Wednesday, May 26, 2010


How often do we believe we are insufficient?  Unworthy?  Not good enough?

Several weeks ago, while running, a woman was admitting her unbelief.  During the conversation, this woman confessed her lack of faith at times as she struggled to raise children of faith.  She was truly grieved by her unbelief.  As we ran along I thought about her situation and listened as others said things like, "Put away that doubt," as if it were a thing that could be tucked in a drawer and forgotten.  Eventually, I said to her, "Jesus told a man his child would be made well if he only believed.  The man responded, 'I believe; help my unbelief.'  And immediately the child was made well."  (See Mark 9:14-29)  I went on to say that Jesus knows that none of us are 100% faithful 100% of the time. 

The man's faith was sufficient as incomplete as it was.  Jesus did not then say, "You are not adequate," nor "What I have to give is insufficient to meet your need."  The man's belief was sufficient because the power of Jesus was sufficient well beyond his unbelief.

One of the things with which I struggle is that God's grace is sufficient for me.  It was enough for the man who came to Jesus with a child in need.  It was enough for the woman running along the trail.  It was enough for the Apostle Paul who desired to have the thorn removed from his flesh and pleaded to the Lord three times before Jesus said to him, "My grace is sufficient for you." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Sufficient.  Enough.  An adequate answer.  Jesus said, "My grace is sufficient."

Yes, it is sufficient.  It is good enough.  It is adequate to the task.  God's grace is sufficient for me.  It is enough to set me free.  It is adequate to the task of forgiveness and hope.  I don't need more.  There is already enough.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I would want nothing more than to be able to give the perfect explanation to any wrong, sin, mistake I have ever committed.  To give the perfect explanation would absolve me of everything.  All would suddenly be right with the world.  Last week, I wrote about my hiding in the cave (I also wrote about this same subject back in January).  If I could just come up with the perfect explanation I could come out of the cave, dust myself off, and we could all get back to business.

Here's the problem with that scenario: explanations are often nothing more than excuses we hope will justify our actions.  You know this deal.  You have used it yourself, "But mom, every one was doing it."  Like mom is suddenly going to say, "Well, that makes everything better."  What we were hoping is mom would accept our explanation as an excuse and we would be able to avoid getting in trouble for what we did.

So as I want to make explanation, point to someone else, or come up with an excuse, I realize only I made my choices of the past, and only I can make my choices for this moment and the future.  Yes, we learn from our experience, and I am learning more every day.

Thankfully, I do not have to come up with the perfect explanation.  I simply have to admit I was wrong and repent, that is turn back to God.  I know that God will make everything right in the long run.  It is true not just for me but for everyone.  "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."  (Romans 3:23-24)  I do not doubt that God forgives me.  I do not doubt that my boys and my wife forgive me.  What holds me in the cave most often is the doubt that others will not forgive, and I know an explanation will not be good enough.

So, here I am, a sinner forgiven, giving no explanation, and, for today, sitting just outside the cave.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I am on a family leave of absence from serving as a pastor in the United Methodist Church. I asked for this leave to address issues in myself that were hurting my self, my family, and my ministry. I am in my ninth month of leave at this point. I foresee being on leave for at least another twelve months.

I am glad to say that I am doing much better, and my wife and two boys are doing better too for the efforts Tammy and I both are putting into our marriage and family. Still, I cannot help but feel as if I am in hiding. Some people ask me about my "sabbatical." Well, it is not a sabbatical. This is more of a cave into which I have crawled and in many ways, I do not want to come out of the cave. But, I am beginning to wonder - how long can you stay in a cave before you have become the cave? How long can you just stay in hiding?

Honestly, I do not feel worthy at this point to come out of the cave. As one who once had a voice, I feel like I have given up my right to speak. As one who once was a leader, I want to now just hide in the cave hoping no one asks, "What are you doing in there?"

Lazarus was four days dead when Jesus arrived at the front of the cave where his body was laid. Jesus asked that the stone be moved and he called to Lazarus in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" When Lazarus, still wrapped in burial clothes, emerged from the tomb Jesus said to the others, "Unbind him and let him go." (John 11:38-44)

My mistakes drove me into hiding, and, yes, I have died several deaths in this process. Now my fear and shame seem to hold me here. I do not want to stay in hiding forever, but I am not sure how to walk back into the openness of day. In some ways I am waiting for a voice to call to me, "Andrew, come out." I am waiting for someone to say, "Unbind him and let him go."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Have you ever been overwhelmed by the thoughts running through your head? Sometimes, it is the pile of work waiting for you on your desk that haunts you as you try to relax at home. Other times it is an insecurity built in the past and reaffirmed in the present that overwhelms. Sometimes, it is an obsession or an addiction that fills our head and locks-up the ability to move forward.

Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21) The ancients were not as clear about the separation of heart, mind, emotions and the like as we are. One could easily see this as saying, "What is important to you, on that your mind will dwell."

How do we change the thoughts running through our heads, lay down those insecurities, and better control the obsessions and addictions of our lives? This is not as easy, but obviously important if we want to have a better pattern tomorrow than we did today.

I want to point to a couple of possibilities that I find useful, although, honestly, I do not turn to them as often as I should. First is prayer. Pray for a new heart, a new mind, and a new thought. To quote the camp song, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus . . . and the things of earth will grow strangely dim." When we are speaking oft with the Lord, we tend to not be thinking about our shortcomings and our obsessions.

Second, trying focusing yourself on this moment. What are you seeing, hearing, feeling, and doing at this very moment? For example, I see the computer screen, I hear my son playing in the next room, I feel the warmth of the computer on my wrist, and I am writing a blog. This pulls me out of my head and into the present of this moment.

As anyone who reads these words regularly can tell, I am working on changing my thoughts and focusing on a better treasure.