Tuesday, April 26, 2011
When I came off the field the last thing on my mind was to immediately take on another intense and challenging time in my life. Little did I know that the most challenging part of AIM was about to begin. In the years following AIM I grew more than I did while I was actually in AIM. The interesting thing is, those years where the most adversity filled in my life so far.
I don’t know about you but sometimes I dream of easier times. That’s why the lottery is so popular. People love to dream of easier times. But imagine what life would be like with out any problems or challenges.
For most of us, being thrown in jail for our faith or having to fight a giant to the death
would qualify as bad luck. But for most people in the Bible, without those extreme
adverse situations they would have faded from scripture. Bad circumstances have a
way of bringing out the best in us. Fighting giants creates strength just like roughs seas
create good sailors. Adversity is often a blessing in disguise.
Astronauts who spend any length of time in zero gravity experience serious medical
complications. Without any resistance they can barely walk after reentering the earth’s
atmosphere. Sound familiar? We may dream of an easy life but what we need is a healthy dose of adversity. We need some giants to fight.
I’m convinced that the people that God used most are the people who experienced the
most adversity. Adversity can produce an increased capacity to serve God. Think of
all the people that you’ve seen who have become successful in the area of their greatest
weakness. Beethoven was deaf, but he became one of the greatest composers who ever
lived. Or, Jim Abbott, former major league pitcher for the Yankees who was born
without a right hand but managed to pitch a no hitter.
What giants have you faced? What is your greatest weakness? God wants to redeem
the greatest adversity you’ve experienced. He wants to recycle the adversity that you’ve
experienced and turn it into ministry.
After AIM, for some reason I thought that because of things like my failings, my
inadequacies, my personal problems, and reverse culture shock all somehow meant that
I should spend less time in ministry. We all know many people who have gone through
terrible times in their life, like the death of a child, or a debilitating addiction and turned
it into ministry to others. God is in the business of recycling your pain and turning it into
someone else’s gain.
What we need to understand is; if you don’t turn your adversity into a ministry, then your
pain remains your pain. But if you allow God to translate your adversity into a ministry,
then your pain becomes someone else’s gain. The more problems you have the more potential you have to help people.
One of the most paralyzing mistakes we make is thinking that our problems somehow
disqualify us from being used by God. But it’s actually the opposite. Your ability to help
others heal is limited to where you’ve been wounded. God comforts us in all our troubles
so that we can comfort others.
No one rolls out the red carpet and invites adversity or tragedy into their life, but our
greatest gifts and passions are often the byproduct of our worst tragedies and failures.
Trials have a way of helping us rediscover our unique purpose in life.
- Jeremy “Tigger” Vass
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Leland Grammer, AIM '04, San Diego, is a poet, and when I was telling him about the blog, he said he could pass me something. And here it is. Thank you, Leland, for shaking things up a little, and I hope we can have more things like this in the future.
WHEN THE LORD BROUGHT BACK THE CAPTIVE ONES TO ZION, WE WERE LIKE THOSE WHO DREAM
Unable to sleep, wild-eyed with visions of earth-turning possibilities. We saw the Messiah speaking marvelous things from the mountainside, of a kingdom enchanting us to love our enemy and beat our swords into plowshares to feed the hungry at our tables. Next, we saw our very hands hoisting a cross up, our deliverer fastened by nails, and I couldn’t understand. Then he rose to life. Surely, now we know, there is something worth dying for and nothing worth killing for. Sights so strange and illuminating, they drifted on the edge of absurdity. Silence only made us giddy.
THEN OUR MOUTH WAS FILLED WITH LAUGHTER AND OUR TONGUE WITH JOYFUL SHOUTING.
All along the road home from exile and in our great city’s streets, people would stand and stare, as if we were walking through the red sea again. From every crowd someone would raise their voice
THE LORD HAS DONE GREAT THINGS FOR THEM.
It became so common, we would simply shout back,
THE LORD HAS DONE GREAT THINGS FOR US, WE ARE GLAD.
At which point we would turn to each other and smile knowingly.
Time slowly lurched forward. The elation slipped from my brow and nightfall found me with handfuls of salty tears, as I thought about my nation, my city, my own village. So filled with ego, inflated with an unquenchable rumbling for more and eyes forever flitting toward shame. My Creator, my God of cosmic impossibilities, You have been reduced to a trinket in our surplus gift shop. One phrase loops inside me.
RESTORE OUR CAPTIVITY, O LORD. RESTORE OUR CAPTIVITY. RESTORE OUR CAPTIVITY, LIKE STREAM BEDS.
Turn the ever-changing wilderness of our moody heart into inhabitable dwelling places.
This is the legacy of my Ancestors. This is the story my father spoke of to me. And as I look out my window, momentarily lost in the blue white canopy, I recall all that the Lord has done for me and where he has brought me from. When I look out over this time called America, not much has changed behind the wizard’s curtain of the twenty-first century, with it’s cars and technological advancements. I see the pride, the wanting of it all, the scandal of my father’s ancient city. Aggressive and judgmental I want to say ‘Wake me when I’m free, I cannot bear captivity.’ Then a tear catches my eye as I hear my mother say, as if the very words were ringing in my ears,
THOSE WHO SOW IN TEARS WILL REAP WITH JOYFUL SHOUTING.
And she would hand me a bag of seed and add, ‘Today…small things with great love.’
My days in the field and the sweat spent toiling with rows and rows of dirt are now concrete and people with their own plot. So I tell the children on my block,
HE WHO COMES AND GOES WEEPING, CARRYING HIS BAG OF SEED WILL COME AGAIN WITH A SHOUT OF JOY, BRINGING HIS BUNDLES WITH HIM.
Now every morning before I go out I cram every pocket and stuff my mouth with mustard seeds. Another world is possible. It whispers to us. Love is more powerful than hatred. Violence can be mirrored without imitation. There is enough for everyone’s need but not everyone’s greed. The struggle is a gentle revolution that dances on the laughter of children. Delicate dreamers, of such pure nonsense, that the good news of one man could actually erase the entire shoreline of humanity’s bad news.
Friday, April 8, 2011
I got a Facebook message the other day that simply said, “Wow. I had no idea the things you had done in your life were so terrible.” I sat staring at the message wondering to myself, “What exactly are they talking about, and who have they been talking to?” There was a website that followed the message, and of course, I clicked on it.
My computer slowly loaded the page and to my horror this is what I saw:
Paige Foreman 1972 – present
Member since 1989 … last payment June 1989
Current amount owed: $945,678,945,985.89
I sat staring at the screen for what seemed like hours. I barely remembered opening this account. How could I have forgotten about it?
My mind began to wander back to 1989. I was in high school and had begun doing some very stupid things. I was having fun and figured when the fun ran out I would move on. But around June of that year, I realized I was stuck. I had already gotten into some pretty serious trouble and lost several friends.
I was talking to someone about moving on and trying to get my life back on track. He suggested this website: totaltransgressiontax.com . This was a website that allowed you to submit your sins before a panel. They assessed the price and you began making payments. As long as you were actively making payments then the interest was low and you were assured complete privacy. However, if you stopped making payments, the amount would begin to go up by the second and your past was fair game. Anyone could enter the site and take a peek around… anyone.
I had actually gotten baptized right after joining the site and making my first payment. I had accepted God’s forgiveness and realized I didn’t need to make those payments. Jesus paid it all in full, and God had forgotten my transgressions. He was not keeping score.
Unfortunately, the website was.
So, the above is a dream I had last night. I woke up feeling horrible. I felt a level of fear, guilt, and shame that I have not felt in years. Thankfully, as I woke up I came back to reality. Not only is there not a website… there’s not a price that I must pay. That price is not going up by the second and every internet user doesn’t have access to my shame. Nope.
Reality is… Jesus paid it once for all and then it was forgotten. I am free. I have hope!!! That hope is secure!!!
“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” Rom. 4:7,8