Monday, February 13, 2012

My Relationship with God Right Now

I'm in a very large dark room with high ceilings. There is a massive fire place with brick covering the tall wall and a large victorian style couch in front of the fire with an old, cracked, mahogany side table next to it. The glow from the settled embers lights up only half the room. Someone knocks at the door but I don't hear it right away. The knock resounds in the high ceilings and I get up to answer after about the third or fourth knock. I look through the peep hole and the head is to close to the door for me to see who it is so I crack the door and look. Jesus is standing there and he smiles. I open the door and walk back to where I was sitting, in the corner. He walks in like it's his house, and I was renting it, and looks around with one hand on his hip and one hand scratching his beard. He walks over to the fire and started looking around for a log to bring the fire back to life. The way he walked caught my eye. It was smoothed and well paced, like he could be flying if he wanted to. He walked as if he invented walking. He sees a book laying on the old table next to the couch. Let me talk about this book for a second. It's the book of all my sin, my crap, my baggage, everything I despise about myself. I was praying that he wouldn't open it. He looks over at me as if he heard me...then it hit me...I catch him crack a smile and then he glances at the cover and throws it into the fire and the fire lights up the room. I'm shocked. I sat there eyes wide as the book burned like a dry log, crackling in the dancing rays of light. I speak up, "you should have read what was---"
"I did." Jesus said while warming himself at the fire. I sat there no knowing what to do.
"what did you think?" I murmured. He stood there and didn't answer my question. Instead, he went to the opposite wall and walked up to a book shelf  that was mounted there. The book shelf was filled with what looked like photo albums. He starts to look through the pictures and he smiles. He giggles a couple times to himself and moves on to the next album with excitement. I look into the fire and speak again.
"You really shouldn't have thrown it into the fire... I wish you'd say something."
"What do you want me to say Matthias?" still looking through photo albums.
"How I am the one who deserves to be thrown in that fire. How everything I do doesn't work and how I shouldn't do ministry and how I should just quit, because I would fail at it anyway!" Jesus flips through the pages, half listening. "You said you read that?? I don't believe you! If you did you would have seen that I deserve crap, you would be yelling at me or punishing me, telling me how much I freaking deserve it." Jesus puts the photo album back gently. "DO YOU HEAR ME?!?" I run over and flip over the couch and fall down burying my face in my hands. Jesus sits down next to me and hugs his knees. 
"Hey, it's ok..." I don't say anything.
"You're right you know." I look up shocked.
"That's what you deserve." He looks into the fire and his eyes start to get shiny. "Look in the fire Matt." I look and the book is laying face open in the fire. The pages are burning slowly in the yellow light. There all pictures...of him...on the cross. "I took that!" He picks me up to my feet and grabs my shoulders firmly and looks me right in the eye. "All of it! Every mistake, every ounce of shame and guilt that SHOULD be on your shoulders I took on mine. Every bad decision that led to more bad decisions." Tears start to roll down my eyes.
"But I---" 
"YES! You did, you screwed everything up Matt. Everything I have ever given you, you have one way or another used it for your own gain, manipulated it, or discarded it. I give you Love, and you squander it and horde it, I give you peace and you go and create you're own drama that you can control. Matthias, I have witnessed every selfish action, every lustful effort to fill what only I can fill, every prideful attempt at self promotion, every dishonest decision that you swept under the rug. I have seen everything. And you know what??" My knees start to buckle. He holds me up. "I still Love you! I not only Love you Matt but I like you. You are everything that I am purposing you to be. I am at work Matt. You are forgiven and Loved by me." I stand there speechless. He goes over and pulls one of the photo albums off the shelf and comes back, "Look." I see pictures of us worshiping, or hanging out with the homeless, or laughing with my friends. "These are all the memories that I love, that I cherish in my heart, and that I see when I look at you." He goes back and set the book neatly back on the shelf. I slowly put the couch back and sit down and Jesus sits down next to me and puts his arm around me. We sit for a while when he gets up to throw a log in the fire, I look up and I see what looks like a multi story library. The stairs in the corner of the room lead to more and more floors of book shelves. Empty book shelves. I lean back into Jesus and fall asleep slowly looking into the fire. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I used to work at a Chinese restaurant called P.F. Chang’s as a back waiter. I remember meeting the bar tender one of my first days working there in Spokane Washington who happened to be the Youth Pastor at a Church near my house. I thought it was pretty BA that they had a bartender/youth pastor and I can honestly say that’s why I went to the Church. I walked in on Sunday and it felt very real. There were five guys smoking out front, the auditorium smelled like beer, and a guy from a biker gang greeted me at the door. Yeah, this is my church. I later learned from the Senior Pastor that over 90% of the congregation was on two months sobriety, a great deal of x-convicts attended, and many struggle financially. The Church is in the poorest zip code in Washington. As my Pastor explains it, ‘it’s a place where we can all come together and be open about the fact that the cheese has fallen off our cracker too.” I can’t even explain how wonderful it is. I have never felt more accepted and loved by a group of people.
                The youth group is even better. There are about 20-25 kids that come every Wednesday night and they are all from the neighborhood. They all walk there. These kids come from every type of background you can imagine. I’ll save some of the specific stories but I will say that most of them come from broken homes, have absent fathers, and have abusive backgrounds. I lead worship for the youth group and when I first started I was really excited about getting to teach the kids “how to worship God”. What an honor it is to teach them how to come before the throne! Like I deserved a cape and tights or something.
                I remember the second night we did worship and I looked out into the crowd and saw the kids. They had their eyes shut as tight as they could, arms bent with balled up fists, it was like watching a baby take their first steps. I introduced the idea of raising your hands in the air as an external expression of what’s happening internally. Hands rose all over the room and it was powerful. I felt like a grandpa sitting on the ground watching a kid run around wondering where he gets all his energy. It inspired me. I realized that it was less of me teaching them how to worship, and more or less pointing them in the right direction.
 I watched these kids meet the Holy Spirit. Lives were changing. Tonight we had 6 kids commit their lives to the Lord and four re-committed their lives to Christ. That’s half the group, amazing. Sometimes we think it’s us doing the work to change lives when really it’s God working through us. That takes the pressure off I think. We can’t fail that way, we can only do as much as God wanted done. That’s a nice thought. I like how John Mark McMillan says it, “I’m a dead man walking with a ghost who lives within the confines of these carbon ribs.”

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Whiskey is Manly

It was a brisk winter evening in Spokane Washington tonight. I decided on my day off to visit my housemate and good friend Palmer Bandy in the women’s shoes department at Macy’s. After he got off his shift, we perused a local shop called “Oil and Vinegar”. In the store there are bowls of bread where you can go around and try samples of all the different oils and balsamic vinegar. They had chocolate vinegar. I only liked the chocolate part, the vinegar burned my throat but in a good way. The way whisky does, it’s a good burn. I felt manly. Except then I realized that I was sampling olive oil and balsamic vinegar and I was surrounded by middle aged women. Then I didn’t feel so manly. I felt shiek though. I will say that.
            After this we went to a local bar and sat down on couches next to a roaring fake fire. The perfect wooden logs glowing red in all the right places. The warmth behind the glass found its way right underneath my coat and warmed my soul. We sat and ordered some fancy non-alcoholic bar drinks. Palmer ordered “lemon lime and bitters” and for me a coke with grenadine. We got looks from a few of the other customers as we sipped on our fruity sodas next to the fake fire. I didn’t care. We’re awesome.
            Palmer and I started into a conversation about how if everyone actually believed what the Bible said and acted on it then the world would look different. It’s a common statement to make at a bible school. We weren’t excluding ourselves by any means. I asked him what it would look like if we really believed what the Bible says all the time. “I’d probably get out of the house more.” Palmer said.
“What do you mean?
“Well, I wouldn’t be as scared.” Palmer said as he took a sip of his super manly lemony drink.
“Hmm”, a long pause ensued as I wondered silently. “Maybe that’s it -- fear.” I realized though for me the problem isn’t the fear of believing in an all-powerful God. In my mind I knew that I should fear God, that if he sneezed on me I would most likely die. It all made sense and was all lined up in my head. What was it fear of? Then it struck me. It’s just as Palmer said:  to go outside. The acting part is the tough part for me; the fear to act. I look back in Scripture and God is always challenging people to act. Interestingly enough, He challenges them to act in the present moment. He doesn’t ever warn anybody or give a heads up. He didn’t come to Mary and tell her that she will have a child in a few years so get the baby crib ready. Or to David to go ahead and train for a little bit because one day you’ll slay a giant and you’ll need to improve your sword skills. God shows people what to do in the moment. Because in the moment you know least, are the least prepared, and haven’t given it great thought. I think God does this so that we’re forced to trust him if we choose to walk forward. So that when it works, we know who did it. It’s like the story of the three servants. Two expounded upon the funds given to them, the other feared the command to act, played it safe, and suffered for it. We aren’t supposed to be impulsive, that’s not what I’m saying. The Bible talks a whole lot about patience and wisdom. Not undermining that fact. I’m talking about acting on what you know God wants you to do in the moment. The prompting to get involved past the surface with an acquaintance, the prompting to give to the needy even though you are needy, the prompting to Love when Love is not deserved, or to serve when it is the most inconvenient.
I currently attend a Bible school. I get frustrated at people who say that they want to do ministry one day. Pisses me right off. We’re all called to do ministry all the time. Every Christian is supposed to be a minister. Not everyone is supposed to be a teacher in the church, granted, or a worship leader or a priest or whatever. But all of us are accountable to be pushing the gospel forward at every given opportunity. If you fail at being a missionary to your current city, you will fail in Uganda. If you fail to share the gospel at work, you will fail to preach in a church. If you look at porn now, you’ll look when you’re a married Pastor. Show me what you did today and I’ll tell you what tomorrow will look like. It’s the principle of the seed. You reap what you sow. If for years you sit around and accomplish nothing thinking that once you get on the ‘mission field’ you’ll start sharing the gospel, You’re doomed. Fact of the matter is this is me so much of the time. I fear to act. I put it off till tomorrow a lot. The spirit convicts me loudly on these matters daily. I am often times the shiek kid in the bar with a fruity drink pretending to be manly. But like what we just talked about; he often times asks us to act in the moment so that we know that it wasn’t our strength, or skill, or great intention that did anything. It was him. Then we’re like cool burly men drinking whisky as we ought to be: Super manly.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

He Doesn't Care

Couple years ago I went on a walk with God by my house. I used to live by a big hospital and a hill that was perfect for watching Colorado Springs sunsets. I went on top of the hill and watched as the hills turned dark blue and become a silhouette with the sun hiding behind them. I love that. I remember God telling me to start walking down the hill. I walked a ways and came towards the hospital and I felt God tell me to go pray for someone to be healed. Hmm.
                I started to explain to God that this was obviously not what he wanted me to do. I exclaimed out loud, “What if it doesn’t work?!?!” I don’t think he was very concerned about that. Unfortunately some people near by walking their dogs were concerned and gave me a very frightened look as they started to walk faster away from the kid screaming at the sky. I decided to go into the hospital and just scope it out. I walked into the lobby and made my way to the Intensive Care Unit. It was about 8pm and I was thinking that visiting hours were probably over so I had nothing to worry about. I walked up to the nurse and asked if I could visit one of the patients.
“Of course, right this way.” Oh no!! My heart started pounding. What am I going to say? Who do I even talk to? Ahh! Ok fine! Whatever! Gall!  I came to a group of nurses and they asked me who I wanted to see.
“Anybody,” They looked confused, “God told me to come here and pray for someone. I don’t know who though.” I felt silly. I must have really come off strange. I saw one of them smile and she asked if I was in high school. “Yes, I am.” She told me to follow her down the hall. We walked to the second door and she told me to wait outside. I overheard her.
“You have a visitor; do you want to see him?
“Who is it?” I heard what sounded like an old woman say.
“It’s a young man from Liberty high school.”
“No,” she said, “I don’t want to see him—“
I walked into the room.
“Excuse me,” I interrupted. “My name is Matthias, and God sent me here to pray for you.” A woman maybe in her late 60s stared back at me in shock. After a rather awkward silence I repeated myself, “God told me to pray for you.”
“Why would God care about me?” her voice sounded defeated and tired.
“Because,” I exhaled and smiled, “He really Loves you.” She invited me to sit down and we started talking. She told me all about her husband and how he comes in to read to her every once and a while but he works a lot. She talked about how much she treasures the times when he reads to her and how growing up with him remains one of her fondest memories. After talking with her for a while I prayed with her and went home. About a week went and I stopped by the hospital to visit my new friend. I walked down to her room but the room was empty. The nurse explained how she checked out a few days ago and went back home. That everything was ok.
What I love about Jesus’ miracles was that they weren’t about the magic tricks. The magic tricks were temporary. He fed the five thousand, but they got hungry again the next day; he raised Lazarus from the dead, but he eventually died of old age. The amazing thing about Jesus’ miracles was not the magic trick, it was his Love. The blind man was changed forever by Jesus’ love. The woman at the well was changed by his Love. His miracles were ways for showing his unconditional, indescribable, Love. I haven’t talked to that woman since that day, and I don’t know for sure what happened to her but I know one thing: she will always remember that day. Not because of the dorky, awkward, blonde haired kid that prayed for her, but because of the God that pursued her even when she thought that he didn’t care.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Car Fire!

Rex and I were on the road in the middle of Kansas coming back from visiting an old friend in Kansas City. I just got done with my three hour shift and it was Rex’s turn to drive.  I made my way to the back seat and slept for a couple hours. I woke up and climbed into the front seat and Rex opened the conversation.
“What is this blinking red light for? It’s been going for a couple hours.”
“Hmm, I think that’s the thermometer…” I started to smell something burning, “Maybe we should pull over.”
As we were stopping smoke started to pour in through the air conditioning vents and as we were pulling over we opened the car doors. Dang, the car broke down. We sat in the car trying to figure out what we were going to do. We were in the middle of Kansas, broken car, couldn’t find cell phone service, and no one in sight. I peered out my window and then leaned back and looked over at Rex. “Are there flames on your side too?”
We got out of the car and ran down the street. We watched as the hood ignited. “My cell phone is in there!” Rex screamed, “Should I go get it?”
“No, you shouldn’t go get it!! The car is on fire!!” We started running up and down the street trying to get a signal. (Well, I did…Rex didn’t have his phone) I called 911, and they came 30 minutes later. It was a long wait. As we were watching my car burn I couldn’t help but laugh. Honestly, I wasn’t that bummed that my car was on fire. I was amazed that we were ok. If we had pulled over a few seconds later, smoke could have poured in while we were driving; we could have crashed, and been in that fire. The fact that we pulled over when we did saved our lives. Even though we were in the middle of nowhere Kansas five hours away from home, I knew we were going to be ok.  I remember calling my dad to tell him and him not believing me. I sent him a picture on my phone and he freaked out.
“You’re out of the car right?!?!”
“…yes Dad…we are out of the car…”
 The firemen put out the fire and said we could go through the ash to see if anything survived. I looked inside the trunk and there laying face open was a Bible. I smiled. The pens under my bible were melted, the clothes under my bible were burnt, the backpack around my bible was gone, but the bible was completely fine. It was warm, the cover was a bit crisp, but not one page of scripture was burnt.  I collect hotel Bibles from different states so on this road trip we had about 4 different bibles. We found all four in the same condition.
One man passing by stopped to see if we were ok, he asked us where we were going and we told him that we lived in the Colorado Springs. He happened to be going up to the springs for a business conference and offered us a ride. We got home that night. Not only did God rescue us from the flames but he had someone there to pick us up when we were done filling out insurance information… astounding. The whole experience confirmed that my God is a rescuer and a provider. To me, the Bibles was just him saying that He was in control.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Part 2 of "Make Time for Sanity"

I was stunned. “What do you mean?”
“My wife left me, my kids won’t talk to me, I lost my job, I’m on disability...” he paused. “ I have nothing.” I could hear the pain in his voice. I prayed that God would tell me what to say.
“Sometimes God lets us walk in darkness so we see that we need his light. He doesn’t hate you. He wants you to see that you need him. He loves you sincerely and you are incredibly valuable to him.” I continued to poor the Love of God into him and encourage him. Telling him that there IS hope and it’s in Jesus. He started to cry and asked if I would pray for him. I prayed with him and he got out of the car.
I sat there slightly bewildered by the past two hours. I was reminded of a story I read once.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get. But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
I don’t remember the names of the family in the park or what church they went to. But, I remember the name of the homeless man, I remember his story, and I remember the powerful encounter with God that we both had in my car that day. There is something about getting on your knees with tax collectors that changes you. I remember thinking that if the only reason God had me start Citywide was so that it would be canceled and I would be in the park that day to Love that one homeless guy, it was worth it. What God did that day blew me away. It reminds me of a quote by Clive Staples Lewis, “What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also depends on what kind of a person you are.” So a question arises: Where are you? Who are you? Are you standing or on your knees? In regards to the poor, I encourage you to get involved. Letting people into our lives who need God’s Love helps us stay grounded and sane. So I implore you, make time for sanity.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Make Time for Sanity

I woke up Friday morning and rushed to the television. I watched as the weather man predicted heavy rainfall and massive winds. My heart sank. Citywide Night of Worship was that afternoon. I started down the list of contacts on my phone and called all the volunteers, band members, and pastors that I could think of to tell them that we would have to postpone the event. After deciding on a new date and clearing it with the city, I went down to the park to make sure no one was standing around expecting an event. I ran into Pastor Larry from Central United Methodist church and started to explain the circumstances. While talking to him a family came up to me and introduced themselves. There was a lady in her early thirties that had brown hair and was shorter and two older folks that were dressed very nicely that I assumed were her parents. They started to ask questions about the event and inquire the reason behind holding it. I explained that God had put it on my heart and others to unite the body of Colorado Springs to reach out to the homeless community. We would be eating together, laughing together, sharing stories, and ultimately becoming a family. The lady in her thirties started to nod her head back and forth. She leaned in close and whispered to me, “This is a great evil. You need to stop.”

They proceeded to explain how it is the Church’s job to weed through the sinners and the righteous and separate them, how sinners should not be allowed in the church, how forgiveness is not the message of the gospel, and how God had told her in a vision that Citywide was a great evil and she had to stop it. I was speechless. Pastor Larry started to explain that what she was saying wasn’t scriptural but they talked over him and wouldn’t let him speak. She started explaining how there are other spirits that pretend to be God and how they are really evil spirits that aim to deceive people. She asked me, “Do you believe that?”

I answered, “I’m starting to believe you!” I noticed her mother started to look all around me and start whispering in tongues as if she were seeing demons flying around me. She told me that I was hearing evil spirits not God and that I should stop Citywide Night of Worship. I was flabbergasted. Where do I start? “Can I tell you a story?” I asked.

“I suppose.”

“Once upon a time there was a woman caught cheating on her husband. She was brought before Jesus and the Pharisees told him that according to the Law of Moses she should be put to death for her sin. Jesus looked at the Pharisees and told that the one without sin must throw the first stone—“

They butted in and exclaimed, “That was Jesus, not us. We aren’t supposed to do that!” I was flabbergasted. That is the opposite of what the Bible says. After talking to them for nearly an hour, they went home.

I walked away bewildered and discouraged. I had to talk to someone sane. I went over to a group of homeless folks sitting in the park. One man came up to me and asked if I could give him a ride to Antlers Park. He lost some of his toes last winter to frost bite and it’s hard for him to walk long distances. I led him to my car and we started to drive. Then he opened the conversation, “what does God have against me?!”

To be continued…