The Call of the Cemetery Trumpet

I knew we needed to do this, something I had never done before. Heidi agreed, so we got in the car and made the twenty-minute drive there. Our first view was sobering, evocative, as we gazed on row after row, stone after stone. We had come to a veterans cemetery on Memorial Day to remember the dead. We walked among them, reading their tombstones and watching others honor loved ones buried there.

The Bible repeatedly calls us to remember, to stop and reflect on the past so as to reorient toward the future. God calls us to remember His great works of redemption and the lessons He taught His people (Ps. 77:11-12, Rom. 15:4). Was there something here that Heidi and I needed to remember?

The obvious answer is the sacrifice all of these men and women. Each stone told the story of a war served, suffering endured, and honor won. Each person willingly gave up much for the greater good of liberty, a heroic sacrifice made out of love for America. We are in some way united to them so that their loss is our gain. Thankfulness, honor, and love should be our response.

But there was more to remember. I was struck again with echoes of Jesus and His sacrifice. He gave up so much, choosing the life of a slave and dying the death of a criminal, so that we could have the greater good of life and resurrection. It was something He did willingly, out of love for us, the greatest heroic sacrifice in history. We are united to Him by faith so that His loss is our gain. And our response should be one of thankfulness, honor, and love.

But there is one last thing to remember, one that stops me in my tracks. This heroic life is the life Jesus calls us to: “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). We also are to become everyday heroes by loving others sacrificially. It's the way we become like the Master and feel close to Him.

Right before leaving the cemetery, we heard someone play Taps underneath the American flag. It was haunting to hear that lone trumpet, a call to go and live as they did, as Jesus did. Where is God asking you to love sacrificially? Don't start with trying to give up your life. Start with something much smaller: writing a note, buying a gift, offering your time, giving your money. It's all for the greater good of His Kingdom.

To go and do is to answer the call of that trumpet. May it be so.

Taking My Own Medicine

“And what happened there has transformed my life so much.”

It was a friend’s description of her experience in a ministry similar to Landmark Journey. I should have been delighted—or at least encouraged. But I was neither. I felt jealous. 

In my mind I knew that if Jesus were honored and hearts were changed, I should rejoice, but in my heart, I felt the old pull of envy, that I didn't receive the credit, that somehow I was missing out on something. Divided once again. Alas, I’ve written a whole book on this topic. Shouldn’t I be better, or at least further along? 

It’s humbling to admit how much more I have to grow as a man, yet I know that this admission is also part of the journey. I am still fragmented in so many ways, waiting for Jesus to heal me, to make me whole and holy. So I had to stop right there and take the medicine I prescribed in the Divided book, the three strategies to close the divide.

1. Surfacing the lie: At the age of 13, I looked at a mirror in my father’s bathroom and decided that I hated myself. I then swallowed a lie that drove me relentlessly for years: “In order to be happy, I must be someone else.” I could write another book on all the ways this one lie has poisoned me, but one of the most incessant was a nagging jealousy over the gifts of others. 

2. Listening to the truth: After feeling the old pull in the conversation with my friend, I stopped and spoke the truth to my heart, that I am loved by the Father, a beloved son in His sight. Then I let myself feel His delight in me. The jealousy had vanished.

3. Telling my story: Well, that’s what I'm doing right now with this blog. I’m speaking this out to you, my reader, believing that this will continue to help break the power of the lie in my life, but also hoping that it will help you as well.  

So where are you divided? What have you been feeling that doesn’t line up with the truth In Jesus? Is it jealousy, anger, shame, apathy? What’s the lie underneath, what’s the truth to embrace, and who could share the struggle with you? This is all part of the medicine of repentance and faith Jesus gives us, not only to heal us but also to make us more like HImself. 

One day it's the medicine that will be the healing of the nations.

 

 

 

 

Mother's Day Lost and Found

Ten years ago I lost my mother to cancer. Heidi and I went out to visit her grave yesterday as a way to honor her life on Mother’s Day. As we walked through the cemetery, we talked about her death and other losses in our lives. At one point, I acknowledged to Heidi that I still have so many questions for Mom and perhaps in heaven I’ll be able to ask them. Heidi's wise reply: “I don’t think you'll need to ask those questions then.”

It reminded me of a dream I had soon after Mom died. I was in the garage at the house I grew up in, looking out on the driveway. But it was no driveway; it was now an ocean with the shoreline just outside the garage. As I gazed at the water, I noticed something striking. A head was gradually appearing above the surface and moving toward the shore. As the face became clear, I realized it was Mom, walking on the ocean floor, heading straight toward me. When the water became waist deep around her, I saw something else striking. It was the radiance in her face, the glow in her smile. She didn’t say anything to me. She didn’t need to. I knew she was OK. After I awoke, I recalled the well-known use of water as a image of death and the journey to heaven requiring a passage over and through that water. I knew it was the Father reminding me that she had made it across and was OK.

We didn’t stay long at the cemetery yesterday. My mother didn’t like to be doted over anyway, as my sister later reminded me. Mom was the quintessential servant. One of her last comments a few days before she died was so telling: “Did everyone have enough for breakfast?” And this from a woman who didn't eat the last two weeks of her life!  Amazing.

Driving home I felt other griefs in my life, those I have lost to death and things my heart has lost in life. It seems that this life now requires another passage, a continual one through grief. 

But not forever.

“Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). These six words of the victorious Jesus are the pledge of newness coming, a world where the stain of sin and the grime of shame has been scrubbed off, where the goodness of all things radiates and glows. It is His Kingdom coming in all its fullness. It’s something worth giving our lives for now. It’s the only thing worth giving our lives for now. So whatever losses you are feeling today, know that true life is coming. Be comforted in that and give yourself for His Kingdom. You'll never regret it. 

And when that Kingdom comes, I’ll find the mother I lost, and see her radiant smile once again. Thank you, Mom, for all you gave. I love you more than ever.

 

 

A Funny Thing Happened On the Ride Home

It’s one of the funniest things that has happened to me recently. Saturday morning I was biking with my friend John on a ninety-minute route. The end of our ride together was marked by a steep hill followed by a road juncture; here we would part ways and each head home. John was behind me as I began climbing the hill, but suddenly he passed me on the way up.

Then something really strange happened: instead of going straight at the juncture to head to his house, he turned right as if he were going to mine. I turned right also and saw him flying down the road, already way ahead of me. I knew John well enough to know that he liked to surprise me, taking off at unexpected moments for a race. I figured this was one of them, so I took off myself, pushing as hard as I could.

But after repeated attempts to catch him, he seemed to pull further and further away. I couldn’t believe how fast he was going nor the leg strength he had left. The race came to an end as we neared my house, and he turned back to meet me, I assume to say something triumphant. I hollered at him from a distance but got no response. As he approached, I realized why.

This wasn’t John! He had only looked like John, wearing a jersey of the same color. I had been chasing an unknown rider for two miles, leaving the real John in the dust without even a good-bye! After recovering my breath, I called him, and we laughed long and hard about the mistaken identity.

My misinterpretation of things here was just funny, but it reminded me of how I have misinterpreted things at so many life junctures, with anything but funny results. Trying to figure out life on my own, with no mentor in my early years, only added to the confusion. These misinterpretations ultimately became formatted as destructive lies about myself, others, and God, disintegrating me as a man. I became split between my outer mask and inner self, between my head and my heart. It’s a divide that nearly destroyed me.

But not quite.

Over the past two decades, Jesus has taken me on a  journey of becoming slowly undivided, whole and holy. It has transformed everything in my life, and now I just want to help others along the same path. That’s the reason I wrote the book Divided.

For a sampling of it, here are links to the audiotape of Chapter 1, “The Divide Opens.” Here I recount some of those early lies I believed.

Chap. 1a: Click here.

Chap. 1b: Click here.

I hope you find it helpful in your own journey.