It is hard for us to admit we have a sin nature because we live in this system of checks and balances. If we get caught, we will be punished. But that doesn't make us good people; it only makes us subdued. Just think about the Congress and Senate and even the president. The genius of the American system is not freedom; the genius of the American system is checks and balances. Nobody gets all the power. Everybody is watching everybody else. It is as if the founding fathers knew, intrinsically, that the soul of man, unwatched, is perverse.
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I think we can provide better stories through providing mentors, and certainly part of my story is providing mentors to kids growing up without dads. I think positive male role models go a long way in terms of rescuing kids from a life of trouble.I think positive male role models go a long way in terms of rescuing kids from a life of trouble.
When I walked into the Christian section of a bookstore, the message was clear: Faith is something you do alone. Rick does not have much tolerance for people living alone. He's like Bill Clinton in that he feels everyone's pain. If Rick thinks somebody is lonely, he can't sleep at night. He wants us all to live with each other and play nice so he can get some rest. Tortured soul.
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The most often repeated commandment in the Bible is 'Do not fear.' It's in there over two hundred times. That means a couple of things, if you think about it. It means we are going to be afraid, and it means we shouldn't let fear boss us around. Before I realized we were supposed to fight fear, I thought of fear as a subtle suggestion in our subconscious designed to keep us safe, or more important, keep us from getting humiliated. And I guess it serves that purpose. But fear isn't only a guide to keep us safe; it's also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.
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In an age in which we can project an image and score that image based on immediate Facebook and Twitter feedback, thus making a video game of life and a false-reality composed of lies, what gets lost is a joyful obsession with the work we create from the purest of motives, a sheer joy in the act of creation itself that causes us to lose ourselves in something else, and in a way die to ourselves over the absolute love of a thing we are breathing into life.
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I am early in my story, but I believe I will stretch out into eternity, and in heaven I will reflect upon these early days, these days when it seemed God was down a dirt road, walking toward me. Years ago He was a swinging speck in the distance; now He is close enough I can hear His singing. Soon I will see the lines on His face.
I don't wonder anymore what I'll tell God when I go to heaven when we sit in the chairs under the tree, outside the city........I'll tell these things to God, and he'll laugh, I think and he'll remind me of the parts I forgot, the parts that were his favorite. We'll sit and remember my story together, and then he'll stand and put his arms around me and say, "well done," and that he liked my story. And my soul won't be thirsty anymore. Finally he'll turn and we'll walk toward the city, a city he will have spoken into existence a city built in a place where once there'd been nothing.
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There is a time when every person who encounters Jesus, who believes Jesus is the Son of God, decides that they will spend their life following Him. Some people, like the Apostle Paul, make this decision the minute they meet Him, the minute they become a Christian. Others, like the Apostle Peter, endure years of half-hearted commitment and spiritual confusion before leaping in with all their passion. Still others may enjoy some benefits of God's love and grace without entering into the true joy of a marriage with their maker.
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The truth is there are a million steps, and we don't even know what the steps are, and worse, at any given moment we may not be willing or even able to take them; and still worse, they are different for you and they are always changing. I have come to believe the sooner we will fall in love with the God who keeps shaking things up, keeps changing the path, keeps rocking the boat to test our faith in Him, teaching us to not rely on easy answers, bullet points, magic mantras, or genies in lamps, but rather in His guidance, His existence, His mercy, and His love.
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I've wondered, though, if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don't want the responsibility inherent in the acknowledgment. We don't want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn't remarkable, then we don't have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims instead of grateful participants.
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If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. If I got any comfort as I set out on my first story, it was that in nearly every story, the protagonist is transformed. He's a jerk at the beginning and nice at the end, or a coward at the beginning and brave at the end. If the character doesn't change, the story hasn't happened yet. And if story is derived from real life, if story is just condensed version of life then life itself may be designed to change us so that we evolve from one kind of person to another.
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When you live on your own for a long time, however, your personality changes because you go so much into yourself you lose the ability to be social, to understand what is and isn't normal behavior. There is an entire world inside yourself, and if you let yourself, you can get so deep inside it you will forget the way to the surface. Other people keep our souls alive, just like food and water does with our body.
Earthly love... is temporal and slight so that is has to be given again and again in order for us to feel any sense of security; but God's love, God's voice and presence, would instill our souls with such affirmation we would need nothing more and would cause us to love other people so much we would be willing to die for them.
And through a dark night of the soul, I came to realize that salvation happens through a mysterious, indefinable, relational interaction with Jesus in which we become one with Him. I realized Christian conversion worked more like falling in love than understanding a series of concepts of ideas. This is not to say there are no true ideas, it is only to say there is something else, something beyond.
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What I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do. I used to say that I believed it was important to tell people about Jesus, but I never did. A friend kindly explained that if I do not introduce people to Jesus, then I don't believe Jesus is an important person. It doesn't matter what I say. We live for what we believe.
The real issue in the Christian community was that it was conditional. You were loved, but if you had questions, questions about whether the Bible was true or whether America was a good country or whether last week's sermon was good, you were not so loved. You were loved in word, but there was, without question, a social commodity that was being withheld from you until you shaped up.
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I wanted tolerance. I wanted everybody to leave everybody else alone, regardless of their religious beliefs, regardless of their political affiliation. I wanted people to like each other. Hatred seemed, to me, the product of ignorance. I was tired of biblical ethic being used as a tool with which to judge people rather than heal them. I was tired of Christian leaders using biblical principles to protect their power, to draw a line in the sand separating the good army from the bad one. The truth is I had met the enemy in the woods and discovered they were not the enemy. I wondered whether any human being could be an enemy of God.
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The person who believes the sum of his morality involves gay marriage and abortion alone, and neglects health care and world trade and the environment and loving his neighbor and feeding the poor is, by definition, a theological liberal, because he takes what he wants from Scripture and ignores the rest.
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All our time spent making lists would be better spent painting, or writing, Or singing, or learning to speak stories. Sometimes I feel as though the Church has a kind of pity for Scripture, Always having to come behind it and explain everything, put everything into actionable steps, acronyms and hidden secrets, as though the original writers, and for that matter the Holy Spirit Who worked in the lives of the original writers, were a bunch of you literate hillbillies. I think the methodology God used to explain His Truth is quite superior. My life is a story, more than a list. I don't feel that a list could ever explain the complexity of all this beauty.
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I don't wonder anymore what I'll tell God when I go to heaven when we sit in the chairs under the tree, outside the city... I'll tell these things to God, and he'll laugh, I think and he'll remind me of the parts I forgot, the parts that were his favorite. We'll sit and remember my story together, and then he'll stand and put his arms around me and say, "well done, " and that he liked my story. And my soul won't be thirsty anymore. Finally he'll turn and we'll walk toward the city, a city he will have spoken into existence a city built in a place where once there'd been nothing.
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If you dont love somebody, it gets annoying if they tell you what to do or what to feel. When you love them, you get pleasure from their pleasure nad it makes it easy to serve. I didnt love God because i didnt know God. universe is not effected by time. Light exists outside of time.. It is still a mystery to physicists.
This message God was communicating to mankind, this Gospel of Jesus, was a message to the heart as much as to the head, that the methodology was as important as the message itself, that the message could not be presented accurately outside of the emotions within which these truths were embedded.
I think this is when most people give up on their stories. They come out of college wanting to change the world, wanting to get married, wanting to have kids and change the way people buy office supplies. But they get into the middle and discover it was harder than they thought. They can't see the distant shore anymore, and they wonder if their paddling is moving them forward. None of the trees behind them are getting smaller and none of the trees ahead are getting bigger. They take it out on their spouses, and they go looking for an easier story.
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We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn't mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It's a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines. How easily the world looks to it in wonder. How grateful we are to hear these stories, and how happy it makes us to repeat them.
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He thought about the story his daughter was living and the role she was playing inside that story. He realized he hadn't provided a better role for his daughter. He hadn't mapped out a story for his family. And so his daughter had chosen another story, a story in which she was wanted, even if she was only being used. In the absence of a family story, she'd chosen a story in which there was risk and adventure, rebellion and independence.
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I never thought to ascribe my mother's emotional and physical exhaustion to the lack of a husband and father; rather, I ascribed it to my existence. In other words, I grew up learning the exact opposite of what Eisenhower was taught. I learned that if I didn't exist, the family would be better off. I grew up believing that if I had never been born, things would be easier for the people I loved. (page 35)
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Dwight Eisenhower said that from the beginning, his mother and father operated on an assumption that set the course of his life - that the world could be fixed of its problems if every child understood the necessity of their existence. Eisenhower's parents assumed, and taught their children, that if their children weren't alive, their family couldn't function. (page 34)
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The only appropriate war rhetoric is more rhetoric that calls our enemies spirits and people with flesh the victims of this war. Satan wants us to fight with one another, and I understand that some evil must be restrained, but our war, the war of the ones who believe in Jesus, is a war unseen. If we could muster a portion of the patriotism we feel toward our earthly nations into patriotism and bravery in concert with the kingdom of God, the enemy would take fewer casualties.
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I bring this up because in writing some thoughts about a father, or not having a father, I feel as though I'm writing a book about a troll under a bridge or a dragon. For me, a father was nothing more than a character in a fairy tale. I know fathers are not like dragons because fathers actually exist. I have seen them on television and sliding their arms around their wives in grocery stores, and I have seen them in the malls and in the coffee shops, but these were characters in other people's stories. The sad thing is, as a kid, I wondered why I couldn't have a dragon, but I never wondered why I didn't have a father. (page 20)
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I feel guilty because for a long time I didn't allow myself a television, and I used to drop that fact in conversation to impress people. I thought it made me sound dignified. A couple of years ago, however, I visited a church in the suburbs and there was this blowhard preacher talking about how television rots your brain. He said that when we are watching television our minds are working no harder than when we are sleeping. I thought that sounded heavenly. I bought one that afternoon.
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I fell in love with books. Some people find beauty in music, some in painting, some in landscape, but I find it in words. By beauty, I mean the feeling you have suddenly glimpsed another world, or looked into a portal that reveals a kind of magic or romance out of which the world has been constructed, a feeling there is something more than the mundane, and a reason for our plodding.
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I will give you this, my love, and I will not bargain or barter any longer. I will love you, as sure as He has loved me. I will discover what I can discover and though you remain a mystery, save God's own knowledge, what I disclose of you I will keep in the warmest chamber of my heart, the very chamber where God has stowed Himself in me. And I will do this to my death, and to death it may bring me. I will love you like God, because of God, mighted by the power of God. I will stop expecting your love, demanding you love, trading for your love, gaming for your love. I will simply love. I am giving myself to you, and tomorrow I will do it again. I suppose the clock itself will wear thin its time before I am ended at this altar of dying and dying again. God risked Himself on me. I will risk myself on you. And together, we will learn to love, and perhaps then, and only then, understand this gravity that drew Him, unto us.
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People assume when you're swimming in a river you are supposed to know which way you are going, and I guess some of the time that is true, but there are certain currents that are very strong, and it's when we are in those currents we need somebody to come along, pull us out, and guide us in a safer direction. (page 18)
I think that's why so many couples fight, because they want their partners to validate them and affirm them, and if they don't get that, they feel as though they're going to die. And so they lash out. But it's a terrible thing to wake up and realize the person you just finished crucifying wasn't Jesus.
At the time, I didn't know what forgiveness meant. I wouldn't really know what forgiveness meant for another year, until my pastor, Rick McKinley, happened to spell it out in a sermon. He said that when you forgive, you bear the burden somebody has given you without holding them accountable.
And if these mountains had eyes, they would wake to find two strangers in their fences, standing in admiration as a breathing red pours its tinge upon earth's shore. These mountains, which have seen untold sunrises, long to thunder praise but stand reverent, silent so that man's weak praise should be given God's attention.
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But playing your music as loud as you want and coming home drunk aren't real life. Real life, it turns out, is diapers and lawnmowers, decks that need painting, a wife that needs to be listened to, kids that need to be taught right from wrong, a checkbook, an oil change, a sunset behind a mountain, laughter at a kitchen table, too much wine, a chipped tooth, and a screaming child.
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The trouble with deep belief is that it costs something And there is something inside me, some selfish beast of a subtle thing that doesn't like the truth at all because it carries responsibility, and if I actually believe these things I have to do something about them. It is so, so cumbersome to believe anything. And it isn't cool.
..[My friend Marco said]. essentially, humans are alive for the purpose of journey, a kind of three-act structure. They are born and spend several years discovering themselves and the world, then plod through a long middle in which they are compelled to search for a mate and reproduce and also create stability out of natural instability and then they find themselves at an ending tha seems to be designed for reflection. At the end, their bodies are slower, they are not as easily distracted, they do less work, and they think and feel about a life lived rather than look forward to a life getting started. He didn't know what the point of the journey was, but he did believe we were designed to search for and find something. And he wondered out loud if the point wasn't the search but the transformation the search creates... [I wondered] that we were designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us. The point of a story is the character arc, the change.
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