On Being Blind…

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life. James 1:12 (MSG)

The last few months at work have been filled with frustration. Four years ago, I headed out on a Spirit guided adventure to increase accountability in one component within my organization. It was a bumpy road, but one that was well worth the effort. With increased accountability came increased productivity. Each part felt responsible for itself as well as the whole, and each began to perform at unprecedentedly high levels, achieving impacts never seen before. As I completed the clearing of the path before us, I returned to the vision I had previously set, and began executing it in an unimpeded way.

Although my component made great strides towards our goals, we began to feel the resistance of the fully expanded bungee cord that tethered us to the rest of the fully-anchored organization. I explained the changes in the environment that required movement from our current position. I also explained how I had been successful at moving my component off of the rock it had handed on. At first my counterparts in other parts of the organization nodded with pleasant diplomacy and later rejected all offered assistance as uninformed arrogance from the blind and ignorant. Internally, I began to feel like a tugboat trying to tow two lost and disabled supertankers, whose engines are running in reverse, through a narrow shipping channel . Their wakes were much larger than mine and I did not have the weight to displace enough water to re-orient or dry-dock them. I was running full bore ahead to prevent the larger vessels from pulling me backwards and underwater. I began to cry out, praying that He would send some relief because it is impossible to lead the blind when they are afraid of movement and resistant assistance. In His normal, calm voice God said, “I am the shepherd who guides the lost sheep. I may use you as a small instrument in my larger plan to help guide them to the path of righteousness. However, their journey is one of choice. I have sent you out ahead to scout the landscape and to provide information, not instruction, back to them. It is up to them to accept or reject that information. You are not the catalyst of change that will save them from destruction. You are merely My utensil that is available to them to help them notice what is on the path in front of them. You cannot independently clear their way. That is what I sent my Son to do. You can only give them notice of what’s ahead. The actions they choose to take are their own. Stop trying to do more than I have asked! Move forward with what you have been given. I have plans for all of my children and am patient with them.” I instantly began to hum the lyrics to Mark McMillan’s How He Loves Us, “He is jealous for me. Love’s like a hurricane, and I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me.”

 I understood, at least conceptually, the message that had been given to me but I needed a visual to fully comprehend it. I did a little internet research on common instruments of the blind. I learned that a white cane is a long rod-like device used by visually impaired travelers to give them information about the environment they are traveling through. Using a cane can warn them of obstacles in their path, tell them of of upcoming stairs, warn them that they are coming up to a curb, and tell them of many other things in the environment in which they may have to deal.

To start using the cane, the person holds the handle at  waist level, using whichever hand is most comfortable. They hold the cane with their hand wrapped around the handle  with the index finger pointed along the cane shaft toward the cane tip, which is resting on the ground. While walking, the cane is swept from side to side in an arch a little more than the width of the body. As they walk along, the cane will touch the ground at the end of each sweep from right to left. It is done in such a sequence that the cane taps the spot where the next foot step will land. This allows the person to check things out with each step before their foot lands on the spot. If there is a hole there, the cane will find it first. If there is an object lying on the floor, the cane will encounter it and may prevent a  fall. Some are able to use the sound of the cane tapping on the walking surface to give them cues about the size of the area they are walking in, and other things that can’t be determined easily in other ways. However, the cane cannot walk for or take precautions for the user.

I had an Ah-Ha moment as I recognized I had been placed in this situation to learn many valuable lessons from the journey. I was also put there to be an assistance device available to those around me. But, my availability was not a guarantee of my use.

I then realized I have been frustrated because I have worked my knuckles to the bone yet continue to feel held back by those who cannot sense the wisdom around them or see the vision before them. I had rationalized that I am not seeking appreciation for my work, rather I simply want affirmation that I am doing well. The truth is that seismic change is happening inside the organization following the arrival of a new leader who is moving everyone in the same direction I moved my component. Rather than confessing that I felt justified and admitting my desire to remind others that they had rejected the information I provided about the road ahead, I have hidden behind a facade of humble righteousness. I immediately felt startled and anxious. The Spirit whispered, “relax and ask for forgiveness. Remember who you are and whose you are. Your purpose is still Kingdom building.”

We are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in his eyes. If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking. So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest. I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves us; Oh how He loves us!How He Loves Us

As I reflect on what I have been experiencing, I appreciate that work in the vineyard takes many forms. To fill the vineyard with trees that bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit, we must get to work now; not on the worldly taskings of our day, for they impair our vision, but on the Godly askings from our Lord and Savior. We need not fret. The vines of good news will overtake the grounds upon which the weeds of wickedness lay. That which is true will deliver independent evidence that will stand on its own accord.

Go forth and become an extension of Him! Remember, we are an apparatus of He who called us. Stay in sync with Him! “When the body is in motion, the cane is in rhythm”; meaning we must tap the cane from side to side, one tap per step, about two inches beyond the width of the user’s shoulders to be the best instrument.

The Spirit has told me, “Be satisfied with your calling and thankful for your execution because I will call you all home one day and expose the grand plan.” God frees prisoners. He gives sight to the blind, he lifts up the fallen. Psalms 146:8 (MSG)

What fortune lies beyond the stars; those dazzling heights too vast to climb. I got so high to fall so far but I found heaven as love swept low. My heart beating, my soul breathing; I found my life when I laid it down. Upward falling, spirit soaring. I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground. What treasure waits within Your scars. This gift of freedom gold can’t buy. I bought the world and sold my heart. You traded heaven to have me again. Find me here at Your feet again; everything I am, reaching out, I surrender. Come sweep me up in Your love again and my soul will dance on the wings of forever. Touch the Sky – United

Faithful Obedience II

“I think we’ve overstated that God is the God who wants us to obey. Obedience is not the end game. Obedience is only our calling so that we can step into our freedom.” – Erwin McManus

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend asked me to certify a single student in CPR. Although the ask and the circumstances were unusual, I honored her request. I was blown away by the experience. It continues to live in me, teaches me something deeper everyday, and is a place of strength from which I can draw when the day seems long. Whenever I go to this well, MercyMe’s You Are I Am comes to mind – I’ve been the one held down in chains beneath the weight of all my shame. I’ve been the one to believe that where I am You cannot reach.The veil is torn and now I live with the Spirit inside; the same one, the very same one who brought the Son back to life. Hallelujah, He lives in me.

The student humbled himself to accept any circumstance to get where he was being led. Hungry and apprehensive, he followed his faith that led him to the church where our gracious God hand-delivered him the hope he had been longing for. In a heart-felt act of absolute humility and vulnerability, he shared his tearful story with me. He said, 2 ½ years ago he was a school bus driver. He showed up to work everyday on time. He was married and has two daughters. He had his own place and he provided everything his kids needed. If he had to cut grass or pick up trash to get something extra, he had no problem doing that. He spent time with his family and everything was great. On his bus route, there was a little girl who was always late leaving her house. The rules allowed for him wait only three minutes for a passenger and then he had to go on to his next stop. Sometimes he would wait 10 minutes for that little girl because something told him he should. He knew in his heart that she was better off getting on the bus everyday than staying at home.

One day, his bosses called him into the office and told him a woman had accused him of getting off the bus while kids were still onboard and the engine was running. They said he got in a lady’s face and threatened her, then got back on the bus and drove off fast. Without even asking him his side of the story, they just fired him. Since then, he hadn’t found steady work. Pretty soon, he couldn’t pay rent on his apartment and his family got set out. He was separated from his family because his wife took the kids and moved back in with her mother so they would have a place to stay. He stayed here and there when he could but was mostly homeless. It didn’t take long before his marriage fell apart too. It was crazy! In a flash, everything was gone and he couldn’t figure out how or why.

His mother wasn’t in a position to give him anything. Every time she saw him, she offered him encouragement and prayed for him incessantly. She told him to have faith because God would work everything out. His sister told him the same thing and prayed for him also. Day in and day out, he remained homeless, hungry, and without hope. Whenever he was at his wit’s end and felt trouble looming, he went on long walks or rode his bike to remove himself from whatever mischief was lurking. He was proud of the fact that he could go anywhere and do anything as he was not restricted by an arrest record or conviction. But finding permanent employment and stable housing continued to evade him.

A few weeks ago, his former employer called him at 4pm on a Friday afternoon. They told him that someone had written a letter and cleared his name. They told him he could return to work the following Monday only if he could produce a valid CPR card because his certification had expired.  It turns out that the mother of the little girl who was always late for the bus, was addicted to drugs. While on one of her high spells, she fabricated the story that led to the man’s termination. The mother was later arrested and sent to a rehabilitation center for treatment. After her release and in a attempt to make amends, she provided a sworn statement to the man’s employer and admitted that her allegations were false.

He was elated about getting his job back but felt choked by the pressure to get re-certified in 48 hours without any support. He called everyone he knew. The best they offered him was the chance to buy a fake card from a document vendor on the street. He went to bed that Friday night feeling hope slipping back through his hands.

He woke up early Saturday morning and set out on a long walk to gain focus. As he was passing a building, he saw his sister’s car in the lot. He went in the building to find her. He found her and she introduced him to my girlfriend. The siblings told my girlfriend about his desperate search for a place to get certified in CPR on short notice. My girlfriend called me to see if I could do it. Holding on to hope for the next 14 hours, the man again felt himself losing his grip on the glimmer of hope he gained half a day earlier. At 9:00pm, he received a call from his sister telling him that the woman he met earlier found some lady who had agreed to certify him at the church at 11:30 the next morning. He fell asleep at his mom’s house that night while tearfully praying to God, asking for Him to make a way to allow things to work out so he could take the training and be able to provide proof to his employer that he had done what was asked of him. To him, having stable employment seemed so close, yet felt so far away. To help soothe him, his mother read this scripture to him before he fell asleep, 4 May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! 5 Show a gentle attitude toward everyone. The Lord is coming soon. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. 7 And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. 8 In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. 9 Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9 – GNT)

He woke up the next morning and came to the church. He spent several hours working hard to earn his certificate and was happy to know he could return to work with dignity and honor.

For the both of us, the Spirit illuminated the reward for obedience. Obedience brought him to a place where he could tell his story of how others set a trap for him so he would fall and fail; yet God delivered Him. He is now humble. What man designed to break him, God used to bless him. His trials cracked him in a way that allowed God’s light to shine through him. He now believes his can be the man God called him to be. Obedience allowed me to see the work of the Mapmaker as He drew the lines and created the path upon which this gentleman would start his spiritual journey. The experience reinforced that there are no coincidences. God’s name, El Shaddai, means All-Sufficient One who blesses with all manners of blessings. The gentleman’s name means dark or black; the culmination of all color in the vacuum of eternity. My name means God’s promise. Putting it all together – God used the two of us to deliver the message of His promise of many blessings and an assurance of eternity to those who are faithful and obedient to Him.

You’re the one who conquers giants. You’re the one who calls out kings. You shut the mouths of lions. You tell the dead to breathe. You’re the one who walks through fire. You take the orphan’s hand. You are the one Messiah. You are I am! You are I am!! (MercyMe)

Faithful Obedience

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend came to my house at 9pm. Her visit was unusual as folks call me before they come by and it is rare that I entertain anyone so late. Nonetheless, she arrived, hurried and on a mission. With a sense of urgency and directness in her tone and mannerisms, she asked me if I could certify a student in CPR the next day. As I began to explain that I didn’t have a class scheduled for the next day, she cut me off and said, “I need you to do this!” In an act of sheer and gut level obedience, I said “yes ma’am”, as I had never experienced such insistence and exigency from her. I explained that I did not have a classroom available and did not know how I could find one in such short notice. She smiled, said she had a place in mind, and reminded me that God works all things out for His greater good. She then dialed a number on her cell phone and said, “Hey! She can do it. Tell him to show up at the church at 11:30 in the morning.” She asked me for a cup of tea to go, told me to find a trustee at her church when I arrive, and said there is bound to be an unoccupied room available. She then scurried on her way. I thought to myself, “Lord, what has the cat just drug into her life and what am I about to get myself into? How can this possibly work when the church holds its largest service of the week at 11:00 and it lasts for two hours?” The Spirit reminded me that the power of obedience to Him has the ability to turn the impossible into the easy.

I was restless and anxious when I laid down. I fell asleep while reading this scripture, “To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have been given a faith as precious as ours: 2 May grace and peace be yours in full measure through your knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 God’s divine power has given us everything we need to live a truly religious life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share in his own glory and goodness. 4 In this way he has given us the very great and precious gifts he promised, so that by means of these gifts you may escape from the destructive lust that is in the world, and may come to share the divine nature. 5 For this very reason do your best to add goodness to your faith; to your goodness add knowledge; 6 to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add endurance; to your endurance add godliness; 7 to your godliness add Christian affection; and to your Christian affection add love. These are the qualities you need, and if you have them in abundance, they will make you active and effective in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1-8 GNT)

The next morning, after attending service at my own church, I drove 25 miles to my girlfriend’s church. When I arrived, I found a trustee who took me to the basement of the building and led me from room to room, looking for an empty space. He eventually told me that the best he could do was to allow me to use the child care class room for two year olds. He then cautioned me that the lyrical dancers from the special church service would also have to use the room to change clothes after their worship dance.  He unlocked the classroom door, wished me good luck, and returned to his post. As I entered the room, I said, “seriously! Let me see if I understand this. I have a strange adult male student in a classroom with Lilliputian furniture that we have to share as a dressing room with female dancers.” About that time, the heft of the music from the gospel organs began to fill the space. The Spirit said, “settle down. Your calling today is only about obedience and has nothing to do with questioning the Caller.” I nodded in acceptance, set my equipment up as best I could, and then went back to the lobby to wait for the student.

I called his name to two people I imagined might be him. They each told me I had the wrong person. Then a thin guy with a tight pullover and over-sized jeans walked in. He was holding his belt loops on one side to prevent his pants from sagging. I called his name and he answered, “yes ma’am.” After exchanging greetings, we returned to the basement and began our training, adjusting the volume on the computer aids as the church music  softened and then thundered between dances numbers. There was a rhythmic cadence to the interruptions to our lessons as dancers entered every 10 minutes or so to change their outfits.

We completed the video, lecture, and question/answer part of the training.  As I needed to set up the space for the practical exercises that would simulate recognizing and reacting to a breathing emergency, I asked him to stand in the hallway near the wall. When I looked up, I realized that he was facing the wall with his fingers interlaced behind his head and his feet spread far apart, as if I had placed him in a pre-arrest position. I thought, “Oh goodness! I am dealing with a convicted felon; a vulnerable soul whose expectation is that those who are in a perceived position of power will take advantage of him.” In that moment, he seemed willing to take whatever abuse I might dole out simply to walk away with an authentic certification card whose twin-looking faux could have been bought off of the street in a matter of minutes. I immediately began to pray, asking the Spirit to help me stay focused on why He brought me to this place and asked that my work be honoring and pleasing to Him. The lyrics to MercyMe’s You Are I Am came to mind –

I’ve been the one to shake with fear and wonder if You’re even here. I’ve been the one to doubt Your love. I’ve told myself You’re not enough. I’ve been the one to try and say I’ll overcome by my own strength. I’ve been the one to fall apart and start to question who You are.

 We worked through the practical exercises and he did well. I had already made up my mind that I was not going to give him a written exam because he was not well schooled or articulate. Doing so would have been a test of his reading comprehension, an exercise he would have likely failed. Nonetheless, I gave him 15 minutes and told him to use the time to study his manual in preparation for the exam. When time was up, I told him to put his manual away. I told him I wanted to ask him a few questions before the exam began. I asked him to tell me something new he learned in the class. He sighed! I said, ” just tell me one thing new, not everything in the manual.” He sighed again and then began to sob uncontrollably. I sarcastically said under my breathe, “Uh, what act of obedience am I supposed to follow now?” The Spirit said sternly, “chill and be still!”

After a few minutes, he recomposed himself and said, “I am a 40-year old grown man and I am sitting up here crying. It’s because you are a complete stranger; yet you cared for me. You are genuinely interested in my learning and you allowed me to earn something of great personal value to me. I have never had that experience before. You see, there are people I have known all my life who don’t mean any good for me. Here you are, a random stranger, and you care.” The Spirit then whispered, “Look, listen, and feel applies to more than just CPR, huh? In God’s great plan, humble obedience leads to the promised land. In all you do, remember whose you are and stay focused on what you were called to do.” Jeremiah 29:11-14 immediately came mind, 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” (NLT)

Senses, not Census!

God stands up to open heaven’s court. He pronounces judgment on the judges.  2 How long will you judges refuse to listen to the evidence?  How long will you shower special favors on the wicked?  3 Give fair judgment to the poor man, the afflicted, the fatherless, the destitute.  4 Rescue the poor and helpless from the grasp of evil men.  5 But you are so foolish and so ignorant! Because you are in darkness, all the foundations of society are shaken to the core.  6 I have called you all “gods” and “sons of the Most High.”  7 But in death you are mere men. You will fall as any prince—for all must die.  8 Stand up, O God, and judge the earth.  For all of it belongs to you.  All nations are in your hands. Psalm 82 (TLB)

For the past 100 days, I have focused my time and energy helping an underprivileged community across the river to get back upon its feet.  A prospective leader in that community noticed the desperation of the people and called upon her network to come together to relieve the suffering.  After praying about the issue, the Spirit led me to respond to the call.  He reminded me of the many blessing that have been bestowed upon me and asked me to use my God-given talents to help.  He said, “although you live in a rich nation, ‘You will always have the poor among you’…Matthew 26:11.”

The experience exposed me to things I had only seen in developing countries.  Through the perspective of the prospective leader, I saw abject poverty of spirit, many without the basic provisions to sustain life, and levels of ignorance I did not know existed.  It was humbling!  I was then called to become more involved.  I simply started doing the small things that many people overlook such as cooking meals for the highly active folks on the leader’s team who were in the field doing the grass roots work.  I learned incredible lessons from overhearing their planning and strategy activities.  Seeing the team put the plans into action and watching the results coming to fruition to make better conditions for His people was clear and convincing evidence that God was in control of something I had the great privilege to be a part of.

While giving the community leader a ride home one night, she spoke to me with a heaviness in her voice.  She had attended an event earlier in the day and was surprised at the lack of understanding others in the community had about the needs of the poor that were right before their eyes.  She said the people gathered at the event and asked questions because they were unsettled about having anything other than market-rate housing in their neighborhood.  She gave her perspective on the need for affordable and low income housing.  She also explained that solutions surrounding housing in the neighborhood must include the biblical truth that the poor will always be among us.  The people rejected the notion because they were not on any type of public assistance and had recently become first time homeowners.  She was amazed at their lack of empathy and compassion considering the amount of assistance they had received to buy their first house, forgetting that assistance is the same thing the poor need as well.  She let the home owners know that she is aware that the housing situation is a tricky one.  She told them everyone wants an affordable place to live.  She admitted to her own blessings of owning a home in the neighborhood and asked for their understanding of the neighbors who have not realized their housing dream yet.  She ended her address with letting them know that pushing the poor out is not a part of the answer.

I am amazed at her conviction and her will to continue even though the struggle is fierce!  The conversation we had has been on my mind since we had it.  Deep thoughts usually move me into action.   So, I am calling you into action with me.  Don’t rely on the census, use your senses. Here are my asks:
1.  The silence of poverty can be deafening.  Vote for change so your voice can be heard.
2.  Poverty is a blinding flash of the obvious.  When you see something, do something.  Donate new or gently used items to your community outreach center.  Most churches accept them.
3.  Hunger tastes like nothing.  Donate to your local food pantry.
4.  Hearing about hunger can be heartbreaking.  Don’t just listen, touch someone with a food basket or gift card for groceries.
5.  It stinks to be hungry and to not have the basic things you need.  Sniff out human suffering in your community, and lend a hand.

The smallest things done with a smile can make a huge difference and give people the basic human dignity and respect they deserve.  Connecting with people, rather than pushing them away, is how a positive difference is made in communities. I know it because I’ve seen it, and I do it.  If you feel me, please join me!  “Without community service, we would not have a strong quality of life.  It’s important to the person who serves as well as the recipient. It’s the way in which we ourselves grow and develop.” – Dorothy Height

The Color Purple

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A few weeks ago, I had the occasion to attend a church service in the poor area of the city.  I came to the service because my girlfriend invited me.  It was a big day for her as she announced to her church family her intentions of seeking elected office to be the community’s representative at City Hall.  Although she had previously told me why she wanted me to come to the service, it did not dawn on me what was happening until I arrived.

I entered the large building and walked towards the sanctuary.  Most people in the building were dressed in Advent amethyst to Lenten lavender and wore stickers or hats that had my girlfriend’s campaign slogans on them.  As soon as the reality hit me, my thought bubble distended with, “since when does it make sense to bring politics into the pulpit?  Haven’t these people ever heard of separation of church and state?”  The tenor of God’s voice then reverberated across my chest as he said, “My house is also this community’s gathering place.  They know that without me, they have nothing.  Bringing together all aspects of their lives into this common space is their way of ensuring I am in the middle of everything they do.  They unapologetically follow Me and use My word and My Spirit to guide their every decision.”

The Spirit then gently nudged me and said, “That was not a scolding.  It is just important that you adjust your perspective.  Remember what the scripture says?”  Romans 13:1 tells us, “Obey the government, for God is the one who has put it there. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power.”  He continued with, “Now settle down.  This anxiety is not good for anyone.  We do not bring you to any place without a purpose.  His greater good is always His will.”  As though He could not hear my thoughts, feel my heart, or read my mind, the words on the ticker tape that arrogantly scrolled across my head was, “okay…(grumble, grumble)…Show me.”

Then the organ began to play.  The choir swayed and clapped as they sang.  A church-goer began to rhythmically jangle and clang a tambourine.  Shivers ran down my spine.  The smug and negative thoughts continued to flow.  I said to myself, “Ugh!  I don’t care for Gospel music.  Its sound, tone, and tempo remind me of the hypocrisy of others I experienced in my youth.  About that time, a party of four approached the rear most pew where I was seated and tried to squeeze into the space for three.  I though “ahh!!! And my exit strategy has arrived.  How fortuitous!  There isn’t enough space.  I stood up and with the façade of grace and offered my seat to the fourth person in the party.  As I backed up to make room for the person to sit down, I bumped into an usher who said, “Aw baby!  They made you move and took your seat?  Don’t worry.  Come right on up here with me.  I have the perfect place for you.  Follow me!”  She walked me from the way back last row slanted pew to the seventh row center orchestra middle of the pew.  Just before she walked away to seat others, she said, “See, The Lord works everything out.  He had something better in store for you; a place right up here.  He’s always looking out to pull His children closer in.”  Her words pierced my heart and pushed the pause button on my mind.  My muscles involuntarily pulled the corners of my mouth towards my ears as I desperately tried to control the twitching of my eyes.

Because I was now the only one standing in the middle of the sanctuary and believed it would be embarrassing to me and insulting to others if I walked out, I crossed over others to access the middle of the row.  As I sat down, the infant next to me puked on her mother and began to cry.  Pandemonium nearly broke out as the well-dressed people around us seemed to scatter away from us as though the second sighting of the baby’s breakfast was contagious.  Without thinking twice, I asked the mother if I could hold the baby to allow her to clean herself up.  She said, “yes”, handed me the baby and thanked me.  I cleaned the baby’s mouth, wrapped her in a receiving blanket and rocked her.  The gentle motion and cheek to cheek contact soothed us both.  Before I knew it, the baby and I were swaying in sync with the choir to the humbling song Because of Who You Are followed by I Give Myself Away.

After the choir was seated and while the announcements were being made, in His fatherly voice, God said to me, “Now that you are softened up a bit, we can talk.  These folks have been filling this sanctuary and inviting my spirit into everything they do for the last 160 years; raising the roof and rocking eight city blocks every Sunday in My holy name.  They make no claims to perfection or having everything right.  While you are across the river worshiping in your un-prescribed way, they too are in here seeking me.  Your preferences are personal to you but are in no way biblical.  Show me where I have spoken against the hanging of a large photo in the foyer of the shepherd (and his wife) that I appointed; where singular raised fingers in white gloves is sacrilegious; or where the selection of choice clothing in blasphemous.  Be very careful of your internal criticisms of My children.  If not, you may begin to resemble that which you resent.  Just as I speak to you in a way that you can understand, I do the same for them.  Their language is called Gospel and they know the benefits of being governed by Me.  Now keep caressing that sleeping baby while you hear this powerful, just-what-you-need word from My anointed and appointed shepherd.”

In his chock-full-of-rhetoric syncopated way, the pastor delivered a riveting message from Esther chapter 4, focusing particular attention to the part of verse 14 that says, …for such a time as this.”  The points I took away from his message were:

  1. Our lives become the result of whatever we are willing to accept
  2. Faith is the evidence that something unseen is real
  3. Breakthroughs only happen in the lives of people who can believe beyond what they have been through
  4. God gives us proof of what he is capable of doing
  5. Ignore the voice of doubt    And
  6. If the seemingly impossible is going to happen, God will have to work a miracle.

He reminded the community of the fate and destiny of many generations past and future.  He said, “We have been called colored against our will.  Now we choose this color as a symbol of His will for our future and prosperity.  As we commit to continuously pray for the strong sister who has been uniquely placed in our lives and in our community to be the voice of His people, please join me in supporting her campaign to be there to represent for us and to be in service with us.”

Three things were abundantly clear to me as I left the church:

  1. Always stand on the side of God. Anything else is directly against Him.
  2. A loving heart, mind, and soul for God has the power to conquer every injustice or disappointment the world can bring.
  3. The only future that exists is one that stems from worship and service to Him.

The song that resonated with me throughout the rest of the day was Citizen Way’s Evidence which says, It’s not a flag on a field.  It’s not a sign in my yard; not a cause that I joined, not a phrase on a coin.  It’s the change in my heart…Might be the pain that you share; might be the time that you spend or the war you don’t fight; backing down from your pride after all, in the end.  Mercy and grace and compassion, they’re only words without action.  I need hands that are open, reaching out for broken hearts.  ‘Cause that’s the only way this world would ever know who You are.  Love is the evidence.  Love is the evidence!

Be the love!  Be His humble servant.  It is the evidence.  I pray that every day, I walk into every assignment He gives me with humility, openness and love; that I am able to suspend judgment and embrace alternate ways; and that I enter the room soft-hearted, teachable, and ready to serve.  “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sonic Footprint

If anyone questions whether there is a God, He is always fully present.  If anyone asks if He hears our prayers, glance at who He places in your presence.  If anyone wonders if He answers those prayers, look to the present to see how gloriously he responds.  If anyone inquires about His expectations of us, teach them how His love demonstrates His present responsibility.

Faithful living brings a heart full of hope and a life of love and joy.  Each day, we draw the picture of faithful living by the sonic footprint (the pattern and mark our words are leaving on others) we place on those around us.

Below is an excerpt from an earlier post.  At the time, I was trying to keep a positive sonic footprint while I was in the middle of a storm.  You see, I believe that economic independence is obtained through education.  Two years ago, my dream of my offspring having that seemed to be going up in smoke.  The anguish I experienced was soothed only in the comforting arms of prayer and through the encouraging words of others.  God sent a prophet to me to let me know everything would be okay and charted a course my daughter could take to get where she needs to be.  She is now on that course.  She has pulled herself together and will soon enter community college.  Enjoy!

While I was working at guest services today, a man on the security team named Aaron Hope approached me and began talking to me.  His opening words included a comment on the emblem on my shirt. The emblem was my daughter’s high school and mascot.  He told me he graduated from there just a few years ago.  He talked about his positive experiences there as well as his challenges and struggles.  His story included examples of his involvement in many activities, his laziness as a student, the encouragement of his parents, and his eventual and close-call path to graduation.  I explained to him the grip fear has on me as I see my daughter in the exact same place while running out of time to correct her course.  He laughed at the similarities between the two of them.  He gave me some tips on clever ways to encourage her and let me know that his educational path ended with a college degree.

He was honest with me about the three university rejection letters that were the results of his less than perfect grades.  He talked about having to apply to the local community college and finally getting accepted.  It was a challenging experience for him because he knew he was a smart kid who had failed to apply himself.  His decisions led to a less than desirable result.  He was left behind as he watched his friends go away to four-year universities while he stayed at home to attend junior college.  Through the experience, he found motivation to succeed.  He regularly attended community college classes, paid attention, and made good grades.   During his first year at the school, he visited a high school friend who got into a state university just two hours away.  After visiting the campus just once, he committed to doing what it took to get admitted.  The next year, he transferred there.  He suggested that I take my daughter on a campus visit to the university and informed me that it has an undergraduate program and a follow on professional school program in my daughter’s area of interest.  He ended the conversation with reminding me to be prayerful and patient because everything was going to work out.  He then smiled and went on his way.

I believe this experience was God’s plan.  God knew about the emotional meltdown my daughter had the day before when she realized the deep whole she was in because of low grades.  He heard her cry out in my arms that she was slipping into a spiral and did not know how to stop it; that she is one of the smartest people in her group of friends but has the lowest grades because she hasn’t been studying like she should; and that she performed poorly in her sporting event the night before because she was tired as she can’t sleep because she is worried about passing her classes for the quarter.  God’s spirit moved me to stay at home Saturday night to be with her instead of coming to church.  He knew I was feeling fearful about her future, alone, and helpless.  He also knew I needed a constructive example of an encouraging person who would make me feel good, to help me through the moment as well as to assist me with improving my sonic footprint.

Sooooo…to bring me into the fold, I was struck with an issue of importance to me, my daughter.  God worked it out that I would be standing alone in His house the next day.  He sent a handsome and physically fit young man who is half my age because He knew that would catch my attention.  He sent a messenger named Aaron Hope – a brother and keeper from a high place bearing a strong and confident prospect.  (Aaron is Hebrew for teacher, lofty, exalted; also Moses’ older brother and keeper by God’s command.  Hope means to cherish a desire with anticipation.)  Because I was vulnerable, I was able to hear God’s voice and was encouraged while receiving a lesson on how to advance His kingdom.  Through the 10 minute interlude with Aaron, I was left with this:

  1. With Great intentionality, God sent his exalted teacher to remind me to stay optimistic and faithful as events of the future occur by His will and in His time.
  2. 5 “Before I started to put you together in your mother, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart as holy.  I chose you to speak to the nations for Me.” Jeremiah 1:5
  3. As I wait, I must be an Aaron Hope by being positive with my words, leaving others feeling good and God led.

1 Peter 1 (MSG) tells us:

3-5 What a God we have!  And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus!  Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!  God is keeping careful watch over us and the future.  The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. 

6-7 I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime.  Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine.  When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory. 

8-9 You never saw him, yet you love him.  You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing.  Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation. 

10-12 The prophets who told us this was coming asked a lot of questions about this gift of life God was preparing. The Messiah’s Spirit let them in on some of it—that the Messiah would experience suffering, followed by glory.  They clamored to know who and when.  All they were told was that they were serving you, you who by orders from heaven have now heard for yourselves—through the Holy Spirit—the Message of those prophecies fulfilled.  Do you realize how fortunate you are?  Angels would have given anything to be in on this!

13-16 So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives.  Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing.  You didn’t know any better then; you do now.  As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness.  God said, “I am holy; you be holy.”

17 You call out to God for help and he helps—he’s a good Father that way.  But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living.