I Love Beer More Than Jesus

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“How deep do you want to go?”

These were the first words spoken by a jedi-knight of a counselor to my close friend as he embarked on a five-day counseling intensive.  Their meaning is simple and yet profound, and the answer isn’t assumed.  The counselor needed to know because my buddy’s response would be the primary factor in shaping what God could do in the next five days.

In that same spirit, I didn’t engage that intense fast I mentioned in a previous blog to stay in the shallows. If the Spirit were asking me, “How deep do you want to go?,” my response would be “the whole way.”  I want more; I need more.

And it was in those deep places that I unearthed this truth in my heart:

I love beer more than Jesus.

It’s humiliating to name it. But several weeks into this fast, it’s time to be honest.

While I’m being honest, I’m finding out there are a bunch of things I love more than Jesus:

-sugar, chicken wings, caffeine,

-relief

-control

-self comfort

-my reputation

Before you laugh, I wonder what your list really looks like.  If you feel like you are coming up short, grab a copy of Gerald May’s Addiction and Grace.

In his opening chapter, May suggests that “we are all addicts in every sense of the word”(3).

Yet through the course of his book, he explains that our addictions can be conduits of profound grace, for in facing them, we come face to face with our Jesus and the depth of His love for us.

First, we must face the reality of our addictiveness, how prone we are to attach (literally “to nail”) our desires to specific objects…We nail our desires for love, comfort, validation, impact, creativity, power, satisfaction, pleasure, fascination, greatness and intimacy to so many things, from our careers to our children, from our bank accounts to the Starbucks drive-thru…

And yet, right here Jesus loves us. Right here in our propensity to attach our desires to so many things other than relationship with Him, He loves us. Being honest with ourselves and with Him about our attachments gives us the opportunity to take a most remarkable risk of faith: “believing that God is good and that God does love us unconditionally” (Addiction and Grace 169).  Or as Brennan Manning discovered through a life-long, never-fully-resolved addiction to alcohol, “God loves us as we are, not as we should be.”

Jesus, there are places in my heart that much prefer to entrust myself to the immediate comfort of beer more than I desire you. I bring the truth of who I am to the truth of who you are. And I receive your love for me right here.

Facing our addictions is also a massive step to reclaiming our sincere desire for God. Our very tendency towards addiction reveals spiritual hunger that is itself a treasure map leading straight to our Father’s heart. What if we could relate to our fundamental restlessness, this nagging sense of un-fulfillment and the pain of being hungry and unsatisfied with utter compassion, recognizing that these symptoms are signposts of our spiritual hunger which is “a most precious gift from God” (180)?

It is this very spiritual hunger that points us back to our Father.

About a week ago I was walking following my well worn path of walking toward the fridge yet again, but this time with a newfound pause:

“Jesus, you are my beer.”

The words came out before I could edit them.

I still can’t even explain the theology of it, but it’s true. Two weeks without beer and I can still feel the restlessness after work and the discomfort of the inability to escape that restlessness. It turns out that this fast for me is much more about my addictions than my food allergies, about what I have attached my heart to other than God for my source of life.  Now, it’s become part of my daily prayer: “Jesus, you are my beer.  You are my freedom, life, healing and breakthrough.  More of you is available. Today. I want the more, Jesus. I want more of you.”

What do you love more than Jesus?

You might have to take a more direct route to get to the honest answer to this question.

Where have you taken your desires for God and attached them to people, places and things, demanding that they come through for you in a way they never can?

I love beer more than Jesus.

But I love it a little less and I love Him a little more than I did just weeks ago.

And I’m not stopping here. There is too much at stake.

For me.

And for you.

Father! I want to want you more! I ask first for your compassion to course through every cell of my body, your compassion for my propensity to attach my desire to so many objects in this life. Father, I receive your compassion. Now, Father, I confess my fear to you. My fear of being hungry. My fear of being unfulfilled. My fear of being restless. Father, come into my fear…

Holy Spirit, come, shine your right here, right now. Reveal to me the particular addictions that you would like me to face in this moment. Expose the people, places and the things I have given my heart over to in a desperate reaching for life.

And now, Spirit, I am asking for your liberation. I ask that your power would fall on me, that you would cut the chains of bondage that ensnare my desire, and that you would deliver my desire back into freedom… Father, I ask for all the freedom that you have for me in this area…

Jesus, through your life I am asking that you would detach my heart from all of these trappings and attach it more deeply than ever before to you. I believe that all my heart needs to love, to be loved, and to move ever closer to the source of love can be found in you.  Meet me in this vulnerable and young place.  Make a way where there is no way. I choose you.

Monday Morning – How Not To Become a Statistic

Tree with roots exposed

Statistically, there are more heart attacks on Monday morning than any other time in the week.

I’m sure you don’t have to hear that statistic to know the truth behind it; we’ve all tasted it. Monday morning can be a  treacherous outcropping with merciless waves of overwhelming responsibility, pressure and stress crashing in hard; along with the insidious temptations to “just get our shit together” and “make life work” for us and everyone depending on us. In other words, the messages are these: you are alone, it’s up to you, and you better not blow it.

Those temptations draw their power from our deep need for validation and identity.The pressure of a Monday morning tempts us to stay in (or revert to) an identity of orphan, making us vulnerable to the lie that we are alone and its up to us. The answer for how to “make life work” for the orphan is self-sufficiency and self-mastery. The other identity toward which the pressures tempts is that of a slave, making us constantly afraid of rejection, humiliation and blowing it. The emotional reality for the slave is fear, intimidation and bondage.

It doesn’t have to be your story.

There is another path.

Father, on this Monday morning I choose sonship.  I declare that you do not despise my need for you to affirm my identity and validate me afresh. Father, you say it is your delight to feed me daily bread. You created my need; you delight in meeting my need. Father, today I receive my identity from you. I receive my validation from you.

Who am I? I look and listen to you alone to answer my question.

Where does my worth come from? I look and listen to you alone to answer my question.

I receive a spirit of sonship over this week. I name it, and speak it over my family today. Over me, my wife, our union, over our children, our home, our property, our vehicles, our finances, the fullness of our domain.

I speak these truths over me:

It is NOT up to me. It is up to you, God. You are the hero of this story and I belong to you.

I am NOT alone. You are my true Father and you created me for intimate, daily companionship with you. You promise that I can hear your voice and that you will lead me. I do NOT need to fear “blowing it.” You are my affectionate and loving Father. There is nothing that I could do to cause you to reject me or remove your affection from me (Romans 8).

I am loved. I belong to you. I am yours.

I choose to be fed by you and not by the inbox.

In the name of Jesus, my brother, who models for me today, yet again, what it looks like to live as a son.

Amen.

A bunch of men could have heart attacks today.  Many of those heart attacks will be the result of living for years under a false identity and drawing validation from the wrong well.  You don’t have to be a statistic.

There’s another path. A narrow path…

You are a son and your Father knows you need His Fathering today.

It’s yours if you want it.

(For more you might enjoy The Decade of Sonship or How Have You Learned the Father)

Exposure and Surrender

Pizza

No wonder why the Celtic Christians called the Holy Spirit the Wild Goose;  to follow Him is to invariably be led on an adventure that we would mostly never choose on our own.

Recently, He took a wild, maddening turn in front of me through a great friend’s trip to the ER (thank you, Jon). In the aftermath, we were praying for God’s healing to come to Jon’s body through an intense fast/cleanse diet the doctors were requiring of him.  In the middle of the prayer the Holy Spirit snuck up on me and whispered, “I want you to engage the same cleanse/fast for 21 days.”  I was thrown off.  It was unlooked for.  Unwanted.  And it’s worth mentioning that fasting is one of the spiritual disciplines that has never worked for me.

So it began… For 21 days the plan was to eliminate every known food allergen from my diet along with all alcohol and caffeine. You name it, it’s now taboo for me… no beer, no sugar, no beer, no wheat, no gluten, no dairy, no beer, no soy, no peanuts, no eggs, no citrus, no coffee, no beer… you get the picture.

It’s basically like a vacation for the digestive system. And as I contemplated saying yes to the Holy Spirit, it occurred to me that  after  36 years of abusing my digestive system with chicken wings, nachos, and unnameable ingredients listed on labels I’ve insistently ignored, it was time to give it a rest.  After all, I thought that He was just after a cleanse… kind of a spring cleaning.

Yet as I headed into it, I felt a quiet impression that the Holy Spirit was after something even deeper and more comprehensive than my digestive health… 

And was He ever… He was after my heart.

Speaking of the “cleanse,” my buddy’s wife (who joined us in this divine experiment) put brilliant words to the erratic bundle of emotional responses we each experienced during the first week (thank you, Amy!):

  • Day 1: “This is awesome. Why doesn’t everyone do this? It’s so easy and I love vegetables.”
 Later in the evening, at the movie we went to for my husband’s birthday (I LOVE movies almost as much as food) and I always, always, get popcorn and a Coke): “I hate this stupid diet! Why do we need to be healthy anyway? I just want a huge tub of buttery popcorn and a Coke!” I enjoyed the movie, but struggled with being distracted and sulked a lot of the time.
  • Day 2: “This diet isn’t so hard. I’m so glad I’m doing this.” (We went for a hike and then my husband cooked curry for me)
  • Day 3: This is the day I got cocky and was all… “I got this. I am disgusted by those other humans out there who don’t choose to do something like this for their health.”
  • Day 4: “This is the dumbest thing ever. I HATE this @$@#&*! diet. I will stay faithful to it, but I REFUSE to be happy about it.” This is when I started having detox symptoms, as my body started dumping all the toxins I normally eat out of my system. My kidneys hurt, I had sciatic pain, headaches, blah.
  • Day 5, 6, 7: see day 4 =)

As Amy articulated so well, the first week was a roller-coaster of emotions. And for me, the Holy Spirit used this first week to reveal my utter dependence on food and alcohol for comfort and medication, pleasure and mood-control. He revealed with so much kindness my use of caffeine to “cheat” the system, using it to borrow energy from tomorrow and pay a serious interest rate in the process.  And so much more…

This revelation was exposing, humiliating… and saving.

In his teaching on fasting, a mentor Mike Bickle remarks that one of the most excruciating realities of fasting is that it reveals at first how little intimacy and substantial daily relationship we actually have with God.

“When all the crutches are taken away, you realize that what you and God have at this point just isn’t all that great… yet.”

And so it begins.

But something else has happened.  By day three, my energy grew enormously.  In the evenings I’ve been forcing myself to put down the book, leave the fireplace and get to bed, even though I don’t feel tired.  I still don’t believe it. “I’m not an evening person.”  That’s what I always believed.  “It’s just my drivenness that leads to exhaustion.”  Maybe in part, but not in this case.

Cherie still catches me staring at the beer in the fridge – sometimes just hoping for some osmosis or supernatural impartation.  But each day I do it more loosely…each day I feel myself surrender just a little more into the possibility that God desires to be my food and my drink, to be my comfort and the lifter of my mood. I have a long way to go, but I am keenly aware that I am in the middle of one of the holiest seasons of my life so far.

And I thought it was just a “cleanse.”

Where is the Holy Spirit inviting you to “detox,” “cleanse” or fast? Take a moment to ask Him to reveal any false comforters that He longs to replace with Himself.

If He asked, would you hear Him?

If you heard Him, would you do it?

Jesus, come. I am desperate. I am raw. I am exposed. I need you. I am hungry. I am thirsty. I am lonely. I am tired. I am uncomfortable. I am restless. I am in need. Come, beautiful, kind God. Come. I need more of you or I am not going to make it. Come.

meditations on

Meditations on the Parables of Jesus

How rare it is to sit at the feet of a man who has walked, intimately, with Jesus for almost a century… Keating offers insights on the true self like no other in Open Mind, Open Heart.  This sneak peek into some of the most stunning stories of Jesus is rich and remarkable…

The following is the description from Amazon:

Revising much of the content originally published in The Kingdom of God Is Like, and adding selected material from Awakenings and Reawakenings, Thomas Keating continues to stir the Christian imagination with insightful commentary on the parables of the Bible. Including the Mustard Seed, the Narrow Door, the Penitent Woman, the Sower, the Prodigal Son, and others, this collection of corresponding meditations renews the voice and vigor of each parable’s deeper meaning—so often overlooked through familiarity and fame. Originally told to seekers in an ancient land, each parable—packed with clues about the meaning of life, the nature of God, and the purpose of creation—has as much relevance and resonance as ever for both teaching the lessons of God and his mercy and for understanding the daily struggles of today’s fast-paced world.