Tag Archives: God

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)

Full of Surprises

“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” C.S. Lewis

I met with a sister who is new to the area for tea the other day. We opened the lines of communication by learning a little about each other’s backgrounds. As she placed a few pieces of the puzzle of her life face up on the table, I began to recognize some of the name brand barricades in the backdrop.

Like all of us, she is a ball of yarn that will take time to unravel. She is colorful and flexible and is a critical thread in any fabric that is woven with her. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize it. She sees the face of God from a distance but can’t feel His real proximity. She moves about on her path never observing the safety warning that says, “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” She toddles along believing that she has many miles beyond the horizon to go before she can reach her Lord and Savior and constantly collides with clearly marked obstructions called unforgiven, unloved, and undeserving. All creation cried out with longing, with groans only You could comprehend; and with wisdom, You always answer and give the words of life so unfailing.The Way by Jeremy Camp

As we continued to talk, I learned we have a lot more in common than meets the eye. I learned we both gain our energy from within, we are both guilty of the sin of too much self-reliance, and that the nightmares of the ugliness of others still creep into our days. We find great comfort in concepts such as mission, battle rhythm, and stronghold. We push forward and are always willing to lead the way into unchartered territory – unless that exploration requires an examination of the dark places where our points of pain lay. Then it’s time to rip the cord out of the wall, stopping the music and the madness. We do that by repressing those ghosts of experiences past deep into closets we mistake as graves.

As I began to scratch the surface of the places that lead to her darkness, her eyes welled up with tears. We skirted near the shallow fields of a few more skeleton crypts and the daunted, dazed, disbelieving girl of years ago came screaming from the darkness of the past into the now. As she sat quietly, taking in everything the spirit was saying through me, I reminded her of a great lesson I learned from a mentor on my journey. It is “that which we repress comes back to the party in a different dress, just at a time and a place that is not convenient or of our choosing.” The good news is that treasures are hidden in dark places. If we rely on Him, He will lead us to our trove of prizes; our paragon full of surprises. John Chapter 1:1-5 (NIV) tells us, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” And Your glory shines all around us; Your faithfulness shown for all to see. When we think of all of Your wonders, the beauty of Your plan that’s been revealed, we walk in Your light. We walk in it. Shine bright. Let Your glory fill this land; lift high, the King of Kings and great I am. Jesus, You are the way

I shared some of the nastiness I used to hide behind a façade. We talked about a few bones that used to fly out of my closet as soon as the door cracked ever so slightly. We chatted about our pursuit of peace and quiet. We discussed our inner desires to be strong and others’ reliance on us to be the tie that binds the unit together. Her eyes locked onto mine as if to say, “you too?” As her eyes filled with tears again, there seemed to be a sigh of relief that came from our common connection. I shared that I learned the hard way that to truly be undaunted, unflappable, and unchained, I had to become vulnerable. I had to be willing to expose the nerve endings of my pain and the full extent of my weaknesses. Through that discomfort, He gave me the courage I needed to enter those dark places. He, The Light, illuminated my treasures. My power and gifting were then birthed through the womb of vulnerability. Through the journey, His brightness shone through the crevices of my weaknesses and pain. I also shared these three things I have learned in the process:

  1. He has forgiven me for all that I have done wrong.
  2. He loves me even with my breaks and cracks.
  3. He has taught me that His grace is His eternal gift to me without regard for what I deserve.

My reflection on my tea time has me here:

It is in my many moments of complete emptiness that God says, “Here I am…Walk with Me. Your strength comes from Me, and Me alone. If only you would take my hand, I will take you to heights beyond the farthest boundaries of your imagination. Hold back, and you will forever remain in the middle of this mess. I am full of surprises! Come with me so I may show you your treasures. I am The Light. If you stay with Me, there is no reason for you to ever be afraid of darkness.”

I am looking forward to exposing many more of my cracks to this sister in hopes that she will see His light shining through them. Until then, my prayer is that she becomes mindful that the cold canyon that contains the anguish, agony, and ache of tortured ghosts from experiences past, is best crossed on a bridge named vulnerability with a guide called God. She is a beautiful sister with unabridged potential. Her happiness is His truth. I can’t wait to see His greatness unleashed through her. Her treasures are there for the taking; full of wonder, amazement, and surprise. We can see the works of Your loving hands with a hope and peace not made by man. When You poured out Your grace and Your mercy and You held out Your arms so we could see You bled for all mankind and set the captives free.

“Simeon was there and took the child in his arms, praising God. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘now I can die content! For I have seen him as you promised me I would. I have seen the Savior you have given to the world. He is the Light that will shine upon the nations, and he will be the glory of your people Israel!’” Luke 2:28-32 (TLB)

May you always be willing to ask for Him and take His hand. May His light always shine through you.  Come along side someone else and share your story. Be the love!

Calico’s Corner III

Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important.  They don’t mean to do harm. But the harm does not interest them – TS Eliot

Psalm 37 tells us: Never envy the wicked!  2 Soon they fade away like grass and disappear. 3 Trust in the Lord instead.  Be kind and good to others; then you will live safely here in the land and prosper, feeding in safety.  4 Be delighted with the Lord.  Then he will give you all your heart’s desires.  5 Commit everything you do to the Lord.  Trust him to help you do it, and he will.  6 Your innocence will be clear to everyone.  He will vindicate you with the blazing light of justice shining down as from the noonday sun.  7 Rest in the Lord; wait patiently for him to act.  Don’t be envious of evil men who prosper.  8 Stop your anger! Turn off your wrath.  Don’t fret and worry—it only leads to harm. 9 For the wicked shall be destroyed, but those who trust the Lord shall be given every blessing.  10 Only a little while and the wicked shall disappear.  You will look for them in vain.  11 But all who humble themselves before the Lord shall be given every blessing and shall have wonderful peace.  12-13 The Lord is laughing at those who plot against the godly, for he knows their judgment day is coming.  14 Evil men take aim to slay the poor; they are ready to butcher those who do right.  15 But their swords will be plunged into their own hearts, and all their weapons will be broken.  16 It is better to have little and be godly than to own an evil man’s wealth; 17 for the strength of evil men shall be broken, but the Lord takes care of those he has forgiven.  18 Day by day the Lord observes the good deeds done by godly men, and gives them eternal rewards.  19 He cares for them when times are hard; even in famine, they will have enough.  20 But evil men shall perish.  These enemies of God will wither like grass and disappear like smoke.  21 Evil men borrow and ‘cannot pay it back’!  But the good man returns what he owes with some extra besides.  22 Those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the earth, but those cursed by him shall die.  23 The steps of good men are directed by the Lord.  He delights in each step they take.  24 If they fall, it isn’t fatal, for the Lord holds them with his hand.  25 I have been young and now I am old.  And in all my years I have never seen the Lord forsake a man who loves him; nor have I seen the children of the godly go hungry.  26 Instead, the godly are able to be generous with their gifts and loans to others, and their children are a blessing.  27 So if you want an eternal home, leave your evil, low-down ways and live good lives.  28 For the Lord loves justice and fairness; he will never abandon his people.  They will be kept safe forever; but all who love wickedness shall perish.  29 The godly shall be firmly planted in the land and live there forever.  30-31 The godly man is a good counselor because he is just and fair and knows right from wrong.  32 Evil men spy on the godly, waiting for an excuse to accuse them and then demanding their death.  33 But the Lord will not let these evil men succeed, nor let the godly be condemned when they are brought before the judge.  34 Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act!  Keep traveling steadily along his pathway and in due season he will honor you with every blessing, and you will see the wicked destroyed.  35-36 I myself have seen it happen: a proud and evil man, towering like a cedar of Lebanon, but when I looked again, he was gone!  I searched but could not find him!  37 But the good man—what a different story!  For the good man—the blameless, the upright, the man of peace—he has a wonderful future ahead of him.  For him there is a happy ending.  38 But evil men shall be destroyed, and their posterity shall be cut off.  39 The Lord saves the godly!  He is their salvation and their refuge when trouble comes.  40 Because they trust in him, he helps them and delivers them from the plots of evil men.

Calico was an Irishman who moved to Italy and found a job in the shipping industry.  He set out in life with good intentions but strictly relied upon himself as the singular source of information to guide his decisions.  As he rose in rank to captain on his ship, his lack of intimacy with the Lord, his inability to be reflective, and his sense of entitlement prevented him from leading in a Godly way.  Over time, his character and his ways led him from rising prominence to a fall into fury, something many of us have seen or experienced.  Calico may have good in him but his hubris is contemptible and offends the very fibers our morals are made of.  “O Lord, deliver me from the man of excellent intention and impure heart: for the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” – TS Eliot

His officers too were interesting people, ranging from empty-suited sailors to altruistic mariners.  At last glance, the seamen had successfully mounted a mutiny and subdued the captain.  The ship was five miles from the Italian coast on the Mediterranean.  She had a fire in her engine room and a hole in her hull.  With one functioning life boat that held 48 passengers, the three officers on deck were faced with the critical decision of how to save the remaining 84 sailors on board.

The flares had been set off and the beacons had been activated, but the Silk Utopia continued to toss and turn in the eye of the storm, without even radio recognition of their distress calls.  As the ship rocked nearly parallel to the sea on her port side, the second officer ordered the first officer to drive the life boat to shore with 45 of the sailors, the bound captain, and the third officer standing guard over him.  The second officer made this move because something had to be done immediately, she trusted the first officer to return with the life boat for the remaining sailors and she had faith in the third officer’s ability deliver the captain to the proper authorities unharmed.  The second officer remained aboard the ship with the remaining sailors to fight the fire and bail water.  When the first officer returned, he fished 12 life-jacketed sailors from the sea.  The other 23 sailors and the second officer then made it safely onto the life boat.

My reflection on this story reminded me that in the midst of the storms of life, the waves will bash and thrash about without regard for goodness, fairness, or righteousness.  When we stand under the weight of the problem alone, the pressure can seem crushing.  But prayer is the pressure release valve.  Calling upon The One who makes all things possible is the answer to any outstanding question.  Also:

  1. Our God inhabits every place
  2. He builds us each for a specific purpose in His kingdom
  3. 28 We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. Romans 8
  4. 7 Ask, and you will be given what you ask for. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Anyone who seeks, finds. If only you will knock, the door will open. – Matthew 7
  5. “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything” – Malcolm X

In What It’s Like, Everlast illustrates the complexities under the squall with, I’ve seen a rich man beg.  I’ve seen a good man sin.  I’ve seen a tough man cry.  I’ve seen a loser win and a sad man grin.  I heard an honest man lie.  I’ve seen the good side of bad and the down side of up, and everything between.  God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes, ’cause then you really might know what it’s like to sing the blues… to have to choose…to have to lose.

As my final thought on these characters, Matthew 6:12-13 says pray like this…12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.  13 And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.  (NLT)

Full & Open

“The intention and outcome of vulnerability is trust, intimacy and connection.” – Brene Brown

The holidays are a festive time and known as the season of giving, filled with busyness in preparation for Christmas Day. The malls are packed and the internet is jammed because so many people are searching for items to wrap and present as the perfect surprise to those they love. Some blame the year-end gift giving on commercialism and consumerism, causing people to spend more than they have to obtain what they don’t need. Others have a different outlook but choose not to indulge that way, providing only baked goods or handmade crafts – gifts from the heart – to encourage the ones they love.

But…what about the offering of time and what about the rest of the year? The commentary in the Voice translation of 2 Corinthians tells us, “Giving away money is one of the hardest things believers do, especially when there are bills to pay and more expenses than income. However, helping others with their physical needs and not only their spiritual needs is a fundamental principle of Christian spirituality. Perhaps it would be easier to give our financial resources if we could turn away from our own continual consumption and live simpler lifestyles. Then there would be not only the willingness but also the ability to share God’s blessings with others.” Verses 6-15 say, 6 But I will say this to encourage your generosity: the one who plants little harvests little, and the one who plants plenty harvests plenty. 7 Giving grows out of the heart—otherwise, you’ve reluctantly grumbled “yes” because you felt you had to or because you couldn’t say “no,” but this isn’t the way God wants it. For we know that ‘God loves a cheerful giver.’ 8 God is ready to overwhelm you with more blessings than you could ever imagine so that you’ll always be taken care of in every way and you’ll have more than enough to share. 9 Remember what is written about the One who trusts in the Lord: He scattered abroad; He gave freely to the poor; His righteousness endures throughout the ages. 10 The same One who has put seed into the hands of the sower and brought bread to fill our stomachs will provide and multiply the resources you invest and produce an abundant harvest from your righteous actions. 11 You will be made rich in everything so that your generosity will spill over in every direction. Through us your generosity is at work inspiring praise and thanksgiving to God. 12 For this mission will do more than bring food and water to fellow believers in need—it will overflow in a cascade of praises and thanksgivings for our God. 13 When this mission reaches Jerusalem and meets with the approval of God’s people there, they will give glory to God because your confession of the gospel of the Anointed One led to obedient action and your generous sharing with them and with all exhibited your sincere concern. 14 Because of the extraordinary grace of God at work in you, they will pray for you and long for you. 15 Praise God for this incredible, unbelievable, indescribable gift!”

Our requirement to be vulnerable and give of ourselves (time and talents) as well as our possessions brings to us far more than we lose by giving them away. By putting ourselves out there and exposing our genuine nature, we experience the joys and pains that are ignited or covered by His grace, giving us the power of clarity to see His love and forgiveness and the hope that lets us live to tell about it. But this reward is endowed upon us only when we take time to give time. By doing so, we relish in the flavors and scents of His love while unwittingly relinquishing the burden of being too busy.

What time do we have to keep except the measure of the moment in our hand? Does the inertia of our motion undermine our authenticity, clarity, grace or power? Busy – “If yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift and that’s why they call it the present” – how can we have so much to do that we can’t unwrap the wonder of time that is before us? The scents of softness from a sleeping baby – hug her and feel the peace that she brings. The look of love in the eyes of a five-year old with outstretched arms – embrace what he is offering. The fog of confusion that the teen tweets about – be the light that burns it off and guide him to the path on the other side. The delight in disorder in the life of the young woman next to you – meet her for tea to talk about it. The father who is missing the enthusiasm necessary to enjoy his children – encourage him with a story of your positive experience with The Father. The wisdom of the soul whose arthritic hands once held you – sit for a while and listen; then say thank you. From the simplicity of the cradle to the complexity of the grave, God’s greatest gifts are those who appear with us in this moment. How dare we take a pass for the four letter expletive we call busy? Let’s establish a connection with them: showing them our authenticity through our willingness to be vulnerable; our clarity through the eyes of His ways; His grace through the power of non-judgment or forgiveness; our power through the telling of our stories of weakness – which allows us to be vulnerable; which leads to the foot of the cross (his ways); which reminds us that He died for our forgiveness; which tells the story of the weakness in our ways – which teaches us the value of authenticity…and the double helix continues in perpetuity.

As we experience this wonderful time of the year together, make your gift-giving decisions as it has been laid upon your heart to do. Just remember, credit is not our sacrifice, merely a matter of pure secular indebtedness. There are however, 364 other days in the year, four natural seasons, and ten thousand ways and opportunities to give to others. Time is of the essence as our charity only exists while we are alive. For when we die, what we bequeath is no longer sacrificial. As we move throughout this season at a pace that makes time for each other, let’s ask ourselves this: What have we given of our time and talents today? What will we give of our finances before sundown? Will we stop and acknowledge the presence of the next human being we encounter? Will we take a moment to smile at him and encourage her? Will we sincerely share the dark spots in our walk as we shine beyond the shadows? Will we spend the currency of a split second to show the love given to us on that destined day at Calvary? Do we trust enough in our intimacy with Him to reach out and connect with another now? “The moment someone asks you to do something you don’t have the time or inclination to do is fraught with vulnerability.” – Brene Brown

In Give Me Words to Speak, Aaron Shust says: Calloused and bruised, dazed and confused; my Spirit is left wanting something more than my selfish hopes and my selfish dreams.  I’m lying with my face down to the floor.  I’m crying out for more.  Give me words to speak.  Don’t let my Spirit sleep ‘cause I can’t think of anything worth saying, but I know that I owe You my life.  So give me words to speak.  Don’t let my Spirit sleep.  Every night, every day I find that I have nothing left to say.  So I stand here in silence awaiting Your guidance.  I’m wanting only Your voice to be heard.  Let them be Your Words…that follow the gifts of our giving to one another for His glory.  Be vulnerable!  Be open!!  Give the gift of your story!!! Be the love!!!!  Say it with me: IN HIS MIGHTY NAME, Amen

Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow – that’s vulnerability. – Brene Brown