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I don’t think we were meant to strive for perfection.

Maybe what we’re supposed to learn from a perfect God becoming human and living a perfect life, is that He knew we could not.

He wanted us to know that grace is good.

And that because of grace, mistakes are allowed.

And maybe that means we shouldn’t strive for an instagram-worthy life.

Maybe it means that the mom at the grocery store with drool stains and Cheerios stuck to her coat is beautiful and is closer to what God really wants to see than the businessman in his perfectly pressed suit.

He knew real life was never going to be perfect.  He knew once we tasted shame we’d spend lifetimes trying to hide it.recite-12r9et4

And in His perfection, He befriended the imperfect.

He never once called out their failures, He never once judged those who came to Him in need.  He knew real life doesn’t have auto-correct, undo, or backspace.

He knew we’d say things we wish we could swallow, do things we would give anything to forget, and hurt those around us in ways we were never meant to break.

He knew we would always be imperfect failures.  And yet He came anyway.  He took our place.  He lived a perfect life and died the death we earned so that we could live His resurrection.

So that we could become new.

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.”

The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new.
(revelation 21)

 

Everything.

New.

You, me, your history, your future, new.

All you have to do is ask.

Just ask.

 

Matt Redman – Never Once

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Who am I?  What am I made of?  Am I better than how I was treated?

Do I have what it takes?

These questions haunt us.

Part of me expected that at 36 and married, I would have answered those questions many years ago.  I thought I would be talking about lawn care and painting my white picket fence.

But the questions still whisper.

And if I listen closely, they mock.  They do not just question who I am, but they challenge, they berate.  It is no longer, do I have what it takes?.  It becomes you do not have what it takes.

And ill equipped as we are, when those questions become statements we have no idea how to fend them off.  Maybe because we were not given the tools to do so by those who should have passed them on, maybe because the loudest voices we heard growing up agreed with the statements in our head.  Maybe because the road we are travelling is a road our fathers should have walked with us.

And now here we stand, asking ourselves that question.

Do I have what it takes?

I can only imagine the first disciples were haunted by the same questions.

They were not highly educated men, they were not wealthy or from important families.  They were laborers.  Fishermen.  They worked each day in the most deadly profession of all time.  And the livelihood of their family, the next meal they ate depended on these men and their ability to catch fish.

Maybe they weren’t given the tools as children to deal with those voices.  Maybe their fathers were absent.  And maybe Christ knew all of this when in Matthew 16, he asked them

Who do you say I am?

It’s funny, to think that in the midst of such a huge need Christ would chose not to ask about who they thought they were but instead asked who they thought HE was.

When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

But that was not enough.  They didn’t answer the question.

He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

Simon got it right.  He listened to that still, small voice when it whispered that the man standing before them was not just wise, but was the Christ.

Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

And in that instant, when he answered honestly and declared that Jesus was the Christ, Christ answered the most important question Simon would never ask out loud.

Who am I?  What am I made of?  Do I have what it takes?

 Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock.

 

You are Peter.  A Rock.50338-Everything-Changed

The answer to the question everyone asks in the silence of their own thoughts, Christ proclaimed in the presence of Simon’s friends.  From that day forward, everything changed for Simon, including his name.

Simon Peter realized who Jesus was, and in declaring that truth, Jesus revealed to Peter who he really was.

You are mine.  You belong to me and have always belonged to me.  There is nothing you can do to change that because I have chosen and created you.  

You are not alone.  You are now a part of me.  

You have what it takes.  

Future of Forestry – Slow Your Breath Down 

I hadn’t been awake for 2 hours a few days ago and the to-do list in my head just kept growing.

No – the list of items on it was not getting larger, the size of the font just kept increasing.  Suddenly instead of less than a half-doGodzillazen easy to carry out items I was staring at a 480 pt., Comic Sans list of gargantuan proportions.  A film crew from Japan showed up halfway through its rampage across my mind and began shooting for a new “Godzilla vs. GigantorList”.

I struggle to find rest when there is stuff to do.  And when I feel stressed about the future, travel, work deadlines, finances or any number of things I may or may not be able to influence, I tend to take out my frustrations on my to-do list.

I jump in headlong and I. Do. Not. Stop.  Not until it’s done.

I’m learning that in a marriage relationship, how I handle stress has a direct impact on the well-being and peace of my wife.

When I turn to anything other than Christ and His finished work as a release for the pressures I feel, I make something beautiful into a back-alley transaction.  I get my fix; I bring order to my little world and push the stress, at least for a small time, out of my mind.  I feel in control and in doing so I tell the One who is ultimately in control that I don’t trust him.

And when I refuse His call, when I turn to anything other than His perfect presence and love, I turn the sounds of a symphony into the ringing of a dinner bell.  I find something that staves off the hunger for a short time instead of finding healing for my soul and rest for my body.

This season, I want to slow down, to enjoy the little things and the big things, to care about the big things and let the little things be little.  I want to be thankful.  I want to hug the ones I love and make sure they know I love them.  This season, I want to be thankful and in my thankfulness, realize again that He cares more than I know, more than I realize or understand, that He is in control and that I can trust Him.

Future of Forestry – Homeward:

Child I won’t let you go
We are homeward bound
Child I’ll sing till it’s clear
We are homeward
In my voice you will know
The sound of hope

 

My wife and I went through a big disappointment recently.

I don’t get disappointed.

I don’t – because I don’t allow myself to hope, at least not too much.

Sure, I hope it’ll be sunny tomorrow, and I hope that package I’m expecting comes soon.  And I hope traffic isn’t bad tomorrow and that lunch is tasty.  But I don’t hope for the big things.

I don’t hope for friends.

For more.

I don’t hope for the relationship David shared with Jonathan.

I don’t hope for things to be really, really amazing.

Do I want those things?  Yes!  But do I allow my heart to get involved?  No.

 

But this disappointment, I thought this was a sure thing.  I didn’t think there was any way it wouldn’t happen.  I hoped.  And when it failed, I was heartbroken.  I got physically sick, twice.  I hurt.

I had opened my heart.

And it broke.  Again.

So, I don’t hope.  If I don’t hope, I don’t have to worry about heartache.  Because, quite simply, my heart isn’t in it.

 

My wife says I’m a hard-sell, difficult to impress or sway.  She says I’m suspicious of things that seem to be too good to be true. Suspicious And she’s right.  I am.  Cynical.  Closed off to keep the pain of the world out.  And to protect the pieces of my heart.

It is not a sad thing, it just is what it is.  I learned when I was very young that I was responsible for my happiness, so I found joy and peace in things I could control.  And many years later I learned that relationships were just another package that disappointment came in.  So I gave up on them.

I hit pause.  Found my happiness in what I could control, and survived.

 

My wife is a queen.

Because she was there when we ran into these walls I created.  She peeked over the top, and she didn’t run screaming after.  She was patient as I began to pick them apart. She is supportive, understanding, and she has shown me the me she sees.  And because of that, I like me more.  And I love her more.

 

We all run from things.  Sometimes those things chase us.  And sometimes our running is the decision to stand still and let things pass us by.

I don’t want to run any more.  No, I’m not suddenly an extrovert just dying to spend hours and hours in a large group of people.  But, I’m also no longer alone inside my walls.  And my wife did that.

She loved me through my walls

She was Jesus when I wouldn’t let Jesus in.

I have hope.  And I will never be the same.

 

Martin Smith – Angel: 

 

It seems each year it I find it just a bit harder to slow down and really experience this thing we call “Christmas Spirit”.

Black Friday starting on Thursday, Local Saturday and Cyber Monday have overtaken giving thanks, celebrating a meal with family and friends and enjoying each others company while making memories.

Now, we’re all buried in our digital devices looking for sales, deals and the next thing to buy.

And in the midst of doing, we lose something.

I had a few moments this evening to slow down and it hit me that Christmas is only a week away.  My wife and I have talked several times this year about how fast this season is passing by and about how hard it’s been to get into the spirit.

And in the silence of the moment, something whispered to me about the first Christmas.

Maybe Christ chose a manger, shepherds and barnyard animals to tell us something.  Maybe, in the midst of a census decreed by the king that required everyone to journey to their hometown, maybe Christ was telling us that Christmas would be chaotic.

Maybe in the stress of tens of thousands of people travelling all at the same time, in the craziness of sold out hotels and no room left in the inn, we’re supposed to see something.

Maybe we’re supposed to notice the simplicity and the beautiful restraint we see when we look at the arrival of the King of Kings not heralded by men, not surrounded by the best doctors money can buy and crowds of newscasters outside, but instead encompassed by the love of a mother and father, watched over by angels and announced to simple shepherds.

Maybe we’re supposed to realize that in the chaos of the season, we need to make time for those moments of silence.  We’re supposed to actually remember the birth of the One we sing about.  And maybe we’re supposed to remember that the birth of this little baby is simple.

We needed a savior.

Our loving God sent one.

And the earth stood still.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
Isaiah 9:6-7

future-of-forestry-christmas-ep-vol-2

Future of Forestry – The Earth Stood Still

 

Many years ago I began a journey that, at the time, I thought would have ended in days and weeks. Not decades.

I’ve been in Texas for more than a decade, married for more than two years and only recently have my wife and I found a church that may just become home.

10 years of searching. Why? Because I wasn’t looking for just a church, or just good worship, or just just a good message. I, we were looking for honesty, vulnerability and community.

And although she and I have both found good friends in Texas, we’ve not found that place that feels like home. Yes, our times of fellowship are wonderful and much needed. But I cannot escape the feeling that we’re sitting in front of a giant tub of ice cream choosing to scrape just the top few layers off.

We don’t go deep. We don’t get honest. We don’t talk about our struggles, our fears, our heartaches and our dreams. We don’t trust others with the valuable parts, the real parts of who we are. And because of that, we don’t have community. We don’t have family. We have friends, acquaintances, vanilla when we could have rocky road, pistachio or superman blue. We settle for a single scoop, when a banana split is there for the taking.

That’s not the fault of our friends, that’s my fault. I’m the one who doesn’t push the envelope, who doesn’t share, who doesn’t pour his heart into something and expose his vulnerable side.

It’s funny that my humanity, the very reasons I need Christ in my life, are the very things I’m afraid would insult my friends.

I’m not perfect. I’ve struggled, struggle, daily. I fight. Against lust, pride, greed, selfishness and the desire to just have a cold heart.

I dream. Of producing music, writing books, speaking to thousands of people and offering my life, my stories as encouragement.

And I fear, that by sharing any of this, I may be wounded, mocked, insulted, and thought less of.

And now I realize it is foolish to fear. For in doing so, I’ve not protected myself. No, I’ve been a thief. I’ve stolen the chance to chase my dreams, to plan for a family, to be a father, to fall, laugh, accept grace, and keep going. I’ve stolen the man my wife deserves because I’ve not lived fearless. And I am sorry.

I am a misfit. I always will be.

But I know I am not alone.

The Life-Light was the real thing: Every person entering Life he brings into Light. He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn’t even notice. He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him. But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.

John 19 (the message)

Christ was a misfit. He didn’t fit into his own people yet the three years of his life changed the course of history and set in motion the very grace by which I stand.

Join me. Be honest about who you are, your struggles and pain, your dreams and passions. Your hopes and fears.

Believe who He is, and find your true self.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it is a fundraising website designed to give those with  great ideas a platform to present their idea to the world, and then ask for funding from anyone interested in seeing that idea come to life.

Bands fund their indie albums, people create new ways to keep coffee hot, charge your iPhone or send something to space.

Recently, one idea has garnered a lot of press. The mini museum(http://www.minimuseum.com).

33 pieces of history. Pieces of the London Bridge, Abe Lincoln’s house and a triceratops horn. 33 nearly one-of-a-kind items for $299. I love it. I think it’s an awesome idea as it places things you’ve only heard about in your hands.

I want one.museum-13

But my desire goes far beyond the cool factor. And I couldn’t figure out why until now.

Stories.

It’s not 33 pieces of history. It’s 33 stories. 33 stories and the many stories that will be created talking about how cool the mini museum is.  Stories to be told around around something that holds stories already told.

I don’t want it for the cool factor, I want it for what it tells my heart. That I’m somehow more important for having it. That it somehow brings value to my existence.

It’s not that I need a piece of the Berlin Wall, but that I need stories. And part of me wants to replace the stories I do have, my past, with something better.

Because I don’t like my story.

I don’t like the pages I didn’t get to write. And I don’t like some if the pages I wrote myself.

I want a different story. I don’t want to be the son of an absentee father. The son of divorced parents. Or the son of a family that’s been through the hell we’ve been through. I’ve somehow bought the lie that something new and shiny can change the tarnish staining my past.

It can’t. Nothing can.

But it’s not the tarnish that matters. Because if you look below the tarnishing, you see the indelible ink imprinted on my soul.

“I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places… You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.” (Isaiah 58:9-12 MSG)”

Museum or not, my past, your past is unchanging.  But it is not my present.  Nor will it be my future.

The stories I live will not be defined by the knickknacks on my coffee table, but by those I chose to love, and those who love me.  My past defined a large part of who I was, but the ink on my soul defines my future.  And nothing can change that.

For the Cross – Bethel Music

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and talked with you like this.  Since I’ve come without a list of needs or desires, hopes or hurts.

Since I’ve come simply to say thank you.

Thank you for grace.  For your provision.  For joy.

For her.

I came home today and she and I just talked.

And then one of her favorite songs came on.

And we danced in the living room.

Our living room, in our little house.

Surrounded by our yard that our dog loves to run in.

Our lives, my life.

Thank you.

You didn’t have to send your Son.  You didn’t have to care so much.  You didn’t have to love me the way you do.

You didn’t have to give me her, but you did.

And secondly only to finding the grace that You so freely give, she is my most precious gift.

Thank you.

 

Angel – Martin Smith 

ticketsSome people collect photographs or records.  Figurines or stamps.  Coins or antiques.

Although I’m personally a fan of antiques, old postcards and good music, some of my most cherished collections are memories.

You can see them in the picture here.

Yes – I know they’re ticket stubs.

Little pieces of paper creased by time spent in my wallet, or faded by time spent in a drawer, a book or my bible.

They’re still memories.

The last time I saw Delirious live.  The birthday present concert-slash-road trip to Tyler from my sister.  The time my mom and I got to experience PBS’s Antiques Roadshow.  Taking my other sister to the movies.  Or the New Years Eve Symphony performance where I sat with my wife.  Only, I didn’t yet know she’d be my wife.

Memories.

Ticket stubs.  They’re not pretty, they’re not beautiful to look upon, or a creators greatest masterpiece.  But it’s not the paper itself that holds the value.  It’s where the paper takes me, it’s the stories the paper tells, it’s what the paper reminds me of, and its the hope these memories bring.

Memories of great experiences, of laughter and joy.  Memories of moments that moved me to tears, or brought me to my knees in worship.  Memories woven together with hope.  Hope, because I am reminded how beautiful my life is.  Hope, because I know I serve a God who loves me.

Hope.  Because He left a book of memories, of stories, of hope, for my wife and I.  For our families.  For our futures.

Hope, because we’re not alone.  And hope, because even when we face a mountain, we stand beside the mountain maker.

Jesus Culture Ft. Martin Smith – Walk With Me

God doesn’t hold your past sin over your head.

If you’re like me, you carry regret.

Regret of past sins, decisions you made and shouldn’t have or decisions you didn’t make and wish you had.  Things done, words you wish you could shove back in your mouth or left things undone and unsaid.

Regret.

For some of us, it becomes a part of who we are.

And even though we hate the way it feels, even though we hate the loneliness it brings as it wedges itself between us and our dreams and loved ones, we begin to identify with it.  It becomes part of how we see ourselves, and we never learn to walk free of it.

We never truly learn the meaning of the word grace.

At church this weekend, the worship leader took a moment and shared what he felt the Lord put on his heart.  That being, that God doesn’t hold our sins against us.  And that our lives don’t have to be governed by mistakes made years or even decades ago.

It spoke to me, deeply.

I realized that I’m still carrying regrets from decisions I more than 20 years ago.

I cannot change them.  I cannot undo and unsay.

But I’ve realized that they are no longer a part of who I am.

They are a part of who I was.  My history.

Covered by grace.

It’s time I forgave myself, encouraged my heart and told regret to leave and never come back.

I am not what I’ve done.  I am not who I was.

I am not perfect, but I am loved.  I am my Heavenly Father’s beloved son.

And because I am loved, I have everything I need.

Bethel Music – You Know Me

history

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