October 12, 2008

I can’t remember the exact moment I “knew” with my wife, but I remember the day.

October 12, 2008.

Jenny had come to see me in San Diego, and we were saying goodbye by her car. We were fairly early on in our relationship, and we wanted to see as much of each other as possible, but our time together was restricted to weekends—and it was tough.

We alternated visiting between Yuma and San Diego, and this particular weekend in October we were in my neck of the woods, because a friend had an extra ticket for the Chargers vs the Patriots, which was a rare opportunity for me—professional football games were expensive.

So we spent as much time together as we could, but eventually, it was time to say goodbye—I had to get on the trolley to Qualcomm Stadium. And for some reason, on this day, my stomach was bothering me. I was fidgeting a fair amount as we stood by her car, because I knew I was going to have to sneak one out eventually. I didn’t want to hurry the goodbye, but nature is nature, and unless I got back inside my house soon, she was going to experience a part of me I didn’t think I was ready to show her.

And because life is just ridiculous sometimes, there came a moment when we were just standing there, not talking.

And it happened.

It sounded a little bit like when a sailor on one of those old pirate movies jumps from a crow’s nest and stabs his knife into the sail, sliding down to the deck with a loud rrrriiiippp. I won’t even mention the fragrance.

I just sort of stood there turning red, and I remember Jenny’s eyes getting really big. Then she just sort of threw her arms around me and started laughing almost uncontrollably.

I love my wife so freaking much.

So here we are now, a little over three years together. It’s been awesome, and such a blessing. And yes, I still let one go every now and again. Except now, it doesn’t embarrass me nearly as much. Who doesn’t like the smell of freshly baked cookies?

Let me also say one thing God has not changed in me over the years is my sense of humor. I still enjoy “bathroom” humor above all other kinds.

Sue me.

He Will Love Me If…

I realized something the other night when I was doing my daily reading (I started spending my devotional time at night because it’s it’s easier to stay up a little later than get up at 430, at least it is for me). And no, it wasn’t that the letters looked really small, and I had to squint to see them. I mean, I did, but that’s only because my glasses were in the other room and I didn’t want to get out of bed and go get them.

It was simply a realization about myself, one that I’ve thought about on several occasions, but still need to remind myself of every now and then.

I put conditions on Jesus, in the way of accepting His love. I don’t mean to, but I’ve always done this—even though I know better.

Jesus will love me if I change, and become a better person.

He will love me if I become a better Christian, and a more consistent disciple.

He will love me if I do not lust, covet, or steal.

He will love me if I am nice to people I don’t particularly like.

He will love me if I am different.

He will love me if…

Along similar lines:

He won’t love me if I look at that woman in the little dress.

He won’t love me if I get angry in traffic, and call down curses on the guy in the BMW.

He won’t love me if I don’t pray two hours every day.

He won’t love me if I get frustrated with my kids.

He won’t love me if I stay the way I am….

Following that was this realization:

I had been harboring similar thoughts about Jenny.

She won’t love me unless I can change.

She won’t love me unless I lose weight.

She won’t love me unless I become the strong Christian man that I sometimes pretend to be.

She won’t love me unless I can be all the things I think she wants me to be.

She won’t love me unless….

And the most difficult realization was this:

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the person I thought she wanted me to be, and the person I thought God wanted me to be. So much that I had allowed myself to lose sight of the person I actually was, and forget what brought my wife and I together in the first place. And what had brought me to God.

I would wonder how I could become someone worthy of the kind of love my wife had shown me, and God had shown me.

It seemed impossible.

So it seemed that the best possible course of action would be prayer. Lots of prayer.

And over time, it came to me that I had always thought and expected Jesus would better love the person I should be, rather than the person I was. I knew I would never, never be the person I ought to be, and if that was true, then the only love I would be able to accept from Jesus was that sort of…obligatory, parent-style love—He loved me as a child because he had to.

It kind of astounded me, because I’d read so many books, and heard so many sermons about the unconditional, relentless love of Christ. This was knowledge I’d always had in my head, and even in my heart occasionally. Yet it’s still something I forget.

I forget because it’s so easy to believe that God’s love carries the same conditional nature as does my own.

Because I love conditionally, I expect the same from God.

Why should I love someone that treats me shabbily? Why should I love someone who doesn’t respect me? Or for that matter, why should I love someone who is not worthy of my love? Why should I be loved myself, when I have done those same things to others?

Scripture says I should love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, and soul. And love my neighbor as myself.

That’s the trick, I think.

How can I love my neighbor if I don’t love myself?

Yet if I do not love myself, and I know that God loves me (Jesus loves me, this I know…), isn’t that like saying that God is wrong for loving me? He’s wrong because he shouldn’t love me.

But he does.

This is something I know at the core of me, and it is what makes it possible to live, when the world really is a cruel and terrible place at times.

It feels strange to need continual affirmation of that love from He who is love, but as a human, and a weak one, that’s exactly what I need.

I need to know He loves me.

Similar to needing to confess my sin to Jesus regularly, I also need to be loved by Him as Father, as Abba. I don’t just need to know He does—I need to feel it, too.

I need to know in my heart, and feel in my heart, that Jesus loves me without condition, without expectation, and without limit.

But how do I obtain that assurance?

I can only speak for myself, of course, but for me the answer lay in prayer. In entreating the Lord for understanding. For forgiveness. And for love.

Also, I gave Him my negative thoughts, and asked him to help me change my perception of myself. I asked Him to help me see myself as He saw me, and to be able to love myself, and others the way He loved me.

It didn’t happen instantaneously, but over time, I felt His love drape across me like a warm quilt.

And things began to change. I was able to understand my wife’s love for me in a way I had not been able to before. I saw her as God did, and He allowed me to see myself as she saw me for just a moment.

She had not married me to make me a different person, or because I could do or not do any particular thing.

She married me because of the person I was when she got to know me.

She married me as a work in progress.

She married me as a man who doubts sometimes.

She married me as a man with fears, as well as hopes and dreams.

She loved me—loves me—exactly as I am. Not as I should be. Not as some ideal person who did not exist.

And it’s the same with God.


I was listening to a sermon online a couple of months ago, and the pastor read Psalm 23 as part of the message. It really stuck with me. And it wasn’t so much that he read it, but the way he read it. The message was about complaining and negativity, and the psalm was read with much passion and conviction, almost like the pastor was speaking in italics the entire time. Very affecting.

He spoke about David, too. From 1 Samuel 17: 34-37, leading up to David’s encounter with Goliath:

34But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them,(AJ) for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37And David said,(AK) “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go,(AL) and the LORD be with you!”

He faced lions and bears in the pursuit of a lost lamb, and he killed them.

Because he had the faith that the Lord’s protection brings. All kinds of people wanted to kill David during his time, as well.

And yet we have this:

Psalm 23 (ESV)
The LORD Is My Shepherd
A Psalm of David.
1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

We are assured of the same truth as David, and the same deliverance is available to us. Yet we complain at every opportunity. We bemoan our lots, and we think thoughts like “why bother, it will never happen for me. God doesn’t care about me. God doesn’t think about me.”

Look at David’s words again, and think of them in the context of war, or fear, or feeling like your circumstance is beyond your ability to fight.

Think what it would feel like to feel defeat—and the triumph of your enemies—was certain.

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

How often have I thought of these words as little more than poetry, without considering what they really mean?

I shall not want. Why not?

Because the Lord is my shepherd.

The shepherd comes after the wayward sheep. He kills bears, and lions, and pulls us from the mouth of the predator. Yet I worry. I want more from my life, from my job, from my church. I let myself get preoccupied with the things I think are holding me down instead of the the One that is lifting me up.

He restores my soul.

The presence of the carpenter in our hearts restores our soul. David never knew Jesus, but he knew the restoration that the living God can bring to our hearts.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

We don’t have to fear the bears and lions of life, because the shepherd is waiting to pull us from the lion’s mouth. We don’t have to worry in the face of our enemies.

He doesn’t prepare a blockade for us in the presence of our enemies. He doesn’t prepare defenses. He prepares a table. A meal.

Why is this so hard to remember? So many times I let fear of failure—or even fear of success—halt a step that could conceivably take me closer to Jesus’ perfect plan for my life.

I fear. I tell myself I can’t do it. That I don’t deserve it. That God never meant me to have the sort of life that can be lived absent of fear, and hopeful of Grace.

It isn’t true, and the promise of scripture tells us that.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity (Jeremiah 29: 11-14 NIV)

I have to remember there is so much more reason to hope than fear.

I have to remember His rod, and his staff.

I have to remember the shepherd.

Top 5 Worship Songs (with bonus track)

I love the part of a Saturday night or Sunday morning worship service where you get to just tune everything else out and worship He who created you. Maybe you lift your hands, and maybe you don’t. Maybe you kneel, or prostrate yourself, just sing along in your head. But the music will help you get to that place of worship, if you let it. It will help you find that sweet spot, where it’s just you and God.

The list of songs that follows is by no means comprehensive, and it does change from time to time. But here are some of the songs that over the past few years have touched me in one way or another.

(special thank you to Val Wilson for all those Monday evenings back in San Diego, and for her heart for Jesus, and worship, and for all the blessings she brought to the HP team with just herself and her guitar)

5. Healer, by Hillsong: it’s true that the guy who wrote it was a complete fraud, but that doesn’t mean the song is any less powerful, or true…

4. How Great is Our God, Chris Tomlin: it’s getting a little old, now, but it still gets to me every time

3. How He Loves, David Crowder Band: I can’t hear this song without getting at least a little emotional. It says so perfectly how God feels about us, no matter what we might think of ourselves…amazing

2. From The Inside Out, by Hillsong: so awesome. Twenty4/7 does this song a lot, and it takes me right to that place of worship every time I hear it…so powerful

1. Son of God, by Starfield: I think this is one of the most perfect songs of worship I’ve heard

And for a song that makes you want to just jump up and down in praise, I have to go with this one:

Undignified, by David Crowder Band