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Friday, October 23, 2009

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

I was at Sam's on Tuesday and passed by the book, The Shack. A hundred friends have told me to read it but I simply ignored their pleading. I was headed for a 200 pack of Mach III razors and since I was about to drop $150 on keeping my face smooth, I thought I could spend $10 on a book. And this is where it gets interesting.

Last Sunday a friend of mine invited me to speak at his church. The Path is a new church plant by the Dyer Baptist Association. The building was donated, or abandon, by the former members. The church literally died. As Jason took me on a tour he pointed to books on the shelf, diapers in the pantry, and coffee creamer on the table. It was as if the people had disappeared and left a fully furnished building.

I started my message like I always do, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst (I started crying). But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life (crying harder). Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." I could have stopped right there but I had something else to tell them.

I spent the next fifteen minutes telling them I am man who is prone to wander, a man who needs spiritual discipline to keeps the wheels on, a man who struggles with loving God and loving people. I told them how I am working toward defining my life by my love for God and my love for people, and how I hope that this is what defines their new church start up. I told them the paneling on the walls and the burgundy carpet to some may look like the sanctuary needs an update but to me they could choose to preserve it allowing it to serve as a testimony that they have decided to use their finances for more important things. I asked them to pray for me and I would pray for them. I said, "I'm not sure who needs it most, probably me."

I thought a lot about that empty church later that afternoon. The church decor reminded me of my younger years at Madison Baptist and the people who loved me growing up. I thought about how people disappear and I thought about how our love for God and sinners disappears even when the people stick around. I'm sure some of the members died, some of the members left for the fancier church across town, and eventually one Sunday two people were sitting there looking at each other. But it was here, at The Path, I felt God more with 20 people than I have I have felt in a very long time. God was there, in the middle of paneling and burgundy carpet.

I've been struggling to finish my new book because frankly I've been needing a jolt of God, and Sunday prepared the soil of my heart for some very dear time with God this week when I read The Shack.

Earlier, when I was checking out at Sam's, I noticed a woman buying tons of canned vegetables. She had a cute little girl with her. I looked over at the little girl and asked, "Do you eat your vegetables?" She smiled at me and shuffled her feet. Her mother replied, "We're getting ready to make stew." After our exchange the girl kept watching me and smiling. I told her bye and she waved. I love kids.

After stopping by the Jackson store and Ja Ja's on Tuesday, I started reading on my drive home to Dyersburg. I know...stupid to read while driving. I am a multi-tasker, can't help it! Anyway, I read eighty pages, and cried three times. The book is about a guy who has an encounter with God, about a guy whose daughter has been brutally murdered by a serial killer named the Lady Bug Killer, about a guy who has a lot of questions for God. The book is amazing.

The problem with reading it for me was every time I read something about the girl's abduction and murder, I immediately thought about the little girl at Sam's. Her face was stuck in my head and it ripped my heart out to think about her being that girl. Once you read it, you'll understand why I was an emotional wreck at the end of it.

There are so many things I liked about the book but one quote stuck in my head, "You cannot produce trust just like you cannot 'do' humility. It either is, or is not. Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved. Because you do not know that I love you, you cannot trust me."

I struggle with trusting God. There I said it even if it is embarrassing. I've always thought of trusting God as a component of my spiritual disciplines, as a result of my effort in forcing myself to be obedient, kind of like eating my vegetables. For example when I tithe I often do it to impress others and impress God, not necessarily out of love for God as a cheerful giver. It just hit me like a ton of rocks that trust is the fruit of the fact I know God loves me. And once I thought about it, I have always been more obedient when I have felt loved, not when I have been motivated by guilt or judgment.

The interesting thing is this removed the obstacle blocking my heart and now I am finishing my next book. When I write, I am not writing to tell people what I have experienced, rather I write to tell people what I am experiencing. I am a work in progress, a soul under construction, if you follow me for any length of time you will learn to wear a hard hat.

I went to Sam's to get supplies for the stores; a smoother face; and I confess, ten pounds of Whatchamacallits. I got the sweet gift of a child's smile, a blessing in a book, and inspiration to trust God more...because he loves me...and you.

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