Tag Archives: Lord

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!

Caught Up In The Moment

The last six weeks at work have been challenging as my observation of two and a half years’ worth of misguided movements came to a head.  Each step shifted the alignment of the organization off center, further and further away from its core mission.  I felt woefully inadequate as I was unable to cure the immediate hurts or address the over-arching cultural ailments.  I had been accustomed to working behind the scenes to reshuffle the pieces to almost any awry situation back to the center of the board.  By flipping switches and pulling levers, I could turn on the magnets that would draw people back between the bumpers.  As this situation continued to wobble further and further out of control, I leveraged every resource available to me to adjust the alignment back to center.  No matter how much strength I used or torque I created, I could not move the mountain.  My blood pressure then sky-rocketed, headaches ensued, and hope dissipated.  The Lord then said to me, “get somewhere and sit still!  To move mountains, you must have faith, you know, the size of a mustard seed.  I am not feeling faith.  I am witnessing you muster mortal strength in man’s world.  You are making a mockery of the miracle process.  I am responsible for those and simply sometimes use man as delivery vehicles.  As the devotional told you the other day, meet Me in the moment and leave outcomes to My Father.  Listen to the sage.  I sent her.  Calmly do these two things each day and leave the rest to Me:  Ask the Father what He would have you do today and work towards it with excellence.”

No words were rendered as no response was required.  I took a week of time off, went away, and did nothing but reflect on His guidance.  Each day I spent time with Him and I asked what He would have me do.  Everyday His answer was the same: love My people and see the wonders of My work.  And that is exactly what I did.  I engaged with as many people as I could and enjoyed the beauties of nature.  Five days after I returned to work, His glorious plan began to unfold.  The miracles of the Messiah moved the mountain.  He made a way for resolution to my plaguing problem and I am extremely thankful to Him.  As Lincoln Brewster tells us: Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth.  The heavens declare Your greatness.  The oceans cry out to You.  The mountains, they bow down before You.  So I’ll join with the earth and I’ll give my praise to You.Majestic

The long, drawn-out difficult observation time that ended just before I took leave was chocked full of faith forewarnings for me.  Particularly, I had watched a high-ranking person determine that reaching the next rung on the ladder was worth everything and he was willing to do anything to get it.  In his haste to reach the next level, he failed to realize that anything received at any pace other than in God’s time can never bring fulfilment, but is merely an accelerant of spiritual degradation.  You see, “any cost” is the only price the devil is willing to pay and the moment we name that price is the second we sell our soul.  Every move from that point forward is a contorted turn or ill-conceived twist that leads to places of no return.  The intersection of greed and power is named Hubris Hill.  The crossroads of arrogance and opportunity is called Corruption Court.  “Corruption is like a ball of snow, once it’s set a rolling it must increase.” – Caleb Colton

At that point, anyone with half of the currency can now convince us to give the whole thing away, leaving us begging for borrowed time from hollowed hearts.  As the pace gets faster and the stakes get higher, we find ourselves over leveraging our diminishing worth while clinging to vacated promises backed by overdrawn credit. Suddenly, the suitors stop knocking and no one takes our calls.  It is then that we realize the time we spent perched in dark smoke-filled rooms sipping single malt scotch and savoring select cigars was likely in Lucifer’s Lounge.  We sat at the table listening to his lies while debating the Spirit’s voice in order to rationalize righteousness into a wicked situation.  By negotiating, we risked what we had to gain what we didn’t need.  We rolled the dice with the devil, the master of deception, and lost it all.  As two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, neither can God and evil.  By dismissing the Spirit, we gave the devil a foot hole.  The hunt is now over and it’s time for the kill.  The wicked one has won!

Or has he?  He is jealous for me; loves like a hurricane.  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… And we are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes.  If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.  And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen 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 allHe Loves Us – John McMillan

Just like us, God gave the ranking person worth and his value comes through Jesus Christ.  Through our relationship with Him and community with His people, a paved path to the foot of the cross is always beneath our feet.  To the extent that we lose our way, simply say, “Jesus, please help me!”  He is a loving Lord and an eager savior, longing for a relationship with His children.  We strengthen that relationship through worshiping only Him, loving His people, reading His word, and praying.  As Matt Redman reminds us, When the music fades, all is stripped away.  And I simply come longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless Your heart.  I’ll bring You more than a song, for a song in itself is not what You have required.  You search much deeper within, through the way things appear.  You’re looking into my heart.  I’m coming back to the heart of worship.  And it’s all about You.  It’s all about You, Jesus.  I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it, when it’s all about You.  It’s all about You, Jesus Heart of Worship.  If we simply remember that we cannot sell what we cannot earn, His grace will remain on the forefront of our minds, preventing us from placing our salvation in the showcase window of Hell’s pawn shop.  This life is about advancing His kingdom, not our selfish pleasures.

Now is a time for prayer and encouragement, not casting of stones.  As we have done so much for which we wish not to be judged, forgiveness is a large paving stone on the path to the foot of the cross.  We’ve all had the experience of being caught up in the moment.  Remember, character assassination kills more than just a reputation.  It massacres minds and slaughters souls.  The scars on His hands are reminders of our redemption, not reverberations of our self-righteousness.  Offer healing to the hurt and love to the lost by being fast to forgive.  We are His beacons who have been called to shine His light.  So beam brightly!

I pray fervently for the ranking official.  Lord, may his resignation resign him to Your ways.  May he raise his hands and heart to You to receive the blessings You have in store for him.  May he live the rest of his days gaining strength from time with You.  May we heal from the difficulties and offer forgiveness to our brother, remembering the experience as a shadow that casts shade on the dog-day decisions that we may one day face.  May pride never prevent us from calling Your great name long before our darkest hours – In Your son’s name, Amen.

Romans 12 tells us, 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.  Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.  Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.  Instead, fix your attention on God.  You’ll be changed from the inside out.  Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.  Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.  (MSG)

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)

Beloved, My Friend

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart. – Helen Keller

Looking someone in the eyes right now does not necessarily tell you the story of what it took for them to arrive in front of you.  Nor does it tell you about their struggles or baggage.  As believers we are called to meet them where they are and love them as they are.  Sometimes, it is their brokenness and their willingness to share their challenges that allows them to shine the light that lets so many others see the way to Him.  Sometimes they are as lost and confused as the next person, but a seed of goodness in their heart opens up underneath the warmth of what was left by the last person they encountered.  She passed along the comfort of the care to the next person that had previously been given to her because she remembered how good it felt.  He was patient and kind because someone was that way towards him yesterday.  One sitting on the up side of down and the other standing on the down side of up.  Both reckoned with the emotion of the basement yet pursuing the sensation of the penthouse.  Neither understanding the blessings of balance that they received and then gave in those short moments.  How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in peace!  2 It is like the finest oils poured on the head, sweet-smelling oils flowing down to cover the beard, Flowing down the beard of Aaron, flowing down the collar of his robe.  3 It is like the gentle rain of Mount Hermon that falls on the hills of Zion.  Yes, from this place, the Eternal spoke the command, from there He gave His blessing—life forever.  (Psalm 133 – VOICE)

The freedom ride on the path that leads to the cross was never intended to be walked alone.  God sends many souls our way to meet us at specific points along our journey.  Some are fleeting spirits that dust us with a blessing and then quickly move on.  Some are there for a longer season while others are stalwart companions up the hills, through the curves, down in the valleys, around the bends, in the creeks, and on the mountaintops.  Through life, friends may come and go, but to have a lifelong, close, personal friendship is truly a great blessing.  A true friendship that stands the test of trials and time is rare.  As we focus on Him and love them deeply and closely, God delivers balance in our lives with these blessings; these lifelong friends.  So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well.  Learn to love appropriately.  You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush.  Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.  Philippians 1:9-10 (MSG)  As Celine Dion says in Because You Loved Me: You were my strength when I was weak.  You were my voice when I couldn’t speak.  You were my eyes when I couldn’t see. You saw the best there was in me.  Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach.  You gave me faith ‘coz you believed.  I’m everything I am because you loved me. 

Most weekends are not complete without a thought-provoking conversation with an intimate friend who has walked many miles, hand-in-hand, with me on my journey.  This weekend was no different.  We exchanged honorable greetings, shared the week’s trials and triumphs, and released our momentary embrace with the utmost love and care.

We met as two wandering souls and have endured as two kindred spirits.  Through all that life has brought us, (hard conversations, encouraging words, thankful praises, as well as sleepless nights full of prayer) we have remained attached at the hips and always there for one another.  We have grown up as we have grown together.

The Bible gives us a great example of the generational impact an intimate friendship can have.  1 Samuel chapters 18-20 tells us a story of two people who had a special fondness for one another.  They were closer than many siblings, confiding and trusting each other.  They were friends who shared hopes and dreams.  They remained close, even when separated, through the good times and the bad.  Through thick and thin, neither one deserted the other.  18 1By the time David had finished speaking to Saul, Saul’s son Jonathan was bound to David in friendship, and Jonathan loved David as he loved himself… 3 And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as he loved himself.  4 He took off the robe he wore and gave it to David, and also his armor, sword, bow, and belt.  20 41And then they kissed one another and wept, friend over friend, David weeping especially hard.  42 Jonathan said, “Go in peace! The two of us have vowed friendship in God’s name, saying, ‘God will be the bond between me and you, and between my children and your children forever!’”  “For all those times you stood by me; for all the truth that you made me see; for all the joy you brought to my life; for all the wrong that you made right; for every dream you made come true; for all the love I found in you; I’ll be forever thankful baby.  You’re the one who held me up; never let me fall.  You’re the one who saw me through, through it all.”  The commentary in chapter 19 of the VOICE translation tells us, “In the friendship between Jonathan and David, Jonathan stands to lose everything he has if David becomes king, yet he betrays family and ambition by befriending him. These two young men make a pact to protect and love each other in life; and if something should happen to Jonathan, David agrees to honor Jonathan’s descendants out of the love he bears for Jonathan. Later that promise results in David elevating one of Jonathan’s sons to the king’s table.”

On our journey, we have been through a great many things.  Our experience is an ambition of giving that causes each to receive in abundance.   Through it all, we have learned that shared pain is half the pain and shared joy is twice the joy.  We encourage each other as friends to have:

  1. A spirit of courage
  2. A heart of perseverance
  3. A timeless bond and
  4. An unfailing love

She is my David.  I want her to know that she has a faithful Jonathan beside her,  to remember that her Lord is with her, and to believe that her Savior lives in her.  She is in a battle of epic proportion.  As she faces this behemoth Goliath and the wrath of Saul, my prayer for her is that she always remembers to pray and never forgets who she is or whose she is.  May she feel the favor God has offered and have faith to know He will continue to see her through.  May she continue to fight the good fight in the face of evil, doing good despite the chips being down.  His people are with her.  His prayer warriors are around her.  She is not alone.  She is loved.  She is my friend.  You gave me wings and made me fly.  You touched my hand, I could touch the sky.  I lost my faith, you gave it back to me.  You said no star was out of reach.  You stood by me and I stood tall.  I had your love.  I had it all.  I’m grateful for each day you gave me.  Maybe I don’t know that much, but I know this much is true: I was blessed because I was loved by you. 

And so I ask you: Who is your David?  Are you a faithful Jonathan?  Who is walking along side you?  When facing your Goliath, who do you turn to?  Are you on this path alone?  Where are you looking for those God-honoring relationships?  What are your best and most beautiful things?  Can you feel them with your heart?  Be the love!  8 People who won’t settle down, wandering hither and yon, are like restless birds, flitting to and fro.  9 Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.  10 Don’t leave your friends or your parents’ friends and run home to your family when things get rough; better a nearby friend than a distant family. Proverbs 27:8-10 (MSG)