Reflection in the pond.

Posted: October 5, 2011 in Grey Matter, Testimony

Little known fact:

In my younger years I was a miscreant, a deviant, a liar and an all around mean guy. I sought to pick fights with anyone who was around me because I was angry. I was angry at the kids who picked on me at school and I was angry at my parents for breaking up. I was angry because though I was told I was loved and that I could be anything I wanted to be, I didn’t want to exist. I tried to kill myself a couple of times — God would not let me complete the task. I became jaded and unapproachable; I got a tattoo that has a bio hazard symbol at it’s core with a stone tribal graphic encompassing it. At the time it was because everything I touched or did, turned to shit and that I was hazardous to everyone’s mental health, especially my own. Now Almost 11 years later I look at this tattoo and it has a different meaning. The stone tribal is suppressing the bio hazard symbol as if to say: “At my neanderthal core, I am rotten, I am a self serving, bitter, angry person ready to lash out at the world and I don’t care who gets hurt. However, thanks to salvation that has been laid upon my heart, I have corralled that portion of me and locked it away in a stone prison never to be seen again.”

I have brought closure to much of the pain in my heart, though there is still much to be resolved. I use this anger that dwells inside of me and turn it into fuel to build better relationships with the people in my life now and to love instead of hate. Instead of being self serving, I go out of my way to serve others. I look for those who are struggling and offer them an arm of support. I know what it is like to feel alone in your pain and I offer you solace. May God enter your heart and heal your wounds like he is healing mine. However, never forget who you are or where you came from, lest you create a shell image of yourself that no one can learn who you really are. I encourage all of you to share something with someone that you would not otherwise say. It is liberating and it is the first step to finding closure. It is also one of the first steps of truly being known.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

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Grey Matter Trees
Since my first post a lot of people have asked: Why “Grey” and not “Gray”?

The basic answer here is that Gray = a single color… Grey is a series of colors based on steps into black and white. Also it is often used to indicate a murky color area. Whereas Gray is usually simply defined as neutral and in my life I am anything but neutral. I am asked to walk the line between good and evil constantly, to watch friends destroy their lives and help them through it using biblical principles but without beating them over the head with the words “GOD” or “Church” or even “Christian”.

It is difficult to wade the sea murky waters that I have landed myself in, but as illustrated in Acts 18:1, some men are called to do just that. (I am paraphrasing. Please read the actual scripture using the link provided.) Paul leaves Athens and goes to Corinth. Here he finds a Jew named Aquila, a native of the land. He works in the same trade and stays with Aquila for a brief time. Within this time, he spoke at the synagogue every sabbath and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. While he was doing this, Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia and they opposed and reviled him. Paul left, rebuking them, saying “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” So he left and took up residence with a man named Titus Justus, a worshiper of God who lived next to the Synagogue. Paul continued to speak at the Synagogue. Now, normally he would be put to death on charge of heresy and teaching contrary to the law… but God was with him. One night the Lord appeared to him in a vision and said “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

Eventually the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal accusing him of persuading people to worship God contrary to the law. As Paul was about to speak, Gallio said “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. But since it is a matter of questions about the words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.”

The point here is: just as Paul was asked to live in and amongst the Jews and Greeks and speak to them about God, I feel I am called to live amongst the atheists and agnostics and to persuade them as Paul was called to do. Let’s not forget that Paul was once known as Saul… and in Acts 8 this man was persecuting the church and ravaging it. Acts 8:3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged of men and women and committed them to prison.Who better to convert to faith than a man who understands what it is like to have none. A man that was so active that he would go to lengths of gathering letters that were written to synagogues so that any shred of proof he could find of people connected to the church would be brought bound to Jerusalem. Well Jesus revealed himself to Saul and changed him, then he chose him as an instrument to carry his name to show him how much suffering there is for the sake of Jesus’ name.

Reflect on this, and in your own lives consider a time where you persecuted someone’s beliefs and what you believe now. Have your beliefs changed? Are you steadfast in knowledge of salvation, or lost in the sea of doubt and confusion that swallows souls of good men? Share your answer in a comment and invite your friends to partake in our discussion. There is no judgment here. Because I, like Paul, am the greatest of all sinners.

The Trail Head

Posted: August 7, 2011 in Testimony

Whenever I meet people and share some of the stories from my life, they have a hard time believing I am a Christian. After all, I certainly don’t fit the stereotypes. There are many things that have brought me to the point I am at but I am going to give a brief snapshot of my development as a Christian so you can see where I am coming from. The best place to start is my testimony.

I distinctly remember the shabby school bus stopping in front of our single story run down house with toys strewn about the yard and thinking, “great all those promises my mom made about shipping me off to military school are coming true.” It was the middle of a hot summer in 86′ and the tires came to a halt directly in front of my house, there was no military man that stepped off the bus or other seemingly deviant looking kids who’d met the same fate. Instead a slightly larger woman with a bright smile and peppered hair came bounding up to our door with all the excitement that was evident in the eager children’s faces on the bus. She didn’t need to knock on the door because there wasn’t one at the time. One of us or a neighborhood kid had busted the glass. So I stood inside the metal frame door awaiting my fate. She asked : “Are your parents here?” and of course my mom had taken two or three steps from our kitchen to where I stood and was already there. “Can we help you?” My mom asked. “Yes. I am Mrs. Palmer and we are on our way to Vacation Bible School would your kids like to come? We are going to be playing all sorts of games…” By this point I tuned out ( an early example of my ADHD ) I heard games and began begging my mom to go. So my mom let her three kids go bounding out the door and into the bus. When we got there I realized it was a church (I had never been to a church — they were evil things not to be spoken of in our house). There had been hints that this is where we were going, because all the way to vacation bible school people were singing about the devil sitting on a tack and all the things a man named Jesus was going to do to him. It was in VBS that I learned about Jesus and all the wonderful promises he had in store for me. Soon after, I became a bible toting 6 year old on a mission to save my entire neighborhood from the fiery pits of hell. My mom says she remembers me going door to door and fearlessly engaging the people who opened their door to a little boy promising to introduce them to a man named Jesus. She said that it’s one of her fondest memories of me because she could see the love and compassion that I’ve always had for people and wanting them all to be safe.

We’ll skip forward a bit. After years of attending our church, I started to grow a little in understanding, I graduated from the Sunday school class into the big kid sanctuary where it was no longer macaroni Jesus and singing the devil can sit on a tack. It was very different. Startling enough that at 10 years old I realized something was wrong. The pastors constantly talked about two things: Genesis and Revelations (How it began and how it will end). They spoke of brimstone and fiery pits of hell, they told us that we were all sinners and had no hopes of being the great men of the bible so we might as well give up, and that our only hope was to choose Jesus. All they ever spoke of was how even though most of us had been “saved” (I had not been at this point) that we would surely end up in hell because we continued to live the lives of sinners. At the tender age of ten I walked calmly away from the church I had been calling home and never returned.

A few years later a neighborhood boy and I met while riding our bikes around. He and I soon became great friends and it wasn’t long before he invited me to a church he and his family went to. They have this program called “Royal Rangers” it’s like the Boyscouts but for god. I was reluctant but I went. After about 4 years of steady commitment and diligent study, I was one of the tried and true Royal Rangers. A summer or two later, I was 16 and me and my friend were asked if we wanted to make a little cash for the summer by our pastor. So we go over there to do some yard work and when we got there, it was a mansion and he had a ridiculous amount of awesome cars that he (the pastor) was quick to show off. In a blinding flash, I connected all of the church sermons that I’d been hearing since I got there: “Give your money unto god (our church) so we can do great things with it” “Our church is in need, please give”, “The wheels on our church van that we use for outings need to be replaced…please give”. You get the picture. Here we were standing at a mansion, that our pastor was living classy in and yet our church van couldn’t be fixed? I walked away from church and at that point, I prayed to God. This was my prayer: “Lord, I know that the father is supposed to live off of the means of the church and that we are called to give. I pray blessings for this man and his family that he needn’t feel like he has to steal from the people who so lovingly give to the church that they attend. Father, please forgive me, but I cannot return to this church family, else I will be led astray as they have. Please find a new home for me and until that day Lord, stay steadfast in my heart.”

Fast forward 10 years: I am 26, I have abandoned all hope of finding the truth about God because all men are contemptible swine who seek only their own gain. I have grown jaded toward the world and I am agnostic now, borderline atheist. I challenge those who say they’ve met God and Jesus and laugh in their faces as they hopelessly try to convince me that Jesus is our true savior. My life has taken some ugly turns: teenage drug use, sexual deviance, uncouth mannerisms, a violent attitude toward those who try to do good, and an overall disdain for the mere mention of church. All who try to challenge me are met with a logic and wit they are not prepared to defend. I broke the hearts of men who loved their God. I rejoiced in the knowledge of that.

One day, I stumble into a shop and grab a smoothie, I am met by one of the most sincere and, at the time, most disgustingly happy people I’ve ever met. Over the next couple days I realized it was a Christian establishment and silently, I was prepared to fight. The conversation of faith eventually came up and he broke me down so fast it was staggering, and through him God spoke to me. “Lance, you’ve missed the point. You were not at church to follow men. Men are contemptible as you say and are the best example of why God’s grace is so powerful. You were at church to hear the words I had for you and to learn to fight the demons you possess so that you can one day walk in the kingdom of Heaven.” Never in my life have I wept as I did that day.