What Comes from Within

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I am learning that one of the joys of being a diabetic is having ones blood tested every three months. Spent a small portion of my day, yesterday, having blood drawn and meeting with my doctor. The tests showed a dramatic improvement in my glucose levels, which made the doctor happy. He told me that he thinks that I should be able to kick this diabetes diagnosis to the curb.

Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash

But let me tell you, the holidays were tough! I had to be more vigilant than normal about what I was putting into my body. There were some days that I didn’t do the best of jobs; but more days than not, I succeeded.

Has me thinking about something I taught on this past Sunday, in Mark 7 (bolded emphasis mine):

14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”   17 Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. 18“Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? 19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)   20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

Before this passage, the Pharisees are arguing over the tradition of hand washing before eating. Jesus calls them out on using man-made law as an excuse to ignore God’s law:

6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,   ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’   8 For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”   9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash
One of the greatest games ever created. No joke.

But what I want to go back and focus on verses 22-23:

20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you.21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder,22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

Unlike diabetes, which is all about what one puts inside them, the Bible talks about what comes from inside being the problem. We can feed this problem through what we consume on a day-to-day basis through:

  • The books we read
  • The games we play (excluding Ice Ball above)
  • The movies/television we watch/stream/consume
  • Even through our daily bad habits we’ve picked up–I see you picking your nose!–.

All of these, as with the sugar I am fighting against putting into my body, can act against our souls in unhealthy ways. Diabetes is teaching me that I can give up/avoid certain foods. That I don’t have to have a Vanilla Coke, 2-3 times a week, in order to stay awake/just enjoy/fend off headaches. We get to where we think that we have to have certain things. That we have to watch a certain series or play a certain game so that we are on top of what is going on culturally. The fact is, some of the things that we consume hurt us… and God calls us to let those things go.

We are our own worst enemies. I am thankful that I do not have to operate on my own strength. That I serve and love a God who gives me discernment, wisdom, and the ability to know when my self control has failed and I just need to flat out run/get away from whatever it is.

Be Excellent – Listen

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Woke up this morning and laid in bed for awhile. Peace.

Got out of bed, grabbed my phone, and I started scrolling through twitter.

A Southern California pastor dying of suicide filled my feed. As well as discussions on:

  • Checking on friends
  • Listening
  • Anxiety and depression

Being greeted by a brother in Christ’s suicide, first thing in the morning, just sucks. But I can’t imagine what his wife and children are feeling.

A few years ago, over a lunch with a pastor, I confessed that I wasn’t doing well. My depression was trying to drown me, and I admitted it out loud. The pastor half listened and eventually changed subjects/blew me off. He had no clue how close I felt to doing something… and yet he didn’t care either. There was never any follow up. Nothing. I cringed when I heard friends were going to talk to him. Afraid of the damage his lack of pastoral care could bring about.

I get that we are not all gifted in all things. But I do think we all have the capacity to listen and empathize.

Photo by Federico Respini on Unsplash

Bill and Ted have said it best:

“Be excellent to each other.”

Listening and empathy are but a level of excellence worth fighting for. I’m not sure where you are today; not sure what side of the bed you woke up on. I want to encourage you to find someone trustworthy who will listen before/after things get bad, someone who practices what Bill and Ted preached. Be excellent.

Quiet Wisdom – Looking Forward

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Photo by Joshua Allwood on Unsplash

I was having a rough time teaching Sunday school this past week. One of those times where I felt like a stranger in a group I’ve known 10+ years. The path of faith felt heavy, I was tired. In the midst of me fumbling through a lesson, one of the guys, who doesn’t talk too much, spoke up. He said (and I paraphrase):

As a high school coach, football practice has started back up. With the heat, no one wants to be there. He said as he watches the guys run down the field, he watches their heads, where they are looking. Many of the guys look around, making sure that they are keeping pace with others… instead of giving their all and running.

He said that we all do that as Christians. We focus too much on others, comparing, instead of looking forward and running the race.

And with that, God slapped me upside the head.

Are you looking forward or looking around?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. – Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)

The Parenting Foxhole

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I’ve learned that parenting is full of moments where I have no clue what to do. It was in one of those moments that my wife reminded me how thankful I am to be parenting with her. 
 
Recently, we encountered a situation that called for an emergency strategy session. I had no idea how to proceed.
 
Tabitha looked at me, “I’ve got this.”
 
And she did. I walked back into our back hallway, right outside Wyatt’s room, and listened to her talk to him. A shining ambassador of grace, wisdom, and truth. I was in awe of how Tabitha handled the situation; a situation that she deescalated with poise.

Photo by Bill Jelen on Unsplash

I was ready to launch a rocket.

I have to admit, I’m not sure I would have handled the situation in the same way. But it was in that moment that I found myself thankful. Thankful for our different parenting strengths.
Tabitha, I love you. Thank you for sharing the parenting foxhole that we are in. I love the way you are able to speak to our son in a way that is hard for me. I can’t imagine doing this parenting thing without you. I am excited for where we are going as we add to our family. We can do this, together. I love you baby.
 
Bryan

Whichever Shoe Fits

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Back in February, Tabitha and I were sitting in the auditorium at church listening to a guest speaker. I was having trouble paying attention, my mind wandering, until the speaker started talking about the Stages of Hurt:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

God spoke to Tabitha and I in that moment. We both realized that we had been cycling through those stages for years. Years. Not always in that exact stage order but something quite like it. You see, we have been trying to have another child for about 9 years now. Seeing what ultimately are the Stages of Grief, written down on the conference handout we were attending, did something. I could finally see the bigger picture. I could see how a friend’s baby announcement would suddenly shoot me into anger or even bargaining over not being able to have more children; I could see why, at times, I’ve been depressed.

In that moment of epiphany, Tab and I both felt that God was calling us to step out of those stages. We felt Him calling us to more.

So we talked and met with wise counsel at church. My church’s youth pastor and his wife sat down with us over dinner. They listened to our story and shared their own (I can’t put into words how much this meant to us). We learned that we weren’t alone in our experience. After meeting with them, we decided to contact the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. We attended an informational meeting (which was awesome). Soon after, we signed up to take adoption certification classes (PRIDE) which lasted a few weeks. We have since finished up:

  • Turning in financial information
  • FBI Database fingerprinting
  • Having a fire inspection of our home

We have a:

  • Health Inspection for the house
  • And an Home Study/Interview left before we are certified to adopt. We are almost there!

If you think about my family, as we move forward in this process, we are asking for:

  • Prayer (if you are not the praying sort, positive thoughts then)
  • Discernment
  • Wisdom
  • That God would lead our adoption caseworker to the child He wants

Excited to finally share this news with ya’ll. More to come.

When You Don’t Have The Feels

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I’m not sure I knew what to expect when my son was born. Years of watching television and film had distorted my thoughts. Scenes where the happy couple, wife exhausted, cry and share this new family bond were the norm. Right?

Now I know that my son’s birth experience wasn’t typical. He was born early. My wife had to have an emergency c-section. I was more worried about her than my son.

About the time they pulled him out, she started to feel dizzy. The doctor’s weighed Wyatt and then rushed him out of the room. No emotional moment here. My wife and I were alone, again.

If I could tell expecting dads one thing:

Do not beat yourself up if you do not experience this grand moment of feeling. That insta-bond/love singing from the highest heavens moment doesn’t happen for everyone. And that is okay.

Took me awhile to overcome the shock of being a dad. My wife and I were no longer alone. The little dude’s screaming confirmed this.

Love often takes time, so do not feel guilty when you don’t have the feels. They’ll come.