Going Against the Grain; Again

So we’re at the climatic stages of the football season, with the Super Bowl in sight and the College Championship being played tonight, as of this writing. I’ve been a major fan of the game for as far back as I can remember, and to be honest, I can very easily get too wrapped up in it. In fact, I was watching my team play last evening in its first playoff game and they lost. I yelled at the officials, I pleaded for the blitz, and I groaned at missed opportunities. In being a little transparent here, I HATE TO LOSE. I’m not a sore loser, but I hate to lose, at anything from board games, to cards, to party games, and especially sports. I have to admit it. I am too competitive.

This urge to win is complicated by my tendency to choose the less popular brands or teams and follow my Dad’s propensity to cheer for the underdog. Growing up, most of my friends and family preferred Chevy’s, but I’ve always liked Fords. The popular team was the Dallas Cowboys, but I’ve been a Washington Redskins fan forever. As a musician I play Fender, when the popular choice for many is Gibson. Why can’t I simply go mainstream and take the popular choices and be happy with the majority when they win? The answer is I’m just not wired that way. I was designed with a preference to go a bit against the grain and see things from a different angle.

I found myself in the middle of mainstream church life, pastoring and shepherding, leading worship, and administrating a local church. I preached the acceptable and standard doctrines that were expected, trying to keep them fresh and appealing, but to a desired result. However, that thing that makes me different, that part of the wiring schematic that is unique started to affect my heart. I became discontent and wanted to find a sharper spiritual edge. I grew dissatisfied with the status quo and the urge, no, the urgency to find more depth in my prayers began to consume me. I had to go beyond talking at my Redeemer up there somewhere to finding the place where I could look into His Face and into His Eyes. I had to know Him, not just about Him. This pursuit of Him cause my reference point to turn completely to the opposite direction. I was now going against the grain and finding myself out of the mainstream; again.

In the wisdom of Mishlei/Proverbs 27:17 we read, “Iron is sharpened by iron, and a man sharpens the face of his friend.”

For an effective edge to be gained there has to be something abrasive, capable of removing that which is not needed, and able to refine and hone. When it comes to applying this thought to your friends, you don’t want to destroy them, rendering them dulled with no edge at all. You want to refine them, reveal the unnecessary parts and help them become their best. This is my hope and desire for you. You may have found the opposing grain too rough to endure and no longer can simply go with the popular flow. But there are others like yourself and others who understand how you feel. Remember that I tend to choose the underdog and the less popular. This wiring that Yah chose to put inside me causes me to believe that hurting and frustrated people can find Him and look into His Eyes. They can learn to discern the tone of His Voice. People such as yourself can absolutely find His Heart and determine what and who it beats for. It requires a process and a commitment to letting go of whatever stands in the way. You will have to choose to go against the popular and the mainstream, but that’s the path that leads to Him.

I’m just offering a word of encouragement. I choose you. I believe that Y’shuah chooses you. We may disagree and even get abrasive, but let’s sharpen one another until we both find the edge we need. Come on. Take the more narrow, less traveled road that leads to a place worth finding. That’s where Y’shuah waits.


Shalom, shalom




The Monster of Narcissism

We’ve entered into my favorite time of year, when the weather starts to change, the Fall Feasts are on the horizon, and when Football returns! I’ve been a fan of the game as far back as I can remember and still sport a crooked nose from a sandlot effort at playing Quarterback. However, the game has changed in recent years. Currently the NFL is dealing with multiple cases of players conducting themselves in unacceptable fashion, marring the image of the League as a whole. I think the problem goes much deeper than what makes the headlines.

I’ve been grimacing for years at the antics of those who make a great tackle, successfully catch a deep pass, or cross the goal line. You would think that they had just saved the world by their super hero gestures, some of which have become trademarked as their own. In reality they are only doing what they have been paid huge money to do; tackle, catch, run, and score. The heros of the game from previous decades would smear you into the ground, turn around and go back to their own huddle. They didn’t have the time for posing like a Mr. America contestant.

Behind the gestures and antics breathes, in my opinion, a nasty monster that also shows up in real life situations more and more often. It has already consumed our most recent generations as a whole and has quietly devoured many individuals who could have done more with greater critical acclaim. Sadly, this beast chases us on our journey, seeking to take advantage of our wounded spirits and our offended minds; conditions that man’s religious antics have left us with. This demonic plague on our society is called Narcissism, the over indulgent ego that believes itself to be the center of all things. “What’s in it for me?” “What about me?” “But I don’t want to.”  “But that’s not fair!” “You can’t tell me ‘No’!” “Look at me, see what I just did!” We’ve raised the last generations of our children to believe they need an applause, a reward, and a trophy for doing what we did as kids, just because our parents said to. The doctrine of “everybody’s a winner and nobody loses” fails to prepare anyone for the real adult world, where your skills and ethics determine what end results you actually end up with.

So, we’ve sat on our pews and stared at the ceiling tiles above us in the Sanctuary, our roaming minds wondering, “Is this all there is?” We’ve seen enough of the cheerleading choirs and heard the Pastoral coaching sermons until they fall on deaf ears. Even worse, some of us have been crushed by the behind the scenes play calling and staff maneuvers, being forced out and left devastated. At these critical moments the monster smells blood and seeks to clutch our minds in its claws. Our thoughts are filled with self protecting strategies and the building up of personal defenses that keep everyone out lest we get hurt again. “Me…my…and I…” become the subject of our conversations. We look for anyone who will console and listen, but who also will not tell us where we might have been at fault. No one should dare tell us that we need to forgive and let it go. If we become self absorbed and inwardly focused to the exclusion of others at this point, we will be consumed by the monster of Narcissism.

This journey back to Him, back to the place where Truth is found, and where we get healed and restored requires that we be real. We must be willing to deal with our stuff. We must become capable of allowing others to help us clean out thoughts and attitudes that promote the old stories and the over rehearsed tragedies that crowd Messiah out of our room. [2 Corinthians 10:5] You will never be truly free until you stop demanding retaliation and judgment by YHWH’s hand. Yahshua set the example for us by washing the feet of His complaining, egotistic, and even traitorous followers, on the last night He had with them prior to dying on the Tree. While hanging and dying for our failures, He asked that His tormentors, accusers, and the followers who failed Him be forgiven.

Rav Shaul, in 2 Corinthians 4:5 said, “For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Messiah Yahshua the Master, and ourselves your servants for the sake of Yahshua.” In v.7 he said, “And we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the excellence of the power might be of Elohim, and not of us…” And again, in v.11 we read, “For we, the living, are always delivered to death for the sake of Yahshua, that the life of Yahshua might also be manifested in our mortal flesh.” These words follow those that speak of our being hard pressed, crushed, perplexed, persecuted, thrown down, and dying. While none of those ideas sound desirable, they are indeed apart of our journey. It is only when we die, when our personal preferences and demands lie buried under a nameless tombstone, and when our antics that generate applause have ceased, that real resurrection life and power will be given to us. We are not being raised up to live for our own grandstanding, but for the promotion of His Name and for the labors of compassion that bring others to His Kingdom.

In summary, this whole thing is not about you or me. We do all that our hand finds to do and then do it with all our might as unto Yahshua. And expect nothing of reward in return. We do not seek to keep His commands for any other reason but that we love Him. Our lives are to be spent and perhaps seemingly wasted to give Him first place, applause, celebration, and a standing ovation. He alone is worthy. He alone has accomplished anything worth a reward. Our release from the plague of self is to be found in the exalting of Yahshua. “Therefore, we do not lose heart, but even if our outward man is perishing, the inward man is being renewed day by day.” [2 Corinthians 4:16]