Friday, May 30, 2008

Doubting Thomas

I read John chapter 20 today. I think it may be one of the most beautiful passages in all of Scripture. We've heard the Resurrection story before, but I love how John records it. Seeing that he actually walked through every step, there is a very personal feel to his account.
Mary Magdalene goes to the grave while it is still dark outside. She couldn't sleep. She couldn't rest. Her soul was filled with the grief of losing the one man who loved her for who she was and not for his own personal gain. As she comes to the grave, however, the stone is rolled away. Without examining it any closer, she runs through the dark to where the disciples are staying. Her pounding wakes them up and she screams into the room,
"They have taken Him! He's not there!"
At this point the sun is just beginning to rise and John, "The Disciple Jesus Loved," immediately takes off through the door past Mary, followed by Peter. These are the two who were on the inside circle. Jesus' best friends. Their very lives had been transformed by this man.
Have you ever run towards something with dread in your heart? Have you ever seen a loved one injured and ran to them? Have you ever gotten bad news and had to drive a long distance to get to those you love? You understand the feeling of not being able to move fast enough, but your fear is the very thing that pushes your feet.
John beats Peter to the tomb, but freezes. He's not ready to accept whatever is in the open grave, but Peter plows on ahead. (Peter always was the one to plow into every situation. Cutting off ears, Rebuking Jesus, Trying to present good ideas that Jesus had to shoot down...)
Peter finds the grave clothes folded neatly and John peers in to see the sight. They leave bewildered.
Mary remains sobbing at the grave.
Moments later, after Peter and John, arrive back at the disciples' house, however, Mary bursts into the room. 
"He's there! I've seen Him! I have seen the Lord!"
The disciples stare at her with their mouths half open not sure whether to believe her or to call for help.
They hesitantly say, "That's great, Mary," and look at each other with eyes full of confusion, hope, grief, and anxiety. What is happening?

We know that Jesus later appears to the disciples, and tells them that He is sending them to do a great work. I can only imagine how hard they sobbed as Jesus tried to convey the importance of their mission. Mary rejoices that her friends have seen Him as well, and they laugh and cry together. Jesus is alive!

However, there is one that still has yet to see Jesus. Thomas.

Thomas is out taking care of business when the disciples tearfully experience Jesus' appearance. When we read this passage, we shake our heads at Thomas, and the poor guy gets the title "Doubting Thomas" for the rest of human history. But my heart breaks for Thomas. I understand him.
Thomas comes in and hangs his coat up on the rack and is immediately thrown into a corner by the disciples. All of them are talking at once. Peter is screaming, "Thomas! Mary was right!" James is sobbing and holding onto Thomas' shoulders. Andrew is trying to describe that Jesus is sending them on a mission. "We have a responsibility! We need to get started Thomas!" Matthew, has his hand on Thomas right shoulder with his other in the air, "Jesus lives! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!"

Finally Thomas screams "Enough!" and breaks through the group, stumbling to get free. Thomas' mind is racing with a thousand theories as to what is going on. His mind is filled with thoughts that would later be turned into books and sold in stores to refute the resurrection. "My friends are under too much stress to realize what is going. They are imagining things. They are wanting me to join in on some conspiracy."
However, his heart is full of hope. He longs to see Jesus. His heart aches to be able to rejoice with them. You see, while they have been sitting together in the house mourning and allowing the truth to sink in, he has been running errands. It has hurt too much for him to stop and think about Jesus being gone. He can't handle the pain, and now they want Him to rejoice?
I can see the tears collect in his eyes, perhaps for the first time since Jesus' death. He can't hold it in anymore. He's trembling, and he's talking through grit teeth.
"Look," he says with a shaky voice, "Unless I see the holes in his flesh where the nails were rammed through. Unless I see the hole in his side where they ran a spear through his rib cage, I will not believe. In case you forgot, Jesus was brutally tortured then murdered. We could not even recognize the man, because he was so beaten. Boys, I can't do this. It hurts to much to lose him once. I can't handle this false hope! Because you know what, you all are going to wake up in the morning after this little rush of excitement and realize the MAN IS STILL DEAD! And then it will hurt even worse than if you simply accepted it now. No...I will not believe."

A week passes. Thomas withdraws even deeper into himself. He hates the Romans for killing Jesus. He hates the Jews for accusing Jesus. He hates his friends for being so weak-minded. And his anger begins to boil at Jesus, Himself.
"How could he tell us that He is a Messiah. Why didn't He save Himself?"

As the disciples sit in the awkward silence that has plagued them for the pass week, the moment is broken with a gasp from John. He's looking past all of them just over their heads. The disciples lean in, "John?" and they turn to see where he is looking.

There stands Jesus.

The disciples begin to weep all over again, and Jesus walks forward. They part and let Him walk through, until Jesus is standing facing Thomas, who has his face down to the ground and is weeping uncontrollably. Jesus picks up Thomas' hand and lets him feel the wounds in his hands and side.

"Stop doubting and believe."

Thomas says to Him, "My Lord and my God!"

Then Jesus tells him, "Because you have seen Me, you have believed; but blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

I love this. I love how the Bible writers don't shy away from the fact that this is crazy stuff. This is hard to swallow. John says several times that he is writing this, so we can believe. I love that Thomas had eyewitnesses screaming in his face, and he still didn't believe. I love that it is understood: belief is hard. But blessed are those who believe and have not seen.

I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Vivian Brooown, I Hear Ya!

I just got back from Puerto Rico on Saturday evening. My heart hurts. I'll probably talk more about it later, but I thought I'd share a little video from my travels.

Brian Smith is one of my friends and a missionary down there. He has called me "Taylor's Brown" for the past 5 years. It's kind of gross, but I laugh every time.
Also, in this video is a little girl named Vivian. I love her to death, and I miss her about more than anyone else down there. ya go...

Oh..and I also love Brian's response to Vivian at the very end.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


On May 8, Bill and I played at Manhattans in Old City, Knoxville. It went really well, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The staff at Manhattans is a super-friendly bunch, and as we walked through the joint to set up, I felt like I was on the set of Cheers. I feel like I was at the place where “Everybody knows your name.” Except no one really knew my name.
Also, we had some great people show up. Several of my dear friends came out (big thanks to them), and a few others lingered around. One couple came in who were in their 40’s, and we had one constant conversation throughout the night. They called Bill “Tambourine Guy” and had us sign their demos, which Bill signed with his new nickname. Another lady was from the Metro Pulse, and talked about putting my CD online.
So, all in all, it was a good night. A few kinks to wrinkle out, but nothing major. Good times.

Monday, May 5, 2008

"I am the Life..."

I like to sin. I really do. Sometimes I go out of my way to sin, and many times I try my hardest to resist but end in an eventual cave. There are sins in my life that are like a dear, old friend or a warm blanket. As I struggle to understand God and His grace, I so often paint a picture in my mind of the red-face, arms crossed, screaming, toe tapping, God. So, when I wrongfully try to serve and follow this God, I will run back home to my sin without fail. Sin takes me as I am. Sin allows me to be myself but also be in control. Sin is a good friend. 
I have been wrestling with all this like Jacob wrestled with the angel. There have been seasons in my life where self-righteousness sets in as I successfully overcome sin and become the obedient child I am meant to be. However, recently, I have realized that most of my life has been driven by guilt or by the need to be seen a certain way. Once I strip those motivations out of my soul, I am left asking, "Why obey?" If God really is love, and loves me unconditionally--If I truly am free from sin--then why beat myself up so much. Giving in here and there can't actually kill me. 
Some of my best friends can simply say, "Sin makes me feel empty. Sin hurts my walk with God. I'll stay away from that." 
I think I pull against the reigns a little more. I love God dearly, but I want to know why I can't sin. I'm the kid who always said,"How come?" when I was told to do something by parents and teachers. 
Recently, I have been trying to find the reasons not to sin. I mean, after all, sin is fun. I want to know why I need to come in and stop playing. 

I sat by the lake the other day and hashed it out with God. Based on His Word and His nature, I think I have finally gotten to the right motivation against sin. (I say the right motivation...I'm not saying that I've received the ability to perfectly resist) 

There is a system that we must follow. My generation focuses so much on the relational aspects of the Creator that we cringe whenever we hear of systems or methods in relating to Jesus. I have finally admitted, however, that there is a system to God, but it is a beautiful system.

God makes life. God is life. God promotes life. God works towards and rejuvenates and God has created the world to be a system of life. Man and Woman were created and told to reproduce. Cain was banished and roamed the world with a mark on his head when he violated this system by murdering his brother. All through the Bible, God's main work boils down to producing life and sometimes this is physical as well as spiritual (or even emotional).

I have started to realize that any sin, and I mean any sin, that I struggle with goes against this system of life. Here's one example: 

Sometimes I struggle with bitterness (I don't know WHY. I have had a great life...really...but when things don't go my way, I guess I get pouty.) This feels so innocent--to be hardened over some legitimately tough stuff. (But not really tough compared to what others have been dealt) When I took a good look at what was happening to my soul, though, I found that I had let bitterness in to where sunsets and spring faded like an old photograph. Relationships became burdens or weighed options. The quality of life grew dim. 

What sin is hindering this quality of your life (or even threatening your physical life)? Lust: Sex was meant to lead to life. When we lust, we are merely taking without producing physical life, or without showing love and bettering ones life. Language: We tear each other down, we get angry, and we put each other in confinements and cages through our speech. We cramp their life. Jealousy: We find no enjoyment in the hand we've been dealt so we never play. We wait until we get what other's have and life never happens. 

Life is now. 

"'Lord,' Martha said to Jesus, 'if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.' 
Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.'
Martha answered, 'I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.'
Jesus said to her. 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'"

John 11:21-27

Saturday, May 3, 2008

No Mechanic

Well I'm no mechanic and I am no engineer
I left the leak on the floor
I am no father; I'm barely a brother
I need to call my friends more
So here I go again just like when I was nineteen
Here I go again grittin' my teeth in my sleep

Well, I've been good before; I've been bad more
I know the right words to say and where
My tongue is split in two long with my soul too
No one knows, so they don't care
I'm learning what it means to breathe on my own
I'm learning what it means to leave my home

Oh, dear brother, when I die come over 
And clean my closet out
So our dear mother won't see my dead bodies
And figure her darling out
I keep feeling like the gig is up
Like some sweet soul's watching with tears in their cup 

To every goodnight kiss
And every friend I dearly miss
Here's the truth of it all

I don't know 
Myself at all I can barely stand tall
I keep losing
Myself I'm so thankful; yeah oh so grateful 

Thursday, May 1, 2008

I Taught Myself How to Grow

Ok, I didn't teach myself how to grow. I had family and friends and teachers who invested in me and sharpened me. However, there is truth in this song for all of us. There's this awkwardness about being in the "Young Adult" stage. You call the shots and make the moves. No one...No one is there to tell you that you're doing it right or wrong. I think the twenties should be called "Jr. High Revisited," because we have to figure out who we are all over again. 

So I'm thankful for all the people who helped prepare me for adulthood. But for now...sing it to me, Ryan.