Skate, Bitch!

Coincidence is just God showing off.

And it was by coincidence about a month ago my wife stumbled across an announcement the venerable and talented Kevin Smith would be conducting one of his famous Q&A sessions at Tampa’s Improv comedy club. In the early stages of our relationship in 2005, Lee and I bonded, in part, because of our mutual love of Kevin Smith and the movies he makes.

“There is no way we’re missing this,” she told me.

“Umm …. I may be in New York on August 12 playing telephone repair man,” I reminded her.

“There’s no way I’m missing this,” she said with a confident, unapologetic smile.

And so this evening my wife and I had our second ‘go out on a school night’ date of the week, and it was amazing.

Kevin Smith is a fantastic story teller. If you let him, he could tell stories for days on end. Tonight’s performance was, by definition, a question and answer forum with the acclaimed writer and director. One would think Smith would cover a wide array of topics and subject matter. He did, but in the two hours allocated, he answered only four questions. That’s how detailed and immersed Kevin gets into telling a story about how or why he did something a certain way.

Kevin Smith
Image via ew.com

And through it all – through the foul language and inappropriate subject matter, through the stories of friends maintaining sobriety and fighting off thoughts of suicide, through eye-opening accounts that show the human and real side of celebrities often thought to be divas – the common theme was inspiration.

It was a slap in the face to me, but one I desperately needed.

In my new-found faith journey, one I’ve been traveling for just over six years now, I’ve immersed myself in the writings and teachings of so many men and women of faith. Steven Furtick, Christine Caine, Joel Olsteen, John Eldridge, Joyce Meyer, Craig Groeschel, and, of course, my own pastor Paul Wirth: I’ve learned so much about God and my faith and my relationship with Jesus all because of their words, teachings, and actions.

I am currently reading Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, and it’s not hyperbole when I say the book is transforming my life. Not only am I learning about the power of prayer, I am experiencing it as well. I remember listening to the audio book four weeks ago – yes, I am a slow reader/listener and I don’t do a good job making time to finish the book – and being inspired to pick up a writing project I shelved a year ago. It’s an intimidating project I’ve been avoiding, and I always manage to find a reason to not start it up again. Yet there I was in my car, crying, and feeling Batterson’s words speak to me.

I still haven’t touched the project.

God has enveloped me in kid-glove-like affection and direction by surrounding me with such inspiring and positive works, yet I still find myself in the rut of my own making. I still find myself playing it safe in my comfort zone and ignoring what He’s calling me to do.

And that is why I think God took a different approach with me tonight, one filled with F-bombs and stories of smoking weed on hotel room balconies. There’s no doubt in my mind God put me in the audience of Kevin Smith’s show so I could finally do my part and get back to the keyboard. It worked. Today is August 12 and I hadn’t posted to my blog since July 2.

The writing hiatus stops now.

God does His part to give us joy, accomplishment, and greatness. He delivers every day in a million different ways, yet we fail to listen. We fail to move. We fail to act. We fail to respond. As is the recurring theme in scripture, we fail God while He remains faithful to us.

The failing stops now.

During the Kevin Smith show, we were not allowed to have our phones out at all. This is very understandable, but hinders my affection for tweeting great quotes or ideas as they are said. Thankfully, I was able to capture some of them the old-fashioned, analog way: pen and napkin. Here are some of the tweet-worthy comments from tonight’s show.

<when pursuing a dream> “Push a little fucking whimsy.”

“If you want to get shit done, surround yourself with people who will ask, ‘Why not?'”

“Acting is the lie that tells the truth. It’s the only witchcraft that really exists.”

I think my favorite Kevin Smith quote of the night comes from the idea that we live in a world where people will question your motivation and tell you you can’t do a particular something. They’ll tell you, as an example, you can’t skate or that you’ve never skated before or that skating is for other people and not you. They’ll tell you the ice is thin and give you reason after reason of why you can’t or shouldn’t skate. Yet what we need ….. what we crave …. is someone to look us in the eyes and say, “Skate, bitch!”

In His own crafty way, that’s what God told me tonight. I’ve been watching other people on the ice for so long. Now it’s my turn to lace ’em up, get out there, and skate.

Image via WikiPedia
Image via WikiPedia

Sin Scoreboarding

We all know scoreboarders. You know, the guy in the conversation that has to one-up everyone else.

“Oh, you’ve been to Paris? Let me tell you about the time I hiked through Europe. Ah, you got a new car? My car has heated AND air conditioned seats with built in shiatsu massage. So, you saved a kitten caught in a tree? I once ran into a burning building to save an entire Peruvian family …. AND their dog.”

You know …. THAT guy.

I’ve been carrying an irk with me for a while. Every time I see a report about how the Westboro Baptist Church is going to protest someone’s funeral, my shoulders get tight, my face wrinkles, and I get a knot in my stomach. That’s how my body reacts to irks. And that’s what got me to thinking about the idea of sin scoreboarders.

Not unlike the stereotypical Bible-thumper, the sin scoreboarder is someone who finds and measures the degrees of sins you commit. They find righteousness in knowing that by comparison to your sinful ways, they’re living a holy life. Their offenses are small and slight, but yours are sacrilegious and, to use their favorite word, an abomination. They are better Christians than you because they can recite chapter and verse, yet they use scripture to chastise and castigate you, as opposed to focusing on Jesus’ message of love, mercy, and grace.

We are all imperfect. We are all flawed. We are all sinners. To borrow from Joyce Meyer: “People do tend to categorize sin into small, medium, and large. It’s no harder for God to forgive something big than it is something little.” I don’t think God measures the size of your sin before granting you His forgiveness. I don’t think God weighs your past indiscretions before offering you a chance at redemption. God doesn’t keep score of your imperfections.

Rather, God gave us all a clean slate when he offered up His son for our sins. A clean slate which we, by course of our human nature, repeatedly pollute and smear, only to have God come and make it anew once again.

“Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” -Ephesians 2:9

I try really hard to be the last person to pass judgement on any one. My past is one littered with shame, selfishness, and a complete disregard for His word. To this day, I fail every day; In my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do. Still, I know His grace and mercy are enduring, and His love for me far exceeds my capacity for failure. God has redeemed me in part because I sought His forgiveness, but mostly because He loves me.

If you’re feeling lost, know that you’re not alone. He is with you. If you’re feeling condemned by the vitriol words of others, know that it is only His opinion of you that matters. I was once broken, and He made me whole again. Regardless of what you have done or what you think of yourself, you can be made whole again, too.

Seek Him. Pray to Him. Find Him in your heart.

Made of Clay

As I sit on my pedestal
A jar made of clay
I invite the danger
As I swing and I sway

The thrill, the allure
The precarious play
For I am hardened and cured
One tough jar made of clay

I think of myself
Every hour, every day
I want what I want
And I want it my way

The cautions are many
I ignore what they say
For I’ll do what I will
And I’ll do what I may

And then there’s a slip
My confidence gives way
And gravity pulls hard
And I fall in dismay

I shatter in pieces
With consequences to weigh
Broken and scattered
My soul in decay

How humble it feels
To see dreams fade away
How broken it feels
To dread the next day

But hope’s not exclusive
It’s His gracious forte
A gift He bestowed
Once I managed to pray

His hands did caress
My now shattered display
And put back together
What I dared throw away

Renewed and redeemed
Is my story today
Cured through His love
Is my new jar of clay

Jar of Clay

Stop Yelling At Me!

It is said God works in mysterious way. Lately, He hasn’t been so subtle.

I’ve been groping – to myself mostly – about my work situation. It’s un-fulfilling. The corporate culture where I work is ass-backwards. I have more apathy than I know what to do with. But here we are, at the start of a new calendar year. Sixteen and a half years with the same company. About to hit three years in my current position. And every year I do the same thing. I justify a lack of change on ‘flexible schedule’ and ‘convenience’, and then I double-down on the status quo.

And every year God reminds me this is not where He wants me to be. Every year he sends me signs and suggestions. He whispers in my ears and opens my eyes to new possibilities. Yet in the end, I ignore them all.

This past weekend, however, God was being loud and clear with his message to me. It started with a tweet on my Twitter stream. I didn’t save it, but it was something to the effect of, “Only you are responsible for the changes in your life.” Then, I read my daily devotional via YouVersion. This is from the Joyce Meyer: Promises for Your Everyday Life – a Daily Devotional:

“We are partners with God. His part is to give us ability and our part is to be responsible.

Responsibility means ‘to respond to the ability we have.’ An irresponsible person wants God to do everything while he does nothing except follow his feelings.

God cares for you, but He won’t do your part. He enables you to do it, but let me emphasize that He won’t do it for you! I dare you to stand firm, take responsibility and begin working with God to have the blessed life He’s planned for you.”

Then last night, I was channel surfing and came across the Samuel L. Jackson movie The Samaritan (you know …. ’cause God has a sense of humor and throws me a curve ball via a movie with a Biblical name). The movie ends with this quote, “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you keep on being what you’ve always been. Nothing changes unless you make it change. I know what it sounds like, but every morning when I wake up, I think about what that really means. Nothing changes unless you make it change.”

I guess I need to find the strength and the courage to take my fingers out of my ears, let go of my comfort zone, and make that change.

Stop Yelling