There is an answer (R.I.P Dave Mirra)

It’s the morning after I heard the news of the death, it seems by suicide, of X-Games legend Dave Mirra. Dave wasn’t a close friend of mine. I had competed against him in rally and been around him when working in the Global RallyCross paddock but we often consider acquaintances ‘friends’, especially in the social media that allows inside access that gives us a unearned familiarity with people’s lives.

Given my circle of friends, my Facebook feed quickly filled up with tributes to Dave. Like my own they all talked about the inspiration he was, how he seemed to wear his heart on his sleeve, the great husband and committed father he was. Reading each person’s tribute you could feel their pain through each key stroke. Dave’s passing has brought a real sense of loss to so many people.

I make no secret that I believe in Jesus. My own Facebook is weighted heavily toward praise for Jesus with a smaller mix of rally related topics. I don’t believe these two worlds should be mutually exclusive but my response to Dave’s death challenged me. So I posted mostly what my heart felt but not what it wanted to scream.

I wanted to scream ‘why’?

In 2013 over 41,000 people committed suicide in the U.S. that’s roughly one every 13 minutes. One life taken. One family shattered. One group of friends with an emptiness created in their lives. I know there is an answer to every situation and it sounds somewhat glib to say that the answer is Jesus. But the simple truth is that He is the answer.

We have a society that allows us to call people friends on the basis of a meeting/association that a few decades ago would merely have allowed us to call them an acquaintance or someone I once met. I learnt a valuable lesson on friendship when I was in Jordan. I thought two guys were friends given how much they enjoyed seeing one another and sharing stories. However, they educated me that they weren’t friends because their history together was too short. They considered their friend’s people who they would tell every secret too, know all of their family and have a deep trust and confidence in the other man. I think my Facebook friend count just became a lot smaller…….

Why does this matter? In our comfortable US society we have cultural expectations that ensure we can have very few friends per the Jordanian definition. We socialize with our friends but we return to our castle and once the door closed we can remove the façade that we wear with others. Sure every now and then the façade show some cracks but society has educated us to self-medicate through alcohol, drugs, an affair or some other form of escapism. How many times have you gone for a drink to drown your sorrow. This medication is short-term – its effects quickly wear off and you are back where you started.

The cycle described above just keeps repeating itself in the family and through the generations. I don’t want to sound super-religious but this is where the Devil wants you. Maybe you feel that your life is going well but are you just self-medicating? Maybe you don’t feel your life is going well and there is a real pain that you have lived with for a while and self-medication is a necessity but you have learned that the benefits are limited.

There is a reason for that. It is because that what we are missing is Jesus. No amount of money, success, cars, luxury vacations, size of house, number of sexual conquests, number of affairs, synthetic drugs or living for today can offset the hole in your life.

So by now the only people reading this are probably those who have Jesus in their lives. If you don’t know Jesus and still are reading then God is sitting next to you just say hi, please forgive me for what I have done because you sound amazing and I want to start to live my life with you. Oh and then get some Kleenex handy because God will blow you away!

But for the Christians who are nodding in agreement what are you doing in this world? Are you being open with your friends or are you self-medicating. We live for an authentic, life-changing relationship with Jesus. He doesn’t want to be an acquaintance. He wants to be a friend, a confidant, the encourager, the lover of your soul. The first step is we need to live our lives in community with believers and in reality with how he wants to live them. Please don’t self-medicate by coming to Church on a Sunday to enable you to get through the week. If that is you then you have missed the point.

We as the Church should be beacon of light for people. We should certainly be a last resort before people like Dave Mirra decide that suicide is their only option. Do we represent Christ in a way that people would want to ask us what is making us look different, act different, scream life and hope? Or do we look like all of their other friends? We are the people that God has put on his earth to talk to his people about Jesus.

There is always Jesus. I may not have been there for Dave Mirra but I wonder how many people are close to me and self-medicating through a similar situation. I pray my eyes would be open to their need and that I would be their friend.

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Breathe life in these bones…….

“He asked me, Son of man, can these bones live?”

For me personally I have always found Ezekiel 37:1-14 to be inspiring and challenging. However, what made it come to mind was a discussion with a friend and it made me realize how much we can apply Ezekiel 37 to our own lives.

So my friend came to me and shared that she thought her marriage may be over. She believed that she fallen out of love with her husband and that she was attracted mentally and physically to someone else. Now we hadn’t met for a counselling session in fact far from it. She is a friend at work and we have a regular coffee together so I was a little surprised at the topic of conversation.

However, it is at times like these that you realize that God has put you in that time and a place for a reason. Of course having been divorced and now incredibly happily married to my amazing wife, she came expecting me to say that it would be better for her to find happiness with someone else and support her decision. I didn’t.

I reminded her of how she had felt about her husband for much of the previous twelve years she had been married to him. I spoke to her of how I believe that my wedding day was the low point of my marriage rather than most people’s high point. Sound strange? Well hear me out. Too often the wedding day is the high point in a marriage and after the wedding day, comes the jokes about the ball and chain, suddenly your freedom is taken away, you can’t enjoy yourself and you rapidly age before each-other’s eyes while living increasingly separate eyes. I hope it doesn’t sound familiar but I fear it is all too common in modern society. I view marriage differently.

I have been married to my amazing wife for more time (just over 3 years) than I dated her for. With each day I get to know more about her and we grow as a couple, as new parents and in new roles in our work places and the Church. Every day I find her more spiritually attractive, more mentally attractive and more physically attractive than I did when I married her. Therefore everyday my marriage to my amazing wife gets stronger, gets deeper and takes me to places I didn’t believe possible after failing in marriage previously.

My friend was inspired by this because she saw so many things about her husband that she loves. She took my challenge to talk to him with full transparency. We all know that men are pretty simple beings. If you respect us, feed us and sleep with us then most of us will be very happy! She bravely took on the challenge over Thanksgiving and I praise God that they have now decided to work on their marriage, receive Christian counselling and make it work.

This for me is breathing life to those dry bones. Just like Ezekiel we can stand in a mall, in our workplace, in our school or so many other places and look into the valley and see bones on the floor. The Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones whereas we are told to go into the world and preach the good news.

As Ezekiel spoke he heard a rattling sound as the bones came together and form skeletons and then saw tendons and flesh appear on them.  I believe that there are parallels for us in our everyday walk with people. Firstly, how people find us when they interact with us? Do they find our lives attractive and see the link between our life story and a relationship Jesus or do they see us no different from them? I John 2 tells us not to love the world and that we should love the will of God as opposed to the desires of this world. If we look like the world why would someone want to make their own commitment to Jesus?

However, if we are walking close to Jesus every day and we have the fragrance of Christ then people will want what we have. Now don’t get me wrong we won’t necessarily be attractive by material measurement. We will be attractive in our hope. We will be attractive in our consistency. We will be attractive in our faithfulness. We will be attractive because we are full of life. We will be attractive because we know our future, our future for eternity.

The Lord told Ezekiel that he would pour out His Spirit in them and that they will live and will settle in their own land.

We can all speak to the dry bones and we can breathe life into them through the Holy Spirit. In so doing the eternity of that person will be changed forever and that can lead to families changing and generations changing their eternity. The question is, are we ready to breathe life to the dry bones or will we leave that for someone else?

Yes Lord, these bones can live.

 

a simple follower

Putting Jesus first and center…..

For many just the title itself will have them cringe. Perhaps you interpret the title as another blog from a Bible basher? Perhaps it conjures up an image of a self-righteous person you have come across in your life who turned out to be as righteous as your average 21st century politician. There will be many reactions to the title but as a Christian it is a question I ask myself every day. How do I put Jesus first and center of my life?

As someone who came to Christ in his early twenties I didn’t grow up in Sunday school or being dragged by my parents on Sunday mornings. I stumbled into a Church one day purely because my girlfriend asked me to and my motives to please her and go were less than glorifying to God! Now this wasn’t a beautiful traditional Church nor was it one the newer mega Churches with great sound systems and comfortable chairs that accommodate our constant need for movement. No, this was an old community center building that had seen its best day come and go. I feared that the chair wouldn’t hold my weight -and I’m not that big! A piano that was a little out of tune constituted the worship and my apart from my girlfriend and the preacher’s daughter we lowered the average age of the congregation by at least 30 years……but I thought if I could grin and bear the service then the reward from my girlfriend afterward would be worth the suffering. I was pretty sure I could stomach one hour.

This was the first-time that I experienced God has an amazing sense of humor and that He works anywhere and everywhere. At the end of the service the preacher man asked if anyone wanted to ask Jesus into their lives. I was 21 years old. I didn’t need Jesus in my life. However, I knew that if I could tell my girlfriend that I had asked Jesus into my life and nothing happened then life would be even better for me.

So I said the prayer. This was going to be easy and I was already looking forward to walking out of the Church and the rest of the night. Then all of a sudden I started to cry. Crying is not big in my family. Crying in public is a capital offense. But here I was crying in front of strangers – and my girlfriend. Then a fire-like heat enveloped me and I felt like I was burning up. I wasn’t thinking any of this at the time I was just trying to cope with the heat, the tears and now the crumpling like a mess into my chair. This was not in my plan of impressing my girlfriend.

But in that moment I had met Jesus. I had come face to face with the man who had died for me. I didn’t really understand what they really meant. There is a difference between words you hear and changes in your heart but there He was. I hadn’t gone looking for him but he had always been waiting for me to come home.

Now the journey hasn’t always been as dramatic as that evening. In fact for much of the past 25 years I walked the opposite way and left Jesus behind. I didn’t need him. I was too busy for him and to be honest, he wouldn’t have approved of many of the things I wanted to do or decisions I took. But the last five years I realized that my way wasn’t probably the best way of living. Sure, by the world’s standards I was a success and the divorces are just seen as part of life nowadays but there was a hole inside me. I knew this wasn’t who I was meant to be. I knew there was a better life for me. So I started on a journey to come home to Jesus. But I didn’t want to come in body yet in my spirit still be living or longing for somewhere else. This time if I was to come home then I wanted to come home.

This blog will share some of the tests, challenges and joys of coming home and intentionally putting Jesus as the center of my life and first in my decision making at home, with my wife, my hobbies, my career – very simply my whole life. I am simple follower of Jesus. I am not Bible school educated. I will not use Greek phrases or seven translations of the same word to get to its original meaning. I will simple share my walk with Jesus. The depths of the valleys and the joys of the heights are all there to give all of the glory to God.

A simple follower.