Archive for the ‘Restoration’ Category

Restoration Observations


At first glance this is likely going to seem like a really strange post but I promise you it’s actually an observation on restoration of the human soul.

Recently my son was playing some games on the web.  I decided to join him and found this game called Death Row.  The name immediately intrigued me and so I clicked on it to play.  The purpose of the game is to “reform” the prisoner, discover clues to his innocence and get him pardoned before he is executed, all within fourteen game days.  To successfully accomplish the mission you have to reform the prisoner by increasing his health, mood, respect, and worth ethic, which is no small feat.  Accomplish the mission quickly and your score goes up.

The prisoner begins the game very angry.  He’s been hardened to the point of rage and lets you know it immediately.  He is no one’s friend. In order to find the hidden clues you have to purchase items (rug, desk, linen, computer, etc) that fill out the cell.  To make money, you send him to work, trying different jobs in order to find the one he likes.  When you do he makes works harder.  To make money faster, you have to increase his work ethic.

What I found interesting in playing the game several times was the pattern that emerged in reforming the prisoner.  First I had to increase his health by feeding him well.  As silly as this seems it made a big difference.  Then I had to buy a toilet, sink for hot water and then a mirror.  Once this is accomplished, I could have him look at his image in the mirror and his work ethic and mood went up incrementally.  Once his work ethic was at a sufficient level, he worked harder.  And this allowed him to make money faster, which then allowed me to buy more stuff faster and win the game.

It was really interesting to me that the makers of the game understood the basic role that our dignity and self-image plays in our own restoration.  When the prisoner looked at his own image in the mirror and his health was low he hated himself and his mood and his respect for me went down.  During one game, I irritated him mercilessly, dropping his respect for me to zero.  He hung himself in despair and the game was over.  But when I helped him take care of his basic human dignity he improved dramatically.

What was also surprising to me was outside of food, the other functional objects in the room made little difference in improving his work ethic.  Items like a blanket or television set did little other than affect his mood.  In other words, stuff didn’t really matter in his restoration.

Once I had accumulated enough money I could purchase a computer for his cell.  Again the makers of the game seemed to understand the basic role of dignity in our humanity.  The computer allowed the prisoner to take an online course in law, economics and computer design.  Each of these skills dramatically increased his work ethic at exponential levels.  In other words, when he could participate in his own restoration he reformed at unprecedented levels.

My total score was how reformed he was based on the four categories.  In other words, I to score really well I had to affect the whole person.  I couldn’t just focus on one category and leave the rest.  I had to restore all of him.

I say all of this because in Thrive, understanding the role of dignity and the whole person was huge for us.  It was central to understanding the love was the restoring or holding of the person’s dignity, which was established by God in the act of creation. It wasn’t something ooey-gooey or codepently sticky sweet.  It was in fact deeply courageous and restorative. And as human beings we aren’t just a body, or mind, or a soul.  We’re all three.  We can’t just fill people up with information and assume we had done our job.  We had to create a space that allowed people to work through stuff and deal with not just what they thought but how they felt.

How often do we assume that following Jesus is simply about memorizing the right verses or serving on the right committees?  Jesus came to heal, not to create some religious program that led to boredom, yet how much of what we do leads to the latter?


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What if part of our own restoration really lies in the palm of our hands?

I had a very deep conversation with a friend of mine recently about forgiveness.  He was wrestling with the squabbles he and his wife were having.  It was nothing major, but the minor stuff was building into something major.  And I asked him if he could own his stuff first.  Instantly he retorted back, “Not until she owns her stuff first.”

And for several weeks the issues continued to build.  In fact, he wasn’t just conscious of the squabbles.  He was now fully aware that she wasn’t doing anything about them. His anger was continuing to grow as he recognized her lack of action.

You can easily see where this is going, can’t you.

We met for coffee because he was suffering some of the consequences of his own anger.  They seemed to constantly get into fights.  And I asked him, “Have you dealt with your own stuff first?”  I could see his mind twirl, consciously processing a new reality that had not crossed his mind.

“No,” he said.  “I want her to take care of her stuff first.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he responded.

I sat across the table from him recognizing that I knew that moment so clearly in my life.  The child in me wants others to act first.  I refuse to move even at the expense of my own restoration.  My pride wells up inside of me asking the world to bow at my feet.  I didn’t say anything after that because my friend was lost in his thoughts.  We sipped coffee and then had to go.

About two weeks later I ran into my friend and he had this big smile on his face.  He was standing with his wife and his arm was tightly wrapped around her.  Something had changed.  I walked up to him and gave him a big hug and whispered in his ear, “What happened?”

“I chose to seek her forgiveness,” came the reply.  Turns out my friend had turned a corner at the coffee shop.  He went home and sat his wife down and sought out her forgiveness, nothing more.  He owned his stuff.  And what surprised him was that the moment he opened the door for himself, he inadvertently opened it for her.  She instantly sought out his forgiveness.  The moment he gave up his own stuff, he got what he wanted.  It was for my friend a reunion of sorts for his marriage.

What is it about showing the other person the third way, the way of Jesus that is so restorative?  And why is it so hard to make the first move?  I hate that.  It never ceases to surprise me when we seek forgiveness, we almost instantly releases the other person to do the same.  We hold in our hands the capacity to bring restoration to the world around us, yet we hold on thinking it protects us. But when we let go, owning our own stuff, we seem to gain so much more than we ever imagined.

Listening to: Love Remains The Same by Gavin Rossdale

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This last weekend I had the opportunity to go on a retreat with my Tribe.  It was an awesome weekend of so much healing and restoration.  But a good friend of mine asked a question as he was wrestling with what it means to surrender to God.  He asked,

“Why does surrender so often feel like failure?”

Interested in your thoughts.

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Question: Is wholeness dependent upon all forms of conflict being removed, or is it a state of being that resides whole in the midst of conflict?  In other words, is our wholeness dependent on God removing all forms of evil in order for us to be whole people (as in a state of afterlife) or is our wholeness found in being love when its really hard?  Doesn’t the conflict actually reveal the wholeness?

I’m looking for your opinion on this.  And I’m thinking out loud so be gracious.

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One of the significant moments in my life was realizing that my Tribe was looking out for me. And if I allowed them they could be a vast source of growth in my life.

Historically one of the significant selling points of small groups is fellowship.  Come hang out and meet other people like you.  I get this.  I’ve lived this.  It’s actually really interesting to navigate the waters of new friendship, share a meal and perhaps a story.  Fellowship is sitting with those who are like me in some way and sharing life to a certain extent.

But what also seems to arise in any small group is the wall of the “real”.  I’m a broken human being learning to follow Jesus.  And if the intent of the group is simply fellowship, and even a simple Bible study, I’m likely not going to get to the reality that I’m broken.  In fact I am likely to hide my brokenness from those around me.  Fellowship then becomes a dance around my brokenness and stuff, me hoping they won’t notice when I slip up.  And in return, I won’t call out their brokenness too.  We’ll learn the right answers that allows everyone to nod their head in agreement.  But we’ll all subtly yet even unconsciously agree not to address significant issues in our life.

If this sounds familiar, this was most of my life in small groups.  And there is a true desire for friendship in these groups.  I still to this day have a significant amount of good friends who have come from groups like these, people I can call and say hi.

But what I never knew was the radical brilliance of what Jesus created when he said, “Come Follow Me.”  This single statement changed my life.  It was a three word calling into my heart to go beyond the simple fellowship of small groups and into what it means to engage God’s mission of restoration.  The call to follow meant to take up the practice of love, to deal with my broken heart, my wounds and my fears.  And to do that I needed a tribe, a group deeply committed to restoration.  I needed my people.

And when I did I realized what some call communitas, a group living in the liminal space of restoration, deeply committed to something together, something good, something whole.  And at the center of that mission was our hearts.  There’s a tremendous power that comes from a group willing to step into the chaos and eventually past it.  What once held us back became a chapter in our story of overcoming.  Instead of looking at each other as the problem, we could begin to see our brokenness as the problem.  As it was the tribe’s responsibility to hold and help restore each others dignity.

To follow meant going beyond the right answer and into the real answer so we could then live the right answer.  It meant taking little step towards the cross, to discover what the other side of death looked like.  It meant discovering not just the life and death of Jesus, but the resurrection part.  It was a strange but deeply rewarding process.

And at one point I remember looking around at my brother’s, my tribe, and realizing that they loved me.  They were the face of God for me.  They were reflecting Jesus back to me.  And it was good.

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Recently I had a chance to watch the movie Some Kind Of Monster, which is the story of Metallica making St. Anger. It’s surprisingly not really about mega concerts or thrash metal as much as it is about human transition out of anger.  What happens when the band members decide to get real with each other and do it on tape?

And there is a brilliant line in the movie where James Hatfield says, “I don’t know the difference between sadness and depression.” There have been times in my life when I know how he feels.

Depression, for me, is the awareness of what is wrong in life with no hope of overcoming it.  Life happens to us in such a way that feels like we’re being pushed down.  The gods have conspired to give us a fate that keeps us from realizing all that we’re supposed to be.  And what hurts is that depression weighs on us like a ton of bricks.  Each present reality compounds on itself to pull us into a downward spiral.  Our heart is literally crushed because there is no relief in sight.  How can we change what that person did to us?  How can we remove the stain that comes from abandonment, molestation, rape, rejection, or abuse?  Depression invites us to become inhuman by shutting down our heart.  It lures us into the idea that we can survive without feeling, without emotion.  And eventually we die, if only on the inside.

Sadness, for me, is the awareness of what is wrong in life with hope of overcoming it.  Life has happened to us but love gives us a new path that changes everything.  With love we can recover our own humanity.  We can see beyond the circumstance and consequence to a future that includes wholeness.

At first sadness feels like depression.  Both bring the same deep pain to our hearts.  They bring a twinge that we feel deeply in our soul.  But the difference is that sadness has a story of reality attached to it.  It begins with the idea that we are broken in the first place.  It begins with compassion and understanding and the possibility of love.  It doesn’t suffocate us with an immovable future, but includes a God who is right there in our midst.  Sadness leads to compassion and love.

And I sometimes wonder if the difference between the two is staring that little word “no” in the face.  To cross the bridge from depression and into sadness means getting honest with myself.  It means partnering with my Creator, with hope, to deal with me first.  It means coming to terms with my own brokenness, which Hatfield does in the movie.  It means facing my fears in such a way as not to allow them to define me but instead refine me.  And when I say “no” to depression, I am opening up the possibility of a different future because I am opening the door that includes restoration.

May we partner with hope to create a brigher future for those we encounter.

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I’m never gonna get tired of saying it.  God loves us more than we can possible imagine.

Recently I had the pleasure of going to dinner and a movie with some friends.  One of my friends brought his 10 year old son.  Most of the dinner was the guys having the conversation we have: work, sports, wives, stuff.  But during dinner I notice my friends son was fixated on his dad.  He was looking up at his dad as he was talking.  And the look was that of a young boy saying, “This is my daddy.”  It was worship.

And I sat there staring at his son, enjoying the awareness that this little boy knew he was loved.  He drew his strength and power from his daddy.  Things were right in the world because his daddy was there.  He didn’t have to impress us.  He shared in our conversation with ease and confidence.  In fact, I later learned that he is not normally that outgoing.  But in the wing of his daddy, he could discover his courage.

I know so many of us had father’s who were broken.  I did.  And life turned when I learned that God was my Daddy, who loved me more than I could imagine.  He was right there, waiting for me, embracing me, and validating me with the resounding sound of my dignity.  And I knew I was loved. I knew that God could see beyond my brokenness to what He had created.  I was His son, and He was my Daddy. It was worship.

So today, right now, revel in His love for you.

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