Excuses

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“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9 (NIV)

I have a particular skill. This skill has gotten me out of all sorts of things. It is one of those things that is such a strength that it is also a weakness. You see, I can be very savvy at making excuses. There was a deep discussion I had with myself the other day. It went something like this, “I mean, those cupcakes aren’t going to eat themselves and I spent good money to so that I can be a benefit to my country’s economy. I realize that they are bad for me, I already had one, and that my waist line is not asking for more, but I want to be a good steward. Yep. I am eating this sublime, frosting covered piece of heaven.” Does anyone relate? Have you had these types of discussions in your head? I’m guessing that I am not alone in making excuses.

I use excuses to try to reassure myself with deception.

I will freely admit that there are times that excuses are legit. If you have children, you had a bona fide excuse when they decided that the time for them to piddle in their pants was moments before departure. Or that time when you are invited to a party and you come to realize that when they said “party” they meant one of those affairs where they want you to buy the world’s greatest, scientifically created, scented candles. These situations are beyond your control or are reasonably avoidable. But the ol’ song and dance that we drum up in hopes of finding a loop hole hurts us more than helps us. You can probably think of one or two instances in which you choose to make an excuse. I know that I can. But in that I also remember how selfish I was being when I was trying to “justify” my decision. Damage was done.

My excuses not only sabotaged my integrity with others, but also with myself.

Being that this is Holy Week and Easter is right around the corner, I can’t help but to reflect on some of the moments of that week. For whatever reason, Judas has been on my mind. There are some who think about the Bible way more in depth than I who suggest that Judas thought he was doing the right thing. That in his betrayal he was hoping to force the hand of Jesus to become the King of Israel in the way that he (and many others) thought Jesus was going to be. If that is true, I can imagine how Judas had justified his actions to plant that kiss on the cheek of Jesus. It’s amazing how we will violate our own principles to get what we want. With an excuse we end up losing a bit of who we are or who we want to be. Judas displayed this when he realized what his excuses led to—the condemnation of Jesus. “So Judas threw money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.”* Judas lost the integrity he thought he had. The weight of that was unbearable.

On the flip side, how many great things have happened because people moved beyond excuses? Revolutions have overcome oppressive dictatorships. Slaves were emancipated. Enemies have traded war for peace. Relationships have been restored. Some of the most incredible medical advances have occurred. Inspirational Paralympians compete and do things I can’t do. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” Despite what Jesus faced on Good Friday, a choice was made to preserve integrity. Moving beyond excuses really has changed the world. You or I might not change the entire world, but we can have an effect on the world right around us. We can passover the excuses to hold true to our commitments. We can find reasons why adding value to a relationship is more important. The only one that can do that is you and me. No more excuses. Let’s be the people who we say we are going to be.

*(Mt. 27:5 NIV)

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Amazing

IMG_3345When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” Matthew 8:10 (NIV)

If you ever meet my son, you would love him. He is so sweet, kind, funny, loving, and just one of the best kids I know. He loves a good hug, he’s always trying to make jokes, his laugh is infectious, he loves to dance and sing, and wants to be a friend to everyone. He is, without a doubt, one of my most favorite people in the world. (Coincidentally, today is also his 7th birthday!)

A couple of weeks ago, we were enjoying a football game when the quarterback scrambled and leapt over a defender for a touchdown. It was one of those moves that they replay over and over and put on SportsCenter. With eyes wide my son exclaimed, “That was amazing!” It was amazing. But in that moment, I was more amazed by the genuine enthusiasm and wonderment from my offspring. It stopped me in my tracks. As I looked at him relishing the moment, all I could think was,

“I wanna be more amazed.”

We all witness plenty of astonishing things that happen every day, but for as many that are celebrated, how many more are missed? Oftentimes it seems like things have to be over-the-top exceptional to capture our attention. Maybe this is because we live in such a sensationalized world. Maybe it is because, when we have seen something more than once, it loses its luster. Personally, I can find ways to take what is marvelous and desensitize it with logic. I’ll take a beautiful sunset and minimize the beauty to nothing but particles scattering light rays to create color that is perceived by our eyes. Are you with me? Is this you?

And yet, when I am amazed, the world is a much more interesting place.

Innumerable stars brilliantly lighting up the sky at night. Amazing.

My children staring back at me, telling me that they love me. Astonishing.

The peaceful quietness of a perfect snow fall. Breath-taking.

Little seeds growing in the dirt to provide us food to live. Incredible.

As I was thinking about all of this, Matthew 8:10 just struck me; “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed.” Wait, what? So Jesus (aka God), the all-knowing creator of the universe and everything in it, was amazed? Surely, Matthew, you jest?! Tell me that this doesn’t blow your mind a little bit. God not only witnessed everything, he also created everything. Yet here he is, God incarnate, amazed at one man’s faith. This guy is one of billions of people who have lived on earth and Jesus stands amazed. Let that soak in.

I wonder how often God is amazed? Is he amazed at the same things that amaze us? I have no clue. I’d like to imagine that he is amazed about what we perceive as even the most insignificant of things. What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below and tell me what amazes you? Do you think God continues to be amazed by things? If so, what do you think they are? And as you go through your day, take time to be totally captivated by something in your world. I know my son will.