Tag Archives: God

Hot, Hot, Hot!

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.  Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.  Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.  Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.  Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.  Philippians 2:1-2 (MSG)

When a space orbiter has completed its mission, it must re-orient itself before landing back home on earth.  Prior to landing, it has spent weeks in outer space, exploring and encountering the foreign and unfamiliar.  In order to re-enter safely, its speed, pitch, and altitude must be carefully controlled.  In most cases, it has also been travelling nose first in the upside down position.  The spacecraft must first be turned around to the tail first position.  Then it has to slow down as it begins its descent into the earth’s upper atmosphere.  The reaction control system then engages and pitches the craft 40 degrees so that the tail faces the atmosphere, thus placing it back into the nose first position.  The same system then rotates the craft right side up.

Because the shuttle is lined up over Asia as it hits the upper atmosphere and is travelling at 17,000 mph, its outer shell heats up to about 3000 degrees Fahrenheit.  As it descends, it banks hard and serpentines to reduce its speed.  As it gets closer to its landing spot, its pitch changes to minus 20 (almost seven times steeper that the descent of a commercial airliner) and control of the craft switches from computer to manual.  The commander then lines it up with the runway, pulls up the nose to slow the rate of descent and lowers the landing gear.  The shuttle touches down, the parachute and the speed brake on the vertical tail deploys.  It comes to a rest, is powered down and remains unapproached and untouched for about 20 minutes to allow the noxious gases to dissipate.  The door then opens, the commander and crew disembark, and the craft is serviced.

Re-entry (or reconnection with earth) is fuel intensive and requires a lot of insulation to prevent the spacecraft from overheating and breaking up.  A successful mission requires a well-built shuttle, a faithful flight crew, and a stalwart mission control team.  Since the conditions of space travel are always challenging, a critical failure in any of the three areas could cause catastrophic results.  For instance, undetected damage to the heat tiles at lift-off, failure to close cargo bay doors, or improper data analysis by flight control personnel could have disastrous consequences.  And so goes the support needed for our connection to or reconnection with our Lord and Savior.

The six-week 151,000 mile journey I took this Summer was akin to space travel.  The extreme time zone dislocation of minus two hours to plus thirteen hours, a trial, engaging in a multitude of diverse activities, the cultural and language differences and barriers, countless hours in a pressurized cabin, flying at high altitudes, dealing with the issues in front of me as well as monitoring those at home, a death in the family, an ill loved one, and notification of additional litigation caused me to hit the upper atmosphere at mach 30 as a flaming inferno.  However, others’ relentless prayers for me, the steadiness of the church who received me, and the guidance of the family and friends who loved me provided me with the necessary instructions and support that re-oriented my position, slowed me down, set my pitch, and controlled my descent before handing the controls back over to me.  An entire crew of people, including my small group and other supportive believers, remained in constant contact with me as I aligned with the runway, lowered my landing gear, touched down, and deployed my chute.  Now that the noxious chemicals have dissipated, I have stepped back out onto solid ground, and have received adequate rest, my prayer is this: Lord, Almighty and all-knowing God.  You are the reason for my being and the purpose of my existence.  May I always remember that!  Loving your people and imitating your ways are the greatest part of my mission.  Please forgive me for not always giving my all towards that focus, especially in my moments of stress; a time of my greatest need and the time that You use Your people to bring blessings in abundance.  Thank You for Your willingness to always pursue me and other lost or disoriented souls.  Your relentless love and Your army of servants have paved the path of faith, with which I have now reconnected, that leads to the foot of the cross; the place where You gave it all so that I may be free and with You for an eternity.  Please light a fire under my feet so that I may serve as soothing foam and create a soft landing spot for any other hot re-entry who is dangerously close to ignition or who may already be ablaze.  May I always be willing to share my talents for Your glory.  Thank You for the incredible lessons, the protection of Your will and grace, the enormous support of Your people, the intact landing, the rest, and for the fire in the belly to serve You whole-heartedly again.  It is in Your son’s name I pray – Amen.

A thousand times I’ve failed, still your mercy remains.  Should I stumble again, still I’m caught in your grace…Your will above all else, my purpose remains.  The art of losing myself in bringing you praise…In my heart, in my soul, I give you control.  Consume me from the inside out.  Let justice and praise become my embrace to love you from the inside out.  Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades.  Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame.  And the cry of my heart is to bring you praise. From the inside out Lord, my soul cries out.  Hillsong United – Inside Out

Whether we are seeking something more than we have known in the world, we left on a prodigal adventure, or simply allowed busyness to pull us away from the habits that support our Christian walk, re-entry is a process that requires belief in God’s greatness, commitment to service, and intense support.  God’s Church is that shuttle, ministry leaders are the flight crew, and the other dedicated servants are the mission control team.  When they are strong and work together, the mission of making disciples of every nation are met or exceeded.  Additionally, those who have temporarily left earth’s grounding are able to re-enter alive and land back on a solid foundation.  When all hands are on deck, people experience the miracles that happen when God’s flight-control crew and ground-team workers move harmoniously together.  Souls are saved by people crossing the line of faith or saved souls reconnect with the roots that keep them grounded in the faith.

My reflection on my re-entry this summer has me here:

  1. A commander is simply one many people in God’s army
  2. No commander ever has it all under control
  3. Our journeys may take us far and cause us to feel disconnected
  4. Re-entry is the necessary path to reconnection with solid ground
  5. It takes many people and multiple talents to bring people in
  6. Re-entry is rough because hyper-speed causes high heat
  7. Love and support cool the temperatures and reduce the effects of friction
  8. I must do my part to help others re-orient and reconnect
  9. His word is the solid ground and His grace is the soft landing spot
  10. Space is not the final frontier.  Heaven is.

When I’m lost you pursue me; lift my head to see your glory.  Lord of all, so beautiful; Here in you I find shelter – captivated by the splendor of your face, my secret place.  I’m wide awake, drawing close, stirred by grace.  And all my heart is yours.  All fear removed, I breathe you in.  I lean into Your love, oh your love.  Your love so deep is washing over me.  Your face is all I seek.  You are my everything.  Jesus Christ, You are my one desire.  Lord hear my only cry to know you all my life.  Hillsong United – Sinking Deep


The Promises, not the Problems

It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light – Aristotle Onassis

The past few weeks have been some of the most interesting times of recent memory.  I departed the US on a high with enough fire in the belly to believe I could boil an ocean.  As I travelled abroad, although the oceans stayed below 212 degrees, I set every beach ablaze I encountered.  I took every opportunity I had to spread the good news in capital cities and remote villages.  However, over the days my body and mind grew tired even though I thought my faith was strong.

You see, through it all I maintained a mindset that the things that were coming at me were bricks not bullets and therefore would not hurt me.  My armor plates of faith and courage were on.  Nothing could penetrate; not the intensity or diversity of my work, the miles travelled, the short adjustment periods, the domestic issues, the death of a matriarch, or the health concerns.  Brick…by…brick, each issue fell in front of me.  Each one lay beside another across the road, then stacking one on top of another building a thick barrier that I mistook as a thin sheet. Without regard for what it really was or appeared to be, the best way to survive an ambush is to continue driving through it.  So I floored it, gaining speed in hopes that momentum would carry me through if all else failed.  The acceleration quickly slowed and eventually I came to a rest.  I was so intent on making it through that I crashed into the backstop on the other side of what I thought was the finish line.  When I returned state side, I realized I had hit a wall.  My only prayer in the moment was from Psalms 16 1 Protect me, God, for the only safety I know is found in the moments I seek You.  2 I told You, Eternal One, “You are my Lord, for the only good I know in this world is found in You alone.”

Feeling tried and extremely overwhelmed, the bricks just continued to pile up.  The wall grew higher and higher.  Day after day, my heart grew more and more heavy and weary.  With every step I took, I prayed “be with me Lord!”  Yet with each passing moment, I felt more and more alone.  Last night, I finally buckled under the pressure, fell to my knees, and in full surrender I cried out.  God then held me close and said, “This is the way you stand the tallest and the strongest – when you are most dependent on me!  Yes I built you to be resilient and gave you a spirit of courage but it is wholly contingent upon the two of us walking in lock step.  The moment you begin to operate independent of me, you lose your armor and you don’t even realize when it is slipping off.  I am with you and always have been.  Look back and see the single set of footprints.  You are the only one who was somehow lulled into thinking they were yours.  Listen!  With great championships comes great adversity.  But my people stand tall.  Now dry your eyes and straighten up your posture.  Look in My word to locate your faith and let’s go together to find your courage because evil is powerless only when the good are unafraid.  Remember your name and remember that I have never reneged, not even once.  We can solve these things together if you are willing to look to Me first.”  Suddenly my heart broke out into song, You stood before creation, eternity in your hand.  You spoke the earth into motion, my soul now to stand.  So what could I say and what could I do?  But offer this heart, Oh God, completely to you.  So I’ll walk upon salvation, Your spirit alive in me.  This life to declare Your promise, my soul now to stand.  I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned in awe of the one who gave it all.  I’ll stand my soul Lord to you surrendered.  All I am is yours.  Hillsong United – The Stand

At that point, the wall came tumbling down.  I drifted off to sleep in thanksgiving.    Psalms 16 continues with 3 The beauty of faith-filled people encompasses me.  They are true, and my heart is thrilled beyond measure.  4 All the while the despair of many, who abandoned Your goodness for the empty promises of false gods, increases day by day.  I refuse to pour out blood offerings, to utter their names from my lips.  5 You, Eternal One, are my sustenance and my life-giving cup.  In that cup, You hold my future and my eternal riches.  6 My home is surrounded in beauty; You have gifted me with abundance and a rich legacy.  7 I will bless the Eternal, whose wise teaching orchestrates my days and centers my mind at night.  8 He is ever present with me; at all times He goes before me.  I will not live in fear or abandon my calling because He stands at my right hand.  9 This is a good life—my heart is glad, my soul is full of joy, and my body is at rest.  Who could want for more?  10 You will not abandon me to experience death and the grave or leave me to rot alone.  11 Instead, You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life.  As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment.  The Voice

The first thought on my mind this morning was this: The anguish I had felt all week long was finally relieved.  Whatever I will face moving forward is with Him on my side. Imagine the possibilities if we were willing to live our lives with the constant knowledge that we have the full faith and backing of our God.  The possibilities would be endless.  We would openly and willingly tame the tiger of racism, close hunger’s hippo-size jaws of death, eradicate the venom of domestic violence, etc.  There would be no fear in the alley after dusk because we would know the truth – that what is in the dark also appears in the light.  Love would fill our hearts, houses and homeland.  Our focus would forever be on His promises and not our problems because we would understand the He is bigger than any hurdle we could ever encounter.  Oh what an awesome God we serve who loves and cares for the sheep He shepherds no matter how often or far they wander!

Dear God, as I walk through this day called today, may I align my sights on You to keep Your perspective as the way I see things.  I am grateful for the energy and strength You have given me, but may I be constantly reminded of their source.  Thank You for returning my spirit of courage to me, as we both know I had lost my way.  I know these current battles will be tough but I also know You are with me and will always remain by my side, carrying me when I don’t have the strength to continue on.  You alone have the solutions, oh mighty God, and will resolve the issues in Your time.  Thank You for the rain and the joy that follows.  Amen

Bring me joy, bring me peace.  Bring the chance to be free.  Bring me anything that brings You glory.  And I know there’ll be days when this life brings me pain.  But if that’s what it takes to praise You, Jesus bring the rain.  MercyMe – Bring the Rain.  Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity and innovation.  You can have comfort or courage but you can’t have both. – Brene Brown


A Road Less Traveled

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders; let me walk upon the waters wherever you may call me.”Oceans by Hillsong United

At the beginning of the year, I made a commitment to have a quarterly spiritual recharge.  For me, that means taking a weekend every few months to come together with women in His name.  For two days, in an extremely intimate and God-honoring way, we shuck our normal rituals, pray together, love each other, learn the word, and lean into Him.  Last weekend, I had the privilege of spending two days at the Women of Faith conference.

Leading up to the respite, I had traveled half way around the world and back, with only one day off before entering a four-day trial-like hearing that ended only sixteen hours before the start of the conference.  Needless to say, I deeply contemplated giving away my ticket and just going to bed for two days.  However, in an act of obedience, I followed the spirit’s guidance.  He urged me to go because He said there would be something there I desperately needed.  The Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth—Jehovah is his name—says this: Ask me and I will tell you some remarkable secrets about what is going to happen here.  Jeremiah 33:2-3 (TLB)

I walked through the doors emotionally drained, morally bankrupt, severely jet-lagged, and exhausted beyond belief.  The evening was filled with music, spiritual comedy, and hard lessons to swallow.  It didn’t take long before the messages began to penetrate my rugged exterior.  Sheila Walsh started it off with a talk about the storms of life that wash up things that have been buried for a long time.  Things such as shame, guilt, anger, insecurity, disappointment, and un-forgiveness are items that we bury and are sometimes dredged up from the depths during tumultuous times.  Ouch!  What’s that?  Oh yeah, the sting of conviction.  You see, the lightening of a dying relative, the thunder of another dissipating relationship, the gale force wind of extreme travel, the rain of my second adolescence and flood of emotions attached to my emptying nest – has created this large and slow-moving storm in my life.  Recognition that I am in it is the first step to weathering through it though.  The bright side of the experience is that He has given me the strength to make it this far and He will continue to carry me through.  Sheila ended by reminding us to stay the course of faith, one that few follow.  It leads to the foot of the cross; the place where we lay our burdens down and find rest in Him.  She then sang Kim Walker’s song Spirit Break Out.  The chorus, “Spirit break out; break our walls down.  Spirit break out; heaven come down” resonated with me.

Feeling more bound and less free when I left the venue than when I entered it made my soul extremely unsettled.  The tightness constricted the four corners of my being and pushed against the callouses formed as protection around my heart.  The part of me that had been agitated by the snug seating in the arena, the part that was unwilling to be open and engaging with those around me in a loving way, the part that wondered how much I really had in common with the women next to me, and the part that questioned my decision to come at all – began to melt as the application of the salve of the spirit began to penetrate those once hardened areas.  Before I completed the walk across the parking lot to my car, there was a revelation that the real issue is that I was in PAIN.  With all that was going on in my life, instead of stopping the madness and sitting still for a moment to gain balance and perspective, I pressed on as though the distance would annihilate the emotion.  All along, I was feeling the Pressure of precision performance in my job, the Anger of abandonment by another friend, the Insecurity from the uncertainty of what my future holds, and Neglect of my spiritual needs.  With each step, one thing after another was tucked and buried as if I was moving it out of the way to prevent it from impeding my progress.  As a mentor once taught me, “that which you repress comes back to the party in another dress, just at a time and place not of your choosing.”  In that moment, I realized I was in the middle of a grand masquerade ball that I had not planned to attend.

After a few hours of sleep, I woke up and was unable to coax myself back into slumber.  I read a few scriptures and then began working through the issues from the previous evening.  My thoughts cascaded from feelings to spirit to flow to water.  It was then that I realized that my life is a living body much like a river.  You see, a river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river.  In some rare cases a river can flow into the ground and dry up completely at the end of its course, without reaching another body of water.  A river begins at a source and ends at a mouth following a path called a course.  The term upstream refers to the direction towards the source of the river, i.e. against the direction of flow.  Likewise, the term downstream describes the direction towards the mouth of the river in which the current flows.

The river’s water moving along its course is analogous with life and its events that occur on this living journey.  Like the river, life has a beginning and an end.  They both also flow to and with other bodies, pushing the limits of their banks, in pursuit of something bigger that gives them real purpose.  They are driven by the current that moves quickly within them, continuously and forever changing their faces and spaces within the confines of the path in which they flow.

So frequently, we develop methods of dealing with issues that seem to be successful, such as containing them within narrowly scripted margins.  As we mature and flourish, we meet challenges and overcome them by utilizing those seemingly infallible problem-solving ways within those borders.  When they no longer work, we either dry up at the end of our course or rely on the strength of the current that flows within us to swell beyond our banks, pushing us into new territory and extending us past what we thought was possible.

Leading up to the conference, I was in pain because I lost my way.  I got caught up in the duties and plans of life and had forgotten my purpose.  I was out of energy because I was swimming upstream and back to what was once familiar to me.  I was drying up or flowing straight into the ground.  Only by letting go and letting God determine my direction am I able to travel the natural path he has set forth for me, towards something bigger and for His glory.  He is the current that guides me downstream, changes me, and gives me direction even in the storms.  However, familiarity with Him is what allows me to recognize Him and to know where He is even in the midst of a raging squall.  As Sheila recounted God’s message to her, “You are more than you know because I am more than you can imagine.”

On the path of faith, there is no need to bury anything and there is no reason to swim upstream.  Although His ways are not conventional, they are what we are called to.  On His path, His love dulls the daggers of disappointment and deceit, the shanks of shame, the anvils of anger, the guillotine of guilt, and the priapism of pain.  Running to His arms for respite is where we find the comfort of peace and the courage to continue.  The spirit led me downstream to that conference because it was exactly what I needed to address those things I had repressed.

And so now I ask you: What storms are brewing in your life?  What path are you on?  What are you seeking? Are you pursuing your purpose?  Have you lost your way?  What are you burying?  Are you willing to follow the flow into unchartered territory to those uncomfortable places of unfamiliarity?  Where is your faith leading you?

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.  So if you are feeling uncomfortable right now, know that the change taking place in your life is a beginning, not an ending.”  (Neal Donald Walsh)  12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made.  But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.  Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus.  I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. – Philippians 3:12-14 MSG

 


Life Comes at You Fast

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

To gain an understanding of program implementation in the region, I visited clinics that serve poor and indigent populations.  The storm from earlier in the week had knocked out the power. The dim overheated conditions made a tough environment more challenging for the medical staff.  Through it all, I quickly learned that electricity had no relationship to the end of in-utero development.  The situation also told me that the physical necessities for supporting life are far more basic than I previously understood.

Having the choice between viewing a Power Point presentation on the post education training for midwives or seeing its effects in action, I chose the more experiential activity.  When I entered the 85 degree room, I noticed that my breakfast was still largely undigested as the culinary medley began trampolining towards my esophagus.  That precise moment was filled with the second taste of my last meal, the scents of an unplanned delivery, the sounds of un-medicated labor, the sensation of rising body heat unaffected by natural cooling agents, and the sight of the miracle of life happening before me.  When the sensory overload did not conquer my consciousness, I knew that lessons of a lifetime would imminently present themselves.  I knew I had to pay vigilant attention or I might miss something.

Like a two year old at a three-ring circus, I didn’t know where to concentrate; on mom, the midwife, or the miracle?  I originally chose mom.  In my estimation, as someone laboring as hard as she was, my focus and attention should be directed towards her.  Not knowing what else to do, I wiped the sweat off her forehead and held her hand.  I began praying for her physical comfort, emotional peace, and spiritual well-being.  A moment or two into my prayers, I felt overwhelmingly conflicted because I was not observing anything related to my reason for being there.

I immediately turned my attention to the midwife and her mentor.  I could not make sense of the conversation they were having with mom.  My translation of what they were saying was follow, follow; right, right.  After a few seconds, I gave up and just watched what they were doing.  They were in a perpetual state of talking, checking, and guiding mom; less to the end of labor but more to the commencement of life.  Before I knew it, the crown of the baby’s head presented itself.  Then her blue face, turned down and slightly to the right, immerged with her lifeline entangled around her neck.  With cool composure, the midwife checked its tension and then rotated the baby girl out of the noose.  Within seconds, she fully immerged and was placed on mom’s chest.  Instantly, she began breathing while others in the room held their breath until she cried.  As if startled by the rude awakening of the realities of the world, she yelled.  As if released from the grips of anticipation, we sighed.  And the celebration of the miracle of life began.  Reflecting on the first two children ever born, I prayed that the baby would follow in the ways of Abel and bring forth her best to God.

Witnessing this event corroborated the fact that God’s creation is the practice that happens every moment of every day.  Conversely, evolution is merely a man-made theory that never made it to the concept phase.  I then praised Him as the Prince of Peace He is: “You are Lord of Lords.  You are King of KingsYou are mighty God, Lord of everything.  You’re Emmanuel.  You’re the great “I AM”.  You’re my Prince of Peace who is the Lamb.  You’re the living God.  You’re my saving grace.  You will reign forever.  You are Ancient of days.  You are Alpha, Omega, Beginning and End.  You’re my Savior, Messiah, Redeemer and friend.  You’re my Prince of Peace and I will live my life for You.”  (Michael W. Smith – You Are Holy)

A little while later, I was off to the next clinic.  Much like the first one, it was a 900 square foot building, sub-divided into a 12-bed recovery room, a two-bed delivery room, an examination room, and a small waiting area.  No sooner than I walked in and was greeted by the hosts, the theory of midwifery again gave way to its practical application.  Seemingly, God patiently waited for me to arrive to witness yet another miracle of life.  Instead of asking Him what I missed the first time, I dawned another paper gown, walked into the dark room, and stood by mom’s side.  This time, I began the experience with a spirit of thanksgiving and an energy of compassion.  Having the only idol hand in the room, I held a flashlight to provide illumination.  Within five minutes, a baby boy crowned, immerged, and cried.  After two births in four hours, I felt like I was well on my way to serendipitously becoming a skilled birth attendant.  After basking in the thought, my heart drifted into song, “I will sing to and worship the King who is worthy.  I will love and adore Him and I will bow down before Him.  And I will sing to and worship the King who is worthy; and I will love and adore Him and I will bow down before Him.  You’re my Prince of Peace and I will live my life for You.”  (Michael W. Smith – You Are Holy)

As if writing it on the tablet of my mind for me to always have, with His unique cadence, He said, “There were several messages you missed.  I know you were too caught up in all that was happening the first time to be able to take it all in.  So here is what you overlooked:

  1. The needs of my people are great.  Lend a helping hand whenever you can.
  2. You are personification of My light.  Shine bright so that others may see Me.
  3. No matter how far out of your element you are, you always have something to give.
  4. There is always more to My plan than meets the eye.
  5. Don’t let your sight blind you.  Sometimes your heart is how you see.
  6. Much is required from those to whom much is given, for their responsibility is greater. (Luke 12:48 TLB)”

To watch the miracle of birth confirmed that God is the thought leader in life.  We are merely students, given the responsibility to learn and teach that we are all His creation, made in His image, guided by His light, delivered through His grace, nurtured with His forgiveness, with an eternal seat in His kingdom.

The experience taught me that our destiny is directly related to God’s assurance that He is always with us and He hears us when we call.  No matter how unsophisticated the child, how small the need, or how humble the provisions, it takes divine capacity to deliver the miracles that support life.  I now know that with God,

  • Serendipitous does not mean unplanned
  • Unfamiliar does not mean foreign
  • Bearing down does not instill fear
  • Cutting the cord does not mean pushing away
  • Crying does not mean anguish
  • Simple does not mean primitive
  • Cramped quarters does not mean uncomfortable
  • Minor role does not mean negligible impact

13 You alone created my inner being.  You knitted me together inside my mother.  14 I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made.  Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this.  15 My bones were not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, when I was being skillfully woven in an underground workshop.  16 Your eyes saw me when I was only a fetus.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book before one of them had taken place.  (Psalm 139:13-16)


Subtle Algebraic

2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.  3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery.  They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.  Now what do you say?”  6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.  But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.  7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  11 “No one, sir,” she said.  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.  “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  (John 8:2-11 NIV)

The dreary skies outside have placed me in a musing mood.  Finding no reason to drive my thoughts towards some specified result, instead I am contemplating the diverse experiences I have had over the past week.  A few days ago I awakened at 4:15am, two minutes after sunrise, to the emergency alert on my phone screeching words I could not understand.  After I walked across the room and tried in vain to shut the sound off, I quickly learned what the alert was for.  The ground beneath me shook and the world outside of my window swayed back and forth for several seconds, and then again.  I thought, “Ah, earthquake!  Got it.”  Who knew I would learn something new from the effeminately delivered, subtle-toned linguistics known as jishin or ground shake?

Over the past 48 hours, all of my plans have been cancelled because a signal II Typhoon is gaining strength as it barrels across the entire region.  A few days earlier when I arrived here, I had the opportunity to spend the day with a long time resident as well as a short-term visitor like me.  It was a thought-provoking day, mostly spent at a local market where pleasant vendors worked extremely hard to sell their name brand look-alike accessories.  Interestingly, all of the vendors had tremendous feminine qualities; some innate, others inchoate.  As I understood the reality of the situation, I felt a little flush as my bigotry meter began to peg.  I thought, “Oh boy!  Why is this happening?  I thought I had worked through this and learned that kindness and respect are entitlements for all of His children.”  Suddenly, in a soft voice, God said, “Honey, replace your tension with My love.  No matter what doctrine dictates, you and I both know what you are here for.  Loving one or two at a time is how you make a difference.  Live what you have learned and authentically show Me to them.  Remember your favorite scene from the movie the Great Debaters?

Q. Who is the judge?            A.  The judge is God.

Q. Why is he God?                A.  Because he decides whether I win or lose, not my opponent.

Q. Who is your opponent?  A.  He doesn’t exist.

Q. Why does he not exist?   A.  Because he is just a mere dissenting voice to the truth I speak.

Now, don’t think about it; go be about it!  Be My love and show them the kindness they need.  Their choice in gender identity has nothing to do with you but your choice to be cold versus kind has everything to do with you.  The truth is that all of My people need love.  Yes, many of these guys are far more effeminately dressed than you will ever be.  But, stay focused and live out what I have called you to do.  Cold-heartedness is a personification of that dissenting voice.  The apprehension you are feeling is nothing more than molecular foolishness.  I have given you enough wisdom to overcome it.  Now, let go and let’s love.”

As I relaxed and engaged, I found the vendors to be extremely warm and nice.  The kindness I received from all of them was far greater than what I had the capacity to give.  I realized that I, like everyone else, grow with heart-felt positive human connection.  I then smiled because I entered the engagement believing that I was there to give.  I left understanding that I was the one in need and He saw to it that I received.  No amount of meanness, judgment, or other types of negativity would have caused a positive Godly outcome with the vendors.  I could have demonstrated my disapproval by leaving but I wasn’t in the market for what they were selling anyway.  However, my friends were.

I must have had a strange expression and been shaking my head as we were leaving the market because my shopping mates asked me what I was thinking about.  When I said, “it seems as though the difference in the weather experiences is a metaphor for the wisdom gained by being open to the lessons different people bring”, they gave me a bizarre look and began shaking their heads.

The experiences made me appreciate that there is a Master who has a plan.  The boxes labeled value or no value that we place people in have no real worth for anyone.  To the extent that categories are in any way appropriate, we are all a figurative series of binomials – ones and zeros whose sequence and interaction in this world have profound but well-designed meaning.  Where one represents light and zero represents shadow, we can find shade even on the summer solstice.  In this instance, it is all a matter of how and where He positions us.  Where one is black and zero is white, remember that black is a culmination, not devoid, of all colors and white is the baseline from which color starts.  In this instance, it is a matter of how open we are to seeing His lessons.  Where one is pure and zero is adulterated, life begins and then it happens.  In this instance, it is all a matter of how widely and deeply we are willing to feel those around us.  Where one is linear and zero is circular, each represents paths that all of us have taken.  In this instance, it is a matter of how we experience the world around us.  The lines and circle have infinite positions; many are neither good nor bad.  We each have both.  When life deals us a poor position, obscured vision, arrested feelings, or rotten experiences, we can choose to walk with Him and be a ray of His light to others.  When we work together in His name and remain positive, good things can happen.  He is the expert for turning tragedy into triumph.

Regardless of the circumstances, we have a requirement to ask Him what He would have us do today and then complete our mission.  By doing so, we have the potential to add to the sum total of humanity.  He has a knack for renaming the odd ones unique, multiplying the remaining negative products in an even way, and creating positive exponents.  It is not our calling to join the ranks of the malicious and mean-spirited.  Those who do, join the gang that tries to subtract from others.  Fortunately, they never gain the ability to divide them.  Their efforts simply underestimate the power of the elevated number because they focus on the zero and completely miss what is in front of it.  In this context, they miss The One – Yes, Him, 10 to the power of 10.  “When you focus on being a blessing, God makes sure that you are always blessed in abundance.”  Joel Osteen


To The Limit

“Often the very things that you think have disqualified you are the ones that qualify you to do what God has called you to do”. – Christine Caine

John the Baptist understood that personal peril is sometimes the price paid for doing the right thing.  Matthew 14 tells us a story of the then ruler of Galilee who married his brother’s wife.  John courageously stood up to the ruler and told him about the inappropriateness of the marriage to his brother’s wife.  The ruler jailed John for speaking the truth and later had John beheaded as a trade-off in a game of pawns.  However, John was confident and resolute in the face of difficulty and danger.  He was “all in”, beating down the flame of fear with the fan of faith, even in the most daunting situations.  David Foster tells us in Through The Fire, Through the fire, to the limit, to the wall…I’d gladly risk it all.  Through the fire, through whatever, come what may…I’d take it all the way; Right down to the wire, even through the fire.”

John the Baptist had a unique way about him.  The bible describes him as wearing camels’ hair with a leather belt and living off of locusts and wild honey.  The bible does not speak to any special training John had to qualify him to do the incredible things he did.  But his off-the-beaten-path approach made him extremely resourceful and gave him an understanding that with God, focus, and discipline, anything is possible.  He was all in and in it to win it.

A few years ago, I was vacationing in a coastal city near the Pacific Ocean with some friends.  One of my friends had mobility issues but was unwilling to be deterred from full participation in all activities.  One afternoon, we set off on a snorkeling trip.  I was simply tagging along with the group as I had no desire to snorkel.  With a floatation device I was okay in the water, but I had only taken a few swimming lessons and was not a good swimmer.  We set out on a 40 ft vessel with several other passengers.  Our boat pulled into a very narrow lane with several other boats to off-load the swimmers and snorkelers.  I felt a bit uneasy because there was too much going on in a highly congested area; too many swimmers and too many boats in too small of an area in very choppy water.

All passengers, except me and a guy, got off the boat and into the water.  After a few minutes, a voice told me to put my equipment on and get into the water.  At first I hesitated because I could not discern if it was the Spirit or my ego talking to me.  Eventually, in an act of obedience, I sat on the bottom step of the ladder, put everything on and got into the water.  It took a few seconds to settle my nerves.  I then adjusted my mask and stuck my face in the water to see any marine life beneath me.  There wasn’t anything swimming below me.  I thought, “okay…I have been tricked by my ego into entering these crowded waters.  Thankfully I am only a few feet from the boat.  I am done.”  As I took my now fogged-up mask off to find the stairs to the boat, I noticed that there was something wrong with my mobility-impaired friend.  Without a second thought, I put my mask back on, stuck my head in the water, and kicked as hard as I could until I reached her.  By then, she was panicked.  She had a sense of  loss of control as she was being battered by the waves and was swallowing too much water.

When I reached her, I tried to make her feel a little bit more secure by turning her towards me, wrapping my legs around her, and taking her mask off so she could see me.  Whatever sanity she had left was then surrendered to full-bore panic.  At that moment, she began to fight me.  She then pulled away from me, floundered and flailed under a catamaran, and grabbed hold of the chain on its lowered anchor.  I put my face back in the water and kicked towards her until I reached her again.  I began to ask her what was wrong.  Whatever she was yelling at me was immediately muffled by the roar of the catamaran’s engine being turned on.  I took off my fogged-up mask, I guess to stare death in its eyes.  Instead, I saw the chain of the boat’s anchor begin to rise with my friend attached to it.  I called out to God and surrendered.  I admitted that I was in way over my head.  I committed to accepting His will, following His guidance, and never quitting.

He led me to grab her waist and then to climb up her back, with the hopes that the pressure of my weight would drop us from the chain.  When it didn’t, I wrapped my legs around her ever-rising body and rocked back until we fell.  I then laid on my back with my arm around my friend’s neck and kicked as hard as I could to exit from the front underside of the catamaran.  I then yelled the names of the others in our party and told them to call for help as I held my listless friend.  Other swimmers immediately came to our rescue and summoned the help needed to get us back safely.

2 Timothy 1:7 tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline”  Obedience has a hefty price but that doesn’t change that it is the right thing to do…and look at the difference it can make in someone’s life.  Obedience doesn’t require specialized skills.  But, it can place the least likely person in a position to help.  When we take God with us and we take a focused and disciplined approach to doing what he asks, He uses our uniqueness to make great things happen.  Remember, “The impossible is where God starts and miracles are what he does.” – Christine Caine

What are the difficulties in our circumstances that test our convictions?  Are we willing to be obedient at all cost?  Are we willing to let our faith take us through the fire, to the wall, to the limit?  Or will we be daunted by fear and hold back?  While it was faith that let Peter walk on water, his doubts about the limits of God caused him to sink.

Chris Tomlin says it best in No Turning Back with, “This is my heart cry, though none go with me; the cross before me, the world behind me.  This is my anthem: my life for your fame.  My every move bring glory to your name.  I will follow you (I have decided, I have decided).  I will follow you (I have decided).  No turning back!  No turning back!!  No turning back!!!  No turning back!!!!”

The experience has brought me here:

  1. Panic can turn a terrible situation into a tragedy
  2. Faith brings clarity and breeds courage
  3. The impossible becomes the likely when God is in control
  4. Our all is not His limit

God has no limits to what He can do.  So take it to the limit and see what He will do with it!  “The mountains shake before Him; the demons run and flee at the mention of the name King of Majesty.  There is no power in hell or any who can stand before the power and the presence of the Great I am.  Hallelujah, Holy Holy, God almighty, Great I am.  Who is worthy, none beside Thee, God Almighty, Great I Am.”  Great I am – Phillips, Craig, and Dean