Alabama

Alabama

“I’m in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.”

It’s the busy season in my line of work, which means tons of driving time. Add that into the mix of what is the most chaotic season I’ve known, it feels a bit like a pin ball machine. I’ve caught up on a couple podcasts while driving and I noticed a theme among all of them. Those famous lyrics sung by the great country group Alabama sums up the message I’ve heard this week.

We are living life at a wild and rampant pace. And by we I mean the world. We have sped things up so dang fast, that we have created a standard of living that is utterly exhausting. I find my heart, mind, soul, spirit, work, faith and relationships all winded. Much of it I chose. And much of it is almost unavoidable because it is our culture. But it is so toxic. We are all tired, distracted, trying to be more productive and fit more in. My counselor reminded me that we are finite. We can’t do it all. Even the really good things. Just because it is good, doesn’t mean we should do it.

We have filled all of our margin and transition time with distraction, meaning we almost never have moments of rest. Nor are we ever all-in. Multi-tasking isn’t possible. But we try anyways. Between my wife and I, this week we killed a possum and got pulled over for “multi-tasking”. Go ahead and judge if you like. I rarely see a driver not looking at a phone these days. In all our “down” time like driving, sitting on the toilet, waiting for take-out food, waiting for the light to turn green… We fill all our transition time with distraction. Our brains aren’t resting. Our kids and wives aren’t getting all of us. Only a distracted, half-***ed version.

This week I’m cutting more and more from my schedule. In the most chaotic times, Jesus ALWAYS made time to head for the wild to pray. I don’t make time for that. And when I do, I’m often accused of “escaping responsibility”, because our culture prefers productivity, checking boxes, going 100mph sun up to sun down. “Our souls were created for 3mph”. Time to slow it way down.

100 Days

100 Days

It’s been 100 days since returning home from a life-changing month at a depression recovery center. It was the most humbling, humiliating, hardest and scariest thing I’ve ever done. We all thought “what if it doesn’t ‘work’?” In a lot of ways, it was a last ditch effort. Not that my life was going to end if things didn’t change, but my life as I knew it would change. PRESSURE.

Today I’ve been thinking back on when I used to teach about a president’s “100 days” evaluations. It’s a free-for-all criticism on our nation’s leader. There are moments when it feels that way here and now, 100 days back into real life. It certainly was a bubble there. No emails, no phone, no clients, no diapers… We are in agreement that I’m not as far along as we hoped or anticipated. They remind us on our way out that people often expect you to come home “fixed”, when often it was their behavior that broke us.

I didn’t believe that a depression clinic was the final straw. I fully believe Jesus is the only one who can change and heal. But I had to choose incredible vulnerability to set in motion healing. Healing of trauma, depression, PTSD, anxiety, all symptoms caused by abuse, abandonment, a colorful palette of traumatic life events. The bubble burst loudly upon my arrival home. It’s been 100 days straight of chaos, curveballs, trials, failures, super hard choices, hard relationships getting harder… All things ringing the same tune to what broke me down in the first place. I have this horrific drive for perfection – it’s either A+ or F. Nothing in between. I was reminded by my friend last night the importance of grace for ourselves. No, I’m not where I hoped I would be 100 days back. But it sure isn’t for a lack of trying. I’ve put in the hard work, stayed committed to the “plan”, and have a laundry list of ridiculous stuff that has happened to try and throw me off. All which has strengthened me. Growth is evident. Part of the trial is Jesus continuing the refining process. Part of it is the devil throwing darts into barely closed wounds. I can confidently say to myself today that Jesus’ grace is sufficient, even when I didn’t believe. He is enough.

Words Are Life

Words Are Life

I’ve given a lot of attention lately to teaching my kids how important words are. I’ve come to learn over the years that words are either LIFE or DEATH. There isn’t anything in between. The words we speak to each other either breathe life or death. Of course, the greatest way I can teach them is by SHOWING them. They honestly don’t care two shakes about the words that I say, especially if my actions don’t back them up. But they definitely care about my actions. It’s amazing how much we communicate without ever opening our mouths. My wife knows how I’m feeling based solely on my body language. I can tell just how much she doesn’t like what I’m saying simply by looking at her eyes. My kids know full well from my face when I’m close to rage from their well-perfected non-listening skills.

It’s strange how much importance we put on teaching these fundamental principles to our kids, but us adults, have all but lost the ability to use clear language with one another, speak kindly to internet strangers, discuss hot topics without getting red-faced… “Sharper than a 2-edged sword”. Do we not care anymore? I can make or break my wife, kids and peers with my words. I’m either building them up, or tearing them down. There is a fine line between encouragement and shame. Meaning one or two words spoken with the wrong tone can royally hose things up. How we speak as husband and wife when the kids are (and aren’t) watching.

I sometimes fiend for some lemonade, especially in the summer. A few years back I opened the fridge and there wasn’t any and I pathetically exclaimed “I just want some d*mn juice!” to which 6 seconds later my 2 year old comes flying around the corner: “I want some D*MN juice too!!”

Oops. I didn’t even know she was there. Someone is ALWAYS watching. Not just our kids. We are showing on-lookers what life and death looks like. We need to stop cutting down others, rebuking their beliefs with our opinions. Especially dads, husbands, leaders. I constantly see Christian “leaders” cutting down other Christians in casual conversation for who knows what reasons. Life vs death. We can’t afford to be careless, or to think it doesn’t much matter.

Fleeting Feet

Fleeting Feet

I’ve been doing creative work full time for 10 years. What a wild decade it’s been. My job has mostly entailed capturing the most important moments in people’s lives. Some of those moments were their greatest. Wedding day, baby’s 1st birthday, the moment an NFL player earned a Super Bowl birth, marriage proposal, launch of a rad new product, kid’s graduation…

I have also been tasked with documenting some folk’s worst moments. When my friend and her kids buried her husband, their daddy and my friend. When our friends held their newborn moments after their baby went to see Jesus. When a young man and his little kids paid tribute to their mommy and unborn child in front of hundreds after they were killed by a driver who fell asleep. The final moments a family spent with a loved one who was hours away from dying from cancer.

In the highest of highs, and lowest of lows, only a couple things are absolutely certain. We all know taxes are. And so is death. But so is the LOVE of Jesus. And His goodness. A few moments ago I was explaining this week’s calendar to my wife in great detail (our careers make calendaring an Olympic event). She stopped me in my tracks and said we need to pray – our friend’s newborn needs a miracle or will be seeing Jesus’ face before sundown.

I was reminded again that our time here is so finite. How we spend it can be so meaningless, or so incredibly meaningful. We have often heard “where you spend your time and your money – that will show you what you really love”.

How am I spending my time? We all have fleeting feet. Here one moment, in eternity the next. Here I am trying to best steward my time this week (really just fretting over mostly minute details). And yet eternity hangs in the balance one text away. We spend time punishing each other about politics, sports, inconsequential theological debates, how others should abide by another’s values. What I need to do is spend all that frivolous time and energy simply LOVING others. Eternity hangs in the balance at all times. Each conversation, text, Facebook comment. EVERY moment is an opportunity for me to show Jesus’ face, or to not. Challenge accepted.