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Getting Clean

This is a story worth watching.  Richard Jensen spent 15 years as a meth addict.  I know people like Richard.  I used to be like him in a lot of ways.  Discovering something worth fighting for is a long journey.

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This post is part of the January Synchroblog. This month’s topic is God’s ability to use the foolish to confound the wise. You can find more at the end of the post.

When I was six I got my first trophy for playing soccer. It was the strangest feeling at the time. The shiny little trophy had this interesting effect on my soul. It felt good in a way that was validating. As I grew, I was naturally gifted in quickness and learned to gain the applause of my fellow classmates. Before school, everyone would gather up on the black top and challenge each other to see who was the fastest kid in school that day. 9 times out of 10 I won the race. The applause became like a drug, reminding me that I had done something worthwhile. I must be good right? The problem was that by lunch time, people had somehow forgotten their applause. The parade of validations had gone home, thus the need to prove myself again the next day.

And then life had a strange way of doing the same thing. Everything I participated in, school, sports, church, quickly constantly reminded me that applause came from accomplishment. If I got good grades my parents were pleased with me. If I scored goals, my friends were pleased with me. If I memorized verses and showed up on Sunday, my youth pastor was pleased with me. Even work was a matter of accomplishment. The better I did, the more applause and money I gained.

But over time the search for applause grew exhausting. The fickle crowd was never pleased enough. The bar somehow kept increasing the older I got. And to be honest it took a heavy toll on my soul. I felt like a horse with a carrot hanging in front of my face just beyond my grasp. No matter how hard I tried it could never reach it.

In college I made the bold decision to simply stop trying. I was no longer going to be good for a crowd that refused to be pleased beyond lunch. The problem was that my ego refused to participate. It needed to be validated and would stop at nothing to get its way. And then I discovered drugs, which made me a really funny guy. Bam. New applause. Come on, people. You’re not making this easy.

But along the way God kept breaking into my life, calling me to hear His voice amidst the crowd. It wasn’t loud. It wasn’t boisterous. In fact, I often had to strain to hear it. And when I listened He kept telling me that I was loved. At first I didn’t want to believe it. I kept thinking that by lunch time the voice would grow fickle and I would somehow need to perform for Him as well. But by lunch time the words hadn’t changed. In fact by dinner the voice had grown steadily louder and the longer I listened the more I heard it.

And then God invited me to let go of it all. His invitation to love invited me to actually believe that I was already loved, not from what I had done, but from who I was, His beloved child. At first it seemed quite unbelievable, even stupid. Everything, and I mean everything, had told me exactly the opposite. The world didn’t work that way, so I thought. Love, which I had always assumed was the applause, was supposed to be earned, wasn’t it?

And I remember that moment, the distinct sound of my heart saying it was time, letting go of the applause and exchanging it for my Father’s love. It seemed fresh and free, almost impossible to believe. I felt scandalous because it just couldn’t be that easy…could it. And every nerve ending and sinew in my body wanted to jump ship. I kept laughing like a three-year-old who had found a secret stash of Rocky Road ice cream, hoping no one would take it away.

But damn that ego. It kept creeping back in, constantly reminding me of the rush of the applause. The voices from the crowd were so eager and earnest to lure me back. And to be honest the first time I went back the sound of the crowd, sounded soooooooooo good, like your favorite song from high school you haven’t heard in a decade. The exquisite feeling of temporal pleasure. But a strange thing happened by lunch time. The exquisite sense of validation painfully faded away. And as it faded I could hear the faint sound of laughing, the enemy having sucked me back in.

And the temptation was to assume that I had somehow ruined grace, that I had somehow cut off the voice of my Father. In fact, this assumption led me to turn away from His voice, the prodigal child once again. And it was at this moment that my Father’s voice resounded loudly. “Nothing can change my love for you.” It was hard to hear that, to believe that. I had picked up the lie I had previously abandoned. Why would God love me? I wouldn’t.

And I realized at that moment that God is not like me. He’s God and He is love, desperately searching for His children and ready to forgive. That’s what He does. He’s also breaking into the enemy’s kingdom and offering us His grace. And He’s asking us if we want to participate.

Other Posts:

The Power of Paradox by Julie Clawson

Won’t Get Fooled Again by Alan Knox

Strength on the Margins by Igneous Quill

Foolish Heart by Erin Word

A Fool’s Choice by Cindy Harvey

Quiet Now, God’s Calling by Jenelle D’Alessandro

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right… By Mike Bursell

Ship of Fools by David Fisher

Hut Burning For God by Fr. Gregory Hallam

God Used This Fool by Cobus van Wyngaard

Fool if you think its over by Paul Walker

Blessed are the foolish — foolish are the blessed by Steve Hayes

Fools Rush In by Sonja Andrews

What A Fool I’ve Been by Reba Baskett

What A Fool Believes by Sue

The foolishness of God and the foolishness of Christians. by Kent

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Great article from Sally Morganthaler on women in the postmodern church context. She asks some awesome questions for women looking to make an impact in the church, including, “In summary, what does it really mean for a woman to be released into her potential, to be trusted with a ministry role, or to secure a salaried ministry position only to find that, for all her new-found freedom, authority, and seeming equality, she is only rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?”

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Nice stuff from daniel t. over at Jesus Manifesto on living in God’s kingdom.

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Very cool summary by Scot McKnight of a chapter in Divine Embrace by Robert Webber at Jesus Creed. I now want to read this book. He also asks some serious questions about intellectual Christianity in chapter 6. This was me ten years ago. Nicely done.

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For readers of Kamp Krusty, this is a stunningly beautiful confession about the struggles of what it means to take medication from one of the funniest guys on my blog reader. The follow up is awesome too. It’s good to see the heart of people.

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Alan Hirsch asks some hard questions about reformed theology and the tendency to become religious Paulinism.  Nice.

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This is somewhat of an update to the Synchroblog WWJD…WTC.

This weekend I went home to Silicon Valley (San Jose to be exact). In the Mercury News this morning the paper highlighted the fact that we still lead the U.S. in venture capital investment (about 20%). I grew up here and saw the valley transform from a medium sized peach orchard to a mini version of Los Angeles. San Jose, in particular used to be the epitome of traditional family and average income provided by IBM and HP. The venture world changed all of that. Now we have some of the most influential companies in the world right in our own backyard.

As I was grabbing my Peet’s coffee and bagels this morning in downtown Willow Glen (my old neighborhood), I noticed the tremendous amount of wealth that was present in so much of the world around me. People dress up to go to coffee here. It is entirely likely to see the perfect family (husband, wife, two kids and a chocolate lab) six times over. I say this as an observation not a judgment.

As I left Peet’s I began to wonder, what it is that drives us to consume? What is it that compels us to want “the good life,” which is so prevalent in Willow Glen, and other places in the valley? And in my wonder my mind immediately fell on the olds answers. Our brokenness produces something of a drive within us that is almost insatiable. And as I passed the boutiques I was left with a feeling that it wasn’t that simple. Was it deeper than that? What is it that wealth reminds us of?

For some reason my mind wandered to the year I lived on USC’s fraternity row with some of the world’s riches kids. The row was something of an anomaly in the area. In five minutes time, I could walk three blocks to what anyone would consider poverty. Police helicopters were the norm almost every night. Every once in a while some kids from those areas would walk down fraternity row and stare at the big frat houses. But they would likely be picked up half way down by school police and “escorted” to the Blvd. I could see the longing in their eyes. The comparison was always striking and I never forgot it.

It was during this time that I used way too many mind bending substances and one thing always stood out to me about being “high”. It was as much a reminder of what I wanted to be as much as it was an escape from what I didn’t want to be, It was a temporary transcendence from my broken state, from what I was not meant to live. Coming down from the high was like being escorted to the end of the row.

And as I passed the many boutique stores that lined Lincoln Avenue I realized that we were designed for blessing. Wealth was a constant reminder of that blessing, the state we were designed to live in. Wealth provides a sense of security and safety to an extent. We don’t have to worry about food and shelter, our basic needs. In the beginning God took provided this for us.

But the allure of wealth is never ending. Behind every dollar is a reminder that we aren’t safe and secure. At any moments notice it can be taken away. And so we consume beyond what we need hoping that it will be enough, which it never is.

And as I engage God’s mission to restore the world around me, I am beginning to see that my Father is calling me into a life of trust with what He has given me. He is providing me with resources for the mission. If I horde them for my own sake, I am going to be missing out on the beauty of what my stuff was created for. I will miss the moment of transformation each item was meant to produce. If I hold on I will miss my own restoration in that process of letting go. I will miss becoming who I was designed to be, which is love. I will miss how my stuff was meant to restore my own heart by giving it away.  And I don’t want to miss that.

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