The (Hypo) Critic Within

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (NIV)

I like to think of myself as a writer.

And that’s a problem.

I spend a lot more time thinking about writing than actually writing.  I get an idea, mull it over, often even start typing out the words.

And then… up he jumps.  He starts reading my words, trashing my ideas, casting doubt on my God-given abilities.

My inner critic is a real horse’s posterior.  He is equal parts Roger Ebert (after sitting through a film festival of his most despised movies) and Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” character from SNL.  He inevitably shows up at just the right / wrong time, and starts trashing my work.  Destructive criticism at its finest.

Then, if I do manage to write something and sent it out into the cyber abyss, and it only garners about a dozen reads… well, the critic has a field day.  Even worse when it is followed by a hope rising article that gets a two or three hundred hits.  “See?  You suck.  Why bother?  Who wants to read what you write?  You’re helping no one.  Oh, and even though she lives several hundred miles away, your mother dresses you funny.”

Harsh?  Darn skippy.

I tried to silence this inner bully, but to no avail.  I went to counseling and was assured repeatedly that this – as well as every other problem I had – was really my mom and dad’s fault.  Which is nice, in a way, seeing that I no longer need to worry about personal responsibility.

But one day I realized something.  I had set a false set of expectations for myself.  Over years of church involvement, I had learned that there was a set of religious parameters to which a Christian is supposed to conform.  You need to look a certain way, talk a certain way, have certain expectations of what God will (or will not) do, give a certain amount… Do not deviate from the corporate line.

The problem was that I had been trying to conform, talk the talk, shove my large square frame (actually more the shape of a pear that had been overexposed to radiation, but I digress…) into a very narrow, corporately hewn cross-shaped hole.

And it didn’t work. I simply didn’t fit.

To sit here and tell you that church is my problem would be wrong.  To place the blame for my issues on anyone else – even Mom and Dad (sorry, counselors) – would be hypocritical and immature.  (Besides, I have a seven year old son.  I don’t need to sow any bad juju that I may end up reaping when he grows up.)

The answer is to realize who God says I am.  When God creates people, He does not use a cookie cutter.  He forms us each uniquely.  He knows us intimately.  He does not expect conformity beyond what His Word calls for.  And, while we are called to take an honest assessment of ourselves and to discern our surroundings, God explicitly tells us not to live to please others or be judgmental.  We are free to be who God created each of us to be!

Today, the critic is still there.  As a matter of fact, he’s been messing with me this morning as I wrote this piece.  “Your going to tick people off!  You’re going to alienate your Christian friends!  They’re going to turn on you!”  The truth is, my Christian friends – the ones who truly care – know me.  They know I am unconventional.  They see who I am and love me anyway.  And I hope they know how much I love and treasure all of them.

So take that, Inner Critic.  I choose to be who God created me to be.  I choose to express myself with the voice the Lord has given me.  I will honor God by following the path He has placed me on, without concern for the results.  I trust Christ.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.

NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® and NIV® are registered trademarks of Biblica, Inc. Use of either trademark for the offering of goods or services requires the prior written consent of Biblica US, Inc.

Irrational Yet Reasonable

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –  Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

I have written about this passage countless times over the years.  And, every time I come back to it, the Lord shows me something new – some little nuance or detail that leaps out at me and fills me with joy and gratitude for the Lord.

Tonight it is the word reasonableness that has caught my attention.  Paul emphasizes the point that we are to rejoice – be filled with joy at all times, in all situations.  This is a reasonable expectation of us, God’s children.

How can joy be reasonable all the time?  That’s irrational.  Bad things happen.  The seas of life get choppy with grief and loss and pain and hardship… How can we smile when all we see is difficulty, all we feel is pain?  What is so joyous about feeling hopeless?

Look at the end of verse 5: “The Lord is at hand”.  When life seems hard, I struggle at times with my faith.  I think, if we were honest, each of us would admit to grappling with Jesus from time-to-time.  But, despite how we feel or fail to see, the truth is He is near.  He is here.  He is beside you.  He is within you.  He is sovereign over all – including the hard times.

When Paul tells us the Lord is at hand, he’s saying, “Have faith.  God is real, God is love, and God is here.  So don’t worry about anything – anything!” Trust God.  Have patience (another aspect of reasonableness).  Let God know your needs.  But don’t focus on your needs.

Let me repeat that: don’t focus on your needs.  Focus on God.  With thanksgiving.  With gratitude. Why?  Because the Lord is near.  Corrie ten Boom noted, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.”

The gratitude comes not merely from prayers answered as we like.  Our joy should radiate from the peace we experience when we realize the true blessing is the fact that, no matter what, God is at hand.  The Lord – the Sovereign of All – is here.  That is the reality of our situation.  We can rest in our faith in Him because He will never abandon us.

Worry turns our gaze inward.  Thankfulness turns our gaze upward.  Since the reality of life is that God is with us, and God is for us, then it is only reasonable to be filled with joy.  And, in turn, to let others see that grateful, faith-filled joy that shines brighter than our problems.  That is how we get people to see us – to see our circumstances and, moreover, see “the peace that passes all understanding” ruling over our hearts and troubles and lives – and say, “I want what he / she has.”

A Lesson from a Sycamore Tree

2 And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. – Luke 19:2-6 (ESV)

What a beautiful illustration of salvation. Here we have Zacchaeus, a leader among tax collectors (don’t think IRS; think chief among thieves, for tax collectors in Jesus’ got rich by taking a little extra for themselves from the people).

His ill-gotten gain brought Zacchaeus filthy lucre aplenty and bought him a house. But the head tax collector got to a point where he’d had enough of shaking down his fellow Jews. He had seen the Light.

Now, picture this: this short little tax collector, object of well earned scorn, man of great financial stature, scrambling up a sycamore tree because he needed to see Jesus. He obviously had heard of Jesus. He needed to see Him.

And Jesus knew Zacchaeus was saved before Zacchaeus even realized it.

“Zacchaeus, hurry down here! I’m coming to your house today!” In other words, Jesus is coming to dwell with him. And Zacchaeus hurried down and received Christ joyfully. He didn’t wrestle with the disposition of his riches as the rich young ruler did. He was ready to make amends for his prior thieving ways (19:8).

And the religious among the crowd were none too pleased with Jesus’ choice of homes in which to hang out. All they saw in Zacchaeus was a thief, a sinner.

But Jesus… He saw a saved child of the One True God.

It’s funny. People who have known you a long time may know your reputation while never knowing your heart. I hope people I knew ages ago do not measure me as the immature sinner I used to be. For I am now a more mature sinner, saved by His grace, grateful for His salvation and mercy, and struggling with my imperfections and issues.

But Zacchaeus saw the infinitely greater value of Christ over riches. I pray, as I wrestle and pray and ponder and think, that my heart is so changed that I can truly lay aside all that holds me back from the gain of a deeper walk with Him.

Delight, Part 2 (or, The Bitterest Marshmallow I Ever Swallowed)

Yesterday morning, I wrote a post entitled Delight.

Maybe you read it.

Probably you didn’t.

I asked my wife what she thought of it. “It was good”, she answered in her noncommittal way of saying it was so-so without wanting to discourage me.
When pressed, she finally said, “It wasn’t personal. It wasn’t from your heart.”


I thought about what I wrote and what Jen said. And she was right.

I lobbed a marshmallow out there.

There are times when I am writing a piece aimed to bring comfort to people, and I miss the mark with an overly sweetened message that doesn’t really help a whole lot. These articles are like a lot of kid’s cereals: sure, there’s nutritional value there, but much of the good is canceled out by all that sugar.

I apologize everyone. I want to be real and open and personal, and I believe you want that from the people whose work you read.

No more marshmallows. From now on when I’m struggling, I will say to you, “I am struggling.” When I drop the ball, I will say, “I dropped the ball today.”

My heart is for reaching out to people who are hurting, anxious, worried, confused… But throwing marshmallows won’t help. They just bounce off and don’t stick.

Unless you’ve just roasted them, but throwing flaming marshmallows is something else altogether.

So, good night and blessings to you all! And that truly comes from my heart.


Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:3-4 (ESV)

What do you think of when you hear the word “delight”? For me, it conjures up images of happy children – joyous and laughing, cheerful and smiling, carefree in their raucous celebration. Kids secure in the love and care they are given.

Without a worry.

Without a care.

They trust without hesitation.

They are free to be. Free to explore and experience and experiment. Free of the tethers that hold we grown-ups so tightly. They haven’t had time to become jaded, eroded by the ups and downs of life.

I picture these kids in my mind and I think this is, in a sense, how we are supposed to be. Not immature. Childlike, but not childish. Curious about the world God has given us. Joyous and secure in our Father’s love. Lavishing the embrace of God’s grace, so much so that our sinful wants melt away and are replaced by the desires The Lord has given us.

Not concerned about feathering our own nests as much as helping others.

Not worried about what someone else might think but seeking God first.

Not held back by past experience but free to realize that nothing – nothing – is impossible with God.

Not imprisoned in the past, but delighting in God in the here and now, with an awareness of a vastly more amazing eternal future to come.

Seek God first. Rest in Him. Delight in His ways and He will change and free you so much that your very desires become His desires. Can there be a better way to live?

What Does It Mean To Be Free

Freedom. It’s a word we hold dear here in the USA. It is central to our way of life. We have have freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom from oppression, freedom to move about freely, freedom of thought, freedom of action, freedom of religion…

Yet why is it so hard for some believers to understand what it means to have freedom in Christ? Do we truly understand the concept of freedom?

At our home church gathering last night, we studied Galatians 5. If you want an understanding of the meaning of freedom in Christ, this is a great place to go.

Sin is a snare. It enslaves us to death and destruction, but walking in the Spirit – seeking His kingdom first instead of our sinful, selfish pleasures. – brings us freedom from the chains of sin.

If you think freedom in Christ is merely freedom from the consequences of sin, you are only seeing half of the picture. Freedom in Christ means we are free from fear. Worries and cares need not dog us, problems need not trip us.

Freedom in Christ means we can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us. It means God put His desires in our hearts, and enables us to fulfill those desires. If only we will step out in faith.

Freedom in Christ means we can trust God. Period. Now. No “unless”. No “when I get my life straightened out”. He meets us each where we are.

Freedom in Christ is found when we are a slave to Christ. Not to empty dogmas. Not demanding legalistic rules. Not marginalizing others for their “sins.” Freedom in Christ requires us to understand how blind we are due to the log in our eyes.

Freedom in Christ is found in humble, faithful, loving servitude rooted in love. Take your freedom and invest it in others. Reach out. Minister. Feed. Serve. Bless. You are free to do whatever God has called you to do. Go do it with great gusto!

Faeth Fiada

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, – Ephesians 6:14 [ESV]

Lúireach Phádraig, also known as Faeth Fiada, The Deer’s Cry, or St. Patrick’s Breastplate, is a prayer attributed to the “Apostle of Ireland”.  The words of this beautiful prayer put Christ squarely at the center of our focus.  In it, Patrick recognizes our absolute dependence on God.  He is earnestly seeking the Lord and His righteousness (hence the “breastplate” reference).

Below is the Faeth Fiada.  I pray it is a great blessing to you, and helps you seek God first in all things today, remembering that He is in control.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Radiance of the moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.

Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation


Lost and Found in the Howling Wasteland

“He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.” – Deuteronomy 32:10 (ESV)

Dealing with anxiety and depression is a challenge to say the least. If you’ve never been there, it can hard to describe, and hard to understand. We are often caught in a Catch 22 where we feel alone and abandoned, the loneliness exacerbated by the feeling of being marginalized by those who don’t understand what we are dealing with.

When I read in Deuteronomy 32:10 about being “in a desert land… a howling waste of the wilderness,” I thought, “Yes. That is it. That is what it feels like!” It is a scary, lonely place. But, friend, if you are feeling the grip of anxiety and drain of depression, I want you to notice something in our verse for tonight: you are not alone.

You are not alone.

God has found you, surrounded you, and is caring for you. You may not feel His presence, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t with you. He is. “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them (your enemies), for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV).

Wherever you are, whoever you are, grasp that reality. If you are dealing with anxiety and depression, it can be tough to hang on to God’s promises, or to trust in God’s love and care. I went through a period where I was so stifled by my anxiety that I couldn’t pray. I cried. I yelled. I was angry at God for not lifting me quickly from my pain.

But, once I was through it… there He was. I couldn’t see Him in the midst of the storm but, from the clarity that comes only with hindsight, I saw why I went through what I went through. The Lord used that very difficult period in my life to change me, to work through me.

He showed me that I was not alone in a dry, desert place. Rather, He was there all along. He never left me. He never abandoned me.

He hasn’t abandoned you either. And He never will. And if you can’t see it, can’t face that truth, just hang in there. You are not alone. The Almighty God is with you. Always.

Down to the Root

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no”root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. – Hebrews 12:15 (ESV)

I got up extra early this morning to write. And that is exactly what I did. I wrote a fantastic piece about the problems of corporate churches and the damage they do. It was engaging and educational and had lots of big words. It may have been forever immortalized as one of the best examples of blog writing ever.


Ok… I may be overstating things a bit. Actually, I’m pushing the envelope of truthfulness by using terms like “immortalized” and “engaging” and “best ever.”


But the world will never know. I deleted it. It is gone. Lost. Done.


It would have benefited no one. It pointed out the problems without any vitriol or bitterness or even sarcasm.

Ok… Maybe a little sarcasm…

But that’s the point. None of what I worry would bring healing. It wouldn’t have promoted peace or joy or anything worthy of our thoughts and time. It would have served only to drudge up ill feelings and anger. Granted, it was cathartic for me to get it out. It was like therapy in a sense.

Still, despite the honesty of the message, I realized I am still hanging onto a bitter root. It isn’t nearly as big as it was, but it is still there.

The Lord reminded me this morning that I am not here to shine a spotlight on what’s wrong with the church. I am here to be a light on a hill, shining for Christ. I am here to proclaim the Gospel. I am here to reach out to those who are facing troubles, the anxious and depressed, the hurting and bullied, the loved ones who do not feel loved, the marginalized and the lonely.

I am here to bring hope.

I am here to pray.

I am here to comfort.

I am here to share.

I am here to love.

And so are you.

Let no bitterness remain. We need to be sure that all we do, all we say, all we think, is rooted in the love of Jesus. Forgive and move forward. No time to stay mired in past hurts. After all, we are all the body of Christ. And if a God can love and forgive me my immeasurable transgressions, who am I to cling to bitterness or fail to forgive?