Jan 02 2015

Stop Lamenting Last Year

Published by under Life

I know this is a harsh title, but please stick with me.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
_John‬ ‭12‬:‭24‬

Do not despise last year. Great difficulty requires great perseverance. And this is not an empty container.

…the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
_‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭3-4‬

I deeply empathize with those of you who had a difficult 2014. My 2014 began with one of the sharpest battles I’ve faced against depression in the 20+ years I’ve been affected by it. I couldn’t stop crying at almost any point during the day. This went on through June. Typically a strong person, I became genuinely scared I was losing my mind.

It’s in these moments we’re tempted to get angry with God and/or give up. We shouldn’t.

Imagine an infant crying in their crib. They’re fussy and it’s clear they want their mom or dad to pick them up. Parents will often let their kids “cry it out.” The mom or dad may be standing right outside the room, but they allow their precious baby to suffer because it’s required for their growth.

If God is our Father, should we expect he’d treat us much differently as his sons and daughters?

Jesus promised us he would never leave us nor forsake us. But, from experience, it does seem there are times God stands, like a parent, at a distance. Not because he doesn’t care but precisely because he does. He wants to see us grow. He knows: Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.

Watching kids deal with pain is fascinating. Some throw screaming-and-yelling tantrums, stomping around like miniature, outraged protestors. Others give up and collapse onto the ground in a puddle of tears. Not much changes as we get older. I’m no different.

But there’s a third response I find most interesting. Some kids will run to their parents’ arms and cry in their laps. The pain is still there but they don’t resist it. We can learn from them.

Go meet God.

Call out to him.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…
_Matthew 10:28

Cry in his lap.

Speak his name through your tears. Say to him, “Oh, Jesus…”, “Oh, my Lord and Savior…”, “Oh, God my Father…”

And say it repeatedly like a toddler would cry out, “mommy” or “daddy” over and over and over.

My brother and sister… Your pain is a result of God wanting to grow you. I know it feels bitter. Most medicine does. But, in the the end, this temporary discomfort will lead to joy.

We must train our hearts and minds to see pain as the means by which God accomplishes much of his work in us. As athletes forge themselves in gyms in order to perform better on the field, so we sometimes must be forged by life in order to become more like God and also perform better in the kingdom.

This is one reason the bible becomes indispensable. It teaches us perseverance.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
_Romans 15:4

Through the accounts of other people in the bible we learn endurance. Endurance! How to push forward! And the root of this hope?

…God who gives endurance…
_Romans‬ ‭15‬:‭5

Oh, my soul, don’t miss this! It is GOD who gives the endurance to stand up underneath all our challenges.

We’re right to look forward to a new year. Not because it’s an escape from LAST year or from discomfort. But because now we may well see the FRUIT of our struggles. Our pain is not pointless. Don’t lament last year, brother and sister. God is preparing you for glory.

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Dec 31 2014

Older, Fatter, Slower, Better: On Age and Sexuality

Published by under Life

Do we lament the crappiness inside us as much as we lament not having bigger boobs or tighter abs?

We’ve been tricked!

We’re too often body-obsessed to the point of being negligent about our souls.

It’s completely normal that younger people look physically better than older people. It’s completely normal that WE are not the most physically beautiful person alive. But that’s not the basis of true beauty. As some great theologian once said: We aren’t bodies. We HAVE bodies. We’re souls.

If my main emphasis is on bodies, then, yes, I’ll be disappointed as I get older. My body will go downhill and so will my partner’s. And it’ll make me want something (or, MUCH WORSE, someone) else. It’s a fool’s game.

Imagine a little kid who gets a present. It’s a stuffed teddy bear in a box. She opens the box and sees the stuffed animal. But she throws the bear aside. Instead, for the rest of her life, she carries the box with her everywhere she goes. She treats the packinging like it’s the present.

Our bodies are merely packages. They get banged up over time and deteriorate. They protect the important bits inside!

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
_2 Corinthians‬ ‭4‬:‭16‬

We shouldn’t be careless with our bodies. They protect us and they’re tools to help our souls do good in the world! But today, we too often look at bodies as an end. We evaluate how big or small someone’s <fill in the blank> is. Like it really matters! How depressing! How wrong! When did Jesus ever talk of human beings this way?

It’s true that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. You can have a great body and a great heart. A great body is a great help. But a corrective is needed in our society. It’s the teddy bears that are precious, not the packaging.

May He continue to do his work inside all of us and make us beautiful – most especially as time wears on! And may we be given more understanding about the nature of life – that bodies perish and souls live forever!

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Dec 18 2014

Go Home for Christmas

Published by under Poems

Go Home for Christmas: A Poem
by: andy merrick

Go home for Christmas
No matter the price
Overcome money,
Emotions, and time

Truth isn’t pretty
So here it is ripped
Mom and pops will soon
Die from falling sick

Your tire might explode
Your house go up in flames
Your brain become so weird
That you forget your name

Put aside your pride
Trust God for cash to flow
Ask for more vacation
Go “HO! HO! HO!” home!

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Dec 15 2014

When You Have Racist Thoughts

Published by under Life,Race

One of the times I see racist attitudes come out in me are when people of other colors or classes do things that go against how I learned things. 

During my entire childhood, I heard about manners, respect, suits, hand shakes, and fine foods. 

It’s not so for many people who live in other parts of our country. Their places and chances for advancement look very different than that of a middle-upper class person. 

So what happens? New living rules are created. 

Suits are sometimes replaced by sagging pants.

Smiling faces in photos (many of which are fake in the upper class, anyway) are replaced by middle fingers.

Wine drinking is replaced with smoking blunts.

Many of us look on from our perch above and shake our heads at how ridiculous we think the behavior is. It’s not. It’s very normal and understandable when viewed through the lens of sociology. 

Jesus was clear. 

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
_Matthew 7:1-2

We’re all trying to impress each other. Where we grow up and who we’re raised by largely determines what criteria we use to evaluate others. Let us not despise other sub-cultures. God can very easily judge my sub-culture for decadence. 

In the end, most sub-cultures do a really lousy job of pursuing God and doing his will. It has nothing to do with race or class. We’re all human and broken. We’re just broken in different ways. May God help us evaluate our lives in the light of heaven, not the “light” of our own sub-culture. Lord, free us from any hint of judgmental racism! Fill us with all your love!

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