I’m tired.

TruthNot physically.  I get enough sleep.  My muscles get stronger every day.  No.  I’m tired in a different way altogether.

I’m tired of working so hard to find out if people are speaking the truth or not.

Years ago, I took most everything at face value.  Honesty was a value I was raised with and came to expect from others.  It was especially a value I expected from people in positions of power and influence.

Unfortunately, those days are long gone.

These days, I now know I can’t really trust anybody that I don’t know personally.

I can’t trust any news outlet.  I don’t believe that any of them are fair or balanced.  They say what their audience wants them to say, otherwise they would lose their audience. They may believe what they are saying is the truth, but anymore, even a casual fact-check will call their reporting into question.

(I realize that fact-checking sites and watch-dog blogs are equally subject to bias and need to be carefully researched and cross-checked for truth.  And I have developed the habit of doing this. Thus…the reason I am tired.)

I cannot…no, will not trust a politician.  Things have changed.  I cannot consistently believe the words that come out of their mouths.  Maybe they truly believe what they are saying.  Maybe not.  Either way, they are saying what they feel they need to say to get…or stay…elected.  They say what their constituency wants to hear.  Whether it is 100% accurate (or a complete fabrication) is completely irrelevant.

There was a time when coaches, ministers, teachers, police officers, military brass, counselors, social service officials and others, could be trusted to tell the truth, simply because of the honesty and integrity associated with their position.  Well, that’s a piece of distant history.

And let’s not even go down the road of the collective wisdom that is flippantly (and carelessly) traded on the world wide interweb.

But this isn’t all bad.

There was a time I was leading a high school Bible study and for the whole time I was teaching, I told lies and half-truths.  I made everything sound really spiritual.  I taught with deep conviction.  I made sure my facial expressions and body language were sincere and convincing.

After 20 or 30 minutes of teaching (complete with questions and answers), I came clean. And then proceeded to teach them the truth I really wanted them to grasp.  Don’t believe something just because someone in an influential position says it.  God gave us brains and we are to use them.  Think.  Ask questions.  Don’t trust a religious “expert”, just because they have a title or a following.  Study.  Research.  Use the gifts God has given you.  Diligently seek the truth.  Above all, take responsibility for your own spiritual journey.

Honestly, I think we may now be living in an era where truth and honesty in the social setting is gone.  The ends justifying the means is now the standard we have come to accept in almost all areas of public life.  Yeah.  I believe the bar is that low.

But it doesn’t have to be that way for the seeker of God’s truth.

Words you need to learn to say

WordsPridethe bad kindis an ugly thing.  It gets all of us some of the time.  It gets some of us a lot of the time.

One of the ways you can tell if being prideful is a big part of your daily battlefield is by the words you use.  Or, rather, the words you don’t use.  At least as part of your regular flow.

If people are not hearing these statements from you all the time, there’s a problem.  A big, fat heart problem.  But speaking them freely and graciously is how we keep spiritually balanced and close to God’s heart:

“I was wrong.”  Nobody wants to be wrong.  But we all are sometimesand we hate to admit it.  A hearty admission of wrongdoing,  especially when coupled with a genuine and you were right”, does amazing things for the soul.  Not to mention the friendship.

“Can I help?”  Looking for ways to help and serve is one of the surest ways to genuinely pursue humility.

“Help me understand.”  This is a posture of great vulnerability.  It honors the other person.  It dignifies differences.  It levels the playing field by quickly affirming the journey of another.

“Do I really need to say this?”  This is the ultimate self-talk.  This question should be asked before you ever open your mouth or post a comment for any kind of public viewing.

“I believe in you.”  Such a simple affirmation.  In a world where failure and rejection and hopelessness can attack anybody at just about any time, these four words can bring life.

“Don’t give up.”  Life is difficult.  It’s easy to be afraid.  The temptation to quit is always near.  Sometimes the only thing a person needs is encouragement and the challenge to dig deep.  Again.  Do your words inspire and give hope?

“I’m different, not better, than you.”  This is the essence of cross-cultural navigation.  These are not just wordsthey are a lifestyle.  Does your attitude and demeanor communicate honest love and acceptanceor judgment and superiority?

“I don’t know.”  We have just got to stop acting like we know everything.  The quickest way to shut down conversation is to act and talk like a know-it-all.  Sometimes, our willingness to expose our ignorance is exactly what is needed to open the door.

“I’m sorry.”  This expression of vulnerability and honesty is the ultimate in bridge-building.  These two words breathe hope and restoration.  They are the oxygen of relationship.  They speak volumes about the condition of our heart.

So what do you think?  Are there any other words you would add to the list?

Marriage Tuesday

Marriage Tuesday 2please don’t dismiss this quickly.  it’s a simple principle that is violated all the time…in most every marriage.

you can’t have a healthy marriage when one of you is not healthy.  and if that isn’t simple enough, here’s another truth that’s even simpler:   you can’t make another person “healthy”.  you can only be responsible for yourself.

you want to have a healthier marriage?  get healthy.

you want to have a deeper marriage?  get deeper.

you want to have a marriage that is more godly?  be godly.

you want to have a happier marriage?  be happier.

you want to have peace in your marriage?  be peaceful.

you want your marriage to be more loving?  learn to love better.

you want your marriage to have less stress?  be less stressful.

you want to have better communication in your marriage?  be a better communicator.

should i go on?

i talk to couples all the time and all the time, they tell me they want a better marriage.  when i ask them what they are doing to make their marriage better, i usually get blank stares.

“that’s why we’re coming to you!”

that’s a good start, but here’s the reality:  i can’t do anything to make your marriage better.  and neither can you.  in fact, neither can your partner.  but you can make yourself better.  (well, not exactly.  but you can take some responsibility for the person you are!)

get a medical check up.  face your fears.  deal with your past.  read a book.  talk to a trusted friend and be honest about yourself for once.  go on a diet…i mean a “food management program”.  start walking.  read your bible.  get in a small accountability group.  get some counseling.  confront your depression.  stop drinking.  quit flirting at the office.  start coming back to church.  give some money away instead of buying things to make yourself feel better.  go to bed earlier.  put yourself in a position to hear the voice of god…instead of running.  slow down and listen.

none of these things alone will make you a better person…but they will get you on the path.  and definitely, none of these things alone will make your marriage better.  if your spouse is not doing the same…walking the same kind of path and living in the same honesty…your marriage is probably not going to get better.

people like to say that marriage is a fifty-fifty proposition.  that’s not the marriage that i see flowing from the heart of god.  his is more like a hundred-hundred proposition.

i give absolutely the best of everything i can to the relationship.  you give absolutely the best of everything you can to the relationship.

that’s the kind of marriage that is honorable to god.

*crickets…*

cricketsi get it.  the silence.

it’s definitely time to post about my favorite burger joints.  or the start of baseball season.  go padres.  or maybe gun control.

yeah.  gun control.  that’s the ticket.  anything but this steady stream of endless seriousness.

soon.  i promise.  but before we move on to topics that are less intrusive and way more fun to talk about, here’s some reality that’s come to the surface this week:

in the midst of really healthy, bro to bro, deep, committed, godly friendships, there are still some subjects that are almost completely off limits in our conversations.

even when we know that a couple is struggling in their marriage, we have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” kind of relationship.  it is not socially, or even spiritually, acceptable to ask, “hey, how’s your sex life?” or “are you being sexually satisfied?”.  are you kidding me?!  we’d rather watch a couple go down in flames before we bring that subject up!!  but shouldn’t real friends be willing to wade out into deeper waters… especially when they sense something may be wrong.

more than that, why is it that we would rather struggle in painful silence…instead of turning to friends and saying, “please help us, our relationship is slowly disintegrating”?

we also stay away from ever offering our help or suggestions to parents, even if we see mistakes being made.  we con ourselves into believing that it’s none of our business, because we don’t want anybody evaluating our parenting, either.  so the fear of risking our friendship paralyzes us and we sit by and say nothing.

that brings me to the money issue.  other than sex and parenting, there isn’t another topic that causes believers to wig out more than talking about money.  talk of money (especially the topic of church giving), more often than not, makes grown men and women… and otherwise spiritually mature followers of christ… react with defensiveness, self-consciousness…and sometimes it might even end up in some form of retaliation against the church or church leadership.

…or just leaving that church, in search of another one that stays away from stepping…uninvited…into our financial lives.

but how cool would it be to have someone actually say, “hey would you help me?  i struggle with being generous.  i’m afraid to give my money away sacrificially.  i don’t think my faith is strong enough to let go and trust god there will still be enough for me.  how can i learn to give to others the way god gives to me?”

really.  how cool would that be?

Wow. Just wow.

my friend luke told me about noah gundersen this week.  you probably don’t know him.  he’s an indie folk-rocker from the seattle area.  i’d heard his music before, but i didn’t really know much.  his music is amazing.  he tours with his younger sister and together, they are genius.

but that’s not why i’m writing this.  i’m writing about a song he wrote, called “jesus, jesus”.

there’s nothing that leads me to believe he’s a follower of jesus.  luke told me the guy grew up in a christian home and walked away from it all.  it wouldn’t surprise me.  this song reflects his spiritual journey.  it’s raw.  it’s brutally honest.  it’s incredibly sad.

listen to the song when you have a few minutes to absorb the pain of his seeking.  my final thoughts are after the video (studio version with the lyrics) and a link to a “live” version, if you want to see he and his sister singing in front of people.  both are good.

* warning.  he drops an in-your-face f-bomb in the middle of the song…and a g-d shortly after.  this kind of honesty is not for the faint of heart.  proceed at your own risk.

live version

as unfiltered and visceral as his words from the heart are…and as painful the attack is on my faith…i was moved.  the song leaves me hopeful and motivated.  the questions he asks and the hopelessness he sings about affirm my reason to get up in the morning.

chances are, i will never walk with young noah.  but i walk with many others like him.  nearly every day.  people who don’t see what i see.  the “light” that i live in is nothing more than darkness and desperation to those who carry the scars of pain and hollow answers.

please don’t let the brutishness of a couple of his words rob you of the joy of hearing a common cry of those who are trying to touch the hope you possess.

may your sunday rekindle a passion for those who live without hope.

Letters to Holden and Nolan

peanut and pickle…

when i was young,  i had a friend that told lies.   not just once in a while,  but all the time.   and not just little lies,  but sometimes they were huge lies.   and almost always about himself and the things he wanted us to believe he had done.

i remember how none of us really believed him,  but we didn’t do much to challenge him either.   i guess we just accepted him anyway…and accepted that he probably wasn’t going to be telling the truth.   it was a sad day when he told a lie about one of my friends.

i don’t remember the details,  but it got pretty ugly.   and it ended our friendship with him.

back in my day,  lying was definitely looked down on.   it was something really negative and i was taught this little saying:  “honesty is the best policy”.   that means that it is always better to tell the truth.   it’s always better to keep your word.   it’s always better to be a person that people can trust.   not that everybody was honest,  but it was certainly a value that we held pretty close to our hearts.

but you guys are going to grow up in a world much different than the one i grew up in.   your world lives by a whole different set of values.   and lying is something that is pretty much accepted as normal.   everybody does it.

people will lie to get ahead.   they will lie to get what they want.   they will lie to avoid being punished.   they will lie to get people to like them.   they will lie to make themselves look better.   they will lie to hide what they are really like.   they will lie to keep from losing what they have.

you will grow up in a world where the promises that people make to each other will not be sacred.   contracts will be broken.   commitments will be always be negotiable.   and it won’t even be seen as lying.   it will be seen as  “looking out for #1”.

call me old-fashioned.   or maybe just old.   but i still believe in right and wrong.   “do not lie” is one of the original ten commands that god gave to his people.   honesty is a value that gives every other good value meaning and substance.   i know it won’t make a lot of sense sometimes…but being little men whose words can be trusted will be one of your greatest virtues.

sometimes,  telling the truth will hurt.   sometimes,  it will cause you embarrassment.   sometimes,  it will cause your friends to turn on you…and you may even lose their friendship.   sometimes,  telling the truth will cost you a lot.   and believe me,  you will be tempted to lie everyday of your life.

but don’t give in.   because once you break trust…especially with people you hold close…it’s a long road back to where you were before you lied.  

be young men of honor and trustworthiness.   when most things are said and done,  your word will be the thing that defines you.   it will be what you are known for.   it will be what people depend on you for.

and one last thing…the two most important people you should never lie to are your mommy and daddy.   there is no one who will love you more…nobody more worthy of your trust…nobody who will ever have your backs better…and nobody who will stand by you closer through your toughest times…than your mommy and daddy.

grow wise,  grasshoppers.

papi

Hypocrisy

as it has from the beginning,  this study through the sermon on the mount is kicking my butt.

this section we’re in now…with jesus openly calling out hypocrites…is hitting way too close.   a hypocrite is a pretender…an actor…a faker…a poser…a person who wears a mask so that others see a person that doesn’t really exist in reality.

the church will  never be free of hypocrites…i definitely don’t say that to be pessimistic.   i just know that i don’t intend to leave the church any time soon.   i hope you don’t either.

but imagine for a moment what it would look like,  what it would say to others if,  by god’s grace and power,  we simply owned up to our hypocrisy and took off the mask.   what if we could stop caring so much about what people thought about us and just decided to live to please god?

but we like our masks.   some even have multiple masks…for all occasions.

an i’ve-got-my-act-together  mask.   a deep faith  mask.   a happily married  mask.   a friendly,  outgoing  mask.   a confident  mask.   a spiritual  mask.   an i-don’t-need-your-help  mask.

i think what it boils down to is fear.   we put on masks because we are afraid of being seen for who we really are.   afraid that we won’t be acceptable…to others…to god.   maybe,  deep down,  the mask is really being worn not to fool others,  but to con ourselves.

maybe if we wear our masks long enough,  we think we’ll somehow become that person we really aren’t.

jesus says in matthew 6:3-4…

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret.

the more i read that,  the more it seems like he is saying,  “stop trying to fool yourself.   stop trying to present an image of yourself…to yourself.”   don’t allow yourself to be impressed by what you are doing.   don’t be conned by the mask of generosity your right hand is offering.

now i may be reading more into the margins than is really there,  but there is no question that jesus is calling out hypocrisy.   and one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to somehow overlook our own struggle with it.

i wonder if there is a hypocrite mask we could put on?   maybe that’s what we need to begin to grow comfortable with who we really are.   maybe its just too painful…too scary…to go out in front of people naked.