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CRAIG'S BLOG

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It’s tax time.I chafe paying the amount of taxes I do. I’m not an anarchist imagining “there’s no country… nothing to kill or die for and no religion too.” Nope, I’ve been there, done that! I do believe in giving back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. it’s just that Caesar is more and more of a greedy !*#?%!

My grousing isn’t new or partisan. Decades ago, I began a tradition on the eve prior to sending in my Federal Tax check. I’d be fully present and engaged with Lori and our girls. As bedtime approached I’d make the rounds tucking in, tickling, and kissing each “goodnight” with a prayer and the benediction, “sleep with the Angels”. Then I’d hunt down the pint of whiskey buried either in the back of the spice cabinet, under the kitchen sink right next to the fire extinguisher or in the garage stowed in our Earthquake/Riot/Economic-collapse emergency bin.

Now, this wasn’t some high-end trendy single malt scotch; it had to be, and continues to be a cantankerous cheap unrepentant low-end bourbon. I’d take the bottle, a glass and my Bible into our living room and park myself on the couch. The room was empty, quiet and dark. The street light in front of our home provided enough light for my passionate reading of 1 Samuel chapter 8.

Chapter 8 is the story of God’s people demanding a king to lead them instead of looking to and following God as their King. God’s response to their rejection is a solemn warning...

 "This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.  Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.  When that day comes, you will cry out for relief…”

Okay, every year at this point of the story I'm doing two things: I’m crying out for relief and wondering why? Why? Why did those schmucks choose a king over the King of Kings... the living God!!! 

And the story continues…

...the people refused to listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles."

 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. The LORD answered, "Listen to them and give them a king."

Here is where, according to tradition, I throw back a shot of my gnarly hooch and begin to rant, deprecate, fuss, protest, wail and yammer against the growing grip of kings… and all they take and all they waste. I growl at the fraud, corruption, pork, injustice, un-intended-consequences and incompetence of it all.

I may or may not have another slug, but what always happens as my evening ends is an agitation at the choice the luke-warm, half-hearted posing schmucks of 1 Samuel 8 made!

... And I'm shamed to silence confessing that I too choose some king, leader, expositor or the principles/tips/techniques/guru de rigueur over the sovereign fathering heart of God in the day to day world that is my life.  

The internal dynamic/temptation of my rejecting of God goes something like this:

 Hey... this walking with God is messy, mysterious, involves a Larger Story and often focused on internal realities... Right now I''d prefer a smaller story and a few external things to change right now... actually yesterday. I need relief, i need someone to lead me to the promised land as i envision it (and I have a extensive clear picture of how it ought to be), someone to go out before me and guarantee that If I follow him my entire life will be orgasmic bliss... with all my tormenting lions laying down with sheep... gimme someone who'll fight my battles victoriously for me .. or eliminate the battles all together... yeah, I want a chicken in my pot, a clean bill of health, a car that runs, a fat bank account... yeah baby, that's what I want in these chaotic times and circumstances! I want a king... a real life, flesh on flesh king and a new stereo! Promise this and you'll be my king!

 And somewhere in all of that I turn from the One who gives life to some counterfeit "king" who takes all I have and all I am, leaving me with nothing. 

Like my ancient forefathers, I'm crying out for relief.

Lord save me from my idolatry, forgive my waywardness, and know my heart, for it surely longs to surrender, abide, follow and give to You all that's due. You are my King, the Lord of Lords. I worship you!

4/17
(27)

It’s a cold snowy day here.It’s gloomy. It feels like a ghost town... no one is outside, on the roads or roaming the malls. Everyone has retreated from the storm to their shelter to find warmth, hope and Sabbath. It’s a day that begs for a fire and an overstuffed leather spider web

that some would refer to as a chair. I succumb with journal, iPod and tattered Bible sipping in full sagely form cup after cup of a steaming Sumatra rain forest that some would refer to as coffee… and then, later in the day, as the snow accumulates, the sun and temperature drop and an unrepentant wind kicks up, a pint of New Belgium 1554. And then another.

Though my iPod is set on “Shuffle” there is absolutely nothing random about the songs playing. The One True and Sovereign God who’s greatest joy is to overwhelm us with His glory and the ecstasy and fullness of His presence is gigging as a DJ stacking the deck with a playlist of songs transporting me back through time celebrating the romance we’ve enjoyed over the years.  

It’s always stunning when and how God shows up.

There are so many different ways, so many odd, unique and familiar venues/elements that become the point of communion with God for us. God meets some on trails, some in books or gardening, in silence, tinkering in a woodshop, bowling, writing poetry or perhaps painting. Music is one of mine. It always has been. God has immediate and easy access to my heart through all kinds of music. One of my pictures of heaven includes an epic sound system with no limits on volume blasting tunes that have us all moving and grooving in some holy passionate wonderful way that celebrates the flat-on-your-face adoration and worship of God. Kind of a sanctified Woodstock without the drugs, rain and meaninglessness… with much, much better music. Kinda.

At some point in the “Random” playlist of: 

  • Everything” (by Tim Hughes),
  • “Summer of ‘69” (Bryan Adams)
  • Flight Over Africa” from the “Out of Africa” soundtrack.
  • Ashley Cleveland’s “Gimme Shelter”.
  • The live version of “I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For” (on the  "Rattle & Hum" CD).
  • Our God Reigns” (sung by Tomlin, Charlie Hall, David Crowder & Matt Redman on the “Everything Glorious” CD)

I’m hopelessly lost in my desire to live as I’ve never have. God is here!

Song after song transports me back to the events/people/themes of my life. For hours, between mugs of Joe and one funky attempt to make nachos the music becomes a link to the long winding road that is my journey. My earliest dreams and aspirations, the wayward years, the raw naked memories of the precipice I stood over screaming out for rescue. The music stirs the innumerable memories of God behind the scenes romancing me, luring me, forever patient and relentless with me in my idolatry, my desperate efforts to change the world, my vanity and tainted "righteousness".

I am totally captive to a leather sea anemone that some would refer to as a chair... rocking the neighborhood with unheard decibel levels… in His presence feeling all the appropriate emotions that come from the clear and unarguable recognition of how very, very far I fall short.

At the same time I sense His smile over me as we reflect on those times I've lived like a warrior king and then, all too quickly, I relate like a hibernating badger who only engages with the outside world by barking away all disruptors.

The music brought to my fireside seat so many of my adventures, births, joys, tears, vows and lingering desires, the laughter and pleasures I've known; my profound brokenness; and the glorious offering my life was intended to be. 

Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Shawn Mullins and Janis all stirred up stories that are my Story. A life, presently, that’s the best it’s ever been despite the sins, chaos and failures to love and live well is, nonetheless, so very rich with a litany of transcendent moments of intimacies with my Father, my wife, my family… and my friends.

I no longer hear the music; all I hear is his invitation to more.    

I love days like this.

"They" say this storm could last another day or two. Amen!

- Craig McConnell

 

 

1/09
(40)

As a very young boy I was given the name “Little Craig” to distinguish me from the other “Craig” that lived across the street. Since he was two years older he was accurately called “Big Craig”. At such an early stage in life it was fitting; however, a couple of years later “Big Craig” the

son of a horse racing jockey seemed to have the name I should have had. I hated being called “Little Craig” as I towered over “Big” Craig… Thank God he moved to “The Little Apple” when I was in Third Grade.

In Junior High and High School my buds and I would spend every weekend or break we could patroling a teenage wasteland. We scrounged the local beach communities surfing and losing brain cells while living off gathered Coke bottles and 25 cent burritos at Taco Bell. I’m pretty fair of skin. I fried myself in the Southern California Sun and was named by a couple of my “good” friends “Tomato”… for obvious reasons.

I hated that name. It always felt like a put down on a physical attribute I couldn’t change.

In seminary I wanted the name “Doctor All-Wise-Theologian-Life-Changing-Verse-by-Verse-Bible Expositor”. Sometimes we never get the name we desired and later we’re glad that’s the case.

Presently my corner of the world includes a “Goose”; “Senator” (a spiffy and sagely legal negotiator); and a “Rose” (a name God gave a woman in our community.  There’s “Little Buster” (a name bestowed upon Morgan by “Big Buster”), I know a great cook some refer to as “Stewie” (a reference to Martha Stewart whom they say she cooks like).There’s a couple of “Ass Clowns”… so named in an online post by a critic. Ahhh… I almost forgot “Stink Eye” (I probably shouldn’t tell that story here!) There’s Kurt who’s been going by Pablo for 27 years (he flunked Spanish in 8th grade), “Jimbo” (His name is Jim… he battles with his weight and is also referred to as “Jumbo" by some).

While in college I worked at a kids camp named “Indian Village” for a summer. The Staff each had an “Indian” name. I was “Smoking Buffalo” (because of clouds of buffalo colored emissions the food delivery truck I drove spewed).  A young Gal I worked closely with had not yet been tagged with a name…. so one day she asked a group of 6th grade boys what her Indian name should be, they huddled, looked at her, huddled again an began laughing; breaking from the circle they bestowed upon her the name that stuck all summer… and ever since, “Moose Lips” (38 years later she’s a well adjusted grandmother who'll turn her head in a crowded mall to someone yelling out "Hey Moose Lips!"). I consider as friends a “Poet” putting heart and beauty into words in Oregon, a “Sasquatch” who’s changing lives in Pennsylvania, a “Prophet-Sage” from Palo “Alto and... when it comes to names, my personal favorite is a rat-sized mangy haired terrier mutt with bug eyes, a smoker’s bark and bluff charge named “Killer”. 

Everyone has been given a name or two. Some fit, some don’t; some names we bear are desired others embarrassing… sometimes crippling. Often our names become the script of our life. What names have you been given?

When my first grand daughter was born the family counseled together to inquire about the name I wanted to go by as her grandfather. I decided I’d go by the name “Captain”, and so it was settled, Jacqueline Ruby would be the first of a quiver full of grandchildren to love, honor and respect me with the name “Captain”.

There are names we desire and there are the names we’re given.

My habit around Jacqueline Ruby was to surprise her by popping out from around a corner or from behind a couch with an engaging fatherly “Ah… Boo!” She’d laugh and with smiling eyes beg me to do it again and again. So, the story goes that while my forever and wonderful first born daughter is wiping the Gerber’s Mixed Vegetables and Chicken Liver food off Jacqueline’s chin as she sits in her High Chair, Jac points to my picture prominently centered on the fridge door and declares “Aboo!!”

Captain” may be the name someone else goes by but in the McConnell Clan I’m thrilled to be known as, and respond to “Aboo”. 

Now, let me add, though others make the connection, Jac had no knowledge of the character from Disney’s Jungle Book named “Aboo” who was a thin haired middle aged warrior-monkey with droopy eyes, odd sense of humor with a smoker’s laugh and a bluff charge also known as “Craig”. 

God too has a name for us. What do you go by?

- Craig McConnell

 

 

11/09
(35)

Lori, our two daughters (who were 8 and 11 at the time) and I were out mid-day doing something…

Cheer leading practice? Shopping for wardrobe updating deals at GAP? Picking up NKOTB’s new CD? A little time on the beach? I don’t recall.

Returning home I scrape a hub cap pulling the mini-van up to the front of our house and notice that our front door is open. Huh???

As I walk up the front walkway and then up to the front porch I'm suspicious, nervous and very confused. Something is wrong.

There are moments when some event that is so outside our experience of life confronts us and freezes our brain’s processing ability. Zzzzzit... errrkit... buzz... shiiiii ...clunk… you have to reboot at break neck speed… What is this?      Pillows by the front door… overturned chair… it wasn’t like that when we left was it?      NO!      Huh... what?    I pause at the front of the door with a confused look that’s turning into one of shock-fear-rage… our home has been ransacked? Burglarized? I gasp in disbelief, shock… Why? When…. Are they still inside?

I ask Lori to go in to check things out while I stay with the kids.     I'm kidding!!! 

I walk in telling the family to stay curbside… I grab the first thing that’ll serve as a weapon; it happens to be a ruler sitting on a stand by the door… the house is trashed.

I now know what the word violated means but I can’t come close to describing it.

We call the police and take a first pass at damage assessment. All dresser drawers have been dumped, closets emptied, the floor is covered. The Stereo is gone. Lori’s jewelry is gone. It’s only a moment later that the weight of the loss hits Lori. She weeps deeply over her mother’s heirloom jewelry being stole… to the despoiling pillaging snake it’s a few quick bucks, to Lori it’s something of her mother she can still touch, it’s generations of memories taken forever.  Vile marauders from hell!

A bunch of stuff is gone. The final insult was that the creeps even took my 8 year old daughter’s pink piggy bank!  (A small satisfaction came knowing that upon breaking open her porky bank the punk ass thief would only find some change and an I.O.U for most of the cash… I’d robbed it about a week earlier! Hey… there wasn’t an ATM close by!)

A full inventory of all that’s been lost from any violation, robbery or otherwise takes much longer than you realize. We reported to our insurance company all we could materially identify but then a week later Lori says, “Honey, grab the camera as were walking out the door to go to a picnic”. I go to the closet where we keep the camera. It’s gone. Oh, they stole that too!

A month later we’re having company over and are trying to find a silver platter… we’re looking everywhere accusing each other of not putting it where it belonged after its last use… Ahhh… the slim took that too.

The police said the intruder was only in our home a few minutes but for a long, long season it seemed as if they were still there. Often it seemed like there were a dozen sleazy red beady eyes looking through the windows or from around a corner snickering at our loss, our pain and our fear. It was as if these pirating rodents were mocking the security and peace we once enjoyed as a family; celebrating their intrusion into our minds and setting into motion an anxiety every single time we return to our home.

Is it safe… is someone inside… have we been crapped on again? Are they prowling about, scheming to rob us of everything they haven’t already… or to steal all we’ve acquired since…  our new stereo, camera… a silver tray or another night’s sleep?”

I've often thought back on this trauma. It was horrible. And I realize it wasn't the first time nor the last.

 A lot got stolen from my childhood and youth through various wounds. Things like "family", innocence, identity, security, fathering, a whole lot of brain cells (circa 1967-1972)… so very much.

I remember a poker game… several good friends sitting around playing poker having a beer and then something is said/implied… unintentionally it strikes a wound, a deep wound…assumptions and agreements are made. Those good friends haven’t played poker together in 6 years. Something got stolen.

What's been stolen from you over the years?

Recent accounts I've heard:

A 12 year marriage. The husband’s wound and script for life leads him to the conclusion: “She’s too much work!” and his every attempt to love be strong, be present seems to have only failed. So, to preserve the “peace” he gives up the battle and messiness and goes passive, doesn’t care, and finds another lover on the internet or on a business trip. Something was lost, something stolen.

A colleague at work who became a friend in all kinds of missions and mischief… leaves. The transition is hard but the commitment is to stay in touch… there’s too much history to walk away from. Something happens and he burns all his bridges. Every single one. Something prized, something special is stolen or lost.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. - John 10:10

The thief will take everything he can from you!

The good news is that he can be stopped. He must be.

And there is a life, that no matter what else gets taken, cannot be stolen from us. Ever. No way!

- Craig McConnell

 

10/16
(44)

Park Bench Over the last several months I hit a bottom, probably not The Bottom, but a true and new bottom for me… an immobilizing of my heart, passion, soul, relationships and

spirit. I feared my state. I could share the back story but that’s not the story. This is the story…

I’m at my desk on the computer trying to paddle upstream without a paddle and accomplish something that would bring a little relief or validation to my soul when a Staff Member steps in to say something about something and disrupts my "Sisyphean challenge" to accomplish anything that might pass as a contribution to the ministry of Ransomed Heart.* I think she was sent by God to pierce the fog of my life and leave behind some sort of a “grace-bomb” with a fuse set to go off two minutes after she exited. She exited and before I could re-enter my striving to be fruitful, I had an unsolicited and seemingly random vision or picture from God.

Here it is…

I’m sitting on a park bench stretched out like a warped board slouched with my legs extended out in front of me and my head resting on the bench’s back railing. It’s a beautiful park with large grassy areas separated by a walkway slaloming between huge mature shade trees. I’m checked out, not really present staring off straight ahead over the horizon at nothing. Though I’m cognizant of my surroundings there is no conscious thought. I was in that state in which you don’t ever wink or swallow, there’s no measurable brain activity and barely a pulse… you are alive but not present. That’s me!

Somehow this old bench is bearing all my weight and the shit-load of all that’s weighing on me. I am certifiably detached from life.

It’s mid-day and there’s a warm breeze blowing just enough to rustle the leaves of the Cottonwood that’s shading me. The scene cries summer with the air full of pollen, gnat tornadoes and the musty scent of fresh cut grass. In the background is the sound of sprinklers machine gunning water over a flower bed… chit-chit-chit-chit-chitachitachitchit. Straight ahead, a little to the left, is an old park table with four young women enjoying their Grande coffees and the reunion they’re having. To the right is a young brother and sister on their bikes playing some form of follow the leader where the leader tries to lose the follower (kinda of like the Pastor I worked under at a Southern California Mega-Church).  Almost 90 degrees to my left a bunch of pigeons are trying to enforce a clear pecking order while scrambling to eat a handful of feed someone threw out for them.

I’m taking this all in but unmoved by any of it. It’s clinical; I’m an observer of life but not a participant in it.

As my vision pans right, back from the birds to resume my vigilant dazed and confused gape I notice or sense something peripherally… right next to me.

It’s a person. I can’t hide my being startled by this out-of-no-where stranger who’s suddenly  sitting eight inches from me on our shared little bench.

It’s a man, an older man with weathered but not leathered skin. Actually it’s God.

Oh my God, it is God! I don’t know how I knew, but I knew (it’s kinda like living in Los Angeles and passing one of a gazillion Mexican restaurants… you intuitively know that this one serves a great combination plate though you’ve never seen it, been in it or heard of it. You just know!).

Now this whole picture/vision seemed to be unfolding in a millisecond and in the next millisecond I notice my bench friend, The One True and Eternal, Just and Holy, Powerful and All Knowing God hasn’t yet said a word or even made eye contact with me. Furthermore, like me, he is slouched and staring straight ahead. And then I notice there’s a tear forming and then falls from the corner of his eye.

Huh… he’s very human, common… real. Fully God truly man.

One of the things that struck me as odd throughout this picture or vision is that my posture doesn’t change, I don’t sit up straight on the bench or fall on my face… my demeanor and countenance remain the same. Though God is stretched out eight inches from me I am, outwardly unfazed! Equally as unexpected is that he’s un animated, silently slouched on a park bench apparently killing time. If you were to have walked by us and seen us you may have muttered under your breath the commentary, “Get a life!” 

There we were, the two of us sharing a bench for what felt like hours with nothing said, no eye contact… just sitting and staring off into nowhere.

His tear and silence were the most stunning part of the picture. He didn’t say anything?!

He was silent and that was okay. That he said nothing said so much. He was just there, next to me… with me... and I was in his presence and... he’s crying.

He was silent, but his tears said everything. From his tear I knew that He knows all that I’m facing: the losses and pain; the struggles and terrors; my failures and ache to live and love well. I could tell He knew, and knowing that he knew everything about me, my life and this season… brought a tear to his eye. He’s crying with me, for me, over me. The tear is everything!

He didn’t offer affirmation with deeply validating words, “Craig, you have lived so well in this difficult season. Well done my son… you’re so on the right track… I love you! Keep it up”. That he didn’t offer that seemed to say I didn’t need it. Wow!

He didn’t call me out either. There was no exposing of another deeply rooted profoundly governing historic and systemic sin that explains my struggle to live and love well from a heart of true adoration and worship of God. That he didn’t go there seemed to say so much. So, so very much. Apparently there was something more important than going over all of that.

I cannot explain all this picture/vision of God and I sharing a park bench meant and had for me, but a mere moment in the presence of God felt as if time stood still… It was as if I was in his presence for hours and hours. And in those moments everything lifted.

In his presence I was in a zero-gravity-of-the-soul state. The poundage, burden, pressure… the crushing of heart, soul, spirit and desire was lifted. There was no sin; no idolatry or fear; no loss or tears: every desire we have in life-this-side-of-heaven was gone… the longings and groaning for life and all we were created to have were, in his presence satisfied. Nothing lacking, nothing missing, nothing wanted… nothing but pure, full, expansive and deep satisfaction, joy… life itself is what I had in his presence. The whole “My burden is light” thing made sense for the first time ever.

With the weight I carry, that you carry, lifted we can breathe, live, laugh, worship, dance, love… In his presence is life, everything changes because you are in His presence.

Well, as it always does in the here-and-now the picture, the vision these moments with God transitioned... it ended and I was sitting alone in my broken desk chair like any man whom God has visited. Stunned, surprised, wanting to fall on my face in worship… I spent the next hour and then hours over the next week unpacking the beauty, power, affirmation, hope and life of these moments.

Almost immediately I was aware that while nothing had changed with my life everything had changed with life.

My cancer hasn’t disappeared, nor the anger a couple dozen people have so powerfully expressed toward me, my pesky neighbor hasn’t moved, the financial issues remain, my internal battle of withdrawing continues, an old friend still prefers being an ex-friend and my freaking car is now acting up. Nothing has changed with difficult circumstances and challenging relationships of my life.

But having been on that bench and experiencing all that comes in being in his presence I have been introduced to something very new, though I’ve probably taught it eloquently for years... Being in the presence of God changes everything. Everything!

You do not see life the same, in his presence. The very, very real troubles of life look very, very different in his presence. Somehow, in his presence worry, fear, hatred, weakness and pain cannot exist. You see yourself most clearly in his presence. Everything I yearn for in a world that is so violent, parched, deceptive and unforgiving is found in the presence of God. (I have often sought God’s words, voice, counsel, understanding, guidance and validation. Each of those are valid and necessary pursuits to go to God with. What’s new for me, in this season is to simply pursue him and all the other things will be taken care of).

I can't tell you where I spend most of my time but it isn't in the presence of God... I can tell you that one moment on a park bench with him is better than a thousand elsewhere.

Oh God, extend the times we're together.

- Craig McConnell

* Note: Some of my best friends have an eye for grammar that I lack. While I may leave them breathless, at times, from my inclination for run-on sentences, I still maintain that a good winding is a legitimate literary style. 

 

8/25
(68)

Okay… some of my recent time with a sage/guide/counselor was focused on my being an “unfinished” man. One might think that little time need be spent on that topic at all. But alas, it was needed! 

While God has romanced me since birth, and I have chosen to follow him for 37 years… there is still much more for me to experience of God’s transforming and gracious fathering heart. There always will be. I can point to significant healing/change/growth over the decades yet I there are times, people and circumstances, in which I, still, do not live, love or relate as I want (Romans chapter 7).

“Still crazy after all these years” – Paul Simon

There is a grace, and a freedom in recognizing that in this life, Act III of The Larger Story, we will always be “unfinished”… in need desperate need of God, humble, able to embrace and offer forgiveness.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that my wonderful counselor saw a part of my soul that was closed to God and others, detached and self-protective… but I was!

 

While that is all true a more important reality I was reminded of is that I, like you, am also a glorious image bearer who was wonderfully crafted in the womb by God for a unique and mythic role in this grand story of the Kingdom of God invading planet earth with the Good News of deliverance, freedom, restoration, life, hope and joy! I regularly forget this!

It’s actually amazing that God chooses to use “unfinished” man to accomplish his redemptive rescue of others! You’d think he’d wait for our perfection, for our being “finished”, a little further along in our sanctification prior to using us in significant ways wouldn’t you? After all, it’s to everyone’s benefit that I’m a little holier, more loving, more “present”, stronger and wiser isn’t it?

92927744 Picture God’s “Army” hitting the beaches and the front of the landing craft opens to spill the invading force upon the enemy. It’s not a squadron of well armed finely tuned special forces that storm the enemies pill boxes… its more like Ms. Evan’s third grade class wandering ashore, it’s  a guy in a Hawaiian shirt with a book and his beach chair strolling off,  two guys wearing uniforms but missing their guns, its a slick dude in a business suit and a gal carrying a big Bloomingdales bag followed by an overweight middle aged guy from Pittsburgh with stains on his shirt finishing off his little carton of Kung Pau Chicken. You’re in shock, “That’s God’s invasion force? Those are the ones he’s entrusted his rescue of mankind to?”

Yep!!!!!!! That’s the Army he’s chosen… and we're a part of it.  God has chosen the weak, the unfinished, and the not-quite-all-together to bring the Kingdom. Amazing! We’re unfinished and we’re a part of this grand mission.

AND IT WORKS… It’s always been that way…

Remember Moses (Exodus 3) God sees the misery/oppression of his people and taps Moses on the shoulder while he’s in attending to the routines of life (tending the flock) and calls him to be the deliverer of God’s people from the Super-Power of the day. Moses, knowing he’s not quite the “deliverer” type responds, “Who me? Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”… to which God responds, “I will be with you”. Very few of us would evaluate ourselves as being up for the task/role God has for us.

Then Gideon (Judges 6) is scared to death and hiding in the hills from the dreaded enemies of the day and God shows up and addresses him as “Mighty Warrior”???? – and assigns him the task of setting the people free from oppression.  Gideon, like us, is skeptical that God could really have such a role for him. He’s unfinished… yet God chooses him! What has he chosen you for? What name has he called you that, perhaps, at the moment, seems absurd? 

There’s David (1Samuel 16) the runt of the family being chosen over his seven older, “more suited” brothers to be king of Israel.  Solomon – (1Kings 3) confronted with the task of being king cries out to God, “I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties”. He’s unfinished man who is about to be a king! Jeremiah as well (Jeremiah 1) responds to God’s call saying, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child…".  Unfinished!

The Minor Theme is we’re unfinished, a ruin, a wreck… I let people down, detach, hide, withhold friendship/relationship, get distracted…. Yadda, yadda, yadda. I have hurt people by the way I've lived... I wish I was much different... and I am different than I was a year ago... "Oh God come for me, continue to restore and transform me!".

AND The Major Theme is that, you and me are key players, glorious beings God is using to bring life, salvation, deliverance to others.  We are changing the world! I needed a sage to remind me of that.

 

- Craig McConnell
 

5/25
(24)

I am amazed at the invitations of God to find Him anew in some profound and deep way again and again over the years.

Long and true are the stories of victory, healing, growth and intimacies with God we each have and share, yet, we are always unfinished, in need of more, thirsting and longing for another story of His work in our soul. I am a different man than I was thirty years ago, twenty years ago, ten years ago… two years ago - and I hope to be much further along in my holiness/communion in the years ahead. Much, much further.

These last weeks, actually 2 months, have been memorably disruptive as God has pointed out a barren place he wants to inhabit.

It’s seems premature to draw clear lessons from what’s unfolding, yet I had to begin to speak about it and in doing so hope that more clarity would come.

Recently I spent some time with a gifted sage who shared all he saw in seeing me.

He saw things about me I couldn’t believe, both glorious and marred. With unique gifting and skill he confronted and called out things in my heart, soul and relational style that some have seen and felt but haven’t put words to. Both glorious and marred

I’d be embarrassed and ashamed, at the moment, to share some of what he saw. We are… I am both a trophy of grace and a man so in need of more grace

Much of our time was spent on my relational style… my heart and desires are good... but in significant ways, my heart is not seen or felt... not present to some. It was disorienting to find that in some ways I don’t see clearly. I do more so now… but, as it is when you get that first pair of glasses, I’m a little dizzy.  I’m so grateful for my sage and his eyes. He sees what I can’t and is courageous enough to share a bit of what he sees in seeing me

A couple of weeks ago a John and I went fishing on the Green River in Utah. With a guide we floated the river and had a phenomenal time fly fishing. The Guide knows this river having fished it most days of the year…for years and years.  I think he knows every fish we caught; he certainly knew where they hang out! In any case, though he and Iwere wearing similar sunglasses, and looking at the same stretch of water he saw trout I didn’t. He’d point to a seam in the stream 20 feet away and say, “Craig, cast to those 5 big browns in the far side of that seam 10 feet from the pyramid shaped rock”.  I see the rock, I see the seam, but I don’t see the fish. Time and time again throughout the trip he kept observing, pointing out and enjoying the vast number of fish lurking in the eddies and currents of the Green. I rarely saw what he did.
I kept telling him, “You see trout that I don’t!”

We need guides. Guides who see things we don’t. A strong, loving, kind sage that delivers God’s invitation to the more God has for us in the deepest parts of our soul. The invitation to life.

5/17
(15)

There is so much to say about the last month yet everytime I sit down to scribble out some thoughts I get "Writers block", "Brian freeze"... a mental-spiritual-word paralysis. God's doing some pretty disruptive stuff and, seemingly, not allowed me to write about it. I hope to soon

I'd appreciate your prayers in so many ways. Thank you.

I did wanted to tip you off to an offer Ransomed Heart is making. God is doing some incredible things in marriages through John and Stasi's new book, Love and War....  and to get the "word" out we're giving away a free copy of Love and War to the first 500 bloggers to respond. We would love to have our blogging allies  take a few minutes and write a blog on  amazon.com review on Love and War.  If you have interest in receiving a free copy of Love and War, click here! Click away. - Craig

4/27
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Okay… I’m at Gourmet Cabby Internet Café in Breckenridge. Checked the emails, a mug of Sumatra next to me - it’s snowing, cold… breezy. I’m leaning back in el cheapo swivel desk chair…

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday… inhale, exhale. Lord, shift my heart to Easter.

No sooner do I say “resurrection” under my breath and I’m in tears.

There is no order or sequence to these vignettes, my guess is that combined they are but a glimpse of that instant moment in time when there is no more time… in the twinkling of an eye… when I will be raised/changed.

I will be on my face in tears or adoration… no, I think I’ll be on my feet with arms victoriously thrust up with my heart  bursting in praise … or maybe just still… finally still and silent…  I could see myself thrown into His arms, silent, in tears, finding the words that have been groanings all my life. There is so much to say here…

I will see my father, Al McConnell for the very first time… there is nothing more I can say in this moment here.

I will to see my mom… free from grief/pain.

Lori and I will gaze into one another’s eyes like never before… our daughters, their husbands, their children and their children will be on some dance floor that’s like a jeweled sea - dancing, dancing, dancing in some ever growing family circle laughing as we wobble all over dong some kind of previously-unknown-heavenly folk dance that has us all holding shoulders, kicking up our feet, singing in Hebrew, with colorful hats, shimmering garments…

Lori and I will wander through some crowded banquet hall of heaven with a never empty glasses filled with the finest wine. Strolling about I bump into Nanny & Pop, Grandparents McConnell, old friends, old knuckleheads, I’ll listen in to a conversation between Elijah and Habakkuk, war heroes and I will swap stories, and sitting around heavens campfires will be “nobodies” and “some bodies” from every era, age and continent…

Okay… it’s at this point that my writing cannot keep up with my heart and mind’s kaleidoscopic impressions. I’m flooded with emotions, pictures, images, passages, quotes, faces, stories …

20 minutes pass. I cannot describe all my heart yearns for at the mention of “Resurrection”.

That day is coming… we’ll celebrate it tomorrow… actually… let the celebration begin. He is risen!

- Craig McConnell

4/03
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“There is no defense against criticism except obscurity.”  – Joseph Addison

With at least 38,000 Christian denominations worldwide do you think there are some significant differences of opinion on a wide range of doctrinal topics?

Does a 10 lb. bag of flour make a really big biscuit? Is the Pope Catholic? Do one legged ducks swim in circles? Does Windows have bugs? Did Clinton have sex with that woman? Do Bears….. howl in the woods? Is Ed “Too Tall” Jones too tall?

Doctrine1Clearly there are essential beliefs that define and unite those committed to the Lordship of Christ and the truth of The Gospel. Those truths are so core that to not believe them is to posture one’s self outside the circle of Christianity.

In addition to these essential beliefs are lesser issues or nonessential beliefs that believers may differ on. As the thousands of Protestant denominations attest, there are many… literally thousands of issues that Christians disagree on. Most of these are non-essential areas of belief and practice (important, passionately held convictions… but not definitively essential to the Christian faith such as the sequence of events preceding the Return of the Lord, the age of the earth, the role of women in the church, baptismal preferences, a wide range of life style issues, style of worship music, many political positions, etc.).

Differences among Christians have always existed; however, most Christians ascribe to the maxim:”in essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things charity.”  Or as Paul put it,

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. – Paul, Ephesians 4: 2-3.

But some Christians don’t ascribe to that maxim.

A passionate man writes me wanting to know Ransomed Heart’s doctrinal position on….. so and so. He writes that, while he would like to attend one of our conferences, he will not give his time or money to any organization that doesn’t believe… so and so.

Now, I genuinely respect a person’s convictions and passions. Some would criticize me for being too gracious, and while cheering on the diligent study of God’s Word and the formation of a Biblical Worldview/theology, I can get ruffled over the arrogance, mulish pharisaic spirit and the unloving posture some of us take over issues that are nowhere near the orbit of Christianity’s essential/core beliefs. (Note… i once was that guy!)

I respond to his “concern” in trademark kindness and patience receiving an immediate curt reply from him rebuking my heretical minimizing of this issue.

Breathe deep; come God… forgiveness, mercy, patience and humility fill me.

Are there really thousands of essential… cardinal beliefs we must hold to hope for the salvation of God or to bear the mark “Christian”?

Is it hundreds of non-negotiable doctrinal positions we must hold to? Is it scores of doctrines that, if not ascribed to, justify the hatred, cursing and judging of another under the guise of pursuing doctrinal purity?

I think not. I think there are far less than many of us propose. The Apostles Creed or The Nicene Creed refer to relatively few... each essential, each to be held to passionately and defended vigorously, but in total, few in number.

”In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things charity.”

Love God, live free! – Craig McConnell

 

(for those familar with my blog… I’m mightily resisting the inclusion of a bunch of notes…errrr, “footnotes” here…)

3/25
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