Cigarettes, pie, & a dash of grace—-Day #9 of the 30 day challenge to blog

I was driving to work today and I saw the most beautiful sunrise. And for a brief moment I was totally lost in the moment. And I thought. I don’t do this enough. Look up. I’m too caught up with myself. Whether it be pride or low-self esteem. Either way. It’s just too much. But there was something beautiful that happened not only up in the air, but also don’t deep in my soul. It was a divine forgetfulness. For a moment, I didn’t think about myself at all. Not my sins, regrets, goals, or triumphs. I just thought about that damn beautiful sky. It was majestic. In all my travels, crisscrossing the country. I have seen some beautiful sunsets & sunrises. This morning I was thinking that I don’t do this enough. I don’t forget enough.

My favorite verse in all of scripture is in the book of Luke chapter 9 verse 23. Jesus said, “If you really want to follow me, take up your cross and follow me.” I’m not a bible theologian, but I kinda think what Jesus is saying is…”You wanna follow me. Cool. Come. Follow me. Just leave yourself.” And you know what? I love that. Let me give you a very simple, or as simple as I can make it…example…ever been in love? Especially when you fall in love. Long before bills, diapers, and taxes.  I can even remember the first intimate hug I had with my wife, way before she was my wife. In that moment. The earth stood still. I can still remember where we were standing in that very parking lot. And so can she. In that moment. I wasn’t thinking about my good, or my bad, and even better I wasn’t thinking about me at all.

That’s kinda what I think Jesus is calling us to. You want me. Really? Prove it. Forget yourself. Fall in love with me. I’m talking’ the head over heels type of love. I’m not talking’ heat of the moment, selfish, fickle love. The deep love. But not the polite love. Not the pretty love. The reckless love. The crazy love. The passionate love, that makes you so lost…but it’s so beautiful…you don’t care…you’d rather be lost, than be found…That’s the kinda love I think Jesus is calling us to. Not the polite, professional, never speaks out of turn boarding school type of love. But the violent, passionate, fiery, and loyal kind.

Rich Mullins, my hero, said something similar…He said…”You know it would be a wonderful thing if you knew the name of all the trees from your house to work…it would be a beautiful thing if you knew all your neighbors….forget yourself…you’ll have a lot more fun.” Side note, it was easy for him to say. His Dad was a tree farmer. And his neighbors were all his family members.

For a few hours I was doing okay at this. And then a weird thing happened. I got a friend request from Kevin Max. If you don’t know that name…you might know his former band…D.C. Talk…they had many hits, but one album that sticks out for me was when I was 15 or 16…”Jesus Freak”…and that I was. But there was something special on that album that always haunted me…It was a voice that said…”The single greatest cause of atheism today is Christians…people that profess Jesus with their mouth…than walk out the door…and deny him with their lifestyle…that is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable…” It would be a few more years till I learned that voice was Brennan Manning.

I accepted the friend request…wondering if it was the real Kevin Max. It was. Then I was floored and humbled when I saw he had posted the trailer…to my movie about Brennan Manning…and my eyes popped out of my head when right at that moment…a message popped up from him.

He was kind, and compassionate. He was encouraging. I responded and we ping-ponged back and forth talking about Brennan, bourbon, and ragamuffin type stuff.

And then something pretty profound happened for me. Or maybe I should say deep. And maybe profound and deep are synonymous…I was on Kevin’s Facebook…and saw a few comments that were negative…and not real negative…not real bad…it shows you how much of a wuss I am…and some familiar feelings started boiling in my heart. And I didn’t like how it felt.

I don’t know how to deal with negative comments. Of any kind, really. I never did. I wonder if we as humans weren’t really made with that thing…maybe because that was never part of the plan…to deal with that type of stuff. You know…the stuff that tears you down…versus builds you up.

I get so angry sometimes in the last few years when I would bathe in the negativity on Facebook or youtube threads about the movie Ragamuffin.

I remember I called Dave Mullins the morning after the Premiere of Ragamuffin. I was in my hotel room in Wichita Kansas sobbing. I had just read some negative things about the movie…(also I had read tons of positive…but that’s not what sticks to you as well as the negative)…and I said “Dave…I don’t know that I can handle this…” And Dave said, “What can’t you handle?”….And I said…”Any of it. I don’t know that my pride can handle the pats on the back…and I don’t know that my heart can handle the insults.” I’m not bullshitting you, or trying to sound like a baby. I was genuinely concerned. But with the time, and an occasional visit from Dave when I was on tour, I got a thicker skin. Truly, my friendship with Dave has saved me more times than I can count. He’s truly become one of my best friends. I’d lay down in traffic for that guy. And I know he’d do the same. Especially if I pushed him…just kidding dave…One of my favorite things to do with Dave. Laugh. And I love to make him laugh.

But despite, getting a thicker skin, and a friendship with Dave. I’d always have knots in my stomach when I’d wander around the internet and look at Netflix, or Rotten Tomatoes, Facebook, or youtube…honestly I’ve even enjoyed that some of the hub-bub has died down with Ragamuffin because I’ve enjoyed the giant waves of criticism subsiding…

Jim Carrey had this great quote…he said…you know when I’m signing autographs…I’ll make 30 peoples day…but then when I have to go…I’ll have that 31st person be so mad at me for having to go…and then that night when I’m laying in bed…I’m not thinking about the 30 people …I’m thinking about that one. That one that is so mad at me.

That’s the closest example I can come up with. There’s far way more positive than negative. But it’s that 31st person I think about.

And then today when I was on Kevin’s page…and I saw those few negative comments…I felt those familiar feelings come up…and I realized that my skin isn’t as think as I thought it was. And I said to myself…”I don’t think I can do this.” I just can’t handle it. Partially because I don’t get it. My wife put it well tonight…she said…”It’s like these people on the internet don’t think there talking about actual people” Who know’s…I kinda think they’re just not thinking at all.

But then Kevin responded to them…He said…”I have hope and grace…. .as evidenced in the trailer… Grace, when it is lived out, trumps everything.”

Right in that moment. It was like drinking a glass of water, after I had been walking in the desert for years. And in a way I have. I’ve always had this anguish in my heart for really years. Starting with projects way before ragamuffin that shot through the roof on Youtube, to movies, to Ragamuffin, and now Brennan. It’s almost as if I have had a deep cringing unanswered question…that I didn’t know I needed to ask…and that was…what’s missing…what is my soul so hungry for…and then with just a quick blurb…Kevin Max answered it. It was there all along. It was…Grace.

“Grace trumps everything.” Dammit Kevin Max. You nailed it. I just wish people would have more grace with me. And I’m sure there are some, even in my own life that wish I had more grace with them. Why do we do this to each other. We pick each other a part, instead of love. We call each other names, instead of shower them with compassion. I think it maybe because we are forgetful, but not in the good way. Not in the way Jesus is calling us to in Luke 9:23…but in the way Jesus warns the church in Revelation…”You have forgotten your first love”…We have forgotten how much we are loved…and have been clobbered with grace…and we start to forget how much we needed forgiveness and grace in the first place.

But this one act of kindness. This one dash of grace made me feel invincible today.

It was how I felt when I met Brennan Manning. And He and I and Mike Koch had cigarettes and pie…I too many times felt judged for being a non-traditional christian. I spent many nights wishing we could all just love and accept each other. I tried to act like I didn’t care a bunch of people thought poorly of me…some for justified reasons…some, not so much…but either way…it hurt…but in that moment sitting in Perkins in Anderson Indiana…that felt like we had all eyes on us…here we were SMOKING with Brennan Manning. Suddenly I felt invincible.

That’s how I felt today. Thank you my new friend Kevin. You reminded me of something Rich said…”It’s like being a hitch-hiker…and waiting forever for a ride…and then all the sudden you get one…and that one act of grace erases all the hours of not getting a ride.”

That one act of grace not only made sense of the question I had in my heart…why have I been so upset…what have I wanted from all the negative folks? Grace. That’s all. Thanks for reminding me that grace triumphs everything. I needed that. More than I knew. But I know now.

But on the flip side. I hope I forget. I hope I forget everything. I hope I forget that past. And even today. And hopefully tomorrow. I’m trying to pray dangerously tonight. I pray I completely forget myself. Because I think the more I forget myself, the healthier I’ll become. The more I fall in love with Jesus, the more I’ll know grace, and not forget to give it, as freely as I’ve received it.

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~ by David Leo Schultz on October 15, 2015.

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