Separation Anxiety

I closed my sermon yesterday with one of the most beautiful, comforting, and inspiring portions in all of Scripture.  I’m speaking of Romans 8.31-39:

What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all- how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then can condemn? No one. Christ Jesus who died- more than that, who was raised to life- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
                ‘’For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’’
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Of the many things that stir my heart in this Scripture, I think the one thing I find most captivating is the promise of comfort and presence.  I started thinking about “Separation Anxiety” the other day and how it applies to us.  It kind of came to my mind in a funny way.  Laura and I have been discussing the possibility of getting a dog.  I was hesitant at first, but now I’m completely pumped about it, and I spent about two straight hours last night looking at dog breeds and reading about them.  I also looked at the mutts available on websites at local animal shelters and homes.  I’m leaning towards mutts- nothing against your dog if it’s a pure bred, but mutts just seem a bit mellower and laid back to me.   It’s like the pure breeds know they have papers, and they act all bratty about it.  But anyways, in reading about dogs, a couple of the different breeds were said to have serious “Separation Anxiety.”  When the owner leaves for any amount of time, the dog really freaks out in fear of the unknown distance between it and the owner.  The dog couldn’t handle being removed from the presence of its companion.

Now, I’m not comparing myself or you to a canine, but if we are honest, I have elements of separation anxiety in my life and most likely so do you.  I think at some level, all people deal with it.  It often manifests itself in relationship with God.  You might start to feel like God is too distant.  God is angry.  God is not listening.  Or, because of where you are in your life or because of certain struggles and issues, God’s love is no longer extended to you.  The Scripture totally obliterates the idea that because you are tired, sad, lonely, mistaken, tempted, stuck in sin, arrogant, careless, timid, overwhelmed, or anxious, that you are separated from God’s love.  In Christ Jesus, God’s desire was to redeem all of creation (Colossians 1.20).  This of course, includes you, even when you are broken and disoriented, frazzled and feeling separated, God’s love has not been removed and it has not left the building. 

For more about God’s love, see the Parable of the Prodigal Son- Luke 15.11-32


People hate mayonnaise. And I don’t really get it. What is it about mayo that inspires such passionate angst and upturned noses? Is it the taste? Is it the smell? Is it that it resembles Elmer’s Glue? I don’t know. I have a theory that if mayo tasted like mayo but looked shiny and yellow like mustard, people would eat it up. But anyways, I need to get to my confession. My admission is that I love mayonnaise. Literally, nothing is better than a little mayo on a burger or sandwich or even… Chick-Fil-A french fries. My love for mayo on Chick-Fil-A french fries has grossed out many of my friends. But I don’t care. They’re my fries, and I’ll condiment them as I please.

The thing is, though, my love for mayo is fairly recent. Growing up, I too rejected mayo for ketchup, mustard and relish. I rejected mayo because everyone else seemed to hate it. So, I figured if people hated it that much, I might as well be “normal” and hate it, too. But the truth is, when I actually tried it, I really liked it.

I know this is a silly example for mob mentality, but I think it applies. Often, we form our thinking and understanding of things based on others who seem to be already opinionated about whatever the issue is. I’m not saying that people with formed opinions are not to be trusted or are usually wrong. But I am saying that mob mentality can prevent individuals from thinking individually. I think this applies to faith and our understanding of Scripture. Some folks never challenge themselves in faith, thinking critically about and working through what they were taught. Again, I’m not implying that you were taught incorrectly, but I am asking the question, do you truly own your own beliefs? Have you read through Scripture with fresh eyes, open to feeling the Spirit move in you through the written testimonies of the Prophets, Gospel writers, and Apostles? As a Christ follower, there is nothing more powerful than wrestling with faith and seeking the conviction and passion of an experience and encounter with God. Those experiences are not just simply handed down from family or friends.

A church made up of people with like minds and shared faith is a powerful thing when the faith of each one is truly of conviction and passion. The church is certainly not a place for mere individualism; it is a place for community. But the community is strongest when it resembles the Greek word for church, ekklesia, which means a gathering of individuals to form one body. It’s where we get our English word, eclectic. It’s a place where we gather with unique struggles in faith and journeys with Christ, yet it is those unique testimonies that give strength to unity.


Just recently, in my backyard, there was a weed that was taller than my wife. I’m not joking. Granted, she’s only about 5’1’’, but still, that’s a really tall weed. We had joked around about taking a glass of lemonade and a book out to the yard, and catching some shade under our weed. How a weed could get so tall, I don’t know. But, it’s gone now, and our backyard is starting to look a lot better. The problem was not just the mutant weed, but a hundred or so small weeds had popped up across the yard over the course of a couple of days. Over that time, we had been real busy, and we just hadn’t been out in the yard. It happened stunningly quickly, and it was clear we had a lot of work to do. In fact, it took us two solid days of constant weed pulling, bagging them, and then fertilizing the struggling grass. The lawn is on the mend, but we had to get our game faces on to make it happen.

In Matthew 13, Jesus uses weeds as an example for his teaching:

24Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.25But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28” ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29” ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”

Sometimes, we get a better picture of Jesus’ teaching when we actually experience the illustration he uses for the teaching. I didn’t fully understand the nature and difficulty of weeds until they tried a hostile takeover of my backyard. I was shocked at how fast they grew. I was frustrated by the way they grew all over the yard, and I was surprised at how hard they were to pull. We only neglected the yard for a few days.

Jesus compares this to the kingdom of God. In every good work, there will be frustration. In places all over the world, there are people seeking to honor God, yet obstacles arise. In your life, there will be weeds that sprout up around you and frustrate you to no end. Trials and struggles seem to pop up out of nowhere or suddenly reappear. Your challenge is to grow as God would desire you to grow, and trust that He, in the end, will separate the good from the evil, the beautiful from the defiled, the truth from the lies. There is no easy explanation for why there is sin, death, and evil in the world. We know it’s the case, and we are called to grow in faith in God even amongst that. It comes back to faith, trusting that God will right all things in the end.

St. Patrick’s Life

The story of St. Patrick is much more meaningful than the quirky myths we often hear about him.  And, there’s much more behind St. Patrick’s Day than green beer and parades.  Here’s his story.

St. Patrick was born towards the very end of the fourth century, in Britain, of parents who were wealthy property owners and probably aristocrats.  He was most likely born right around 390 AD, possibly in 387.  He was born in a town called Bannaventa Berniae, near the sea.  His father was a deacon and his grandfather had been a pastor, however, his home was not a place of great piety or religious feeling.  A few years before his birth, there had been some raids on Britain from Irish pirates; however, it had never to this point effected his family.

Patrick’s childhood days were spent between his family’s home and their vacation villa, which they spent quite a bit of time at.  As a boy, he was spoiled, waited upon by servants, and he had a knack for finding trouble.  He was not a proficient learner, and his writings later in his life show this.

Patrick rebelled from the faith of his family.  He even states that he was an atheist during his  childhood and early teen years.  When he was fifteen, he committed some sin so horrible that it haunted him the rest of his life. No scholar or researcher has been able to identify what this could have been.

When he was sixteen, his parents left the home for a short time to go on a trip to their vacation villa.  Patrick was left at the house to care for the home while they were gone.  While he was at the house, in his room, Irish pirates raided the home and kidnapped Patrick.  All Patrick would have known of Ireland was the outlandish and horrific tales told about the country.  His kidnappers chained him, put him on their ship, and they took him to Ireland as a captive.  His parents would realize that he was kidnapped, but there was literally nothing they could do about it.  He was brought to the far side of Ireland to a place on the edge of the Atlantic and was forced to be a sheep tending slave.  In this time, separated from his family, the church, and even Christianity- Ireland was completely pagan- he became an incredibly devout convert to faith in Christ and a worshipper of God.  He prayed through snow, frost, and rain.  Over time, he picked up information, such as the Celtic language, which would be vital for him years later.  While out working in the field, he had a dream in which a voice told him he would return home.  He had another dream in which a voice said, “behold, your ship is ready.”

So, after about six years of captivity, he managed to escape; he made his way eastwardly about 185 miles by foot across Ireland to the other coast, and was able to get on a ship back to Britian.  He states that getting on board the ship was the most dangerous part.  His off-kilter accent would have immediately given him away as a foreign slave.  At first the captain’s response was short and curt, “forget about it- there’s no way you’re going with us.”  But, as the legend goes, when he was sent away, the dogs on the ship started barking insanely, and when he was beckoned back for more questions, the dogs didn’t make a sound.  So, they allowed him on board.

Upon returning home, there was great celebration of banquets and feasts and parties for a time, but his years in Ireland had changed Patrick.  He was restless.  None of the opportunities back at home seemed to fit him.  His experience in Ireland had sharpened him and set him towards a great purpose.  In his old bedroom, he again had a dream like the one he had in Ireland, calling him back to Ireland.   He felt the call to become ordained as a deacon and then a pastor, and he shockingly decided to go back to Ireland.  No one in his family understood why he would return to his place of captivity.  He remained there for the rest of his life, never returning to Britain.

Ireland was completely cloistered from other cultures.  No other culture saw it wise or worthwhile to invade or explore.  Ireland was very tribal, formed of a system that was mostly extended family.  Each tribe had its own king.  Society was stratified into classes- a stranger such as Patrick would be at grave disadvantage because the social system made no allowance for something as strange to them as a Christian clergyman.  But Patrick was effective because of his experience in Ireland as a slave.

He converted and baptized thousands.  He brought to full membership of the Church thousands of people, leaving many churches in his path.  He traveled widely in Ireland and claimed to have evangelized in parts where no one had brought the gospel before.

In his writings about his life, St. Patrick described his encounter with God like this: “I was a stone lying in deep mud when God chose to lift me out.”

Snow Fool

Snow in Texas is extremely rare. I can count on two hands the number of days in which I’ve been snowed upon. So, when it snowed this weekend in the Metroplex, needless to say, I acted like a fool. And, to make matters more interesting, not only did it snow, but it was as close to a blizzard as you can get in Texas. It was like Arlington, TX and Buffalo, NY secretly traded places for a weekend and didn’t tell anybody. So, in light of all this snow, I checked a few “firsts” off my life list. Shovel snow, check. Make a decent snowman, check. Try to snowboard down the driveway, check (key word there is ‘try’). Everywhere I drove I marveled out loud, saying “look, that’s covered with snow, too!” It would have been annoying, but most people were riding the same winter high that I was, so it wasn’t bothersome. But, I am fortunate to have the friendship of people who have moved here from the north. They were less than impressed by our snow-topia and were nonplussed by the constant bewilderment. In their defense, that’s certainly understandable. In the summer in Texas, I would be annoyed by someone from somewhere cold amazed and excited about the 95 degree heat. To them, the snow wasn’t new, and it just wasn’t exciting, and they had done all the things that made up my sad snow activity checklist. But regardless, I had a good time. And I think my excitement was warranted. This sounds really funny and weird, but I think it’s fair to say that a believer’s approach to worship should be like a Texan in a snow storm. We should be in constant amazement of the grace of God. We should be in constant awe of the joy of experiencing forgiveness. We should have our eyes open to new opportunities. You’re not in a good place when it goes stale. God is alive, so our worship should be alive, and there should be a sense of newness. It might even be okay to be a little foolish in our joy before God. As David said in 2 Samuel as he danced around before the Lord, “I’ll become even more undignified that this.”

« Previous Entries Next Entries »

Guiding real people to embrace a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ