Monday, May 30, 2011

Searching for the New

I love getting things that are new. There’s something about “new” that is incredibly exciting – and almost always puts me in a good mood.

Years ago, I remember getting my first Nintendo (the original) – with Mario Brothers and the Zelda – as my first games. I got it all for Christmas and was so excited! I remember opening the games, and pulling out the instructions – with the story lines – and pictures of monsters and treasure. It was so awesome! I think I played nonstop for at least two weeks. I ended up playing on that Nintendo system for countless hours – until the next “new” thing came around (Nintendo 64). I loved the games because they were constant discoveries of “new” things.

A few years ago I got my first Iphone. It was a lot like the feeling I got with my Nintendo. I downloaded a ton of new apps the instant I got it – even getting games that I played from my original Nintendo. I didn’t put my phone down for a week. And each new version is similar to the first – I end up playing with all the new features and discovering something new around every corner.

I just love new things. I think people – in general – love new things…

Maybe that’s a little of the intrigue that girls get from shopping. I can’t say for sure – cuz I’m very much a man in the way I think – but maybe girls feel that way about purses, shoes, or clothes. There’s something about “new” that is so appealing. We all want “new” things.

But, eventually, all “new” things get old. We end up storing them away and we rarely use them again (except when “retro” becomes the fashion). I actually still have my first Nintendo stored away in the garage – in some random box. My first Iphone was broken, second is stored away, third is in my pocket, and I’m already looking forward to the new Iphone 5. Crazy, huh?

We’re always looking for that “new” thing.

This is the one characteristic about God that is really amazing. It's a characteristic that's both strange and awesome at the same time. While God is ancient (I’m talking – ANCIENT upon ANCIENT) – He is also new! In different ways - for all of us - He is yet to be discovered. He is over the next hill and around the corner - and He's waiting to be found. And when we find Him - the "new"ness of His love is always astounding! And the great news is that as we get to know Him more and more - the "new" discoveries keep happening, long after our first encounter with His grace.

The scriptures point out that “His mercy is new every morning.” In other words – we wake up – and whether we know it or not – God is there to give His mercy – brand new for the day - everyday! He is always faithful!

He is ancient and new at the same time – one of those crazy God possibilities. He is full of discovery – and yet He has been discovered over and over throughout the history of mankind. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is.

One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 23. It states that God leads us, walks beside us, and follows after every one of us. It’s no wonder that this Psalm is often read at funerals. Ultimately, He will be doing all three of those things the day we die.

He’ll be leading us to a “new” heaven and earth.

He’ll be present beside us as we pass through the valley of death

And His love will be following after us all the way through eternity.

And on the other side of death, we’ll get to witness all old things made “new”. And we’ll hear God Himself introduce us into heaven by saying, “This is my son (daughter) whom I love, in him (her) I am well pleased!”

I think that's really cool. We are incredibly lucky to have a God that loves us so much!

Have a great day!

Jer

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Heaven

I got to witness a couple pieces of heaven this past week.

One was at a birthday. A good friend of mine turned eighteen, and her family (a second family to me, really) surprised her with a new (used) car. I saw heaven in their faces. The parents were so excited to surprise their daughter with the gift and the daughter danced with tears in her eyes like she’d won the lotto.

The moment of surprise was awesome. When the car pulled up, we were all finishing lunch on the front deck of the house. Her regular face turned into confusion, then changed to disbelief, then transformed into complete joy and happiness. All of us friends and family were thrilled to be witnesses of this moment. There were hugs, pictures, laughter, and a general sense of happiness felt by everyone. It was a lot of fun.

I also saw heaven in a surprise thank you party that some of my friends gave me. I was completely stunned and almost had a heart attack when everyone yelled, “Surprise!” It was so out of left field that I still can’t believe I didn’t even have a clue. We spent the time eating, talking, and laughing together. There were even a few tears shed as we talked about life. I just felt total gratitude for my friends because their thoughtfulness and love. It was awesome.

Both of these moments made me think of heaven. Both were parties. Both had surprises. Both had careful planning and secrecy. There were lots friends and family. There was a feeling of happiness and gratefulness that permeated through everyone. And there was a lot of love.

I can’t help thinking, “I wonder what God is planning for His kids at His ultimate party.” Heaven is often described as a party by Jesus – with feasting, dancing, wine, and lots of people. What if, at that moment we die, we wake up on the other side of death and hear God, friends, and family yell, “Surprise!”

It might not be totally like that, but maybe it’s more like that than we think. He really does compare heaven, in many of His parables, to a party. And God says He’s been planning something since the creation of the world. Can you imagine that? The universe that God created is pretty dang awesome as it is – but He’s been planning something for His kids since the beginning of creating it??? Seriously?

I guess someday we’ll all get to know, won’t we? Every last one of us. I wonder how surprised we'll be? I wonder if we'll dance with joy with tears in our eyes? I'm positive there'll be lots of love.

Maybe we shouldn’t be so fearful of death because God is good and He loves us. Maybe that's why He's always saying in the scriptures, "Fear not!" He’s the creator of our life – Jesus Christ is life! - and He knows what's behind the curtain of death. He is good and He’s in control.

And He’s the King of surprises! In some ways, I can't wait.

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Phil. 1:21

Have a great day!

Jer

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In Too Deep...

This is an email I wrote over ten years ago and I just found it in an old folder in my inbox. It kinda cracked me up – and is very relevant to what I’ve been writing about lately. It’s totally unedited - the grammar sucks (even more than usual), but it pretty funny and paints a good picture. It's a true story too – as embarrassing as that is to share. Anyway, hope it makes you laugh…


So, I'm in the fifth grade - and haven't learned how to swim yet. Yes, I was a late bloomer. My mom wants me to figure out how to swim, so she sends me to a swimming class. I arrive in my nice swim suit ready to learn what I've longed to do for so many years. I can remember envying all those kids that knew how to dive and seemingly glide through the water. The people in charge send me to my "team" - the group I'm going to learn with. They seem so athletic and my heart begins to pound as the instructor tells us to head off to the deep end of the pool - which, I might add, is about 12 ft. deep. I watch as one of the kids on our team jumps in the water and begins to swim. "Wait, something must be wrong - he can swim. What is this?" I think to myself.

Our instructor then tells us all to jump in the water. I sit on the edge and slowly lower myself into the chilly water. - she begins to tell the objective for our team (yes - it was a very pretty girl instructor - humiliating as you'll see for a young pup just starting puberty) - objective: to improve what we already know as swimmers and to make us better. "Ummmm...I thought we were just learning how to swim?" - of course my objections went unheard - I never voiced them. How could I open my mouth and embarrass myself like that? So, the instructor begins calling names. She starts alphabetically and asks each team member to demonstrate what they know thus far.

The first young swimmer begins - I know I'm in trouble. He just zips on through the water and reaches the other side of the deep end like it was something he did every day. My heart begins to pound as I realize that my name is going to be called and I have absolutely no idea how to swim - I'm afraid of drowning as it is - but what can I say? How do I not embarrass myself in this situation? What am I going to do?

I look over at the shallow end of the pool. There they are - the true beginners - learning for the first time. They're all younger than me by at least 2 years. If I was over there - I'd look like an idiot! "Look at the old kid flailing around with the little kids - not knowing how to swim!" - I can hear them mock. I don't want to look like a little kid! - But - oh - I envy them - look how easy they have it! What I wouldn't give (really)...

But what do I do? The next name is called - one more closer to my name (being Kerr). I know I'll be called somewhere in the middle - but there are only 10 of us. He glides to the other side. He's not as practiced as the last, but he definitely knows how to swim. I'm dead meat!

The next name is called - it's a Johnson - or something. The dreaded J - one more closer to K. Odds are, my name will be called next. My heart really begins to pound - I can hear it in my ears, and my forehead begins sweating more than ever before in my life. The young boy makes it look so easy, and reaches the other side - to my chagrin.


The moment begins to turn into slow motion. I can see my team clapping for the last guy - "Good job! You'll be a great swimmer! Ok, who's next? K-e-r-r. J-e-r-e-m-y - K-e-r-r!" Absolute panic! Can I fake this? "God, let me be able to swim!" - I plea. Maybe, somehow, maybe - I can do this! Maybe it's not as hard as it looks.

To this day - I will never forget what happened. How I wish I could have been an observer of this scene! (Mind you, I haven't even learned how to hold my breath under water at this point - yes, it's true - you have to learn) Here goes nothing - I thought - and I left the comfort of the ledge and plummeted into the depths!


My arms began to flail frantically. I was sinking! I screamed - gurgled - and took my first breath of pool water! People looked at me with panic (or was that pity) - the instructor (yes - a girl - a big deal at that impressionable age) dove in and began trying to rescue me. I say began, because as I flailed, I also punched and poked anyone that came near - even those trying to save. Finally, she wrapped her arms around me and pulled me to the side.


Thinking my humiliation was over - I grabbed the ledge and coughed out the remaining water left in my lungs. The instructor swam next to me and said "Why don't you try again" - what did you say? - I just about drowned - let alone informed everyone in a one mile vicinity that I can't swim and my voice hasn't changed yet. All the parents were watching - the beginners were watching - it seemed everyone was watching. Was I going to do this again?


Well, now that I'd tried it - maybe it would be easier the second time. OK - here I go 1, 2, 3...Plop! Flail! Punch! Gurgle! Hi - I'm an idiot!


I learned many things that day (except, of course, how to swim). But the most important lesson was one I still struggle with today: Many times I want to arrive at the end without having to go through the beginning. - And the first time I learned this, I almost drowned!

Have a great day!

Jer (k)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Following Ideas

Sometimes writing doesn't take me exactly where I want to go. But I feel like I have to follow wherever an idea leads. The frustrating thing is that I don't know whether I'm wasting my time or mining for gold.

Today, I was at the local coffee shop editing a piece that I've been working on for what seems like forever and I ended up not even getting to it. I just wanted to write/edit for about 30 minutes or so and then get on with my day. I ended up working on something totally different for about five hours. Five hours! I didn't even know it'd been that long until I looked at the clock. And what I wrote went in the complete opposite direction from where I had intended on going. I couldn't steer the ship towards the destination I was aiming. It seemed a new idea had sprung to life, and it had a mind of its own. I could either follow the rabbit trail - or break my stinkin' computer.

Even now, I'm having a hard time concentrating as I write this because I've been thinking and writing all day. I have a headache and I'm frustrated because all I've laid down is the verbal puke, and now I have to clean it up. I hate the clean up.

But I wrote, which is an accomplishment in itself. And I'll write tomorrow, if I can fight through my many excuses. And I'll keep following wherever an idea leads, even if it takes all day - or many days - or even months.

And as I practice, hopefully I'll get a little better at painting pictures with words in order to reveal hope and good news to my friends.

Have a great day!

Jer




Saturday, May 21, 2011

I Pick You!

A couple days ago, our Wyldife group (jr. high youth group) played ultimate Frisbee and Capture the Flag at a local park. I chose two captains, and they began picking their teams. Of course, the captains immediately chose the quickest, fastest players for each team. As the kids got chosen, they cheered and ran to their new team. Being chosen feels great!

As the final picks waited anxiously to be chosen, I felt kind of bad because they looked exposed and frustrated at being picked last. Usually, I have the foresight tell the captains to pick the least athletic kids first (or the kids that no one knows – the outsiders) – but I was in a rush and didn’t think about it until it was too late. We had a great time, but I couldn’t help but think about how the last couple kids felt about themselves when they were picked last.

Imagine being the last person chosen – exposed and all alone. And the captain says, “I guess I’ll pick you,” with no enthusiasm at all. How excited would you be for your team and your captain?

That’s one of the things I love about Jesus. He’s the ultimate captain, and he gives this invitation to be on His team by simply saying “Come follow me.” What’s amazing is that the invitation is for everyone. He invites the outcast and the king, the poor and the rich, the sick and the healthy, the good and the bad. And He chooses us with enthusiasm. He picks us first! The scriptures say it this way: “We love because He (God) first loved us.” (1 John 3:19)

Isn’t that amazing?

We are chosen by the King of the Universe! We are accepted and loved. And He not only picks us to be on His team - He chooses us to be a part of His family.

May we cheer for joy at being chosen and may our gratitude flow through our lives as we share with our friends and family that they've been picked too!

Have a great day,

Jer

Friday, May 20, 2011

Excuses Excuses...

I said in an earlier blog that I’d like to write two to three times a week, even if the blog was short. But I find myself making excuses to not write. Even when the excuses are good and real – it takes away from the discipline of practicing writing. It’s been over a week since my last entry. Grrr.

So – today I’m gonna write out my excuses in a blog. That way, at least I can say I’ve blogged – and maybe I can break the bad habit of not posting my thoughts.

First excuse… This is the excuse everyone can relate to – being busy. I have short periods of time here and there, but I find myself doing other things when the time is given to me. It’s been mostly distracting things like television or my iphone – which is so unproductive. I’ll think about writing, but I actually won’t write. It’s as if I would do anything but write if given the chance. I’ve probably had more chances to write than I’d like to admit. I have been busy, but not that busy…

Second excuse… I actually am writing, but it’s another project – not a blog. I’m spending a lot of time writing and editing this work. It’s been maddening! My brain is twisting and wrestling itself – every day I find new things to edit and change. I find myself daydreaming of how to word certain phrases all throughout the day. I’ve been writing since March and have only gotten near the end of the first chapter. I must have read and re-read the chapter about a thousand times. New ideas keep coming for future chapters, and the end keeps getting farther and farther away. It’s become intimidating when I think about the work as a whole because I’m so far away from the conclusion. I know everything that I want to write about is inside my head; I just have to search and find it, which can be tricky. I do believe that when I finish the project, it will be well worth it. But I feel like I’m only on mile two of a marathon. At this point, I can’t even imagine the end…

Third excuse… I’ve been writing comments on other blogs. This might sound like a lame excuse, but I actually spend too much time writing the response – and this burns me out of actually writing for myself later on. It takes a lot of energy for me to write. Once I get an idea down, I might be brain dead for the next couple hours. It’s annoying.

Fourth excuse… I’ve been pretty sick the last couple days. I haven’t done any writing at all, really. Just a little editing. I’m actually sick as I type this – really bad chest cold. Minor fever. I feel like I’m starting to come out of it though. I’m making myself write today, before I take Nyquil and my brain is done for the next 24 hours.

I could probably come up with more excuses, but this is good for now. This accomplished what I wanted – to break the cycle of not writing. Now onto editing my other project… and maybe writing a page or two… Maybe… No excuses.

Have a great day!

Jer

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Pointing Finger of the Grim Reaper

I had to fight back tears today as I watched an assembly called "Every Fifteen Minutes" at one of our local high schools. The point of this drama is to get kids to see what an collision scene might look after a drunk driver causes a major accident. Schools always have these assemblies right before prom to warn students about the dangers of drinking and driving. It was pretty brutal.

The "accident" was set on the football field with actual students and teachers as actors. When the drama started, the first responders entered the school in dramatic fashion - with their lights blaring and sirens wailing. They quickly secured the scene - with different cops and firefighters speaking into microphones so everyone could hear their procedures. The "drunk driver" was the only person really conscious - and he was arrested and taken into custody. Two of his friends were badly injured - one was life flighted by a helicopter, the other taken in an ambulance. The victim from the other car was pronounced "dead" at the scene - a popular teacher from the staff of the school - and he was put into a coroner's van.

Across the field from the students stood the grim reaper - standing and watching the entire event - not moving an inch. After all the action had taken place, the reaper came into the crowd of students (the entire school was watching from the football stands) and pointed to a pretty popular senior. The reaper then hand-cuffed the student and took him away. Afterwards, one of the CHP officers read the obituary of the student - holding back tears as she read. Her voice broke at the end of her reading.

I immediately thought of some students that I've known over the years that had to go through this in real life. Joe, Jesse, Jackie, and Josh - four different students from four different schools - all passed away at a very young age from car accidents. Their families were devastated and friends were crushed. It made me kind of sick thinking about it.

One of the shortest verses in the bible states: "Jesus wept." He saw the impact that death had on the friends and family of Lazarus - a very close friend who passed away. He cared deeply and wept.

Soon, Jesus would be marching towards His own death. He understood how His execution would be perceived by His close friends. He knew they would lose hope. The people closest to Him would desert Him and would wail with grief from the death He was entering. His friends wouldn't understand what was happening. They were about to feel confusion, pain, hurt, anguish, anger, hopelessness, terror, betrayal, and great sadness. The deep care and concern that He had for his friends broke His heart and He wept.

I think He thought of us too - when He wept. Jesus - being God in flesh - knew that every person throughout history would have to face death - and feel its repercussions (including you and me). Death is devastating and frightening to humanity. And it's a reality for everyone.

I'm positive that Jesus wept for Joe, Jesse, Jackie, and Josh on the day that they died. He wept for their friends and families as they struggled through their pain and questioning. Jesus wept for them (and everyone who faces death) because He cares - and He is love.

The curse of death is so deceptive -and so painful. But there is great hope. Jesus never turned away from the death He was marching towards because He saw death differently than us. One of God's missions on Earth was to break the curse of death and to give life to all who believe (and whomever He chooses). His mission was to "right what was wrong" - and that mission was accomplished on the cross when He (the innocent lamb - Jesus) was sacrificed on our behalf.

He died on a cross - a spear piercing His heart.

"But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)

He was killed. But, Jesus didn't stay dead. He broke the curse. He was able to break the curse of death because He is God. He rose again to new life. His tomb was empty. Death wasn't final for God. Death was conquered.

Jesus became the key to life.

This is incredibly good news to all who have ears to hear. Not only does God care about us - and weep with us when all seems hopeless - but God gives new life to all who trust in Him. A life full of purpose and love.

I was holding back tears today as I watched a drama about the scary reality of death. I definitely felt sad watching the event. But the tears I was holding back weren't just tears of sadness - they were tears tinged with incredible hope. It's a hope that I'm compelled to share with my friends who only see fear when facing the finality of death.

May we all come to understand this truth spoken by Jesus:

"Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." John 17:3

God offers us eternal life through knowing Him - through relationship. I pray we may accept His invitation! And when the grim reaper points his finger at us - we don't have to fear because we know that we'll be in the good hands of a Savior who loves us and gives us new life - a life that never ends and is so often compared to a party in the scriptures - where there is loud music, dancing, and a feast (Luke 15). Amen!

Have a great day!

Jer

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Common Sense of Practicing

I think the people that learn how to "like" practicing are the ones that so often succeed in life. It doesn't matter what kind of practicing they do - when practicing is a high value, there is usually huge success. It's because practicing is a really good discipline.

When I was younger, my friends and I played street football all the time - every day. We created our own plays, learned how to juke, learned the physics of throwing - etc. But we never considered it practice. It was just fun. When I played football for the first time for a team, I noticed that I jumped ahead of a lot of friends because of the years of playing back home. I knew things by "instinct" - but the truth is that I had practiced for years without even knowing it.

I've had the opportunity to coach kids for years. The kids that seem to be the most successful are the ones that work on themselves outside of the practice field. One of the students I coached made it to the NFL - he stood apart from the rest of the kids I've observed by his discipline. I've coached many kids with equal - or more - talent, but I've rarely coached one with more discipline. This "discipline" wasn't a huge sacrifice because he loved the game. And now he's reaping the rewards.

The art of practice doesn't just apply to sports. It applies to all aspects of life. I wouldn't know how to play the guitar if not for the years of practice - hours and hours of frustration. Looking back, it's hard to even remember the frustration. Today, it feels like I've known how to play guitar my whole life - it's second nature. I've actually forgotten the many hours of practice and now enjoy playing with ease. It's kind of like a woman who forgets the pain of childbirth when holding her newborn in her arms.

The problem is that practice is not often considered fun. I think the trick to this discipline is to learn how to "practice" without knowing it's practice. Sort of like when I was a kid practicing football without knowing I was practicing. I think the best coaches, teachers, and leaders know how to do this for others. I want to apply this discipline in my own life.

Practicing to make oneself better seems like common sense. But actually applying this discipline to real life is another story.

So, that's why I write today. I'm practicing...

Have a great day!

Jer



Sunday, May 1, 2011

"God is boring"


I've been thinkin' about stories.

Stories are alive. And they fight against definition. Definitions can draw lines between what is – and what is not - accepted. Definitions have borders. They are stale and rigid.
And definitions are boring. (I mean, who reads dictionaries for fun?)

It’s hard not to turn writing into definitions. A writer desires that everyone to be on the same page in order to move into greater understanding about an idea. It's tempting to turn an essay or argument into a simple biased definition. Definitions are simplistic and static. Definitions are dead.

Using a story to convey an idea is risky. There’s always the possibility of misunderstanding, or misinterpretation. And it's also a lot harder. It's hard to pass on a great message in the simplicity of a story.

It's difficult to be a good storyteller.

But stories live on forever.

Jesus told stories. He talked about parties, feasts, dancing, working, wine, and so on. And he lived His life to show the wonderful love story of God and humanity – God reconciling the world through the story of His life. His story goes on and on and on.

For centuries, religious authorities have been trying to turn him back into a definition.
The scriptures actually say, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The religious elite have been trying to capture Him back into words ever since His appearance. They
would rather have the scriptures say: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us – and then became words again."

Millions of words. Acceptable words. Heretical words. Religious words. Indefinable words. Words that have borders and create conflict. Words that they can control - in order to control others.

Humanity’s attempt to define the divine – to tame the Holy: turn God into definition. Man's attempt to control an untamable God. Man's manipulation of words to control humanity.
No wonder why so many people have come to the conclusion that God – and the life He offers – is boring - or irrelevant. Too many people are content to listen to definitions about God instead of participating in the love story God has written - and is still writing - about Himself and us.

I wonder what would happen if we stopped trying to define God - and simply listened to His story. And what a crazy thought that He might still be writing His story - and that He might allow us to participate within it! How very un-boring that would be!

May we all throw out our definitions about God away and enter into His exciting story of life!

Have a great day!

Jer