Am I Crazy?

Cool fool-holding-an-open-book-with-dust-coming-out_rQZ9GJfg0.jpg

In my late teens and early twenties I was the life of the party, It was my house that everyone wanted to come to for a good time. I had the best and biggest parties, the best weed and the beer and liquor flowed freely. I was cool and I loved it. But the feeling of “Look at me, I’m somebody” turned out to be hollow and fleeting.

Everyone wanted to hang around and party with the Bird Man, (a nickname that evolved from the Swan in my last name) but I got tired of always being hungover and tired. I got fed up with people who smiled in my face but ripped me off when I wasn’t looking. Being able to do what I wanted when I wanted wasn’t as fun as it used to be. I could never get high enough, I could never be drunk long enough, the camaraderie and friendship I longed for with my friends became more and more elusive and shallow.

I remember handing out Acid (LSD) to my friends at parties at my house saying, “Let’s go to the moon together”—yeah, that’s the kind of person I was before Jesus—my hope was that we would get really high together and find some new level of camaraderie, of revelry together. I was desperate to recreate the euphoric feelings of the first time I had dropped acid with my friends, or the first few times I had gotten stoned with my buddies and we just laughed and laughed or the first times I had gotten drunk and felt closer to my drunken companions then I had ever felt with anyone.

But those feelings would never come back, they were a lie from the pit of hell designed to keep you coming back, closer and closer to your own destruction and the people surrounding me were getting scarier and scarier also. Being wasted became a lonely and scary place but I couldn’t stop. On more than one occasion I would wake up in the morning to find that the very people who had been partying in my house when I passed out had helped themselves to my stuff.

After several years of living for the party—I had slowed down on the hard stuff but still smoked and drank myself into oblivion regularly— I started to realize that I was missing something very important, I was missing the only fellowship that really matters, the only one that somehow I knew could fulfill my desperate need for acceptance and dispel the loneliness, I didn’t know how to do that but I knew I needed to.

So one night, in desperation, I opened my long neglected Bible and started reading, And I had my own blinding light experience with the resurrected Lord. It’s as simple as that, but it changed my life forever. I am ashamed to talk about the person I used to be, at the time I was ashamed of the person I was, but I was blinded to the truth and when I finally admitted it, Jesus showed up.

I couldn’t stand it anymore and I cried out to Jesus and he showed up in my living room, grabbed my heart and made me a new person in an instant leaving me to say “wow, I don’t know exactly what just happened but I like it and I don’t ever want to go back to the way it used to be.” It wasn’t religion, it wasn’t willpower or positive thinking, it was a surrender and an acknowledgement to a God who is very real, very alive and very active today.

Jesus wasn’t ashamed of me, he was desperate to bring me back into his arms, and he did.

I then spent the next year telling all my friends and everyone else who would listen what had happened and they all thought I was crazy. Funny thing is, this was exactly why I hadn’t done this sooner. I knew all along that I needed to get right with the Lord, that the way I was living wasn’t right, that it was sinful, selfish and harmful. But I was cool, for the first time ever, the kid that hardly had any friends at school, who was terminally shy— I was popular and I wanted to stay that way.

I knew if I gave my life over to Jesus that I would no longer be cool. But it wasn’t worth my soul.

And in that night of miracles when the Lord came crashing into my life in a very real and powerful way by his Spirit and through his word one of the things he showed me that helped set me free was the words of Psalm 118

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.
With the Lord on my side I do not fear.
What can man do to me?
The Lord is on my side to help me PS 118

What can man do to me. Why was I worried about what others thought, why did I fear being called weird or losing the false friendship of those who didn’t even know the real me? If living in the freedom that Jesus was offering, if living a life that made me seem weird to the rest of the world would bring me into the glorious plan that Jesus had for my life, would invite his blessings of peace, fulfillment and bring an end to my despair—then let me be a fool for Jesus, yes Lord, I’m ready to be crazy.

Now that I’m crazy it turns out that being crazy is a whole lot more fulfilling, a whole lot less painful and frustrating then being cool. And again, it still isn’t religion, it still isn’t willpower or programs designed to help me earn my righteousness and keep my standing in the eyes of the church— it’s all Jesus.

Even the Apostle Paul was accused by the Religious and the powerful of being crazy, and he would die for it.

I am not insane, most excellent Festus,”… “What I am saying is true and reasonable. Acts 26:25

Not Crazy

Even though the world may think so. And we may even wonder sometimes— we are really not crazy, we just know the truth and unless you see and accept the truth with your spiritual eyes opened by the power of Jesus Christ, the same power that raised him from the dead and brings life to his word, you will never understand it and it will seem to be insanity.

The world will think us mad as our thinking, our perception is turned on its head as our hearts are healed and our minds transformed. We now know truth and all they see are well rehearsed lies. So yes, we will seem crazy, but we must stand firm.

It takes courage to stand firm on the promises, to continue in the truth, to keep talking about our radical crazy sounding Damascus road experiences, but it is vital, for your own soul and for the souls of those who are still in the dark.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1 Cor 1:25

 

 

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The Stories We Can’t Tell -part 2

Here’s a story I can tell-walking-in-the-light

The Orange Cart of Doom

Though I have been in Montana most of my life now I actually started in Minnesota, a great place to grow up in the 70’s.  When I was 12 or 13 we were living in a small town called Anoka just a couple of blocks from a huge golf course. You would be surprised how much fun you can have on a golf course after hours— at least until you get caught.

Back in the 70’s before everyone was afraid to let their kids play outside and there were kids everywhere because it was the baby boomer generation, we spent all of our summer days outside, my curfew was the street light, when they came on it was time to come in.

One of the things we liked to do was have sprinkler fights on the golf course. On a hot and humid Minnesota summer day this was just the ticket. In the late afternoons they would start watering the fairways. They had these huge high pressure sprinklers that stood up a foot or so of the ground and went around and round. So a bunch of us would ride our bikes out onto the fairway, jump off and race for the sprinkler because the first person  to reach it could grab the sprinkler head and then turn it on everyone else, soaking them with the high pressure stream of water that could shoot a good fifty feet or more.

Then the game was on, the challenge was to get to the person who was controlling the sprinkler and tackle them so you could take control of the jet stream. This usually took several people rushing all at once so that at least one of you could get through without having water blasted in your face.

One day I was triumphantly controlling the sprinkler and daring all my buddies,—all lined up facing me at a safe distance getting ready to make their move— when suddenly they all ran for their bikes and took off leaving me standing there alone with the sprinkler in my hand. It didn’t take me long to figure out what this meant; the dreaded orange cart was coming. The grounds keepers at the golf course all drove orange golf carts and just loved to chase us off the course, usually it was when we were wading in the ponds looking for golf balls to sell back to the golfers. So far, they had never caught us.

Of course being the one at the sprinkler I was the farthest from my bike but I ran for all I was worth, jumped on my really cool 5 speed bike with the custom curved handle bars, a big banana seat, an extra tall sissy bar, a racing slick rear tire, and a multicolored metallic paint job— and peddled as fast as I could. I made it to the edge of the golf course and on to the street thinking; ‘whew, beat them again!”

The orange carts never left the grass and went on to the city streets— till today. Much to my shock and dismay he didn’t even slow down, he jumped that curb and hit that city street like Beau Duke in the General Lee. The adrenaline kicked in in me and I went through them 5 speeds like a mad man. I got not even a full block when he was suddenly beside me crowding me over to the curb screaming at me to stop.

I knew I was done for, there was nowhere to go. So I hit the brakes fearing he was going to mow me down, jumped off the pedals and onto the ground holding the bike between my legs and trying to catch my breath. I didn’t know what was going to happen now, a beating with a garden rake, a week in golf course prison? He just sat there on his golf cart all red faced and yelling. “I’m sick and tired of you kids, I’m going to call the sheriff and you’re going to be in big trouble, don’t you ever let me see you in here again!”

As he was yelling at me it dawned on me that he really couldn’t do anything— what could he do? I certainly wasn’t going to sit there and wait for him while he went all the way back to the clubhouse to call the sheriff. He couldn’t drag me back with him, that would be kidnapping and he apparently realized that beating a kid with a rake wouldn’t look good on the evening news.

So I just stood there and listened to him yell while trying to look thoroughly chastised, which wasn’t too difficult because I wasn’t enjoying this tirade— and what had happened to all my friends anyway?- they were nowhere in sight. I felt like the poor water buffalo that had been separated from the herd by the lions. ‘Thanks for the warning, thanks for sticking by me— it was just me and this madman— grounds keeper Willie. He had caught up with me, the dreaded orange golf cart of doom.

Thots

Now, here’s where this fits in, this story that I am able to tell; the Lord revealed to me what I believe happened, all those things that I was referring to last week, the painful memories and anguishes caused by the stories that I cannot tell you, the things that had been dogging me for years, things I had been trying to keep behind me, that I thought I could outrun or that weren’t really a threat to me, as long as I kept on my toes and stayed diligent, They had caught up with me. All these things had piled on to a golf cart at the same time, jumped the curb and caught right up to me.

So, more plainly, here’s what I think happened— why I fell apart. In those weeks of dwelling on the issue of sexual abuse so that I could bring messages of healing from the word, and from the Lord, I had stopped running from the pain for a bit, I allowed the pain that I had been keeping on the horizon to catch up with me.

Spending a season of time in concerted ministry and focus on this issue had allowed all the pain and emotion, all the yuck and sorrow of knowing what too many people I know and love with all my heart, both in my family and in my church family, had been through—it had become overwhelming— it caught up with me, demanded I stop running and then threatened to destroy me, I knew it couldn’t but nonetheless, I suddenly felt all alone and abandoned; ‘Why wasn’t I warned, where did they all go, am I, of all the church leaders and pastors out there, the only one facing this evil?’

The orange cart of pain and despair had caught me, but, just as quickly, in that moment when the terror had caught up, I was delivered. I wasn’t alone, far from it, Jesus was here, is here, with me, and with you who have followed this series. I know now that the Lord wasn’t just using me to minister to you, he was also ministering to me. I wasn’t just carrying the burden of others, I was also carrying my own.

In that moment when the enemy was yelling at me; “I’m going to destroy you, you are in big trouble!” The Lord was taking my burdens, things that I can’t carry alone, things that I have carried for years and things that have been added just recently and said, “Here, let me handle this, let me take that—yes, you do have pain, it is your pain and it is real and I see it even if you don’t or won’t. Let me have it.

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me. …

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain. Ps 139:1, 6

We have a Lord who knows us, knows exactly what we need, exactly what we can handle and he shows up at just the right time in ways we can scarcely comprehend, at least not with our minds, but always with our hearts and all we know is that it was wonderful.

We all have stories we can’t tell, things that we have tucked away that maybe only one or two others know about because they went through them with you or because you had to tell someone. I don’t know the answer for you, how you get to a point where the Lord can heal you and free you from them, honestly, I am not even sure that I was completely redeemed from the hurts, but I do know that having my eyes opened to the truth that they were there and that the Lord not just knew, but cared enough to help me to see— that means everything to me, and that alone may be healing enough.

 

The Stories We Can’t Tell

 

…anyone who has had someone you love get hurt—you are a victim also.

“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar. …
Dreamscapes #8Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.”  Psalm 139:1-2,6

There has been something that has been on my mind a lot lately, something that happened in my spirit though it took me a while to realize and began to understand what it was, and the reason it happened was purely the grace of God. And, I believe, a result of just doing my best to be obedient and do what I believed the Holy Spirit was leading me to do; ministering to you, tackling things that I wasn’t really comfortable tackling— as I talked about some last week.

You ever have God do something in you, you know it was really good but you’re not exactly sure what it was or why it was significant— and harder yet—trying to put it into words? For me it kind of boiled down to this:

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.


These words have been in my heart lately and that’s why I started with this psalm. As I write this I am still struggling with trying to understand what happened and the significance, so, as I have said so many times before to my church, when the Lord is trying to teach me something that is often what I teach on— because then I know it has to come from the Lord and that’s it’s fresh, even if it’s only half baked.

As you may know; I love to tell stories and I love to write. Stories help me to get my point across in a way that people remember and even enjoy, while writing helps me to sort things out in my own mind, it’s therapeutic. Writing and telling the stories of my life helps me to bring order to my life, helps me to deal with things that may have bothered me and— like I have told you in the last few weeks— telling our stories helps us to redeem our past.

It’s taking something that haunts us, that was meant to harm us and turning it into a weapon for good; that story becomes our testimony; the Gospel of Jesus Christ come crashing into our lives, the Holy Spirit eclipsing the flesh, the good chasing away the evil, the Kingdom of God overshadowing the power the evil of this world once held over us— that’s the redemption of our stories, that’s the God of eternity, the God of history becoming the God of our present, and altering our future regardless of our past.

That’s why we can say as in Romans 8:28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Untold stories

But what about the stories that we can’t tell?

A few weeks ago in the church I pastor, at the end of what was the culmination of my series on overcoming the hurts and pains of the past, breaking away from the dead who would drag us back and keep us bound up in fear, doubt, condemnation and guilt—much of it aimed at overcoming the pain of past sexual abuses— I had, like I said, something happen in my Spirit that I didn’t recognize at first, at least not for what it was.

I got done preaching the message “See Her” About the woman that people had labeled as a sinful woman, yet Jesus had seen beyond that hard and false exterior that had been forced upon her and saw the person deep inside that she wanted to be, saw the healing that needed to take place and ministered to it, forgiving her and setting her free.

Jesus had ‘searched her heart and he knew her’— just as the psalm says—and loved her into wholeness. I finished the message and turned things over to the worship team as I normally do and took my seat to join in the worship and, in the midst of the worship, I was overcome with emotion and just started to weep, and I wasn’t sure why. I knew something was happening in my heart, that the Lord was doing something, I wasn’t sure what, but it felt like the Spirit was just washing over me and taking care of something.

Next thing I knew worship was over and the worship leader is looking at me like; ‘okay, your turn.’ So I went up with tears still streaming down my face, normally at this point I give one last thought and then close in prayer; I looked at the faces looking back at me and all I could do was say— let’s just pray—close my eyes and bowed my head. I have no recollection of what I prayed but I think the Lord was in it.

Afterwards I was totally wiped. I thought, okay Lord, this has been a very emotional morning, this last few weeks has been very emotional for a lot of us as, things have been being acknowledged and ministered to that have been swept under the rug for far too long, so yeah, it’s going to be draining as you allow the Lord to use you to bless people. But I quickly realized that this went way beyond that.

The reason I was feeling the way I felt, the reason I had lost it at the end of that series and why I felt so totally emptied—drained— yet freshly empowered to begin a new thing at the same time; was because the Lord had healed me as well, he had ministered to my heart as well; the minster was being ministered to.

The reason I didn’t recognize it was because I was redeeming the stories I can’t tell.  And I didn’t recognize that this was possible.

You see, the amazing thing about our God? He knows us better than we know ourselves and if we trust him, if we follow him into even what seems to be the scary places— ‘the last thing I want to do, the last thing I want to face’ -places— we find redemption and grace.

I had told my church that I didn’t have the stories of sexual abuse so whatever ministry was to be born of this was going to have to be theirs. I never considered myself a victim of sexual abuse but the Lord knew better. The Lord revealed to me that I was a victim, not directly, but I, like so many, was also a victim— anyone who has had someone you love get hurt—you are a victim also.

You think you are carrying someone else’s pain you think you are feeling someone else’s hurt, you pray for them, you protect them and you wish that you could have done something to have prevented it, and you hate yourself for not being able to prevent it, you just wish you could make it go away—but you don’t recognize what it is doing to your own heart.

When you get the worst news you can possibly get as a parent—twice— and when you learn that your childhood home was far more dysfunctional than you ever imagined and that things were not as safe for all your siblings as you thought they were, when you love people like they are your family and know the secret pain they carry from things that are taunting them from their pasts—when you carry these things but you cannot share them, you cannot tell the stories because they are not your stories and above all you must protect those you love, those are the things that eat you up; the hurt is yours as well.

So, what I learned is, those are the things the Lord knows about and wants to heal as well. Those are the things the Lord cares about. In my obedience to minister to and tackle an issue that nobody wants to talk about, that I certainly didn’t want to talk about, I was ministered to as well, by the Holy Spirit himself.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  —Romans 8

The Lord searched my heart, and really, I am just left standing in awe of our God.

“Lord you searched me and you know me… Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain!”  I do not know how to pray as I ought, I do not know what all the enemy has planted in my heart, I do not know  why I have such grief, why I have such fears, why does this bother me, why can I not express my frustrations, what is it that eats away at me like a cancer and I can’t explain it let alone counter it —but Lord, you know, you understand, you know exactly what is in my heart, you know exactly what I need— Holy Spirit intercede for me and the very will of God will be done.

And his will is that his children are whole and that they have a “peace that passes all understanding”.