We will get there…

When God made it clear I wasn’t a very good Dad.

I remember that moment in church…sitting vulnerable before communion. I am supposed to confess my sin and reach out to God for communion and intimacy. All the normal confessions rolled through my head… lust, anger, impatience, dishonesty, condescension and greed… all of the local flavors of each finding their honest way to my tongue and each vanquishing on the altar of forgiveness. Then it happened. I made the brutally honest request of God to show me what I should be teaching my children.

Why did I do that? I knew what I needed to teach each child. I knew each of them intimately and deeply. I helped them come into this world and have been with them each and every step since. I knew these human children and new what they needed to flourish. I never claimed or thought myself perfect. I knew I had flaws and a tendency towards anger and critique. But in that I could see their weaknesses and what they needed to improve to be a success later in life…if only they would heed my warnings. I worked toward that goal and encouraged, and berated my children to make their futures brighter. If only they would listen.

But… then I had to go and ask God, what do I need to teach my children. After all I already knew what they needed. What a foolish question to posit. And. He. Answered. And long has it been since my soul has been shaken in this manner. Because His answer was unlike anything I had planned. He said to me almost as clear as day. Your children need to learn compassion, gentleness….kindness.  These are the things that they need. Can you teach that to them, Lonnie?

I was floored, because none of those were on my top five list. I …couldn’t even register this properly. I sat there in confusion and hurt. Open and vulnerable to the God I needed, I couldn’t even process this initially. I already knew what my kids needed and I worked ceaselessly towards it. Whether it made me the bad guy or not…some day he might thank me if he might get it. But that voice came back and insisted… “Lonnie…Regardless of your ability or not… I want you to teach your babies compassion, gentleness and kindness. I can sort the rest out… trust me.”

Oh that difficulty… trust you?  How can I trust you? How can I teach these things when I cannot seem to know them myself…. And that is when He reminded me that, He had little need for my skill. He had little need for any expertise I might have. It was and always is the weakest of these that He has chosen to use, ultimately for His glory. And those… those of the ones He gave what they needed. So, I hope to trust in that then. I hope to trust that somehow in some weird bizarro way I cannot understand God is going to show me how to teach my boys compassion… my girl how to be kind. And screw all the rest, if they learn nothing else to be compassionate, gentle and kind…the rest will fall in line.


Here We Find Ourselves

Lord here I am,

The weakest weekend warrior in the area.
False in my assuming and impotent in my trying.
I am here to be yours, but oh how I fail at it.

Take this for what its worth, nothing much there.
But isn’t that what You do?
Isn’t that who you use?
The weakest and most foolish of us?
I have spent my life seeking Your truth and never quite finding it.

Relying on that power of knowledge.
Relying on the certainty I have managed to dredge.
Relying on me.

And yet I have come up short.
Any yet I have just made myself tired.
And yet I have just nothing.

Lord take what very little I might have and please use it before I end.
Take it and use it before it fades.
Or…let it fade and perhaps there I might be something.

I still seek to be something but refuse complete surrender.

I see the jealousy and impotence in my life and just want to scream it away.
thank You.

On Christian Character

“I think you may judge of a man’s character by the persons whose affection he seeks. If you find a man seeking only the affection of those who are great, depend upon it he is ambitious and self-seeking; but when you observe that a man seeks the affection of those who can do nothing for him, but for whom he must do everything, you know that he is not seeking himself, but that pure benevolence sways his heart.” – Charles Spurgeon, 1876

Understanding the character of those around you profoundly shapes your view of the world. This is intimately connected to understanding your own character as well. One cannot look at someone else’s failings or accomplishments without seeing themselves in regard to that. I truly believe this. When I encounter a man of low character, I usually do not think myself higher than him. I often find myself first asking, “Where is that weakness in me, and what should I do about it?” I don’t always follow through with actionable items, but sometimes I do. I think Character is one of the easiest things to fake, and hardest things to prove.

In the Western Evangelical church we often assume church membership equates to character, but sadly it does not. The church is nothing if not filled with broken sinful people. In some senses, that’s ok. Christ did not come to call the righteous, but instead the sinners (Mark 2:17). In other senses though, it can lead to a lot of pitfalls for those who are not wary.

In my experience, working with people seems to be one of the easiest ways to learn about their character. I have often found myself finishing an interesting spiritual conversation with a religious coworker only to turn around and be treated badly by them. It leaves me a little boggled, and confused. Though I do know, that once this happens I now have a quick and firm response for the next time they wish to give me moral or spiritual advice:

“I do not wish to discuss moral or spiritual matters with you, as you have shown through your character that any advice on the above from you will either be false or toxic.”
While this does well to protect me from fools, it is only the first step. From there I must then ask myself about my character, and where my shortcomings are, in hopes that I may avoid hearing this same thing from another. Worse yet, that I may avoid failing my God.

Freeze Frame

Freeze Frame
He stands on the stool, shirtless and wearing old pajama bottoms. Around his neck a homemade cape hangs denoting otherworldly powers. His blonde hair askew, and his face frozen in a rictus of rage and omnipotent power. Below him a boy in briefs and a camo shirt waves a spatula defiantly, even though this might be it for him. Facing this mighty foe, he regardless stands his ground, howling his strength and defiance.

Freeze Frame.
My arm aches slightly as I look down at my burden, a fat smiling baby, shirt soaked in her own drool. Blue eyes survey her dominion beneath a mess of curly brown hair. A young boy dances unmindful of those around him, swinging a whisk like a baton. The music filling his ears, and his mind, is the only thing he cares of at that very moment.

Freeze Frame.
A beautiful mother stands laughing at her ridiculous husband who somehow after years still thinks he can dance. She straightens the kitchen in an endless battle against the mess, knowing tomorrow she will retake this battlefield and engage the very same foe.

Freeze Frame.
I pause in my dancing and my heart aches as I see my family, all mistakes. All unintended. What a grace, I have been given. In this moment, I don’t – can’t – remember the bad days, the days I am so tired and angry and hopeless. I can’t even see that because of the mystical beauty of life I am caught up in.

I never intended any of this, and yet here I am. How someone could intentionally put an end to this I cannot fathom.

Divine Permanence and Our Doubts


What a wonder to realize, truly realize, the importance of divine permanence. God’s own lack of change amidst our ever-changing world is hard to grasp at first. We are told in Romans 8:38, “For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” Nothing in creation can separate us from the love of God . What a marvelous wonder! So what does this biblical promise mean then in regards to our struggles with doubt?
As all-encompassing as our doubts can feel at times, we can surely be encouraged that our doubts are not divine. They are not eternal. Our doubts are man-made and created things. This means that the above mentioned passage applies to them as well. Our doubts can NOT separate us from the love of God! No matter what fear or dark thoughts might spawn from them in ever realistic fashion, God is immutable and unchanging. When He said, “My Child, I love you.” He didn’t stutter and he didn’t mean only as long as you hold strongly to certainty. He meant merely that He loves you and that, reliably, will not change.
We can take solace then in knowing we have a freedom in doubt. We are safe to ask questions and struggle with doubt. We can lay that fleece on the ground and expect and answer from our God. We don’t have to hide from our doubts, afraid of what they might mean. But instead, we can turn and face them, assured of the safety we are promised in God’s permanence written of in Romans 8. God’s divine permanence guarantees that we can struggle with and overcome our doubts without fear of rejection or failure. Take heart.

Dealing with Death and Our Immortal Moments

I simply cannot shake thoughts of Robin Williams from my mind. Over and over I am drawn back to look for more information on his death and the events leading up to it. Each time I am brought to the verge of tears, and I cannot help but wonder why I care so much about a man I never met. He was like a childhood friend to me, and he was my parents age. I felt like I identified with and knew Jack, or Peter Banning. I saw that child inside of him wanting to explode out and I felt like that too. Except that I was a child. It probably made more sense for me.
This has placed me on a trip of nostalgia and thoughts on the past. I look at the years behind me and picture each one of them like a death. I love and smile about them but ultimately mourn for each and every one of those that will never come again. I watched Hook again to commemorate Williams’ death, and I almost shouted bangerang right here on my couch. I cranked up my old dance music from the 90s for my boys who must have really thought their father looked the fool cutting a rug in the kitchen while they ate their dinner (except Wyatt, he really thought I was cool). And as I listened to Heaven by DJ Sammy, I stopped dancing and stopped smiling, and the mourning down deep welled up and I began to feel hopeless for my future, sensing futility in moments, as they like the others will all die. I wanted to cry again, it was crushing. A dark pall had settled over me with the advent of Robin Williams death, and it was persisting.
Then I saw my boys, watching me, grinning. Squeaking. Growing. Having their own immortal moment right now that they would one day mourn. I wonder how my own father felt about 25 or so years ago as he ambushed us and ran roaring down the forested hill with his deadly stick gun, my brother and I scrambling out of his way, screaming. He must have loved creating that immortal moment for us, all the while mourning the death of his own. I go to bed tonight with a heavy heart but a much more understanding spirit. It is not for me to live in a moment forever, but rather to create those immortal moments for others.

Doubt’s Irrelevance to Truth

A silly thing, doubt, when dealing with truth. As daunting or terrifying as doubt may seem to a besieged soul, when broken down and measured for its worth, it comes up lacking. When one is gathering facts for a case or presentation, one rarely if ever asks opinion or feeling. Despite what Hollywood crime dramas would have us believe, it isn’t hunches or doubts or even gut feelings that lead to understanding or resolutions. It is something else entirely. What that is can vary depending on the situation, but what we can be sure of is that it isn’t hunches, feelings or doubt.
I remember speaking with an atheist friends of mine on the subject of existence and origin, and I spoke of there needing to be a source of all things. His response, which resonates with my doubts as well as much of modern thought was, “Couldn’t it all just have been by chance? What if it was?” I stopped, annoyed, and said, “Yes, of course it could have , but what bearing does that have on truth?” He laughed and our conversation drifted onto more benign subjects. ‘Whats ifs’ and ‘could haves’ are not what is and what was. Interjections like that are good for speculation or challenging thought, but definitely not for establishing truth or faith.
So why do we let it dominate so much of our structures of belief? Why do we experience doubt and then assume its reality as if it is ours? We must learn to put doubt in its place and not allow it to establish its false brand of truth for us. Rather, we should trust in God’s Word for our truth and in His hope for our strength to realize that truth in our lives. Doubt, while powerful, holds little relevance to truth and it is time we realized that.

RETRO POST: Space, the Inevitable Frontier

-April, 2007

If you have never read Isaac Asimov, shame on you. He is one of the best science fiction writers ever to pen a manuscript. Quickly now, go and purchase or borrow a few of his robot novels, or if you are to only read one story, choose the Foundation series.

I recently finished The End of Eternity, one of his shorter books. In this, we are presented with the plot that man has enabled himself to step outside of time. An organization has developed outside of time that Asimov, interestingly enough, calls Eternity. Eternity exists outside of time, and has the ability to send its agents into time to make adjustments here and there to prevent catastrophe, disease, war, drug addictions, ect. Their purpose as an organization is to better mankind by changing time and reality to avoid anything that compromises the greater good of mankind. In the different realities that come and go, people and personalities come into being as easily and quickly as they pass from reality. Risk has been eliminated and mankind slowly settles into comfort and contentment.

Into this is introduced the main character who is an ‘Eternal’ and a part of the whole process. He undergoes much change and is introduced to love unexpectedly. This upsets his whole equilibrium, and through a long set of orchestrated events, finds himself with the decision to destroy Eternity. He wrestles with the whole concept of contentment and safety existing in too great an amount. Security is paramount, and out the window goes risk, and also abnormal achievement. Asimov argues in this story that by removing abnormality, risk and danger, mankind has robbed itself of the drive to succeed. Man has slipped into a comfortable setting in which nothing threatens and nothing really challenges.

I won’t ruin the story and reveal how it ends, but Asimov is a master of the written word, and it ends with an interesting moral and closure. It made me think, and brought me back to a concept I have often wrestled with.

I make a good amount of money. I live in a secure area, with low crime, and a relatively secure government. I drive a dependable car, and have good friends who support me. My life has a minimum of risk or dangers, and I have done many things in my life to establish this. I have put structures in place, worked hard enough at my job to secure my spot there, and fostered relationships with mostly stable people in hopes of creating a warm safe place for me to exist. I don’t wonder where my next meal will come from, I don’t fear walking out my door, and I can express my religious beliefs in a public and open setting without fear of retribution. I have my own Eternity right here. I can step in at any time and protect my security and never have to fear the upset of the balance.

The Church is little better, and has often left me wondering if we would be better off with a little persecution. What if we had to fight for our beliefs? What if going to church, or carrying a Bible could end you up in jail, or dead? What is more difficult, fighting a physical enemy opposing your faith or battling your own leviathan of contentment and laziness?

So, I guess I am a little ashamed. I am ashamed that in such a safe place I find my weakness.

Asimov idealizes space exploration in his book as a focus for the anti-thesis of Eternity, always showing risk and danger, and as such any movement towards space is always reality changed and avoided. Space begins to form into this frontier that is avoided because of its supposed inevitable push towards catastrophe for man. Without the expansion and exploration of space though, mankind begins to withdraw and stagnate.

So what is my Space? What should I be stretching for, and where can I find it? I think I know, and yet do I have the strength? Do I have the wherewithal to step away from what is comfortable, be it physical, mental, or emotional safety, and risk? Can I stretch out my hand and grasp for space?

Disappointment’s Role in Doubt

How many times have heard the story of a Christian leader who confesses to some dark sin, or worse yet, is found out without confession? Sometimes it is someone you recognize, someone you respect, or even someone who you know. How disappointing, you had thought better of them and here they are, letting all of Christendom down, especially in such a public and damaging way. That disappointment can lead you into a whole host of doubt filled thoughts. Why, if that person can fall or show a lack of sanctification, then who else hasn’t confessed or been caught yet? Questions even begin to arise like “are there any genuine Christians out there?”
One very important response to this thought process is to be self-reflective, rather than other critical. Unless you are involved directly in the event there is little directly that you have to do with the situation. Thus, little is gained by dwelling on it for long. Instead, use it as a reminder to look at your own life and with the mindset of “there but by the grace of God, go I!” or perhaps even, “there am I, help me Lord.” Use it as an opportunity to approach God rather than doubt Him.
Disappointment can come in many other forms as well. Anytime an expectation is dashed or not met, a shocked frustration is sure to follow, and you will be tasked with sorting out all of the fallout. A supposed Spiritual certainty unfulfilled, a door closed when you really wanted it open, a period of spiritual dryness when what you craved was renewal. All of these can lead to thoughts of frustration and doubt. But, many can be addressed by changing our perspective. Looking at God’s grace and provision in what He has given you instead of entitlement in what He has withheld or neglected to give you. Realize you do not understand everything and trust in the One who made all things and sustains all things.

Imbued Worth

All too often, we find excuses to be ineffective, impotent and lethargic. We doubt our own abilities and in turn doubt God’s call in our lives. Were we not given the Great Commission alongside the disciples? Was not Christ looking directly at me when he said those words? So why do I balk? What holds me back? I am foolish. I am a sinner. I am not worthy of His work. I sing too off-key. I am too young. But what did God say in response to Jeremiah when he claimed to be too young? In Chapter 1 of that book, God responded almost angrily with “Don’t say that, when I have told you to go!” We are afraid of failure. We fall to our knees, shaking and stammering, “but I might fail, Lord!?” and He responds with “so..?” We were not called to success, but to obedience and the prophet Isaiah is a good example of that.
Our doubt can bring about self-loathing and an inability to believe that we are worthy of His work. We are given worth, though. We are imbued with Christ’s worth and in that must find our courage to face our doubt and do what is requested of us. Though pride may have fallen and led us into insecurity, we can have that insecurity reversed and find, instead, courage and encouragement.
Hold fast, believer, and know that is not your success that will win the day but rather God’s will that will be done. Do what you are asked because it is He that asks, not because you might be successful at it.

Stephen Mattson

Inspiration. Faith. Christian Culture. Writing.

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