Freedom

You show me Grace in the cases
Where I would be tempted to give up on me.
Yet you see past the walls and the falls to the work of art
Hidden in this cold heart of stone.
You alone have the faith to see what I could be
When You finish the good work You started in me
When You first showed me Grace.
And I’m amazed.  And I thank you.

You show me Grace in the places
Where I’m still resisting the changes You make.
So you shake my desire from the mire of my stubborn will –
Patiently waiting till I bend.
You intend only good for me – to flourish, free
From the lifeless and broken man I used to be
When You first showed me Grace.
And I’m amazed.  And I thank you.

You show me Grace in the spaces
Between where I should be and where I remain,
With a stain from a past that still casts a dark shadow when
All I can see is sin and shame.
Yet you came to restore the years and store the tears
That I’ve cried in my brokenness, longing and fear
When You first showed me Grace.
And I’m amazed.  And I thank you.

You show me Grace in the faces
Of people who touch the untouchable me.
They can see through my blindness, with kindness they lovingly
Call out the best in me to grow.
And You know how I need to feel what You can heal
Through the tangible goodness You chose to reveal
When You first showed me Grace.
And I’m amazed.  And I thank you.

You show me Grace in the traces
Of glory that whisper to me of my home.
While I comb through the aches and the breaks of a world that yearns
For the day You return to claim
Those you came to redeem from the grave and captive slaves
Like I was when You found me and paid all to save –
When You first showed me Grace.
And I’m amazed.  And I thank you.

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Way past the appearances and impressions we try to leave,

Behind the masks and attempts to please the critical and excite the vain –

Beyond the insiders’ lingo and bless-to-impress,

There rests a true heart.

Your heart.  My heart.

Authentic, insofar as we can know it without being deceived by it.

Wiser, it seems, than we often give it credit for being.

More terrified at times than we would ever let on.

More prayerful than we often realize…

More ruthlessly demanding that we care to admit in polite company.

Gloriously free from what we used to be – yet humbly aware of how far we have to go. [click to continue…]

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This may be a leap, but let’s assume for a minute that you know what it is you want, and you’re pursuing it.  I don’t mean what you’re conquering in your search for lunch.  I’m talking destiny, journey-of-desire stuff.  Maybe it’s to influence or gain the approval of someone.  Maybe it’s wisdom to make good choices or the ability to do something that’s hard or impossible for you right now.

Regardless, have you ever noticed that sometimes getting there feels like an eight-lane highway?  And other times, the minute you start moving in that direction it feels like you just turned onto a muddy jungle trail?

Have you ever noticed that sometimes the journey launches like gangbusters, but then stalls or stagnates?

Chances are, you came to a fork in the road and made a wrong turn.

Robert Frost was right in his famous poem about the two roads and choosing the one less traveled by.  What he failed to mention was that life or any worthwhile pursuit is a series of forks in the road, not just one.  One road leads to a path that makes it easier to pursue your dreams; the other leads to mediocrity, failure, and defeat.

Appearances are Deceptive

Paths that lead to mediocrity and failure are well-worn and popular.  They require the least mental effort or “soul work.”  But what starts off as the path of least resistance quickly turns to the path of resistance-beats-my-brains-out.

Other paths may appear to require a lot of work or may leave you feeling isolated and alone.  But somewhere in that spiritual, emotional, and mental work you activate forces that begin to carry your load, increase your speed, and move you in the direction of your truest desires.

The other tricky part about these forks in the road: [click to continue…]

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This is awkward.  But I want to tell you about an experience I had a long time ago, when I was young and stupid (as opposed to middle-aged and ill-advised). 

I was in a season in my life when I had lost nearly everything.  I don’t mean that poetically.  I mean, everything.

Job… fired.

Career… lost.

Health… busted.

Friends… nearly all vacated.

Marriage… destroyed.

Kids… gone.

Integrity and credibility… a bad joke.

Finances… bankrupt.

Sanity… toast.

I was a shell of a man, crushed under the weight of stupid choices, addictive behavior, and shame.  I would sit and, without realizing it, rock back and forth. (Braves fans, remember how Leo Mazzone, the former pitching coach would rock on the bench?  Yeah, that was me and worse.) 

On this particular day, I was sitting in a hospital day room when somebody stuck his head in the door.  “Anybody here named Andy Wood?” he asked. [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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An audio drama with four characters:

A Narrator,

The Imagined Voice of the Holy Spirit,

King David,

and Bob Dylan

(Note:  If you’re reading this via email or RSS feed, this post is best read from the site by clicking on the title above.   And now… on with the drama…) [click to continue…]

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Inside you lurks a deep desire. 

It’s quiet, but compelling. 

It’s one of the secrets of everything that motivates you – in fact, your deep, abiding happiness depends on it.  Yet it’s so hidden, so behind-the-scenes, that if I were to ask you to list your strongest longings, I’m almost certain this wouldn’t make the list. 

But it’s there.  It’s powerful.  And your response to it may well be the difference between addicted and sober. 

Between ambition and actualization. 

Between frustration and fulfillment. 

The desire?  [click to continue…]

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“If only I could build an exit ramp.  Something that would allow me to escape the rules and the never-ending expectations.  Why doesn’t he realize that I’m just not cut out for this kind of life?  That he and I would both be happier if I were on my own?” 

Sound familiar?  It should.  Thoughts like that are repeated daily, as people try to define freedom in their own terms. 

We all long for authentic freedom – the power to make choices yourself, and joyfully live with the consequences.  The good news of our relationship with Christ is that He came to set captives free! Unfortunately, many believers fail to experience that freedom because they pursue a counterfeit form of it in one of two directions

In one of the most often-repeated stories in the Bible, Jesus reveals God’s heart toward His children.  It’s the story of a father with two sons – an older one who served faithfully for many years, and a younger son who longed to be “funky and free.”  Each son pursued and believed in his passion.  Neither understood the life of joy and abundance their father wanted to give them because each pursued passion in his own terms.  One sought it through pleasure, the other through outward performance.  To the younger son, freedom meant license to do what he pleased.  To the older brother, freedom meant legalistic obedience to the rules. 

At any given time, you, too, can be a Prodigal or a Pharisee.  All it takes is a desire to find freedom apart from an intimate love relationship with God.  [click to continue…]

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Oh, the breathtaking joy of living hands-free!

Of living without seizing control – of my life or yours.

Of dropping my guard and relaxing my fist and my grip…

And trusting that He is my shield  and healer, my righteousness and guide.

Oh, what these hands can do if Someone else is at the controls of my life!

Raised to Him in worship…

Extended to you to serve…

Opened to you to touch and support…

Holding the hands of those we cherish most…

Ready to hold you or that which is precious to you…

Pointing the way for others to follow.

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This is about asking yourself a simple, but profound question about choices and consequences and serving.  Choose well, you’ll live well.  Choose poorly, and you will serve the consequences of those choices.  

Moses understood that.  Just before his death, he called an assembly of Israelis and reframed all the things that God had taught him.  We call it, “Deuteronomy.”  Here’s what Moses had to say as he was wrapping things up:

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land (Deuteronomy 30:19-20, NIV).

There’s one example of the diagnostic question:  Am I choosing life or death?  It’s a powerful question about the path we are on.  A friend of mine has started using this to frame his everyday decisions – what he eats, his business decisions, his family relationships. 

Jesus offered another way to frame your choices. [click to continue…]

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