At motion, how?

“Death inspires me like a dog inspires a rabbit” – 21 Pilots

I have to confess my love for 21 Pilots. I am probably supposed to like something more mature or dignified, but my ears like what they like.

At the turn of the new year “heavydirtysoul” is heavy in my mind. I’m not big on resolutions. I’ve failed at keeping so many of them that I decided to quit making them. Rather than one big, herd-like push with all the other resolutionists every Jan 1, I’ve decided to take appropriate, intentional action as a problem comes up or an adjustment needs made in Heather and I’s lives. The weight I carried with me for most of my life? No spur of the moment new year resolution fixed that. Getting fed up being fat and intentionally making changes fixed it when I was actually ready (mature enough) to do something about it.

At the beginning of 2017, as with the end of any year and the beginning of another, I confess that it is difficult not to get a little introspective with where things stand with LIFE. Am I where I want to be? Where do I want to be? Is that where God wants me to be? Am I taking steps towards any or all of those things? This line of questioning could apply to job(s), family situation, living arrangement, passions, hobbies, etc. It inevitably gets a little deeper, though: What moves and inspires me?

….

I can’t judge your inspiration – mine is personal, as is yours. But are you in touch with some Source of inspiration? Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion essentially implies that an object at rest will remain at rest unless it is acted upon by an external force. Do you know what force is acting upon you? Have you intentionally sought out that force and made sure that your influencers are positive ones? Or are you lackadaisically letting any force move upon you… essentially one of the YOLO zombies that 21 Pilots references in their song?

Some of us are moved by family members or friends, culture, the media, religion, etc. There are deeper forces at work in our world, and I worry how many live like the lyric quoted above: “Death inspires me like a dog inspires a rabbit.”

As the calendar flips to an entirely new year, I pray you are not simply fleeing in your little corner of the world like a rabbit escaping the clutches of a dog’s jaws. Death comes for all of us, but does not have to be a fearsome specter haunting our waking moments. I hope the force acting on your, your source for movement, your muse or inspiration, is not something based in your fear for that is at the very least an exhausting way to live.

One of those other deeper forces at work in our world, I faithfully believe, is God. Not religion. God. An intimate, loving, benevolent, righteous, life-giving, abundance-pouring, sanity-saving, prisoner-freeing, God. Not an abstract thought system to get along with, but a Presence I have experience who has rescued me from the jaws of death… I am no longer a rabbit chased by the dogs. I can stand freely, not afraid of death. My soul is no longer heavydirty, and if your source of movement or force of life is not doing all of that for you, let’s talk.

2016 is over, and a new year is here. I have no resolutions to make. Because of the choices I’ve made, the path my life has taken, and the work to find rightness in this world, I’ve got a path laid ahead because of the divine Force that impacted my life while I was at rest. I pray you find something equally compelling. I pray death is not chasing you but rather something to be faced with confidence. I pray that whatever moves and inspires you (by your intentional choice or not) is life-giving. I pray that 2017 is a year of growth, improvement, challenges accepted, and life given. I’m excitedly planning on it for our family, and it is within reach for you as well. heavydirtysoul? Not anymore. Not ever again. Thank God.

New Year, New Post

Happy New Year!

As there are two people who follow me, only a couple will be confused when they see my name pop up in their feed. Greetings!

For everyone else in the ether who may stumble across this post, also Greetings!

Heather and i have been evaluating where we’re at and where we want to be. Some (Ha!) of my life goals aren’t simply going to happen due to good fortune. They will require commitment, persistence, and hard work that accomplishes steps along the way towards that goal. Practically, I simply need to start writing. Serious stuff. Nonsense. Theology. Fiction. Personal thoughts. Anything and everything. It is now Jan 1 – that perennial date to start NOT doing something new. Like so many sheep, I will make a New Year’s resolution: In 2017 I will post thrice weekly on my blog in the hopes of fueling book writing, published journal articles, and/or making somebody feel better. 2017, you’re on notice, and I’ll be letting everyone know about it. Like so few black sheep, I will buck the trend and make something happen that is out of the ordinary. May it be so! (Lord, give me strength.)

Out of fuel, but not out of luck

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“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV
http://bible.com/59/lev.19.33-34.ESV

There are many things that will embarrass a man and wound his pride. Some men are more susceptible to this wounding than others, especially one they are somewhat deficient in the traditional “Manly Arts”. Of course I am referring to myself and anything mechanical – I’m a legitimately smart fellow, but machines confound me. Specifically, I am able to drive my truck, but I am not able to work on it.

As I was closing in on my target, a Mr. Fuel truck stop in Foristell, MO near St. Louis, I ran out of diesel with 2.8 miles to my target. With embarrassment and burning shame on the shoulder of I70W, I pressed my Onstar button amidst the whoosh of passing racecars traffic the honking of mocking horns. A gentleman from a local shop brought out my diesel and promptly left. Much to my surprise and confusion, my truck wouldn’t start. “Oh great Google, how do I start my truck after running out of fuel?”

As it turns out, my GMC Sierra has a hand pump on the fuel filter to run the diesel the 8-10 feet from the fuel tank to the filter. When it runs dry it spells bad news and takes awhile to re-dampen the works. So I get out the manual, call Pastor Brent (a master mechanic in his past life), and get dirty under the hood. Two hours later, I still have not succeeded – the wizardry of mechanical magic eludes me, even with the disembodied help of Google, Pastor, and the truck manual.

I finally just breakdown (my heart, not the truck) and beg God for this truck to start. As usual, I was asking for the wrong thing. After two and a half hours on the side of the interstate, but within half a minute of my prayer, a good Samaritan finally stops to see if I need help. Who happens to be a Christian. And who also happens to be the owner of an auto shop with a full time diesel mechanic. Who also happens to be in town on the Labor Day holiday instead of out partying.

We end up not being able to get the truck to start on the shoulder (all of our efforts drained the battery), but it’s OK says Dennis Harris, my knight in shining armor angel, because he’s got a tow truck and will pull me to his shop and work on it first thing in the morning. In the meantime, would I rather he put me up in a hotel or allow he and his wife to host me for dinner and stay in their spare room?

“Lord, I just wanted the truck to start. I’m not ungrateful, but staying with strangers goes against all conventional wisdom! Why won’t it? Why could I not? Why am I faced with this choice? I hate being indebted to others, but now I’m forced between a rock and a hard place. What do I do?”

“Why are you even asking? Allow Grace to be administered to you. Without complaint, please.”

“Again, Lord, you’re right. Please crucify my ego once again.”

As I sit here in the waiting area of Harris Automotive and Tire (please patronize this wonderful business if you have any automotive needs in the St. Louis area, http://harrisautoandtire.com/) I am struck by a number of things.

1) Americans prefer self-sufficiency. Receiving Grace is hard and pricks our pride.

2) Dennis and Tanya thought they were blessing me, but actually felt blessed by helping me.

3) Being forced to helplessly receive Grace reminds us of what Christ did for us and how helpless we are in the face of His Divine Grace.

4) I thought giving Grace was hard, but as it turns out receiving is by far the more difficult task.

5) I wonder about all those our churches are attempting to reach. Does it feel as awkward for them to receive free Grace and love? Rather than getting frustrated as the givers, ought this make us even more gracious and compassionate with them?

6) When giving Grace, don’t just give a little. Give till it hurts. Dennis and Tanya had to take my word for it that I was a pastor, let alone a good citizen. Regardless, they took me in, fed me, took care of my truck, drove me to and fro, and didn’t ask for anything in return.

7) When your fuel light dings and there’s a headwind coming at you, there’s less fuel left than you calculated.

I’m so grateful to serve a God who knows what we need and cares little for what we want. I wanted my truck to start. He knew I needed to learn even more about Grace and ego and the giving & receiving of blessings. In this case I ran out of gas, but not of luck. Thank you, Lord.

_______________

What do you think? What lessons have you learned about Grace? Feel free to comment and share.

A New Day Part 1

Random Screenshot from Google Images.

Random Screenshot from Google Images.

**Minecraft is my son’s favorite game. It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, obviously, but it’s high time I start writing again. Wouldn’t you know it I sat down and had massive writer’s block!! Making a bit of a Minecraft fan-fiction based on some of Jakob and I’s adventures in Minecraft became the solution to bust right through this writer’s block… even if it may not have been the best use of my writing day. At the very least, I know what we’ll use for our bedtime story tonight. ENJOY!**

A New Day Part 1

A New Day

Mountains of blocks extend into the distance promising riches to any adventurer brave enough to scale those jagged peaks. The nearest one has a waterfall that runs into a stream flowing cheerily alongside the spawn point. Cows and pigs swim and drink from the stream, while a squid lazes about in the shallows. Birds sing in the nearby trees, and sunny anticipation swells the heart of two new explorers that have just popped into the land.

Papa looks at Master Jakob with a question on his face. “Which way should we go?”

“I don’t know, Papa. But let’s start chopping down some trees so that we can make some tools and weapons.”

“Good thing we’re right by a forest!”

Each one walks up to a tree and begins punching out the block nearest to them. Then the one above it, and the one above it. Within seconds they have each felled their trees and collected the saplings that have fallen from the leaves. After planting the saplings (because replenishing materials is as replenishing materials does) they split up.

Jakob begins the laborious task of turning raw chunks of oak wood into oak planks and then some of those into sticks. “Is it two blocks on top of each other for sticks? Or beside each other, Papa?”

“The second option would make buttons instead of sticks.” While talking Papa slips in some mud and falls in the water. Spluttering he hollers back, “We want them on top of each other!”

“Ok… but why don’t these crafting tables come with a recipe book or something?”

While he’s working on getting that wood into weapons and tools, Papa is still messing around in the mud trying to chase pigs around the edge of the lake. “Come back here!” Then, to no one in particular, “Why does bacon have to run so quick?!”

Apparently Jakob is done with the tools, because Papa turns around to see Jakob standing on a pile of pork chops with a wooden sword in his hand. “You know, just about anything is better than your fist when you’re trying to get dinner.”

“Yeah, yeah… showoff. Give me one of those, please.”

Seemingly from nowhere Jakob produces a sword on the ground in front of Papa. In quick succession that’s followed by a pickaxe, a shovel, an axe, and a hoe along with another crafting table. “Wow, Jake, you really outdid yourself.”

“Well, I saw a lot of videos on YouTube about surviving the first day. There’s no time for swimming. Now that we have these tools we need to go get enough stone for a furnace to cook our dinner, some wool for beds, and maybe even some coal to cook with. I already got some more wood to make charcoal in case we don’t find any.”

“Man! I was even a boy scout and you’re more prepared than me! Sheesh!”

 

With swords at the ready they head off towards the head of the stream and the waterfall. “Master Jakob, I think we can probably swim up to the top of the mountain on this waterfall. Maybe we’ll see some exposed coal up there. At the very least there’s enough open rock to begin digging out some cobblestone for a house.”

“Great idea!”

Maybe the unintentional practice from chasing the pigs and falling in the stream helped, but it turns out Papa was the better swimmer. At the very least, he was trying harder. “Papa, look! Whheeeeeeee!” After a lot of splishing and splooshing there was a great big splash at the bottom of the waterfall. Jakob’s head came back into view as he yelled up to the top of mountain, “It’s like a giant waterslide! Give it a shot!”

“What happened to that day one stuff??”

“Oh yeah! I’m coming!”

By the time Jakob scales the top of the mountain Papa already has a layer of cobblestone in a ten by ten square leveled off. “I think this is a pretty good size for our house, especially once we go down a couple more layers, but I haven’t found any coal yet.”

“Maybe I should go look for sheep so we can make some beds, and I’ll see if I can find some coal along the way.”

Papa’s face peeks up over the lip of the house foundation. “Capital idea, my son. Good luck!” With that he disappears in the soon-to-be-basement of the house so the only way Jakob knows he is there is the repeated *chink chink* of his pickaxe.

“Don’t go too deep, Papa.” Muttering to himself he turns and heads towards the foothills on the backside of the mountain. Now where would I be if I were a sheep?

He sees another pool of water on this side of mountain and begins heading down to it in case those little wool-factories are getting a drink. On his way towards it his blood goes cold because he hears the deep-throated gurgle of a zombie somewhere nearby. He quickly rotates on his x-axis and finds the coast is clear, but he isn’t free from worry. With a glance up at the position of the sun (Still high, must be about six minutes left in the day), he trots along a little more quickly to the pool of water. Hopefully I left that guy behind…

Luckily the sound of the trickle of water is getting louder and the zombie’s gurgly growl is getting more distant. Sadly, the only animal sounds are coming from the few chicken-ducks that are flopping around the small pool. No bleats here. After filling his inventory with a small stack of chickens he looks off in the distance. It could be snow on a treetop over yonder, but it’s the whitest thing he sees around him. Here goes nothing.

After what seems like too long some bleating finally reaches Jakob’s ears, but the rumbles of a wolf quickly follow. Great! No bones to make it a dog, and no wool if he eats the sheep! He begins sprinting and is just in time to see the fallen sheep pop out of existence, but luckily it left one lonely little cube of wool floating above the ground. The criminal wolf turns its head to Jakob with its tongue lolling like nothing happened. “Listen Wolf, don’t look at me like me like that. If I had a bone you’d already have it.”

Just then another bleat hits his ears and he and the wolf look at each other as though they’re about to begin a race with each other. And they’re off! Jakob begins sprinting, but he can’t outrun the four legged predator. By the time he catches up to it there is only one more floating bit of wool left on the ground. In his frustration he swings his fist at the dog and mistakenly connects… “Oh NO!!!”

Jakob begins sprinting back towards the mountain and the house that Papa should have mostly finished by now, but not before the red eyes of the angry wolf fixate on his back. Pretty soon his vision flashes red as he loses a chicken leg off of his food counter, but it happens again and again. “PAPA!! CAN YOU HEAR ME?!”

His lone voice echoes off the mountains and valleys all around him, but nobody witnesses the wolf defeating him. His vision turns black for a moment, and then the first twinkling stars are in his eyes as he spawns again facing the east.

“Jakob!? What are you doing here?”

Papa’s voice calls out from up above Jakob’s spawn point. He turns and looks up at his Papa on a stack of dirt cubes about twelve blocks high. “Me? What are you doing here? I thought you’d already have the house built and the top of the mountain lit up.”

“Well, it is. Look up there,” Papa replies.

From the spawn point Jake turns and sees a glow emanating from the top of the mountain. “Sheesh! Was that about twenty torches or so?”

“Probably. Maybe more.”

“But then why are you down here,” Jakob implores. “What about all of our stuff?”

Papa took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I got the house all built, as well as a couple of furnaces. I also found a small pocket of coal to start cooking our pork while I worked. After lighting up the top of the mountain and the in and outside of the house I went back down to the basement where the coal was and started building steps down into the mountain thinking I might find some more coal or even some iron. I made a rookie mistake and was cutting out some steps directly underneath me at one point when the floor fell away and I found myself in a pitch black room. I quickly threw down some torches to get some light, but I must have been right by a zombie spawner because they surrounded me. Next thing I knew I was back here on the shore. I didn’t think there was enough time to make more tools and head up to the house, so I just dug out some dirt and made a tower to sit out the night.”

“Oh… well I made a wolf mad when I was looking for sheep. That’s how I ended up here. Do you have any more dirt?” Jakob asks?

“Yep, get up here,” Papa says as he tosses down a partial stack.

Jake comes up level with Papa and they hug each other. “Papa, I guess there’s nothing to do but wait for the sun.”

 

Duck Hunting

Duck Hunting, A leadership principle by Keith Drury.

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Re-discovered this piece from a professor of mine. I sure remember my singular form of duck hunting experience, and it was a huge bummer when I missed any. Perhaps that favorite game of yesteryear was a bit of a mis-leading experience when discussing “duck hunting” as a leadership principle.

So often a leader, or anybody with some form of influence, gets their ego hung up on what they’re missing out on. Especially in Christian leadership even one soul won for Christ is a victory, but so many pastors are more concerned with the numbers they missed that day than what they had. Sad but true.

I find this to be true of myself. My ego often got the better of me and let Satan trip me up with thoughts of inferiority when my other thoughts told me I was destined for greatness. I can tell you stories of Duck Hunting gone wrong, and I can back those stories up with personal data of what happens when a leader doesn’t keep their ego in check. Needless to say, I’m glad that I’m much appreciative for what I have these days.

What do you think? Do you focus on the ducks you hit or the ones you missed? Or would you rather talk about the NES game? You can comment here, but I’m sure Coach would be thrilled if you commented directly to him: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=161502633

Thanks!! Go with GOD.

How many times?!

This will be short and sweet.

Numbers 14:10-12 NIV

But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the Lord  appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. The Lord  said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”

I’ve been working on daily Bible readings (thank you smart phones with daily reminders), and today this came up. It just got me thinking.

How many times do we expect God to prove Himself (i.e. do absolutely everything for us?) before we finally trust Him? How often do we expect a miracle on our behalf when we’ve already had so many?

And who do we think we are to ungratefully expect these things when simple faith produces more miracles than we can imagine?

This passage, coupled with a recent Sunday school discussion about Ananias and Sapphira just has me thinking about being a bit more grateful, a bit less selfish, and a bit more open to the things He already does and has done for me even though I deserved none of it. Pass it on.

What do you think?

The Great Escape

*You get a cookie if you know the movie*

Tonight, Heather and I started getting addicted to watching a new show on TNT called The Great Escape. It was pretty intense, and we definitely enjoyed a changeup to the Amazing Race format.

But as I lay here in bed (not sleeping… curse you Mountain Dew, and your delicious green-ness!), my mind keeps turning back to this idea of escape… or more specifically, how we ourselves can’t.

There are a few blessed seasons of life where we may not face a ton of temptation, but whether we’re an old saint or somebody new to faith, Satan is always there trying to pull us away from God. He was there in the beginning poisoning our relationship with God in the Garden, he was in the desert trying to mess with God’s own Son, and today he’s still trying ruin the efforts of disciples and followers everywhere. One less soul in Heaven feels like a another notch on the belt for old Lucifer. There is simply no escape from his efforts to ensnare and entrap us. In the Bible, Peter even uses the image of a lion waiting to pounce to help describe Satan’s predatory passion for human failure.

It seems hopeless and perhaps tortuous, trapped like a fish with 100 lures in all directions, each more inviting than the last, but knowing that each could spell a broken relationship with God. The worst case scenario of look, but don’t touch.

What would you say if I told that though there is no escape from temptation (because Satan doesn’t take a vacation day), there is an escape from the pain of the failure and death of giving in to temptations? This is not freedom from consequences, and this is no quick fix that I refer to. No, sometimes we simply must sleep in the bed we’ve made for ourselves, poor decisions included. However, this is a rescue from the death of the wages of our sin. I refer to a healing and a restoration that comes from One who can heal all wounds. It is possible, one day, to know a freedom in your life that results from no longer being a slave to the temptations, choices, and sins that drag us down. This is the result of realizing that the ways of the world do not fulfill you and turning over the control of your life to One who would ask you to live by faith, not sight. Though it sounds like “following” gives you less control than striking your own path, it turns out that following God gives you more freedom (from bondage and pain), more joy (because of this freedom), and more hope (that there is light shining in the midst of your darkness). It can absolutely free you from the destructive patterns that choosing your temptations has gotten you into.

Turning your life over to Jesus Christ is absolutely the most transformative decision you can make. It will not keep Satan from tempting you or turn your life onto easy street, but it may just be the Greatest Escape you’ll ever experience. And the prize is worth far more than $100,000, too.