Tag Archives: miracle

The Color Purple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)