Hello! I have moved my blogs, videos, and thoughts to http://johndriver.net, so come join me there.
Hello! I have moved my blogs, videos, and thoughts to http://johndriver.net, so come join me there.
March 16th, 2010
Did you know that the ashes of metal magnesium are heavier than magnesium itself? Hmmm. That’s one of those “fun” facts that requires a solemn guttural clearing of the throat and an awkwardly stone-faced response that simultaneously communicates you already knew said fact and that you think it not odd at all that you would know it. Magnesium . . . well of course I knew that! What sort of uneducated fool wouldn’t know that? Umm, waiter? Check please!
Relax, my fine friend! There’s no judgment here. I only state the fact to reflect upon what can happen when things within us decay or decompose. Ours is a culture of closure . . . or at least recompartmentalization. In other words, that which has either wounded us or threatens to wound us needs to be ignored with the hopes that it will disappear like a proverbial rabbit in a hat. If we can just get a few days or months down the road, then we think things will get better naturally.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Oh yeah, you can bury it or tuck it away in the closet for a while . . . maybe even for years. However, pain and unforgiveness are a lot like “magnesium” . . . their ashes sometimes weigh more than their initial issues. As a pastor, I encounter it almost daily. Especially when family or father issues are involved, you can bet that if left to hopefully decay away into nothingness, in the long run those ashes will do as much or more damage than the original problem.
The answer? Don’t just wait and hope. Action must be taken if we are to avoid the heaviness of ashes in our lives. For myself, I encountered this recently when I knew I had blown it in a certain situation. At first, I was tempted to just hope things would get better . . . that’s a lot like staring at your online bank account balance and just hoping that money will magically appear there.
I was reminded of Jesus’ words: “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” (Matthew 5:23-24 NLT) In my case, I found mercy from those whom I needed it the most .
I’m not that holy; I’m just not very fond of ashes . . . or of chemistry in general for that matter. What I am fond of is God’s forgiveness in my own life . . . an amazing chemical composition that still transforms me today and still redeems my ongoing lab explosions.
Maybe that’s what He meant when He said that He would produce beauty from ashes.
March 8th, 2010
“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Wow . . . what a crazy statement! What a statement of conclusiveness and closure. I imagine this statement being made in the environment of some high-tech sci-fi movie where everyone can fly, all diseases are cured with painless subdermal injections, and poverty has been eradicated due to an abundance of resources only seen in our wildest dreams.
Yeah, but this quote isn’t from the future. Nope. It was released in 1899 by the U.S. Patent Office. Double wow!
Isn’t it uncanny how little we know about tomorrow? It isn’t even more uncanny how much we think we know about today? The idea that a government agency would endorse the concept that all inventiveness had already been achieved before the advent of automobiles, telephones, artificial hearts, and iPhones seems absolutely asinine today. Oh, but we should be slow to judge and quick to look at ourselves . . . for although we may not so boldly brandish such statements of absoluteness concerning technology, we certainly proclaim with our actions, attitudes, and words the end of our own personal invention.
I will never get the job. I will be single forever. I just can’t break this habit. I am done!
I imagine that the grandstands of eternity teem with stifled laughter when our near-sightedness is observed. I bet that Abraham pipes in with some hearty chuckling when he recalls the year he was ninety-five years old . . . fifteen years past God’s promise of descendants outnumbering the sands of the shore, yet still five years away from the birth of his first child, Isaac. Oh baby, I bet the scenery looked just a bit different from behind the cataracts of his aging eyes.
We only remember the fulfillment of the promise, but the individuals of history remember the years in between. David recalls the years of tending to filthy sheep . . . and then to stinky soldiers as he hid in caves and deserts from a crazy king who sat on a throne promised to him dozens of years before. Joseph remembers the years he spent rotting in an Egyptian prison for a crime he didn’t commit as his dreams of significance tortured him with their seemingly unreachable luster.
For each person whom God used mightily, there were years in which their only hope was found in looking forward. There was no “hindsight bias” with which to view their stories. From the dampness of their cells or the darkness of their caves, their “today” felt just like yours does . . . permanent.
Yesterday I attended the eightieth birthday party of my grandfather, Thomas Mack Driver. As I sat and listened to the stories of his amazing life and ministry, I couldn’t help but think about the days in between his beginnings many years ago and today. As a seventeen-year-old, he found himself in Berlin at the end of World War II. Death, poverty, and unrest ravished the war-rubbled city. Full of rebellion, he found himself addicted to gambling, alcohol, and tobacco. His drunken antics landed him in MP prison cell. Somehow finding his way back to the states, he encountered God at the altar of a tiny church and was instantaneously emancipated from his addictions and called to serve God with his life.
I listened to the stories of his life in ministry . . . some familiar . . . some new to me. He ran a laundromat in an old theater building in the rough part of West Nashville. They had revival and church service in the theater and lived in an upstairs apartment that he constructed with his own two hands from the scrap wood leftovers of what he tore down before on the same spot. I heard stories of countless burglars and drug addicts trying to rob the laundromat. My Papa would often chase them down the street or hold them at gunpoint on the ground until the police arrived. One trespasser had to be shot by a church member who was living there at the time because he came at him with a crowbar with the intention of killing him.
Those are just a few of the stories. I wonder what each of those days must’ve felt like . . . yet, he told us yesterday that he never once thought that giving up was a better idea than moving forward. Why? Oh, I’d say that much like the biblical heroes of faith, he believed that everything that could be invented in his life had not been invented yet. Hebrews 11:16 (NLT) says it like this: “But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
Today, I was more than just “not ashamed” . . . I was downright proud! But I was also reminded that I don’t know what new things God may invent in my own life when the sun comes up tomorrow. I have a heritage. I have a heavenly hope. All that’s left to do is keep walking the path before me today with this perspective.
I hope you will join me there.
March 1st, 2010
Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking to our church on the topic of the primal soul. I had a blast (not sure about everyone else.) This study has really intrigued me to all that life consists of that may be either subconscious or non-cognitive in nature. From the standpoint of the soul, Mark Batterson makes the observation that the soul is the part of our existence that experiences wonder.
I was struck most deeply by the idea that God Himself can marvel at . . . well, Himself. I think that my concepts of wonderment have always been confined to lists. I’m a list kind of guy. I have felt that to marvel at God, I would need to stop and mentally list the reasons why He is so amazing. Even a glimpse of my MacBook Pro desktop Stickies software freaks out the average person. Colored-coded and clustered sporadically across my screen are all of the lists that need my attention. Some daily. Some weekly. Some with indefinite deadlines.
My actions seem to find their priority from these lists. Even in my calendar program, I send myself alarms and reminders when a task needs to be accomplished in a time-sensitive manner. So, when that little reminder hits my inbox, I drop other things and give that event precedence. That’s priority. What we give our time and energy to is that which is most important to us. You can bet your sweet bibby that these types of priorities in our lives are often subconscious.
If most of us were asked what we spend most of our time doing and whether or not it was our top priority, we would respond with a resounding “no!” You think sitting at this computer all day logging this information for my employer is what matters most to me? You’re crazy! Yet, our key emotional energy is often spent on things that we consider menial or less-than-primal. This is sometimes necessary, but it’s an issue nonetheless.
So when we consider that fact that our most important priorities in life sometimes don’t make our “lists”, we are faced with the difficult challenge of maintaining a state of wonder over God. Sheeze! Stopping to watch a sunset today just isn’t going to make the cut . . . get real.
But here’s the kicker of the matter. Lists are cognitive . . . mental tools. Note what David says about the wonders of God. ” . . . my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14 (ESV). David differentiated between mental consciousness and soul consciousness. In other words, our goal isn’t just to get God onto the list . . . it’s to get God into our souls while we are working on the list. What if I experienced the soul-inspiring wonder of God while I was running errands or spending time with my daughter? What if I took a moment in the most stressful moment of my day to whisper to Him that I need help? What if the wonder wasn’t subject to the list?
The “what ifs” could become “what ares” is we want them to be. God, may I experience the wonder today somewhere down deep in my soul.
February 26th, 2010
(Excerpt from my forthcoming book, No Arrivals . . . don’t hold your breath, it could be a while:)
We are travelers crammed into a full flight and one droning interrogative statement drips from the lips of each cultural commuter. It is the international mantra of the passenger that pounds the eardrums of parents, leaders, and bus drivers all over the world. You probably asked it when you were a kid and if you have kids, they no doubt ask it now. The question in question is, “are we there yet?”
“Are we there yet” is more than just the impatient cry of young children. It is the perpetual howl of humanity. Consider the original pinnacles of God’s creativity: Adam and Eve. There they stood in the midst of true paradise. If ever an arrival point existed, it was Eden. No fear of death or injury. No worries about bills, sickness, or purpose. No traffic. No taxes. No cholesterol.
Even without clothes, Adam was created to be successful; in fact, he already was. I wouldn’t say that he was destined for greatness; that’s a post-Fall concept. No, Adam was literally the personification of God’s creative specialty; he was success! Before that fateful day that the Eden-dwellers listened, ate, and ran for cover, destiny didn’t exist. Why? Consider it: what could Adam have possibly achieved that was greater than what he already had? He personally named every animal on earth. That’s some accomplishment! He walked with the Creator daily and lived naked and unashamed with a woman literally made for him. He was subject to no sickness, no anxiety, no insecurity, no fatigue, no stress, no guilt, no threats, and no death. Concerning Adam’s existence, God said it best: “ . . . it was very good!” (Genesis 1:31 NLT)
Yet despite the perfection of Eden, Adam perked up from the backseat of the new creation and whined, “are we there yet?” Blame the serpent, blame the woman, or blame the weather—Adam revealed a trait that still saturates humankind today: the unquenchable thirst to arrive at a newer and better destination.
We were made to do more than just achieve greatness; we were designed to reflect it. Mother Teresa once said, “God has not called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful.” Unfortunately, the Fall corrupted the process. Thus the lie persists and man still reaches for fruit that is plainly foretold not to fulfill, even to bring certain death to those whose teeth break its peel. Yet we still lust for the poisonous produce of the serpent’s lie, blindly and erroneously certain that it will satisfy. Daily, we punch our tickets out of Eden and secure a shorter lifetime in a very different world—a world in which the Creator never intended us to live.
It’s an earth where the very dust of the ground battles against our every valiant move to conquer it (Genesis 3: 17-19.) Like Eve, the things we birth and strive to accomplish are painful now and we are constantly disappointed. Even the benchmarks of success that some of us may reach in this life only serve to tweak our thirst, sending us speeding towards the next mile marker of accomplishment. Like a man lost at sea who succumbs to the seemingly insurmountable urge to drink of the infinite deep that surrounds him, with every sip of this world’s definition of success, our thirst for fulfillment only thickens. And like the fifty kids who used to ride on my big yellow church bus, the world cries out in cultural unison: “are we there yet?”
But there is no “there” because when we finally get “there,” “there” becomes “here.”
“Here” is where we must live and here is where God intends for us to find our fulfillment in Him. Are we “here” yet?
February 23rd, 2010
A huge book project. Traveling or speaking almost every weekend (including the upcoming one). A scourge of female runny noses flowing like the widow’s oil . . . gross, eh? Try being the daddy and husband who wipes them constantly . . . well, I don’t really wipe Laura’s nose, but who’s counting.
These are just a few reasons for my lack of a blog in the past week and a half. Not that you asked, but I’m a paranoid freak of nature who constantly feels the need to explain myself. Consider this my digital therapy and you my grossly underpaid psychiatrist. Hey, just like Bill Murray in one of my favorite movies, What About Bob?, don’t be surprised if I show up on your doorstep one day!
My time away has been fruitful and if there’s one thing I’ve tried not to miss, it’s the University of Tennessee Men’s basketball team. I watch every game . . . every year. One of the best gifts my wife every gave me were tickets a few years back to watch UT dominate Florida at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.
In fact, Laura’s fanhood matches mine dribble-for-dribble. She screams with me at the television and spouts off the players’ stats just milliseconds before the commentators. I can’t even begin to tell you how attractive this is, but that’s another story for another blog. All of my jealous male readers understand . . . I’m living the dream, boys!
This season has been anything but predictable. Sidebar: if you’re not a sports fan or a basketball fan, this promises to still be relevant and hopefully enjoyable for you, so don’t go bailing on me . . . bear down and grind it out, soldier! Umm, and we’re back. Tennessee started the season out in the top ten in the nation. Four starting seniors were returning on a team who’s visited the Sweet Sixteen on multiple occasions under Bruce Pearl’s short coaching tenure.
Then, on New Year’s Day . . . whamo! The headline hit my computer screen . . . and my heart . . . like a proverbial ton of poop-laden bricks. (Sorry, I just spoke at a youth retreat last weekend and right now “poop” seems more apropos than usual.) Our main star and three other players were pulled over on a routine stop and were caught with marijuana and illegal firearms. Nice.
The media blitzkrieg descended upon Tennessee with all of the fury of the famed Red Baron (the pilot, not the pizza). To make a long story short, our “star” was thrown off the team and the other three players were suspended. This was basically the same week that Lane Kiffin sleazily kicked Tennessee in the shin on his way to USC with every recruit he could con into going with him down the long path that leads to destruction . . . so to speak. It was a banner week for Tennessee athletics. I buried my head in my pillow and hummed myself to sleep to the tune of my old Alma Mater. Laura gingerly laid an orange flag across my sunken shoulders as my dog, Brutus, played a moving rendition of Taps in the background . . . he’s very talented.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that Tennessee was hosting the number one Kansas Jayhawks the next week? Hmmm, yeah. We all prepared for a epic lashing of William Wallace proportions. But then a strange thing happened: no one let the remaining players, most of them walk-ons and underclassmen, in on the fact that they should roll over and die. In one of the most emotional and courageous games I’ve ever seen, that ragtag group of undermanned players handed Kansas their only loss of the season (to date.) Laura and I were more than slightly excited . . . shoot, we almost painted the dog orange out of excitement!
Two days ago, Tennessee won their twentieth game of the season. Twenty wins is the unofficial benchmark stat of success for a college basketball team. They haven’t beaten everybody. They haven’t won every game. But they morphed and adapted to seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Not to wax cheesy or anything (which again sounds kind of gross), but I think that our spiritual lives could get a little shot in the arm from embracing the observations of this season so far. If you look at the stats and the opponents you are facing, all odds are usually against you. Depression. Divorce. Death. Disillusionment.
But hey (as they say), that’s why you play the game! You don’t have to lose just because life and the world have pre-published your obituary. A good coach might tell you to look inward and find the strength to win. Yeah, not me. Look inward? You’re the one who’s confused! That’s like asking a cheeseburger how to lower your cholesterol.
It’s simple. Look upward. Don’t stop hoping. Don’t stop dreaming. Don’t stop playing. No matter how many players or fans you may lose, your team is still stacked if God is the “center” of your existence. (Again, I feel very cheesy right now, but let’s go with it.)
Maybe I should just let scripture speak: “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:312 NLT)
Oh, and Go Vols!
February 8th, 2010
Ah, the anguish! Palpable despair cascades across various regions of our nation this morning. The mighty valiant pigskin warrior has been vanquished and the underdog of all underdogs has emerged victorious. Today, watercoolers and forums and talk shows and classrooms will buzz with infinite personal theories about Peyton’s demise.
Note that I said “Peyton” and not “the Colts.”
Now I have to confess that I am a fan of Manning. As an alumnus from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Peyton Manning and I go way back . . . in fact, I take personal credit for much of his success as an athlete. The year was 1997. It was already past sunset on a beautiful fall evening in East Tennessee and I was leaving a student government meeting at the University Center. As I strolled down the massive, now seemingly empty main hallway that usually teems with young minds clamoring about for knowledge, I saw in the distance a silhouette of a man . . . . a tall man.
I often wonder how Peyton Manning recollects the story from his vantage point. He would probably say, ” . . . and down the hallway, I saw the silhouette of a man . . . a short, funny-looking pudgy man.”
Anyhoo, as I approached him, a conversation ensued that changed the course of his entire career.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey,” he replied.
Yep, those two seemingly small words we exchanged that night no doubt inspired a young, struggling SEC athlete in his Senior year to go on to greatness. Hey, they did win the SEC Championship that year. I’m still waiting on my check as his motivational mentor.
Back to reality. Today, I hope that Peyton doesn’t turn on his television at all. Why? Because all that he will hear is commentator upon commentator commentating with their many comments on how Peyton blew it and whether or not he will be remembered as the greatest of all time. Isn’t it funny how our society can zero in on one moment to the exclusion of one’s lifetime or life’s work?
That’s why there’s a waiting period of several years before an athlete can be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Why? Because present perception always taints the accuracy of reality. In other words, if I only take this single moment and make it the “arrival point” of my opinions of people, the economy, athletic teams, or even the world, then I will miss the reality of bigger picture.
Let’s get a grip for a moment. The Colts lost the Super Bowl, not Peyton Manning. If things continue as they have, Peyton’s statistics will most likely exceed most NFL quarterbacks in the history of the league. “Only time will tell” is the expression we love to tout, yet we seldom give time the opportunity to speak.
So that’s Peyton, but what about you? If we took your snapshot this morning and judged your entire life by it, how would you fare? Are you failing? Overweight? Depressed? Confused? Or are you confident? Successful? Unstoppable?
Rest assured, only time will tell what the full consistency of your life will be made up of and you can bet it will be difficult to describe in one word. If that’s the case, why do we struggle so hard to find the singular labels for ourselves? God is intimately aware of our wins and your losses. He has perspective on the big picture.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust myself to evaluate my own life. I’m a neurotic freak of nature in most respects. And I certainly don’t trust the world at large who will defame Peyton for a day over one game to throw in their two cents on my life. When I stand before the Judge, I want nothing but who my Savior is and what He has done in my life to be the marker of my success. Any temporary snapshots that I can produce as evidence won’t suffice.
His is the grand scheme . . . the big picture that will define my eternal reality. Who cares what story time tells . . . only He will tell.