Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Blue Like Jazz" and Making Choices

Following Jesus isn't just about life after death or a place called heaven. It's very much about where we are right now.

In Blue Like Jazz, author Donald Miller explains this by introducing readers to his friend, Tony. Tony, a Jesus-follower, thinks Jesus really wants to significantly impact this life, right now. He believes Jesus aims to make this life an off-the-chart better experience for us. Jesus does this by offering a radical, game-changing alternative in how we decide what we'll do moment-by-moment. It's like Tony is suggesting a brand new, mental filter to pour life through.

But first, the old filter.

In Blue Like Jazz, Donald inserts a story, complete with pictures, to depict the predominant filter (me-life) for humans. Life gets poured through this old filter. It only releases those choices consistent with a life lived the way I prefer to live it; a life chasing what I want to have ; and life spent doing what I want to do. Donald's story is called "Sexy Carrot," starring Don Rabbit. Take a couple of minutes to watch it.

Don Rabbit's pursuit came down to this: "I see what I want and go for it, fully expecting the very best results when I get it." But getting the carrot becomes a bum deal!

Donald tells about Tony's take on a game-changing alternative, which restructures how we decide to do what we do:
Ultimately, (now) we do what we love to do (a me-life filter). I (Donald) like to think that I do things for the right reasons, but I don't, I do things because I do or don't love doing them. Because of sin, because I am self-addicted, living in the wreckage of the fall, my body, my heart, and my affections are prone to love things that kill me. Tony says Jesus gives us the ability to love the things we should love (Jesus-life filter). Tony says that when people who follow Jesus love the right things, they help create God's kingdom on earth, and that is something beautiful (Donald Miller. Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality).
To me, this is how the transformation looks:
1. Our human default is to do what we love to do.

2. Jesus offers us the ability to love the things we should love.

3. When humans actually begin to love the right things...

4. They help bring God's quality of life to earth...

5. Which becomes something beautiful.
If all of this were true, would it ramp up your curiosity about Jesus?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Do you think Jesus likes a good bike ride?

I don't know who wrote this story, but I know friends who embody it:


"I used to think of God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there, sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I didn't really know Him.

But later on, when I met Jesus, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Jesus was in the back helping me pedal. I didn't know just when it was He suggested we change, but life has not been the same since I took the back-seat to Jesus, my Lord. He makes life exciting. When I had control, I thought I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points.

But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places and at break-through speeds; it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it often looked like madness, He said, "Pedal!" I was worried and anxious and asked, 'Where are you taking me?' He laughed and didn't answer and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into adventure. And when I'd say, 'I'm scared', He'd lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey, our journey, my Lord's and mine. And we were off again. He said, 'Give the gifts away; they're extra baggage, too much weight.' So I did, to the people we met, and I found in giving I received, and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He'd wreck it, but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high rocks, fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I'm beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus.

And when I'm sure I just can't do any more, He just smiles and says... 'Pedal!'"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rethinking Blessings

Songs grab me in stronger ways than written or spoken words. It happens each time I hear Laura Story's song, "Blessings." Her song helps me redefine blessings. She explains her experience this:

"What does it look like when I spend years praying for healing for my husband that never comes? I feel like we’ve gotten to a place of having to make a choice- are we going to judge God based on our circumstances that we don’t understand? Or are we going to choose to judge our circumstances based on what we hold to be true of God? I’m learning that every morning when I wake up, to choose to trust God. And that’s what “blessings” is about. It’s just considering… Maybe the blesing is actually found in the absence of the thing that I'm praying for."--Laura Story
Watch Laura's YouTube HERE.

"Blessings" Lyrics:
We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

Courtesy of

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

Help me to see Your blessings differently. Even to see any and all brokenness as a potential pathways for blessings. I trust You.

Help my response to brokenness to always include the trust to look through it and limp to the blessing of being closer to You. --Rusty

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Toughest question ever?

Without hesitation, I think this is it:
"Who do you say I am?”--Jesus
Imagine every possible response from people, including all Christians around the world.

If Jesus actually is who he claimed to be, my answer to it should change everything for me!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Improvisational "Music" With Jesus

Donald Miller writes, “I think the most important thing that happens within a Christian spiritually is when a person falls in love with Jesus” (Blue Like Jazz).

Miller associates Christian spirituality with jazz music, which was invented by the first generation coming out of slavery. Jazz is a genre of musical expression that’s very hard to “put on paper.” Why? Because “it is so much more a language of the soul. It is as if the soul is saying something very difficult to get on paper. But is no less real, no less meaningful, no less beautiful.”

That’s what following Jesus is supposed to be like. A relationship beyond the superficial, where we participate in something too deep and real for words alone to articulate.

Paul prays for his readers to grow into a “knowledge” of God--an indescribable, inexpressible knowledge.

“I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally” (Ephesians 1:17).

I want to know Jesus that way. And I want that for you. Both of us so wrapped up in him, where we share together and with others, as Miller says, an improvisational “music birthed out of freedom.”

Jesus and Wacky Religion

Jesus consistently showed perfect timing in using conflict to expose religion that's gone wacky!

Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. 2 Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.

3 Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” 4 Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?”But they wouldn’t answer him.

5 He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! 6 At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus (Mark 3:1-6).

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Thought from Matthew 25-27

In Matthew 25 is the great judgment scene involving everyone. While reading it this morning, it made me recall Richard Stearns and his updated spin on what Jesus said.

Jesus made it very personal. Stearns renders it like this:
For I (Jesus) was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved. RESV — RICHARD E. STEARNS VERSION

Monday, November 07, 2011

Matthew 22-24:

One thought from Matthew 22:

Jesus saw life as the experience of forming human beings into people who love God and who love others like he does.

35One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Matthew 19-21 - Rich Young Ruler

What did Jesus see in the rich man that the rich man could not see in himself?

Jesus saw his potential.

Jesus met all kinds of people--fisherman, children, Samaritans, tax collectors, criminals, prostitutes, the poor, the rich, the demon-possessed, etc. Jesus saw hidden magnificence in every person. He could bring it out of anyone.

Yes, I know the rich man who came to Jesus was too attached to wealth, but Jesus saw the hidden treasure. He saw how the man's whole life could be transformed. The rich man was so close to the life he was meant to live. Jesus knew it. The man just needed to trust Jesus more than his own instincts.

But on the day he heard Jesus say, "Follow me," he could not imagine leaving behind the life he had known for the one Jesus offered.

And that's the rub for us all. Jesus invites us to embrace a story unlike any other plot line we've ever considered.

But it's THE LIFE into which Jesus invites all people. Any person can step into it.

Jesus sees glorious possibilities for all of us, if we're willing to release whatever it is that's keeping us from actually becoming a Jesus-follower.