Football Is Back!

Football Is Back!

by Brock Benson

“Gentlemen, this is a football”

Those famous words spoken by the legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi still stir the emotions of millions of football enthusiasts worldwide.  Spoken in the 1961 training camp, Lombardi was reorienting his team to what mattered most – the fundamentals.

As a mild football enthusiast I don’t follow a lot of football action but two stories this off-season have caught my attention in particular.  Since some of those reading won’t be familiar with these stories I will try to give a brief overview of the little bit that I know.

 

Story 1

In July one of the more successful SEC coaches, Hugh Freeze, resigned from his position as head coach at Ole Miss. Apparently some of the drama was surrounding escort communication Freeze had engaged in on behalf of players who he was recruiting.  To put it succinctly the situation at Ole Miss is disheartening, irritating, and downright EXPECTED. (I’ll get to that in a moment.)

 

Story 2

America’s team the Dallas Cowboys are in the spotlight due to the suspension of legendary Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliot. The NFL elected to suspend Elliot for 6 games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy surrounding domestic violence accusations made by Elliot’s ex-girlfriend. The latest news is that Elliot plans to appeal the suspension. What will be the ultimate outcome? Only time will tell…

One of the facts I have found most interesting is the heat Jerry Jones (famous owner of the Dallas Cowboys) is getting from the media for how he has supported Elliot during this time. Radio hosts on our own local 104.5 have aired how negatively they feel Jones has handled this whole situation.

A few years ago when all the drama from Penn State hit the media I was devastated. I’m not an official Nittany Lion fan but my granddad was an Alumni and so growing up I remember how much I loved watching them play especially when I was with him. So to hear what happened crushed me.

Football brings out a lot of passion and pride for people, especially college football. As fans our smack talk reaches its height when college rivalry weekend comes. Why? We want to beat our rival. Actually that was too soft. We want to CRUSH them. Fair?

It’s this very sentiment that should cause us to pause especially in the midst of these recent stories and do something every good football player does after a game. Film Study. It’s in the film room we look back and reflect on how we played and what we could do better. I don’t claim to know the ins and outs of football since I’ve never played. But one thing I’ve heard is truly great players like Peyton Manning or more locally our own Blaine Bishop (former Titans safety) is they took the film room very seriously and really worked hard in reflecting on the game.

Why did Hugh Freeze, Ezekiel Elliot, Jerry Jones, and even Joe Paterno act the way they acted? Perhaps you won’t agree but I think it’s because we wanted them to.

Winning is everything. Even in the midst of trying to provide hope and healing for the Ole Miss faithful hear what former coach Tommy Tuberville said:

“It’s just a sad day for them, it really is, because people in that state really want to win games and want to be competitive at Ole Miss. They’ve done a great job to this point, and now they’ve had a terrible setback.”  (http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/20342694)

Sure we would never say we condone the actions of these individuals but the pressure we put on them as fans to win is serious. And so is it any wonder they act the ways in which they do? NO! Furthermore we should expect it to happen again and again and keep expecting it to happen until something happens and hearts get wrecked over the bigger problem.

Maybe you think I am being harsh or unreal. But doesn’t the Bible tells us the first murder ever committed was because of a brother who was competitive? Cain wanted to win and beat out his little brother and felt spited when God accepted his brothers offering over his. (See Genesis 4)

As football fans we can continue to expect this behavior from coaches, owners and players because we want to WIN. And we might not say it verbally but our hearts are so attached to the WIN at times we don’t care as much about how it was attained so long as it’s attained. I’m grateful to the various universities and organizations like the NFL who try at times to make a stand for what’s right but I wonder are we seeing the real struggle? Are we upset over sin or because Elliot being out might cost us a few games in our fantasy league?

I know your attention span is running thin but this is real for so many of us, myself included. I’m stupid competitive in everything I do. I have been ever since I was a little boy and use to race my little brother to see which one of us could get done with our paper route faster. It doesn’t matter whether it is fishing, sports, coaching, or life itself. I want to WIN. I almost wear it like a badge of honor most days. But when I don’t win, I face legitimate depression-like tendencies. Why? Because I easily forget my FUNDAMENTALS. I forget that it’s not primarily in those arenas God has wired me to be competitive in. Instead I must be reminded of the most basic of fundamentals, like who my real competition and enemy is. The Bible tells me he is like a lion and he seeks to steal, kill and destroy me and everyone one else in his path.

I love football and I am not going to quit watching it this fall. And I hope you won’t either. But instead of getting mad and caught up in the drama mix like I so easily do I am going to try and realize how my sin nature has to be fought. My college football coach, Will Muschamp, gets really angry when the gamecocks get railroaded…which happens a lot unfortunately. Why? Because he has fanatic fans like me who want him to win and who get angry when he doesn’t. I’m not proud of the fact there have been many Saturdays watching the gamecocks where I got even angrier than Muschamp/Spurrier themselves but its true. I wanted them to win and they know I wanted them to win. And so when they didn’t…well it was bad, really bad.

Football is back! May this be a call for us to rise up and allow the competitive drive God’s given us to be fuel against our real enemy! May we take him on together remembering the fundamentals this fall. And through doing so, see how God’s shaping our hearts even as we enjoy the big hits and the long passes!

Advertisements

Book Report: “Movies Are Prayers”

by Phil Baker

Author Josh Larsen started his career as a journalist reviewing movies for various mainstream publications before landing at the website ThinkChristian.com. A guest shot on the movie discussion podcast Filmspotting eventually led to him becoming the full-time co-host. His well-thought and well-articulated insight gave credibility to his conservative Christian perspective despite it being a secular podcast.

“Movies Are Prayers” is his first book, but one that feels like it’s been simmering inside him for a while. Larsen explains that any time humanity creates, cries out to, or just wonders at the universe, he is praying, citing the popular adage “Prayer is exhaling the spirit of man and inhaling the spirit of God.” He broadens that statement to include nonbelievers saying “even the howl of an atheist is directed at the God they don’t acknowledge.”

Larsen proceeds to walk through nine different types of prayer:

  • Praise
  • Yearning
  • Lament
  • Anger
  • Confession
  • Reconciliation
  • Obedience
  • Meditation and Contemplation
  • and Joy

He gives a few movies for each that express those types of prayers. For example; he focuses on several Wes Anderson films that express Prayers of Yearning, dissecting the various melancholy denizens of Anderson’s stories. For Prayers of Mediation and Contemplation, Larsen highlights silent movie star Buster Keaton and his often expressionless face throughout his various silver screen adventures. And Prayers of Joy are portrayed through the classic musicals of Fred Astaire and the “holy nonsense” of the Muppets.

Each chapter is like a well-supported essay. But it isn’t until the final chapter that Larsen reveals that each of the prayer types retraces the journey of man and his relationship with God – from the Praise of His new creation, to man’s Anger at God, to the beauty of Reconciliation, and finally back to the Joy of a right relationship with Him. He expounds upon that using a single movie – another of Wes Anderson’s – Rushmore. Unlike the other movies cited, you really should watch Rushmore before reading this book, or at least before reading the last chapter, because Larson lets the spoilers fly as he delights in explaining how each prayer is played out through several characters’ story arcs. It’s obvious this is one of his favorite (if not absolute favorite) movies.

I enjoyed this book as a film buff and a Jesus buff. Many of the movies discussed were very obscure and unknown to me. Will I seek them out? Doubtful. I already meditate a lot on the movies I watch and what the filmmakers’ are expressing. My main takeaway from this book was the different forms prayers take. I am now more aware of what I’m expressing to God as I oscillate from Praise to Anger to Reconciliation to Joy and back to Praise. And I’m now more aware of the mediums through which I’m expressing these. Movies aren’t the only things that are prayers. My posture is. My resting face is. My thought life is. My social media presence is. What I put into my body, mind and heart is. This blog post is. The very movie of my life is a prayer. May its viewers see God’s direction in it.

Lord, may I exhale my spirit and inhale yours. So that my next exhalation will be more holy.

“Pray without ceasing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:17

Sleepovers #NotTrending

Sleepovers #NotTrending

by Brock Benson

As I begin this post we are on the eve of another school year. Once again and before we know it Fall will be in the air. Football, chili, and cool mornings are only a blink away. With school on the horizon and new blossoming relationships happening between all of our kiddos, I think for just a moment it’s important to consider some of the different dynamics and challenges this inevitably presents. While I can’t address all the challenges we as parents will experience as our kids go back to school and form new relationships this Fall I think there is one I can specifically address here in this post that we can at least dialogue on and consider. While it hasn’t officially happened in our home yet I can only imagine that having a now first grader, the day is drawing nye when we will be asked “Mommy and Daddy can I spend the night with ______?”

Let me be really clear about some things. First, I don’t write this out of a heart of judgment but out of a place of conviction about where me and my own family are personally. I’m sure there will be some who don’t believe me. But at least I’ve tried to communicate it so maybe some of the negativity can be defused. Secondly I realize there are going be many who read this post who know who I am already but I think it’s only fair I tell you a little bit of my background in case there are some who don’t know who I am.

My wife Cassie and I have lived in Nolensville going on three years now and we have two little boys we love and cherish. Kandler who will be a first grader at Mill Creek and Garner who just turned 1 a few weeks ago who goes to Revive Church’s PDO program two days a week. Kandler has played baseball and since I pastor a local church in the community we’ve gotten to rub shoulders with other families in Nolensville at various times over the last few years. I mention all this to say that I’m a part of this community in a real way. My life is invested here. And I want God’s best for our town like I know so many others do. That is the heart in which I write this post and the lens I hope you’ll read it through.

A few weeks ago during the middle of summer break Kandler was playing with a friend in our neighborhood of Bent Creek and I just happened to be listening in on their conversation. They were talking normal boy talk about their trucks and other toys within the make-believe world they were in at the time. Then for some odd reason the conversation switched randomly and they began the sleep over discussion. Kandler has only ever spent the night with family and cousins and so I was interested to hear how the conversation would go. They talked for a moment about what it would be like. And then they went back to their boyhood world. This seemingly innocent conversation sparked a deeper question for me that I hadn’t really pondered much until they brought it up. Why are sleepovers so rare now days? And more alarmingly why am I personally so uncomfortable with that concept?

Their conversation allowed me to do a quick inventory of my own experience with the topic. Personally growing up there were a few different families that my family and I attended church with and who lived in our neighborhood (who didn’t go to church with us) whom my parents eagerly let me stay the night with once I was of age. (I’m sure it was because I am one of five kids and they wanted any break they could get. lol) By God’s grace I was protected from any horrendous experience or situation during these sleep overs and now looking back I can see how providential that really was.

So then I asked if my experience was so favorable why am I so fearful? Furthermore why has such a shift taken place that sleepovers are now a thing of the past? Obviously the reasons each parent has are varied and complex. Like most decisions we make are. Combine a mixture of our over-protectiveness with fear and I think you have the start of the reason. But let me be fair too. I think there is a great deal of wisdom being exercised by those who choose not to let their kids sleep over at a friend’s house. The world we live in is filled with constant cases of sexual abuse and perversion that leaves innocent children scared for a lifetime. And we as parents can’t bare the thought of letting that happen to our little ones, and rightfully so. A few months ago I noticed some posts on Facebook about this particular question and what questions parents should ask the host parents before their kids sleep over with a friend. Some of the questions were really thought provoking and I really appreciated it being shared. But in my opinion the sleepover choice dilemma reveals an altogether bigger issue we all need to wrestle with.

Why is it that we are so uncomfortable letting our little ones sleep over at their friend’s home?

I think the answer is rather straightforward and simple. We’ve unknowingly drifted into an era of severe isolation. In the world of social media, technology, and culture we believe we are as connected as ever but are we really? Collectively it’s my core belief that deep inside we all realize how isolated we are from one another that’s why the sleep over question is so easy to answer with a resounding NO! Since we have no idea what it means to actually “know” each other anymore the thought of letting our kids sleep in the home of someone we don’t “know” is unthinkable. Sure we will go to the pool together, schedule play dates together, or even occasionally allow our little ones to play in the home of those we really think we know for an afternoon but do anything more than that and the red flag is waved. Overnight is out of bounds because then they are out of our control and eyesight and we can’t let that happen.

I could be wrong but I believe isolation is a really deep struggle of our Nolensville community…and world for that matter. Sure we get together for festivals, concerts, sporting events, and what have you. But really and truly I’m not convinced they aid in us knowing each other better. And it’s not the fault of these festivals or events. The bigger issue is we don’t even know how to get to know each other. While I believe our parents’ generation was a bit more adept in this area than we are, they still had some gaping holes in their ability to connect and build interpersonal relationships that went beyond surface level interaction. And some of those gaping holes have been passed down to our generation and have turned into craters.

No generation does this perfectly. And ours won’t either. There will always be times where we struggle in the darkness of the night to be seen in the light the gospel God’s grace has given. But if we don’t at least struggle together, we in turn will create continued areas of darkness and sin we won’t let anyone see.

Coffee shops, neighborhood pools, community spaces, dog parks and backyards are all great places for good conversations to begin in going deeper with each other. But let me push into this for a moment. Can we really get to know each other intimately if we’re always on neutral turf with each other?

I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m uncomfortable when I’m in someone’s home I don’t know a natural tendency well. But hopefully the more I interact and know them, the greater ties of community that will form and we let our guards down. And our homes will become safe places for each other.

Let me just go a little deeper here for a moment and share a personal point of conviction. I’ve never had my neighbors inside my home. Why? I’ve had no reason to. Translation – I’m so siloed in my own world that I’m only prioritizing relationships I already have instead of trying to nurture new ones. We are never going to drift into seeking community. The enemy is incredibly good at his job and he can make us think we have community when all we have is a profile. It’s the classic bait and switch.

Will the sleep over trend ever return? I don’t know. And I’m not going to think all is lost if it doesn’t. Regardless, the issue itself reveals how crucial it is that our misplaced fear and isolation tendencies have to be challenged if Nolensville is to be what we all are dreaming it can be.

Book Report: “A Lesson Before Dying”

by Brock Benson

Intro

Before I start let me begin by saying this is the first novel I’ve read in a pretty long time. But I’m glad I did. Normally my reading is consumed with theology and or church leadership works. Why? To be transparent, it’s because I am selfishly depraved and blinded by my own ambition.

I hope my review of this book will enlighten and strengthen believers at Revive and abroad through what God has shown me as I read.

 

Summary

Set in the 1940’s within a small Cajun community of the Deep South, “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest J. Gaines is a novel that wrestles with some of the deepest questions anthropology has to offer. The story line follows a young black man named Jefferson and his journey with his friend and teacher Grant Wiggins through the darkest 6 months of their lives.

Jefferson is on trial in chapter 1 for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Two of his friends attempt to rob a local liquor store when their attempt goes bad. Jefferson’s two friends and the store owner all end up being killed in the shootout leaving Jefferson alone holding the proverbial gun. This crime scene does an incredible job of foreshadowing the entire premise to follow as Jefferson’s journey is an overall lonely path.

Chapter 1 is probably the hardest chapter of the book to read because of the sheer darkness it represents. Near the end of the chapter Jefferson’s attorney, in an attempt to protect him from the death penalty, resorts to using an analogy that creates angst in any believer’s soul. Referring to Jefferson, his attorney instructs the jury that if he receives the death penalty it would be as if they the jury were simply killing a hog because that’s all Jefferson was.

Obviously Jefferson’s attorney believes the logic and strategy of divesting Jefferson of his true Imago Dei dignity to be valid and even an accepted tactic which would be understood by the white male jurors. But it wasn’t. And the real message of the book begins. There is more to being a man than living.  Neither Jefferson nor Grant understand this premise initially and the book shows us the journey of how they both uncover their true identity together thru one another’s help.

Jefferson and Grant’s relationship begins early on in the book as Grant is approached by his local friends and family to be a mentor of sorts to Jefferson as he awaits his fate on death row. Jefferson’s godmother “Nannan”, a God-fearing woman, believes in the Imago Dei Jefferson has been created with and has one wish for Jefferson – that he understand who he is before execution. She along with Grant’s aunt employ Grant who, as a college educated black male local school teacher, is a rarity in the community. Grant’s goal is simple; help Jefferson see who he truly is by committing to visit him weekly in prison.

Reluctantly, Grant finally agrees to help Jefferson. But the real issue is Grant himself is having trouble seeing who he truly is. Even in spite of all his education. He is consumed with leaving town and running away with his girlfriend to find a better life. In this we see Grant believing the lie that running away will “solve” all the problems of emptiness and frustration he faces in his current community. Grant’s struggles create a continual question in our minds.… How can the blind lead the blind?

I need to make a confession. I really despised both Jefferson and Grant as I read. Neither of them really drew me in as there seemed to be no hope for either for the majority of the book. Chapter after chapter passes and Grant’s prison visits seem to be getting nowhere as Jefferson is a motionless blob in his cell, unwilling to even do the most basic forms of communication. But as I reflect on this point alone I realize my frustration with them is the fact that my struggle is so similar to theirs. Whether it’s feeling sorry for myself like Jefferson or believing that a change of scenery will help me feel better. Like Grant I’m no better than they are. Maybe this is the secondary message of the book – we all can buy into the enemy’s lies. 

I won’t ruin or give away anymore of the book for those who may want to read it. But I will end by simply saying this. The author Ernest J. Gaines gives us a genuine fairy tale ending. But you won’t see it if your reading from the world’s script.

 

Caution

I think it’s my job as a Pastor to exercise a certain level of shepherding to anyone who might decide to read the book. So here is my one caution; realize that Gaines does not write this book as a purely Christian work. If you don’t heed this caution you’re going to struggle with how to process certain things. There are gospel centered themes woven throughout the pages. But there is also plenty of sin too. Arrogance, racism, apathy, sexual immorality, cruelty, self-righteousness and violence just to name a few.

 

Now why would I point this out and be telling everyone about a book that I’ve read and has such themes? (I’m a pastor for crying out loud!) I think it’s important we realize not everyone we interact with or read shares our world view. So we shouldn’t be surprised when stuff comes up that’s not rated G. Newsflash the Bible isn’t rated G either….sin is real. Am I saying sin is ok? No. But it does exist. Many times Christians I am around, and I need to include myself in this crowd too, tend to act like it doesn’t exist. Or we are so shocked when we are around people who live in sin that we can’t create meaningful conversation with them because our body language is awkward, unloving and unnatural.

 

Why the book matters

Given the current cultural climate of our day, this book’s message needs to be heard. Black lives matter. And blue lives matter. Because life matters. Furthermore, the dignity God has placed into man means all life should matter. Gaines does a masterful job helping white readers such as myself see the pain and tyranny white supremacy has created for black Americans. Whether or not I like it or even believe it, racism is real. It always has been. Not only between different ethnicities but within the same ethnicities. How is that possible? Well if we really dig into racism there is a deeper rooted sin that feeds it. And the deeper rooted sin that feeds racism is the same deeper rooted sin that feeds and manifests itself into all other sins. Pride. We want to have the authority only God is designed to have so that we can be the god of our own journey.

The second reason this book matters is because it really forces us to rethink one of the cultural axioms we’ve all grown up with. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. This simply isn’t true. Jefferson’s attorney who issues the plea for him to be spared the death penalty, does so at the cost of denying him the only thing he really had left. And consequently ends up damaging him in a deeper way than the death penalty ever could. Word’s matter.

 

“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.”

James 3:5b-6a

 

Signs and Wonders

Signs and Wonders

by Brock Benson

Twenty-six years. That’s how long it’s been since a solar eclipse has happened on the scale that is set to happen on August 21st. The last time the U.S. saw an eclipse of this magnitude was 1979. From approximately 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. the moon will completely block the sun’s presence over parts of the U.S. and everyone from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, S.C. will share in the experience at one point in time or another.

It’s no understatement when I say that everyone is talking about it. Both Newsweek and USA today have recent stories covering the event that, at this magnitude, might really be once in a lifetime. Eclipses themselves, we are told, are relatively common. But a solar one on this scale is really rare.

Its rumored that tourism will spike all over the United States as folks from all around the world travel here to share in the experience of the eclipse. And since Nashville is in the path of this total eclipse we will probably experience an influx of visitors ourselves. But more than everyone talking about the eclipse is the fact that there are many who are seeing the it as a spiritual phenomenon that’s going to be revealing hidden questions. In a recent Newsweek article, the renowned TV science personality Bill Nye was asked why someone should care about the eclipse. His response was rather profound.

Two questions everyone wants to know: Where did we come from? And are we alone in the universe? And if you want to know the answers to those questions you have to explore space.”

It would be naive as a Christian to say that there aren’t many millions of people asking deep questions because of what is set to happen August 21st. I don’t consider myself an overly charismatic person who is into “signs”, per say. But how can we as the church not look at this “sign” as an opportunity for the gospel? Furthermore I think this is an opportunity for churches to do gospel-centered discipleship with our people on the subject of signs and wonders. Some are searching for and seeing answers they think the eclipse is bringing when in fact it may not be.

Beginning August 6th Revive will begin a 3 week study called “Signs and Wonders” as we enter into this popular, divisive, mystic, and perplexing subject. We can’t promise we’ll give you every answer you’re searching for. But we can promise you will hear about one answer that makes complete sense.

signs and wonders

According to NASA the Eclipse will begin in Nashville around 11:58 a.m. and end at 2:54 p.m. with the total eclipse happening from 1:27 p.m. to 1:29 p.m. So mark your calendars! We’d also love to extend an invitation to your family to be with us at Revive August 6th as we begin our study “Signs and Wonders”! Everyone in attendance will receive a free pair of eclipse glasses so you can share in the experience with your family.

Then I looked when the Lamb opened the sixth seal, and a huge earthquake took place; the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the full moon became blood red.

Revelation 6:12 New English Translation

Crucial Conversations

by Randy Taylor

Last Sunday Pastor Brock preached on this subject.  He talked about the 4 crucial conversations between God and Elijah, Ahab and Obadiah, Obadiah and Elijah, and Elijah and Ahab.  You might want to read that last sentence again to try and get it straight in your head.  In 1st Kings Chapter 18, you can read about each of these conversations.  Although each conversation was different, all of them were crucial to the parties that were involved.

Where I work, we have available to us a 2 day course on how to conduct a crucial conversation.  This tells me the importance that should be placed on a crucial conversation should be high.  At our company we know tough decision have to be made and crucial conversations are critical to the success of these decisions.  I believe it is just as critical in our lives outside the work place.

In 1st Kings Chapter 18, God had a plan for reaching Ahab.  He knew that a crucial conversations through Elijah and Obadiah was needed for His plan.  The conversations had to be at the right time and with the right message.  I think there are at least 4 things we can learn about crucial conversations.

  1. Start with prayer. This is probably obvious, but I believe it is overlooked many times.  Each crucial conversation we have should start with prayer when possible.  We should seek guidance on the right time to have the conversation.  We need to ensure we have the right heart for the conversation.
  2. Sprinkle in lots of love. Most crucial conversations go better when they are delivered with a heart of love.  Think back to times when you were on the receiving end of a crucial conversation.  If it was delivered with a heart of love, you were more likely to receive the message.  Without love there is a high potential for the conversation to become heated and emotional.
  3. Add in listening. A conversation is a two way street.  If only one party is doing all of the talking it becomes a monologue.  Listening shows you care about the conversation but more importantly you care about the other person(s) in the conversation.  If you listen, you may learn more about the others in the conversation and realize the things in their life where you can help.
  4. Try to end with agreement. In almost every crucial conversation, an agreement can be reached.  Sometimes this takes compromise from both parties.  Other times one party may “see the light” and realize the need to change or take action.  Reaching agreement will give all involved a sense of accomplishment and a better spirit of working together to accomplish the goal.

I am sure there are more ingredients that make crucial conversations successful, but hopefully, these suggestions will help when you are faced with the inevitable task of having a crucial conversation.

Messy Discipline

Messy Discipline

by Jenna Davis

I’m not currently a mom, but in my job as a nanny I basically get to pretend to be one during the work week. I hear a lot of mothers talk about how God often uses their children to teach them truths about Himself, & recently the Lord spoke to me through a seemingly “mundane” moment with the little one I care for….

After a messy breakfast of milk, banana and Cheerios, I grabbed a wet cloth to wipe his banana-covered hands and face–& he HATES when I do that.
*He also currently has a cold, so when wiping his nose enters the equation, it’s practically World War III.

I do my best to clean him up, as he turns his head from side to side, trying to avoid me. While he is squirming and crying and expressing his frustration for this momentary experience, I tell him,”I’m sorry, buddy, I know you hate this, but I’m trying to help you. You’re all messy and I need to clean you up.”

Whoa.

Enter…The Holy Spirit.

In that moment, He sweetly reminded me that HE knows what it’s like to be in the shoes of a caregiver, & that He is a good one. He loves His children and always wants, and does, what’s best for us. While we may wiggle, squirm, & cry out of frustration in those uncomfortable moments as He is working on us, He is patiently & calmly saying, “I know you might hate this, but it’s for your good. I’m making you beautiful; I’m making you clean.” (Hebrews 12:11)

It was a beautiful moment of realization for me.

However…if I’m honest…most of the time I don’t see it as beautiful, and usually wish that those times of God’s “cleaning-up” weren’t so painful. Sometimes I wish I could just skip to the parts of my life where I get exactly what I want, how I want it, and everything is glorious and wonderful, all wrapped up with a neat little bow…like the end of a Hallmark Holiday movie. (And, let’s be real–thanks to the invention of the internet, iPhone, & Amazon Prime- we are pretty much used to getting what we want, whenever we want it.) But that’s not the way sanctification works & it’s not how discipline works.

It’s hard. It’s challenging.
It’s laying down my will.
It’s daily dying to self.
It’s taking up MY cross to follow The One who bore it all for me when He carried HIS.

He is God.

He is good.

If I believe He is God and He is good, I must also believe that His plans are wiser, better, & that, in spite of my doubt, perseverance is possible, patience is still at work and (slowly…always slowly) making me perfect.

Jesus was a spiritual revolutionary. He said a lot of shocking things to a lot of people, including His disciples. In turn, some of them walked away not being able to reconcile it in their minds. I pray my response would be like Peter’s when those other disciples walked away. Jesus asked him if he wanted to leave, too. His response: “Where else would I go? You alone have the words of life.”

Jesus is still a spiritual revolutionary. He will sometimes ask us to walk through hard things. His heart-shaping and discipline, even if it doesn’t always feel good, is always for our benefit and growth.

And where else would we go?

He alone has the life we need.

He is worth trusting.
May we always long to REALLY trust Him, and rest in His sovereignty, wisdom, goodness and love.