s only natural to crave more.

It changes your state a little.

It alters your mood.

In short, you’re intoxicated by it.

And “it” can be anything… [click to continue…]

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IMG_7524I love photography for two reasons. First, I love capturing light and images and special moments that I can share and re-live. The one to the left is a recent sample.

Second, taking pictures puts me on the right side of the camera.  As long as I can stay away from that nosy lens, I can imagine that I actually look the way I do when I look at myself in the mirror.  No awkward angles. No unflattering poses. No ruthless inventory of how I really look.

The same kind of thing happens in the spiritual realm. There are plenty of ways to pose so that we get a flattering, but dishonest look at ourselves.  That’s unhealthy for two reasons. First, it can put us in denial of something that can really hurt us in the long run. Second, it can produce shame that blinds us to our great, great value to God and to the world.

How would you like a strategy for taking an honest inventory of your heart and soul?

Wait.

Maybe I should phrase that a different way…

Do you need a strategy for taking an honest inventory of your heart and soul? I don’t really care whether you want it or not.

Here are eight questions that can turn the lights on in your spiritual life.  They can be used alone or together. You can go through them in 15 minutes, or an hour, or an entire day. The questions are based on Paul’s energetic series of charges to the Thessalonians:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22).

Take a few minutes or however long you can. Get alone with a journal, legal pad, or an electronic tablet and write down some notes based on your first response to these questions: [click to continue…]

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Brad is a living legend… at the local bar.  At first his mostly-daily trips were his way of unwinding after a stressful workday.  But over the years, one painful situation after another brought Brad to the point where he lives pretty much continuously between buzz and stupor.  Offering the standard denials and predictable claims that he can quit anytime, Brad has long ago crossed the line between soothing his nerves and declaring war on his soul.

Sandy is a shell of the girl she once was.  The once-vivacious high school and college student now sits in her immaculate apartment, trying to stay busy enough to avoid the reminders of how alone she is.  Estranged from her family, deeply disappointed by marriage and even motherhood, Sandy has never let go of the bitterness that ultimately seeped into every corner of her life.  To a stranger, Sandy is a hard-working professional with impeccable taste in decorating and fashion.  But the excellent exterior hides a war-ravaged soul. [click to continue…]

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Last night the Texas Rangers won their first-ever postseason series.  

And they celebrated with ginger ale. 

Why? 

Because Josh Hamilton, the Rangers’ star outfielder, graciously refuses to go anywhere near alcohol. 

When the Rangers clinched their division in Oakland back in September, as beer and champagne flowed in the visitors’ locker room, Josh changed in a side office and left the clubhouse to go speak to a church group in Oakland about his life and testimony. 

But last night, after winning the division series – something the Texas Rangers (and former Washington Senators) had never done – the team made sure it would be a team celebration. [click to continue…]

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(Here’s a parable that didn’t quite make it to the Bible.  It’s a follow-up to the story of the Prodigal Son.  In case you missed that first episode, you can find it by clicking here.)  

When last we heard from the Prodigal Son, his loving father, and his older brother, Dad was appealing to the older sibling to come join the party.

“All that I have is yours,” he was saying – which was technically true, since the younger brat had wasted all of his part of the inheritance.

By and by, life settled down.  The older brother continued to do well, and was admired by all for his performance.  The younger son got with the program – for the most part.  Occasionally his friends and family could see some of those old streaks of self-will-run-riot in him.  But for the most part, he lived in great gratitude for his father’s forgiveness and restoration. [click to continue…]

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“I feel like a man with three dollars in my pocket. Maybe a quart in my tank. And what astounds me is how quickly I think about spending what little I have. I get a little bit back in my soul and I start thinking about advancing the Kingdom. People that need my help. I get a little bit of God back in my tank and I start thinking about who I need to pray for.  Lord have mercy” (John Eldridge)

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Hi, I’m Andy, and I’m a fumaholic.

(All:  “Hi Andy!”)

I’m really glad to be here tonight to share my experience, strength and hope with you. The First Step says that “we admitted we were powerless over our fumaholism, and that our lives had become unmanageable.”  So tonight I thought I would share how my life got to that place.

I’d like to start with a couple of confessions… that is okay in a place like this, isn’t it?

(Room erupts with raucous laughter) [click to continue…]

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Our granddaughter, Laura Kate, with Elmo’s help, is learning about holes.  The square hole, the round hole.  The star-shaped hole, the rectangle hole.  She’s learning to put the square piece in the square hole, and Elmo tells her how awesome she is. 

At 20 months, that’s pretty good.  Before long, she will graduate from Elmo and his octogons  and stars.  And she will discover new holes to fill.  Deeper holes.  One downright abyss.  And many more complex shapes.

Who Said That?

There’s this quote that’s been ascribed to all kinds of people over the years.  I’ve heard that Billy Graham said it.  Then Augustine.  Or maybe C. S. Lewis.  But most popularly, Blaise Pascal.  The quote reads, [click to continue…]

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ball-and-chainThe Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; (Isaiah 61:1, ESV)

There’s something you should know, though I’m not very proud to say it.

I’m an ex-con.

Ex-convict?  No.

Ex-condemned?  You betcha.

Ex-consequences?  Uh huh.

Ex-con man?  ‘Fraid so.

I lived on the wrong side of a legal system for a long time, and wound up in prison.  But don’t go looking for my name in some Federal or state criminal records.  I haven’t messed with Texas that much. [click to continue…]

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If only I could love them enough…

To unfeel her pain

To unmake his choices

To unmedicate her sickness

To unreap his consequences

Surely there’s a way…

To fill a bottomless void

To fix brokenness-in-motion

To free him from self-made prisons

To find for her what keeps getting lost

To forgive for him what he can’t forgive himself

Short of that, I must…

Admit how powerless I am

Believe in a Redeemer more gracious and alive than I

Turn it over, turn it over, turn it over,

And (hardest of all)…

Leave it.

Leave it.

Leave it in His hands.

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