Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Entitled to or Surprised by Grace...

So, if you're not real active class on Wednesday nights...well you miss out on some interesting discussions...(You're not going to Hell for not being there, you just miss out on some good growth time)

Tonight we started off the class using a clip from the tv show "Rules of Engagement" (all rights to CBS...) and the idea was that Jeff has just injured his back in a softball tournament...not playing, sneezing. Now this idea is all too familiar to me, that is, I all too often forget that my body is 33 and my mind is still 16 when it comes to sports. I'm still convinced that I can do things that my body can't...Anyone else? I'm just still convinced, and yes, sometimes impressed that I can still run a sub 4.6 40yd dash (and go home and discover I have the flu). I'm still somewhat impressed that I can still go out on a soccer field and do better than hold my own...but here's my question? Is that confidence translating to my faith? To our faith? Now, if you're not an athlete and you're a Brainiac, I think you may still have a problem. Both end at the same place somewhere down the line...Old guys bragging about what they "used to do" and young guys rolling their eyes in disbelief. I've been on both sides of the fence, and let me say. It is an awesome feeling to show up a "youngster" on the soccer field chasing down a ball and putting it in the net. It's even better when you hear "I've got the bald guy" and then thoroughly leave him wondering where he left his jock strap somewhere around midfield. You just can't beat the feeling.

Back to my point: Is this transferring into my faith? Am I relying on my "abilities" to do well rather than on my God to save the guy who deserves only to sit on the bench, (if that)? We discussed 4 different people in class tonight, Nicodemus(#1), the weeping woman at Jesus' feet (#2), the Pharisee who invited Jesus (#3), and The Rich Young Ruler (#4). I didn't plan on the RYR, but it played in well to the discussion...Each had their own "position" and their perception of earned position before God. I'm interested enough to hear what he has to say, but I have the safety net of all my teachings, but I'm going to go see what He has to say(#1), I'm a terrible person and all I can do is fall at His feet and hope (#2), I'm good enough to be here, let's see about Jesus (#3), Here's my list of successes and righteousness, what else God, I've completed that list?(#4)

It seems interesting to me that the people in these stories all came from different angles, similar backgrounds, but different angles...Each had, by human standards earned something, one earned punishment, the others a place in heaven...And so, when it comes time for your need of forgiveness...Let me ask this:

Will you be expecting Grace or will you be surprised by Grace? Here's the difference in position...One thinks that they have earned it because they were good enough, and the other is so dependent on it that they wouldn't know how to function without it!

God, forgive me when I've expected Grace to follow me...instead of being thankful for your continued surprises...I know You've promised it, but I don't want to demand something I don't deserve. I want to roll around in it and celebrate with people when I've received it...

I'm quite confident that the people in your churches who are angry, bitter, and manipulating are not the people who get this. They're quite assured of their place in eternity because of their righteousness...Let's just hope they don't get a "surprise" at the end! I'd much rather be surprised by Grace today than surprised by Hell at the end!

Alright God...You're on, surprise me! (with Grace please...) I promise I'll celebrate!


Thursday, April 16, 2009


I know, I know...that's a strange title for a post, but I think that's just what describes me right now. Have you ever prayed for some one's life to be rattled, disrupted, or interrupted? I "randomly" got online tonight, actually Tammy got online, to a friend of mine's website while we were hanging out after Emerson went to bed. She asked if I had seen it in a while, and I hadn't, so we went to it and looked at it. As we looked at the site we noticed some new work he had done. I won't tell you what business he's in, but he's been wildly successful in California in his specialty. Well, it seems now that he's "branching out" and getting other work. That's where the disturbance comes in.

Here's my quandary: While we were growing up, he and I were really good friends, the kind who kept each other accountable, asked hard questions, and sometimes allowed the other to slack. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it's true, and we were teenagers so that may give you more understanding. I vividly remember one day this friend of mine saying to me "you know those words you make up to 'not cuss' are just as bad as the cuss words you say. It's what's in your heart that matters." I remember arguing like anyone would do when they were busted for doing and saying something they knew was wrong...and eventually I filed it away to be remembered at a later date. Now, years removed, relationship virtually nonexistent, I see him in a place that disturbs me. I mean it is 10 til 1 in the morning and I'm here writing this post...I just can't sleep! I just prayed for a disruption so big in his life that he has no choice but to turn to God. That's disturbing in and of itself. You see, I know him well enough to know he's chasing the dollar...and in the industry that he seems to be dabbling with, there's lots of it, unfortunately. So I just prayed for some disruption of the money, the relationship that he's in, etc... And then I had this weird thought: If it got really bad for him, would I be willing to bring him into my home so that he could recover? And that's disturbing...

So my final thought is this...How much do we really love people when we say we do? Are we willing to help them out of sin or just point it out? It seems that Jesus dealt with this, and so did the Pharisees for that was pointing it out, and one was lifting a head, and giving a hand. Here's where I'll end, I'm committing here in this setting to do what it takes, if it came to that, (and yes, the odds are small that he would call me) to help him come back to the feet of Jesus. In the midst of being disturbed by the position of my friend I have realized something. I'm just as disturbed about the idea of investing the kind of time and energy in people that it takes to get out of sin. I've seen it first hand and let me say, Satan is good at what he does. And yes, he fights tooth and nail not to lose a warrior for his side...

Signing off hopefully...
God, thank you for disturbing me tonight!


Monday, April 06, 2009

...The Divergence (Part Deaux)

This morning we woke knowing that the weather was probably going to be really lame, rainy, and generally yuck in Jacksonville. But as we were at the hospital a little longer than expected, we were watching the weather on our phones and noticed that it might be clearing....I got an idea! What if we took Emerson to the JAX Zoo? Now guys, we can pretend...but really, how often are you truly thinking ahead of your wife? I looked at Tammy and said, "why don't we take Emerson to the Z-O-O? (Yes, we are now spelling some things that are key words to her). Tammy, calmly says, "I thought about that I'm sure she did, but man I thought I might have just come up with the idea of the day!!!" Anyway, no hard feelings here.
So after I finally got tired of waiting on the Pharmacy, we left the hospital and headed out for our adventure!

A quick aside: We wanted to eat a cheaper lunch than eating in the zoo, so we went to Taco bell on the way. While ordering, I heard a lady actually say I don't want none of 'dem JALAPENOS! And yes, she said "JAL-A-PEEN-OS!" I had to restrain the laughter and remember that I'm not in New Mexico anymore.

The Z-O-O:
We got to see Lions, Leopards, and Bears....and Giraffes (I know what you thought was coming...and no there weren't any Tigers...Oh My!) I'll just cut straight to the good stuff. Emerson loved every part of it, the Aviary, the Leopards, the Snakes, the Bathrooms...etc, etc...but the best above all was the Silverback Gorilla! We got a great opportunity to sit and watch one of the great Silverbacks from 18 inches away (with thick glass between us). Emerson got a front row seat to just sit and say "hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi. After nearly 10 minutes of sitting right there watching, Tammy and I decided it was time to move on. As we got to another vantage point I noticed that he was moving back even closer to the glass, so I ran with Emerson down a ramp, and tried to work her in as close as I could get. The picture you see above is the picture that I got with my phone. If you look close you can see Emerson's reflection in the glass with the gorilla sitting right there facing us. It was awesome!!! All day after that, on the way home, and talking to Mimi and Papaw tonight, the first thing she said was I saw a "Big Monkey!" I hope that's one of those moments that she remembers for a long time!

Let me be honest...despite my last post with all it's sappiness, I'm just not much of a Zoo guy. It actually bothers me a little seeing animals like the Black Bear that roams a territory of 25-100 miles, he is now the Master over 20 x 40 yds. That actually makes me sad for the Bear. In situations where it's a rescue or a recovery system that's one thing, but "captured" animals there to be watched for our pleasure...surely that's not what they were designed for.

Alright, maybe now I can get back to the "list" of things next time!

Have a great night!
Big Monkey...Out!


So, let me start by diverging

This is no surprise to those of you who really know me. Great ideas, lots of 'em, and yet I love to speak about what's on my heart! Yesterday, Tammy and Emerson and I got the chance to go to Jacksonville, Florida. Initially, Tammy and I were going to get up early this morning and drive down for a quick visit at the "F.I.R.M." (which strangely feels like it should be in a secret warehouse somewhere near the docks), it actually stands for Florida Institute of Reproductive Medicine, but plans got changed, go figure! After checking with the normal babysitter, Aunt Sandi, we learned that Katie Beth was still sick so we decided to not risk the transfer of "SICK" and just take Little E with us. So we left on Sunday afternoon after lunch, and arrived in Jacksonville around 6:00pm. After a few minutes in the hotel room, which was on the water in JAX, we went down to Maggiano's in St John TownCenter, a "Grove-like" (makes sense if you've been to LA) shopping center in a really nice part of JAX. While we were waiting on dinner we got the chance to watch a bunch of baby ducks, (otherwise known as ducklings) and their mom take care of them. We also got to see some turtles, and fish!!! Since the title of this blog is "keepin' it simple," I'd like to refer all of you back to your younger days...when it was really simple. Remember when a baby duck just really made your day? Remember when an ugly black and white and orange fish was AWESOME? That's the kind of day I had...It was great!!! Not because it was "cool" for me, but watching Emerson have the time of her life!

Back to the food!!! We ate at Maggiano's, and I ate the Eggplant Parmesan. (That sounded a whole lot less girlie when I said "I want the Eggplant Parmesan" to the waitress!) I'll have to consider that next time...The food was fine, but Emerson blew me away with how lovey-dovey she was! She couldn't seem to get enough of her daddy! At every turn she was hugging me, leaning on me, sitting in my lap, and just generally being "infatuated with me..." (I MUST REMEMBER THIS NIGHT IN SAY...14YEARS... 'Cause I can only imagine that it won't be like that forever!)

Let me some that up...WOW I was blown away by a great night with my wife and my daughter. It was kind of neat to walk in front of all these "high-end" shops...and just not care. I told Tammy that we had to remember this was just one of those moments you know you're gonna need later on!

Moving on, I'd apologize for being sappy, but I'm not sorry! If you don't like it, don't read it!

Tammy and I went to the FIRM for an appointment to see where we were in the process to start having another baby. As expected, Tammy checked out great! The Doc said that we could start as soon as next month! So, since I'm gone for a week in June it looks like we'll start in May. It's my understanding that rarely in life do women long for that monthly visitor, but in this case she does...Once "the visitor" arrives we get to start the process again! YIPPEE!

So, if you're reading this and you're a pray-er, then GET YOUR PRAYER ON! We understand fully that even though "science" says all looks good, it's still in God's Hands. So, Lord willing, we will start the process again in May of 2009!

Thanks for reading "the divergence..."


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

alright then, count me in...

I'm going to begin this little experiment with the following is this going to help me, and maybe others as well?  I know people who love to write, notice I said "I know people...,"  they are not me.  I was once told by a professor that I "write like I talk."  So hold onto your hats!  That doesn't mean I'm going buck wild with this thing, but it might give me an opportunity to get things out before they get all bottled up and lost inside me.  I recently heard someone say, "my blog will be a way for my daughter to know who I am after I'm gone if I die young."  Now let me be honest, I hope that doesn't happen, and I really hope she gets to find out a lot more about me from people than from my blog, but if she doesn't hear it from other people... well, I hope I keep this up!  Anyway...let's get on with it!

Here are some topics that I'd like to discuss in the future:
1)  Technology and Church:  More or Less?  It seems we have the best means of communicating in the history of the world and somehow do it the worst! And I'm a techno dork!
     -  Speaking of dork, the other day on the golf course I yelled "DORK" after a bad shot and my beautiful 2 year old daughter looked up at me and after a few seconds said..."DORK!"  I had to turn away 'cause I was laughing so hard.  WHEW!  At least it was "Dork!"
2)  Being a Daddy and A Minister...That sounds like a challenge!
3)  Being a Husband and Minister...Did I mention challenge?  Honey, I know I thought I would be here but...Wow the Balancing Act!
4)  The inability of people to conquer sin within themselves, and yet we kill ourselves trying...ever feel like the mouse in the wheel?  One day I'll get there...One day I'll get there...One day I'll get...One day I'll...One day...Aaghhh never mind.  Seems like that's how it happens.  Why not tap the real power to conquer this stuff?
5)  "Holy Interruptions..."  How to keep 'em coming!
6)  What most distracts you?  Is it good?  
7)  Random funny stuff from the Good Book...Tell me God doesn't have sense of humor...

SEVEN sounds like enough to start...We'll see how it goes.

'til later...matt