Wednesday, December 25, 2013

An "X-Mas" Poem

An "X-Mas" Poem

So we're getting offended when someone writes X-Mas 
thinking they're crossing out the Christ in Christmas? 

Who cares?

If we write extra zeros on our bank account,
will that instantly make us millionaires?

So relax, because it doesn't matter if someone pens an X over His name
that doesn't remove His presence or His fame.
Instead, rejoice in the glory of the new born King coming 
to redeem us, because we couldn't by our own actions.
And through Him, He turned us X-ians
into CHRISTians, giving us His name and righteousness.

In His grace, He rescued us from darkness, 
and He'll keep the light on for you, even though 
there was no room in the Inn for Him.
And just like them, our hearts leave no room for any other tenants
so we run from repentance, 
with a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door
not realizing that the bed of sin and deeds of dirty rags we've soiled
He's come to service it.   

Oh what I would do to know what I know now
and visit the house of Mary to adore Him.
As she cheers Him on as He takes His first walk
knowing that those chubby legs would eventually carry a cross...
for me.

And as she trains Him to hold His own bottle during feeding
knowing that nails would eventually pierce those tiny wrists...
for me.

And as she holds Him in her arms at night, reading bedtime stories
knowing that the Creator of the universe was residing in the frame of this baby boy,
and as gently as she held Him, He held the world in His love just the same.

So an X over your name removes you?  Bah humbug! 
An abbreviation cannot not shorten your glory, and I'm glad for that.  

I’m glad that nothing we do can limit You.
I’m glad that even when we drop the ball you made a way for our redemption.
I'm glad you dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” on that crossed T for me,
absorbing all the wrath I deserve and tossing the shame away from me...
for me.

What kind of love is this?  That makes amends
with the same ones whose very nature offends?

What kind of grace is this?  Where holiness enters into 
wickedness and invites the sinner to feast with glory?

And promises a salvation that cannot fade away
claiming possession of the hearts of His children.  

I'm His.  And He's mine.
So every time I see X-Mas, it’s not Christ crossed out,
but rather, X marks the spot, because He is my true treasure.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Emmanuel, God Is With Us

“The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and they will name him Emmanuel," which means “God is with us." Matthew 1:23 NCV

As Christmas day is approaching, I find my present spiritual condition to be fitting for the event we celebrate.  As I feel like I'm in a spiritual rut, more connected to my brokenness than usual, slowly dying in a spiritual desert, I seek for comfort in so many other ways than adoring the Savior.  So the irony in that is, one of my favorite songs during the Christmas season is, "O' Come All Ye Faithful." And in my wicked heart I'm refusing to listen to that song because I am having a hard time worshiping that truth.  Instead, it's screaming, "No, I'm not coming.  He hasn't been faithful.  Look at all the destruction around me.  Where is He?  I'm dying here and He's doing nothing.  Yeah, I'm not coming to adore Him." 

But can you imagine the night, whenever the events started to happen?  (Please stop arguing over whether December 25th was his real birthday or not.  Either figure out when He was born, or shut up please.) 

But again, can you imagine the night? You're going through a casual afternoon and an angel appears to you out of nowhere?  You freak out, because this look like a scene from a horror movie that you know you shouldn't have watched.  But the angel says, 

"Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people.  Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord."  (Luke 2:10-11)

Excuse me?  My Savior?  

So we walk and go check it out, because now we're curious.  I mean, we had heard rumors about a coming Messiah.  The prophet at church had said it a few times, but, ya know, we never take stuff seriously until it's on Facebook anyway.  And no one's mentioned it on there, so, let's just go check it out.  

And you get there, and you find the baby just like the angel told you how you would find him.  "My God!  He is faithful!  He said He was going to send Him, and He did!!"We all rejoice. 

Can you imagine the exclamation of awaited joy?  The long awaited Messiah is here?  The Savior that we spoke about amongst ourselves and had read in our scriptures, wow, God, You came through!  This baby boy is going to bring us redemption!!!   

And I can't help but to imagine the joy welling up inside of their hearts in that moment.  As they stare at the baby with shy grins, wondering how in world this moment was happening.  And it makes me think about the 21st century.  Today, when the spoils of life begins to ruin our hope.  When the rich encouraging Sunday's message wears off by Monday's lunch break, or when the constant beat down of life and disappointment and unmet expecations and hopelessness and brokenness, when all of that is surrounding us, if we could imagine the moment.  If we could imagine the moment these shepherds enjoyed.  

"Here's the baby boy that's going to take all of that away from us!  This one right here!  He's going to redeem us, save us, adopt us, make us His own.  Here He is!  HE IS HERE!!!!!"  

Emmanuel, God is with us.  

I love how the New Century Version writes it.  It doesn't just say, God with us.  Because it seems the biggest lie we believe is that God has removed Himself from us, as if it should read God WAS with us.  No.  He IS with us.  He IS with us, ready to breathe life into all that believe and wants to be born again and made new.  He IS with us, allowing us to face challenges to grow our faith, which leads us to a greater enjoyment of Him.  He IS with us, when we are going through trials for His name sake.  He IS with us.  We are not alone here!  

So this Christmas I rejoice.  I will rejoice in the fact that a baby boy was born to redeem me.  I will stretch my faith to investigate why the Bible greats seemed to know something about Jesus that I don't seem to know.  I mean, they were devoted regular, ordinary men just like me.  And here I am, iffy and wavering, inconsistent and petty.  So either He's showing some extreme favoritism, or they know something I don't know about our Savior.  Maybe I don't know how He can be sufficient because I haven't come to Him emptied and watched Him fill me.  Maybe I don't know the depths of His grace because I haven't brought my many sins to Him and watched Him wipe all my shame away.  Maybe I don't know His great love because I refuse to allow the greatest lover of all to embrace me.  Maybe that's why my devotion is so weak.  

There's a baby boy that was born to redeem us from this, which is why we should come and adore Him.  He was faithful, so He IS faithful.  Take heart the good news, says the angels.  

So I say, take heart the good news.  God IS with us.      


Friday, December 20, 2013

Praise Junkie

I recently read an article by Francis Chan about public passion vs private devotion--- and it revealed a major heart condition.  Through this article, the Holy Spirit helped me see that I am a praise junkie.

For about four months now, I have been removed from a 3 year luxury of being surrounded by positive people who loves Jesus and loves you and speaks life into you every single day of the week.  And in these last four months, I have been working in a place in which I am surrounded by the exact opposite.  It is a place where no one praises your victories, but instead will make a mockery of your short comings--- every single time.  Even the slightest mistake will cause an uproar of jokes and mocking.  A place filled with broken individuals where positivity is smothered under abuse and failed attempts at hope and love.  For them, "'Why hope?  Why be nice?  Why love?"

And now, I am evermore thankful for these people. Because in their inability to realize their brokenness and therein hide it--like many Christians know how to do so well-- they expose themselves to me.  And they do not care about my church ministry resume.  They do not care that I can grow a ministry, or move an audience to tears with relatable preaching, or that I have been trained in leadership excellence, or that I worked two jobs and got a degree from Auburn University.  They simply do not care.

And therefore, I have felt my self-confidence and self-worth dwindling nearly to nothing---because no one is praising me in my talents.  In words, I've gotten used to the king size bed and now being forced to sleep on a cold hardwood floor.  Completely unacceptable!  

I have also found myself envious of the ones who have what I used to have.  A ministry where people love them and follow them and value them.  I've missed that warm feeling I get when someone thanks me because I've been such a big help for them.  I've missed that fuzzy feeling of being surrounded by people who at any moment can jump into a talk about Jesus.  I've missed dwelling with the saints.  I've missed the days when I could say some deep and clever spiritual C.S. Lewis type quote or thought and people will throw fits about my wisdom and whatever. 

But now, the people I'm surrounded by shrug and remain emotionless.  I've been serving them, but no evident response.  I've been loving them, but no evident response.  I've been speaking life into them, but no evident response.  There's been no infatuation with Claude, in fact, I become more of a mockery because I'm somehow not as "down" or as "black" as they are because I'm not as rude and disrespectful.  Or I'm "afraid of women" because I'm not flexing my sexuality at the women.  So I've been experiencing constant rejection after 3 years of constant acceptance.  As a result, my self confidence is near emptied.

Or perhaps God has been refining it?    

Perhaps God has lit a fire to my confidence and He's melting away the impurities, which are the praise of man in all it's futility and folly.  He's revealing to me that I most of time only see myself as a bold man of God when I'm being told I am one, not because Jesus' ransomed blood has declared me as co-heir with Him, redeemed and adopted.  Nope, only when people tell me how awesome I am.  And along with that, the fear of failure has haunted me in this season, with this lingering thought of "What are people going to think if something awesome doesn't happen in my life?"

So back to the Francis Chan article.  It was the plug that helped me realize my heart's condition in the last few months. That my love for Jesus is very much motivated by man's praise, not solely by my love for Him.  When I am in the public, leading or preaching, writing blogs, the praise of you all brings me an intimacy with Jesus that I believe is encouraging, but unhealthy by itself because of man's depravity.  Nothing I preach or share with you all is outside of what He's ministered to me, so in that there's a joy I experience when I can help someone with something He's helped me with.  But...that can't be the only thing.  The private devotion, when no one else can see me, is what really counts.  That's where God get's the most work done in us because there's no one there to hide my sin from--- God sees all of it.  Every single bit of it.  Every thought.  Every idea.  Every moment.  Every glimpse.  He sees it all.  And He's not as impressed as everyone else is, because He knows me better than all of you.  Hey, He know, "Without Me, this guy would be nothing."

But that's it!

Without Him, I am nothing.  Without Him, I am no good.  Without Him, you would not be impressed with me.  You wouldn't read my blogs.  You wouldn't retweet or share my blog.  If I'm the hero, we all fail!  So what matters the most?  The only thing that I am nothing without--- my father in heaven.

And that should be what my self confidence and self worth stems and blossoms from.  Now I do believe that verbal affirmation and speaking life into people is a great, Godly thing, but hopefully that person you are praising is finding their identities solely in the resurrected King.  So thank you Holy Spirit.  Thank you Francis Chan.  My hope now is that I may love Jesus in the way Peter and John were noted in Acts 4. 

"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus."  

They could tell by the way Peter and John lived that they had been with Jesus.  What a remarkable compliment, or probably intended to be an insult.  This is my new life verse.  That the praise received from you all is that you can tell I've been with Jesus.                  

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Quiet Envy

With this one blog post I can make aware the cry of all of our hearts because I know something about us, that lying deep within our hearts there is a quiet envy.  You can say, "No, it's not me", for right now, just so you can get through the blog.  I'll be the first to be honest about how I am feeling.  

What a feeling to feel like you're on the sidelines huh?  I think social media is causing a wreckage on our hearts because of its assorting which enables us to adore and enjoy the highlights of people's lives.  Of course, most people only post the great things that happen to them on these social media sites.  And as we look at these highlight reels of our friends lives, we are left with this spectating feeling.  As if we are just merely watching someone else's life be awesome while ours is just destined for being a bench warmer.  And if you've ever played a sport and rode the pine, you know exactly the feeling I'm talking about.  That feeling as you watch your teammates play the sport you love, while you're sitting on the bench, knowing you have so much potential to be great too.  Yeah, that feeling.    

And maybe it's the Christmas season that is making this single guy feel especially moody.  Or the fact that I have some great friends in new relationships, and one is expecting!  Or the fact that my Alma Mater is having a spectacular season after I graduate, and I'm merely sitting on the bench, bored, disengaged, blindly clapping for successes while watching everyone else's life be filled with hope and promise and destiny.  

And I'll be the first to admit that I'm being a spoiled little brat.  I'm the kid right now that everyone hates, the one that throws the tantrum in the store when their mom denies them that toy they just saw in the store.  I'm the kid right now that pouts the entire time at recess because I couldn't get on the swing first.  I'm the kid right now that is ignoring all the wonderful gifts my parents have gotten me, but they forgot to get me the new PS4, ya know, "the one thing I asked for."  But yes, I am tired of cheering on my friends and family for their successes while I have none.  Yes, I am tired of scrolling through my Facebook and Twitter newsfeed and seeing my friends in love with their churches and thriving in a ministry and I'm waiting and wishing for both.  

My friend, I am sick of it.  I'm sick of me.  I'm sick of being the spoiled little brat.  I'm sick of battling with discontent when I have the Savior of my heart that is always with me.  Which there lies the root of my issues. I have been trying to treat the symptoms instead of turning to the person that's offering full healing.  

The symptoms are my discontent with being single, or being without a high paying job I enjoy, or being without a church home and ministry I'm leading in and serving in.  I can treat the symptoms by listening to some of the typical encouragement, "Oh she's out there Claude just have to wait," and, "just waiting on God to open that door for a new job," and, "you'll find that church and ministry one day."  And all of these are true things, but I think there's a greater brokenness rearing it's ugly head.  And guess what it is?  

I don't trust Jesus to full satisfy me.  

Why do we grieve the heart of God in such a way?  Could you imagine someone wanting to be in relationship with you only to get what you can give them?  Let's say you're a millionaire and I only want to be in relationship with you because I know you could give me all my dreams.  I think we're all spiritual gold diggers.  All we want is what God can give us.  All the time.  We don't want Him.  Everybody wants heaven, but everybody also wants to keep their sin.  Everybody wants a relationship but keep their selfishness.  We're just like the men that want to be married but keep their single life of playing video games and eating cookies with their boys.  We have to come to the truth that Jesus is Lord of All or None.  There is no other way around that truth.  He assumes the position of Lord of All when you've admitted your sin and have repented and expressed your need for Him.  

So let's always remember that need.  And I am remembering that today.  I can not continue to push Him away just because I'm not getting what I want.  It's the craziest irony.  The person I'm most frustrated with is the one I have to go to find healing for my frustration.  And what's rooted in all of our frustration? Unmet expectations.  Which only means I have been exposed, because for some reason I have expected Jesus to give me the things I want right when I ask for them in a timely manner.  No stalling Jesus. Chop Chop!  

So now I ask, have you ever felt this way?  If so, thank goodness for the Gospel huh?  Thank goodness that Jesus knew our wicked hearts was going to need a righteousness that surpassed our own abilities to be pure and holy.  We couldn't do it.  We can't even be 100% happy for someone else without wanting what they have. And if you're anything like me, in these moments of discontentment and envy, you try to regroup back to old comforts.  And even that begins to fail you after awhile.  So you feel that Jesus has failed you, and you feel that your sin has failed you.  So where do you turn to?  What hope do you turn to?  Sadly, some of your doctrines does not even support an answer for that, so I'll help you.  What we turn to is an eternal perspective of Christ's love for us.  Yes our earthly gain is not going our way, but if you are believer in Jesus and have been regenerated and born again, you should take hope in the coming salvation.  You also should take hope in the fact that you have Jesus.  

Is He not enough? 

"Yeah, but I want....."

No, is He not enough?  Is Jesus not enough?  

That question haunts my broken soul.  Can you even say yes? And mean it?   

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Little Black Boy Dreams

Nearing the week anniversary of one of the wildest and greatest moments of college football, or really any sports events I've ever had the pleasure of watching, I find myself burdened with my usual quiet plight.

Another black boy's dream has come true.

And guess what that means? (insert sarcastic tone here)  "Let's run and tell his story for all the other little black boys in the hood so that they will never give up on their dreams and maybe stop hustlin' and having illegitimate children!"

When Chris Davis Jr. for my Auburn Tigers broke down the sideline for this great moment, I scrambled around my living room in wondrous excitement, even did my own end zone dance, and smiled at the television screen as I fantasized about being on the Plains for that glorious moment.  However, a few days later, with the buzz from the game still going strong well into the following week, I was reminded of something that has grieved me since high school.  Little black boys are only valued for their athletic ability.

After experiencing a little (and I mean a little) success at being the starting running back for the Oxford High School Yellow Jackets in Northeast Alabama, I had a lot more people in my face than usual.  After walking around for years desiring to be significant in somebody's eyes other than my loving mother, I had finally found it.  I had random people coming up to me in the school halls, Wal-Mart, and the local mall, praising me for a great game and wishing me luck in the coming ones.  I even had a few newspaper articles that tickled my ego every time they wrote about me, even if they misspelled my last name.  But they eventually got it right, which really stroked my ego even more.  But I was never flattered by it.  Okay, maybe I was a little bit, because I'm sure due to a sovereign God, I was aware of the shift from zero to local hero.  

During the three-a-days going into my senior year, I was expected to have a really good year.  We had a new coach with incredible vision to put our football program on an elite status.  But when I was left out of a "High School Football Spotlight" Sports section cover story in the local paper spotlighting the local stars, I was motivated to prove that newspaper wrong. But during the last practice of three-a-days, after embarrassing our defense the whole week, I was injured with a high ankle sprain.  And I battled that stupid sprain the whole season.  And guess what happened?  The newspaper articles lessened.  The praises went to someone else.  And I was just another ol' washed up running back.
Now, this blog isn't being written by a bitter young black man, envious of the spotlight Chris Davis Jr. is getting.  This blog is being written by a young black black man who has realized the continued self inflicted and endorsed oppression that my brothers continue to have to deal with.  Because this is what I see.  If you take away the moment, take away the Auburn gear, take away the glory, and just had a regular black boy, he'd be nothing to many of you.  Let me take you into the eyes of these little black boys, if you're thinking I'm being too sensitive.

Many times, black men are immediately treated as dangerous or inferior creatures, unless, you're worth something in a sport.  How should a young black boy feel if he's not interested in sports?  Or when you are surrounded by a culture who would be enraged with you if you dated outside of your race, from black women (a whole different blog) and white daddies?  Young white girls have to be fearful of being ostracized by their families if they dared brought home one of us, as if we are the reason for the decay of the nation, a corruptible thing that will defile the precious southern belle daddy's girls that he's worked so hard to protect from the dangers of the world.  How should we feel when interracial dating is seen as disgusting?

Maybe there is some bitterness there, but I am so annoyed with this constant theme of the only time a young black man is praised and enamored is when he scores touchdowns for your favorite team.  Here's why this breaks my heart.

Unfortunately, many of us are raised without fathers.  And if we had fathers at home, many of those fathers were raised without fathers.  So, embedded within many little black boys because of generations of broken homes, manhood has been learned from the scraps of our culture.  See how that can get a little shaky?  If the father didn't have a father to teach him true manhood, then he'll learn it from an unreliable and most likely detestable source.  And he'll grow up and teach his son the only thing he knows, cultural manhood from that same source.  Which means, without manhood being displayed in our homes by a loving father who is loving his wife and developing his sons, we adjust ourselves to what culture says.  And guess what culture tells us great black men are? Football and basketball stars, and toss in rappers if you can write nursery rhymes.  And guess what are the only stories being shipped back to urban communities?  How these stars chased their dreams and made it out the hood.

Here's the funny thing, have you ever thought about what's the chances that every little black boy with a sports dream has of making it?  Yes, there's the exception, but, don't we all feel like we'll be the exception?  So, without throwing statistics at you, I'll just make it easy, just go back to any urban community and you'll find a bunch of men still talking about their high school football glory days.  Wonder why they do that?  It's called, dreams deferred.

Because in high school, they were somebody.  In high school, they meant something to someone.  In high school, they were valued.  In high school, they mattered.  In high school, people made big deals about a temporary hype and for that short lived moment, we were respected men.  But when they walked across that stage with a high school diploma but an undeveloped mind because it was suggested to train their bodies harder, the reality of their talents being junior varsity due to the little to no recruitment letters from any colleges, there's nothing else to turn to.  And if you're missing the connection between praise and manhood, here's what I'm saying.  People, especially little boys, need verbal affirmation from our fathers.  So with a huge void left by our daddies, we find it elsewhere.  And guess who's doing all the affirming?  Everybody who says you're awesome because you scored a touchdown with one second left to go on the clock. It's the same with women not being told they're beautiful by their fathers, so they find their identities in the men that tell them they're beautiful because of they have tight bodies.  So boys, find their identities in this fleeting praise of man.

If you're still thinking I'm being too sensitive, then that's okay.  It may be hard for many of you to understand the plight of little black boys, being none of you probably are.  But if you're one of those thinking I'm being too deep, then don't you dare post another Facebook posts of how sick you are of the thugs or the gangs or the guys playing the horrid Knockout game.  I'm trying to enlighten you on the root cause of it.  

And, honestly, I really don't know what's really the blame.  Maybe it's just the father's not raising their sons.  Maybe it's just culture's idolatrous nature to worship man, creating a covetous desire from young boys to be what will get them the praise our evil hearts crave.  Maybe it's just that cultural manhood's definition is a fleeting one.  Maybe it's black culture for being so anti-intellect, where to be considered "one of us" you have to talk and act a certain way.  Or maybe it's because we don't have real men in the black community because they are all victims of the same cycle that's crippling them.  Old boys shouldn't have to raise young boys.  So let's just say it's all of the above.

Can we tell young black boys that they can dream bigger?  Yes, I'm saying that dreaming to be a football star isn't big enough.  The fortunate football player life span is what? 33 years old?  That's about 40 years left to do what?

We seem to think big sport contracts will fix the problem of the deteriorating black male.  Let's get them out the hood financially, then they'll be better people.  So, why do many of us get football scholarships and then blow it?  Or how do we get thrust into colleges to bring the college more money off of our football skills and they still leave uneducated?  EXTERNAL THINGS DOES NOT FIX INTERNAL ISSUES.  That's why many of them are broke even after the millions.  That's why I knew just having a black president wouldn't automatically spike an intellectual progressive movement within the urban community.  That's how Michael Vick could lose all of his endorsements for dog fighting.  Something is awfully wrong with what we're feeding these little black boys.  Because if they can't rap or shoot a consistent three pointer, or run fast, they're in trouble, and probably destined for a mediocre life of boredom---and men are dangerous when they're idle and bored.  There's too much divinely breathed passion lying within the hearts of men---men are dangerous when they're idle and bored.

So please hear me, I'm not asking you to stop praising your favorite sports stars.  It's not your fault we have this brokenness. I'm just helping you understand why every time another post goes up about Christ Davis Jr,  another piece of my heart will continue to break.  And every time I'll pray, Lord, I hope he is not finding his full value in all this praise.  He mattered before he scored that touchdown.  He mattered before he put on the Auburn jersey.  He mattered when he was in that inner city Birmingham neighborhood.  I hope he doesn't find all his value in this praise.  Because when that iconic moment gets shut in the record books and starts collecting dust, all he'll be left with is a "I used to be".  When he looks in the mirror 5 years from now, 2 years from now, let's be honest, 3 months from now, he'll be left with just "I used to be".

I want the little black boys to dream dreams of things that continues to position us to progress, to develop, so that we can say, "I'm going to be", and it's an actual real and obtainable goal and not determined on scouting reports and draft picks.

Oh for the day that little black boys dream dreams bigger than how far our legs can take us.  Oh for the day we can begin to restore the heartbeat of all of our issues, finding our value in being real men.      


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Teddy Bear King

It's a cold winter night, the lights from a Christmas tree and a crackling fire dimly lightens the room.  A little boy is resting on the couch, squeezing the paw of his teddy bear, enjoying Christmas cartoons.  In walks his father reeking with the smell of alcohol and Tommy Hilfiger cologne, hoping to disguise his additive habit, but his glazed over stare always exposes his drunken condition.  The little boy slides his teddy bear closer, preparing for the storm that would soon come.  It always comes when daddy comes home like that. In walks the mother, a look of despair on her face as she gets ready to unload years of frustration on her husband, desperately wanting him to change for the sake of their son.  "Go to your room son," the little boy's mother beckons.  He jumps off the couch, brings his teddy bear close to his chest, and walks towards his bedroom---a routine he was too familiar with.  He shuts his bedroom door as fear tries to frighten him.  Tears rush to his eyes, concerned about the reason mommy is always mad at daddy when he looks like that.  A pit forms in his stomach, nervous about the outcome of the fight.  Mommy and daddy are always fighting, and the little boy hates the yelling and being alone.  But the little boy remembers that he has his teddy bear, and he squeezes it firmly against his chest.

"As long as I have my teddy,"  he reminds himself, as the hug from his friend comforts the depths of his soul.  "As long as I have you teddy." 

I often tell people that sometimes when I'm having deep reflective moments, I feel the presence of a little boy.  In this fictional story, I wanted you to meet this little boy, a true youth at heart but with a high hidden maturity level.  This will probably be my most transparent blog yet.

For as long as I can remember, I have always taken rejection personally.  In which, can be extremely unhealthy, but it's just a natural response and a flaw of mine that I battle with.  And if I really traced the issue down to its root, I would say that it may have started when I was a little boy.  I think subconsciously, I responded to an absent father personally.  I had other friends with their dad still at home, why don't I?  I mean, what's wrong with me?

And for all my life, that question has haunted me, and has caused me to take rejection personally, even to this day.  I was looking at pictures from high school, and my heart grieved for the young man in those pictures.  Knowing he was dealing with the same insecurity that I still feel flares up even to this day, and I'm wondering, "Dude, what are you turning to to find comfort for that question?"  Here's what I have always assumed.  People leave you because they figured out something about you that they just couldn't deal with.

I assumed that my dad leaving was because of me.  Maybe I couldn't hold my head up by myself fast enough or I exhibited some signs of being an uncool son.  Maybe he realized something was wrong with me, so he left.  When my first love randomly broke up with me, I assumed maybe I was a bad boyfriend, incapable of loving her.  Maybe she figured out something was wrong with me, so she got out as quick as she could.  And as I had fun and life filled friendships with girls and grew interest, after I would express that interest, it was like I grew an extra head or somehow offended them by being interested.  Maybe they realized something was wrong with me, so they had to distance themselves.  When I had to deal with being replaced as the senior leader of a ministry without explanation, the questions of the unknown haunted me.  Maybe they figured out something was wrong with me, and needed to get me out of that position.  And as I'm applying for jobs in this season of my life, and consistently getting the emails back saying, "sorry, we are considering someone else for the position", I nod, and my brokenness tries to comfort me by saying, "yeah, they know something is wrong with you."  And every time, in every moment like this, this little boy, frightened by his surroundings, walks into his room to be alone but squeezes tightly to his chest his teddy bear.  "As long as I have my teddy."  

So if you know me personally or read my blogs consistently, and have ever wondered why I love Jesus so much, it is because he is my teddy bear King.

And thank God I met Him.  In so many areas of my life, I have found myself responding to trials and hardships and challenges the same way.  Whenever I get rejected, the question, "What's wrong with me" always rises up.  Before I met Jesus, I would actually work on whatever I figured to be the reason someone left.  Maybe I'm a bad son, so I became a better son for my mom when my dad left.  When my first love broke up with me, okay, I'll be a better man, a better boyfriend, a better lover.  But when I met Jesus, when He revealed Himself to me in all His glory, He became my teddy bear King.  He became my go to, not to resolve or change anything about me, but someone who accepted me for me.  I remember so many encounters where I knew I had disappointed Him, and He was still there.  I'd neglect Him, wouldn't talk to him for weeks, but when I would call He was still there.  He is my teddy bear King.

And after meeting Him, every situation where I've been rejected, I feel this little boy inside of me walking to his room, wanting to be strong but just also wanting to be alone.  But he knows he's not strong by himself, and he squeezes his teddy bear King, and all the pain goes away.  All the fear goes away.  As long as I have my teddy.  As long as I have my teddy bear King.

It doesn't matter my assessment of the situation, my only hope is found in that my teddy bear King is always with me.  So you can keep your "God has a plan for your life" or "you're a leader" messages, "works based" salvation, or "deep doctrine debates,"  those things have not comforted my soul in the midst of rejection and doubt, which exposes their fallible insufficiency as primary issues.  But the hope of Jesus, the message of the Gospel, my teddy bear King, warms my soul like nothing else.  When I squeeze tightly to my savior King my fear and pain diminishes, and I don't care about the fighting in the other room.  I don't care about the unknown answers to my replacement.  I don't care about the rejection, or the unreturned phone calls.  As long as I have my teddy.  As long as I have my teddy bear King.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible that reveals the beauty of the Gospel and the heart of Jesus is in Luke 22:39-49 when Jesus is hanging on the cross and the two thieves next to him are speaking with him.  One is hurling insults at Jesus, but really after his own selfish gain by his mocking.  But the other thief, rebukes the mocker and turns his attention to Jesus.  The thief recognizes his own deserving of the death he was experiencing, and out of some unknown reason just asks Jesus to remember His name.

"I don't want much, I deserve what I'm getting.  I'm a thief.  I'm a wreck, I don't deserve saving from this death, so just remember me when you go into your kingdom."  But Jesus does so much more than just remembers his name, He invites Him in!  "No, you're coming with me into my kingdom!"

What magnitude of an invite is that?  Even if there is something wrong with me. Even if maybe I was destined to be an uncool kid, or even if I'm over impulsive or too aggressive or too clingy or too emotional or too whatever causes people to run away, Jesus doesn't run.  He instead engages.  He invites.  "Get in here my son.  You're wanted here.  You're loved here."

The Gospel wrecks me because of this very reason.  You weird, imperfect, inconsistent humans, I love you, but I'm so glad you're not the hope.  I'm so glad you're not God.  I'm so glad that you're not the reference of love, of grace, of mercy.  I'm glad Jesus invites us in.  I'm glad I have my teddy bear King. 

As long as I have my teddy....

As long as I have my Jesus.....all is well.