Wednesday, March 4, 2009


The relief broke across Tommy's face as the last bell rang in the freedom of the weekend. Knowing his friends would be waiting by his locker to discuss the plans for tonight's festivities, he quickly squeezed through a narrowing crowd and headed for the stairs. Not that he hates his friends, but he just didn't want to put out another explanation for why he didn't want to hang with them tonight. Instead, he planned he would visit his grandpa Paul for some advice, which at this point in time, is something he is desperate for.

After numbing his phone to silence, Tommy reviewed the texts from the guys before knocking on his grandpa's door. The messages were brief and to the point, "Where did you go after school?...We're goin to the same spot...U comin?" Not responding seemed to cause some further tension with the guys as the last few texts grew a bit more hostile, "Why u blowin us off?...Seriously bro, stop being weak...It's whatever then." Obviously communicating disappointment in Tommy, the guys were consistent in playing the part of the tempters, testing his commitment to his apparent "call."

Closing the phone and knocking on the door, Tommy was ravenous for just a sample of peace. Appearing glossy from the misshapen glass panes, grandpa Paul was a welcome sight. After the usual greetings they moved purposefully down the front hall into grandpa Paul's study. Wise as all grandpa's seem, he sensed Tommy's heart was heavy and allowed him to speak, bearing all the conversations and encounters he has had since his "talk" with God. Strangely, Tommy thought to himself, Paul was completely fine with the whole ordeal when he finished speaking; even after describing how he thought God was calling him to get more involved in the ministry at Big Sky. They both sat in silence as Paul gathered his thoughts before giving Tommy the skinny on what he believes in going on:

"First, Tommy, you need to understand that when you're dealing with the things of God you're dealing with something extremely personal and complicated. It's personal in that no one on the outside can possibly understand all that is going on inside your heart, mind, and soul. It's complicated because no one can truly understand the ways of God and how or why he does the things he chooses. Simply put, he acts and we respond either faithfully or unfaithfully. Ironically, it seems simple but we as people have a very hard time accepting this simple reality. When the time comes for us to choose, it is often quite difficult to accept the pain, suffering, and great loss that comes with being faithful. On the other hand, to remain unfaithful seems to be the most natural choice in the world this side of the Fall. My advice to you is to pray; pray deeply, earnestly, and keep focused. Don't lose sight of the vision God has placed in your heart. He has set you apart from your past for a reason, trust in him and believe that what you're going through right now will in some effect be for your good in the future. Be faithful."

Blown away, all Tommy could do was let his mind immediately dwell on the things of God and what it would look like to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. "I don't know where to go from here grandpa," Tommy says still shell-shocked. "I mean, my friends are waiting for me to return to my 'normal' self so we can continue on like business as usual." "I want to be faithful, but the fight coming in the distance seems to be just too tortuous for me to endure." Leading him back down the hall and out the door, grandpa Paul straightens Tommy eye-to-eye and says, "Son, the fight is already here. Pray and be faithful."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Confirmed Expectations.

The hallway seemed more crowded than usual this Friday morning. Having fled the house after a blustery run-through with the Mom, Tommy was content to simply finish the overdrawn week of school at Whelton Academy. As if on cue, his friends waited eagerly in front of his locker to hear the news about his "conversation" with God. Discrediting stares searched him up and down as he approached them.

"So are you a saint now?," sarcastically grinning from ear to ear as Jackson Yearing pierced the anticipation. "Yeah," chimed another, "we heard you are actually serious about turning your life around and thinking about getting more involved at Big Sky." Tommy went to Big Sky Christian Church like the rest of his friends, just passing through with no real intentions of pursuing God. It was the only place to meet on Sunday mornings to catch-up with the events of the week and how to plan for the next thrill for the coming weekend. The youth pastor barely took notice of this little crew because like so many of their congregation, they had become masters of keeping up pretenses. So they managed to stay out of harms way for three years until now, until Tommy had to go and ruin it for them. This imposition seemed nearly tragic.

"I don't know what is going to happen," Tommy defended, "all I know is that I believe God spoke to me a few weeks ago in our locker room and I believe helping Sean at Big Sky would be a good first step in seeing if my calling is for real." Releasing his fear and deciding to hear God in that unforgettable moment, Tommy sensed God was calling him to something unique, something different that would set him apart forever from his past.

"Well, whatever you thought you heard, I just hope you don't start bringing your convictions on us when we decide to hang at our spot," Jackson solemnly replied. Tommy could begin to feel the rift building between him and his friends, wishing just one of them would understand. As he closed his locker, preparing to slide into homeroom, he felt the presence of someone standing behind him. Although most of his friends moved on to class, Tyler stayed behind, seeking to give Tommy room to elaborate on his experience. This was all Tommy could ask for being that his situation at home was falling apart and his friends were beginning to be testy with his new direction.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

No Welcome Homecoming.

The battle of fighting for faith is never-ending. Of course, now that Tommy has come to terms with his current situation, he is beginning to feel the full weight of responsibly pulling away from the life he used to live. And just as he thought, his parents are completely at a loss as to what to believe about him and his friends are really not taking him seriously. With motivation fading fast, Tommy can't understand why God would move so deeply in his life if he will not clearly reveal the next step for his immediate future.

"Are you satisfied?" Snickering out of the corner of her mouth, Meredith, Tommy's mother, seems bent on destroying any trace of confidence he may have in seeking God for strength. Meredith is absolutely opposed to submitting to any authority for protection or security, especially any God for help in time of need. No, she is self-sufficient, not requiring any assistance from people or some spiritual reality, or so she thought. But for the time being, she can't believe her son could be so naive as to actually think that some God could provide hope for him.

"Somehow yes, but I'm terrified and hesitant to take action in doing what I know must be done." Having thought through the process of either hoping his friends would see and believe his true change of heart or breaking ties with them completely, has crippled his progression toward walking by faith. "I don't understand." "Why do you seem so offended and defensive of accepting what I have told you about God?" Totally searching for some kind of connection with his mother, Tommy is desperate to show her he's not losing his mind. "Because God or anything that pertains to spiritual matters is completely irrational," Meredith quipped. Hurt by the obvious wall he senses between himself and his own mother, Tommy decides to give it a rest and finish what appears to be a very soggy bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. But she won't let it go.

"You're a fool." Harshly undermining everything Tommy explained to her the day he sought to rid himself from this life, Meredith stands firm in her quest to bury his best intentions of coming to know God in a personal way. Feeling pushed to the edge of a heated argument, he simply moves out from the kitchen, grabs his belongings, and slips away to school, quietly harboring all the tension his mother has poured into his soul.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Locker Room Renewal

Tommy never thought much of himself. He spent most of his days living under a canopy of self-doubt. Fueled by the cutting words of who he thought was his friends, he decided it was time to leave. As he sat there in the abandoned locker room with the rope in his lap, he began to feel the welling of tears deep within his soul, rushing to meet his eyes. But he fought them back. He tried to replay all that he believed would happen after he was gone. He wanted to believe that this was the only way he could get revenge on all those who ever made him feel as if he were nothing. Yet the more he put his trust in suicide, the more he desired to live. He wasn't ready and the sudden realization of being gone forever made him rethink what he was about to do.

As he sat there alone surrounded by the cold concrete walls of the locker room, he decided he needed help. He knew he couldn't talk to his parents about this just yet and he knew his friends wouldn't take him seriously; No, he needed someone else to talk to and for the first time in his life, God became more real to him than he had ever imagined.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."

Jesus' primary focus of ministry was directed at the Jews, God's chosen people. Yet, during the course of his earthly ministry he came across people who were of non-Jewish descent requesting the blessings he reserved specifically for God's chosen people. One such instance occurs here, where a woman, a non-Jew, had the gall to persist in seeking healing for her daughter who had become ill as a result of demon possession. Initially Jesus does not address this woman at all. The Scriptures indicate, "Jesus did not answer a word," suggesting that he didn't even give her the time of day, so to speak. But his disciples urged him to address this woman so as to send her off in a rather abrupt manner. For the moment we may believe that Jesus will actually do as his disciples command. "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel," implying that his mission is strictly for the Jews.

At this point one may feel as though Jesus is being harsh, leading us to believe that Christianity really is some sort of exclusive, unwelcoming collection of like-minded, mean-spirited people. But this conclusion could not be further from the truth. The reality is Christians are people, and like the rest of humanity, are desperately in need of a Savior to deliver us from the hole we've dug ourselves into from the beginning of time. Left to our own devices, we are wicked to the core, living a life in total opposition to the one God has for us in Jesus. In other words, all the beautiful images we create or imagine stem from just a glimpse of all God is for us in Jesus. What does this mean? It means we are totally dependent on God for the constant blessings he desires to shower us with. We deserve nothing and yet, God in his grace, pursues us beyond any barrier that may keep us from trusting in him.

The woman in this account pleads with Jesus and although his disciples charge him to turn her away, she still believes he is the one through whom healing will come. "The woman came and knelt before him. 'Lord, help me!' she said." The fact that the Scriptures record her as kneeling before Jesus reveals to us the dire and faithful position she is in. On most occasions, people do not kneel out of comfort or make pleads if a need is not truly necessary. But she is desperate and absolutely in need of a deliverer. Here is where the account turns:

"He replied, 'It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs.' 'Yes, Lord,' she said, 'but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.' Then Jesus answered, 'Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.' And her daughter was healed from that very hour."

Get out your seat and get buck! Do we even realize what just happened here? Jesus is now including this woman in the blessing he previously withheld for the Jews, opening up the way for all people. We are now brought into the divine relationship God designed for Israel, his chosen people. Jesus is the way by which this relationship is possible and this woman models how we are to respond to God as a result, by faith. It is by faith in who God is for us in Jesus that we receive blessings, healing, and all requests we could ever make to him who delivers us. Our Savior is one through whom all blessings flow. How much more are we to be thankful for his gifts!

A wise man once said, "if you're intent on pursuing someone for a specific purpose, make sure the juice is worth the squeeze." Perhaps this is an understatement for what has occurred here. This woman, whom we do not even have a name for, effectively elicits action from Jesus as a result of faith. Time and time again, we must remember to remain faithful, even when hope seems scarce.

Matthew 15:21-28

Monday, January 26, 2009

Hearing from God and Responding in Faith.

For the past three weeks Ryan has been diligently preparing for his final exams at Whelton Academy. Ignoring the many opportunities to go out with his friends, he suffers from the agony of loneliness. Though he is able to meet with them between classes, he feels almost entirely disconnected from their lives as he listens to the highlights from the passing weekends. But he must stay focused. Ryan's parents, Mike and Stephanie, are accomplished professionals in their work and seem to place a generous burden on Ryan to do the same. Yet, he longs for something different. As the hours grow deeper into the night, he begins to listen to what he believes is the voice of God speaking to his soul:

"Ryan, I have called you by name and as you study diligently for your exams, know that I, the Lord your God, love you and desire a thriving relationship with you." As he sat alone under the dim light at his desk, Ryan could sense the room becoming tighter with a force compelling him to listen. "I know you are troubled with the demands your parents place on you, but be faithful even to the smallest of details." Not knowing what to make of this, he simply took a moment to process what he believed he was hearing and tried to refocus on his studies, doing all he could to convince himself that he was indeed losing his mind.

Do we really hear from God? Is it possible for us to sense his Spirit around us right here in the real world? And if so, how does that change our relationship with our friends and the call to love others, including family?

For Ryan, he deeply longs to be connected to his parents, but the struggle to move beyond their vision of success for his life continues to pin him down, keeping him from the joy of living a life of real freedom. The quest for freedom requires faith in God and for the first time in a long time, Ryan is beginning to believe.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Introductions are Overrated

Wow! This was much easier than I thought it would be.