Tag Archives: prayer

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)

Sonic Footprint

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Peter 1 (MSG) tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

Calico’s Corner II

“Power will intoxicate the best hearts, as wine the strongest heads. No man is wise enough, nor good enough to be trusted with unlimited power.” – Caleb Colton

The captain was hubris and here are his officers:

Calico’s top brass of smiling faces and nodding heads did well because they appeared to be doing good.  Their pleasant demeanor and non-confrontational attributes earned them a place in the inner circle.  They were pleasing and loyal to the captain during peace.  When tensions erupted, they never rose above the battlefield to see what was really happening.  They hedged their bets that the captain would survive and wanted to remain in the good graces of the one they presumed would be in power.  As you cannot serve two masters, their smiling faces and nodding heads were of service to none.  Luke 12:48 tells us, 48 “But anyone who is not aware that he is doing wrong will be punished only lightly.  Much is required from those to whom much is given, for their responsibility is greater – (GNT). Was their search for the Savior obscured by the presence of a pleasant face?  Did their comfort of going along to get along outweigh their requirement to stand up?  Had they ever defined personal integrity such that they would know when that line had been crossed?

And then there was the top brass who cowered on the lower deck.  These faithful soldiers usually lived their lives in neutral, moving along when impacted by another mass stronger than them.  They were always propelled by institutional inertia but had no meaningful energy independent of other forces acting upon them.  When caught in the downspout of the realization that the captain’s experience amounted to less than that of the most junior yeoman and that his actions imperiled all of the sailors, the sensory overload of it all as well as the storm and the mutiny overwhelmed them.  They, opposite the ship, rocked onto their port sides.  The motion of their jousting thoughts swayed their minds as they wondered if they could have made a difference.  Everything they had previously heard along the way was worth repeating amongst themselves but they couldn’t find it within them to report any of it to anyone who could do something about it.  James 1:22-24 says, 22-24 Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other.  Act on what you hear!  Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like” –  (TLB). And so they lay, motionless on the lower deck of the sea-tossed ship.  Did they ever feel confident enough to make a difference?  Were they always only in it for themselves?  Was there ever a moment when they offered him wise counsel?  Where they rejected so much that they finally stopped trying?

The first officer had been one of Calico’s greatest supporters until he became the captain.  He believed the captain to be a person of the people until his ego grew above his rank.  He then believed the captain was a changed man.  At that point, the first officer began providing closely held information to the offended sailors and the fleet’s stakeholders.  He armed the sailors with sling shots and ensured the stone of the mutiny struck its intended target.  “We often pretend to fear what we really despise, and more often despise what we really fear” – Caleb Colton.  Was the first officer reacting out of scorn disguised as deception whose reality lay in the blindness that was before him?  Was he reeling from the shame that he had never walked with kings and the guilt that, at least for a time, he lost his common touch?  Open my eyes, so that I may see the wonderful truths in your law. – Psalm 119:18 (MSG)

The second officer operated with a spirit of courage and believed that, “Physical courage, which despises all danger, will make a man brave in one way; and moral courage, which despises all opinion, will make a man brave in another” – Caleb Colton.  She moved the fastest and got the most done when the major crisis struck.  She had previously advised the captain that the building material was inferior and pointed him in the direction of the craftsman but was counseled for the delivery of her interjection.  She spoke with a smiler and a nodder to let them know the state of affairs only to receive a reprimand.  She sent notes to her counterparts in the fleet and letters to regulators in the industry but no one responded.  She met with the cowards and prophesied the mutiny and the storm, but they simply stood still.  She listened to the first officer and encouraged him to take constructive action.  She knows that the third officer’s report to headquarters will be the third time they have heard the story.

The third officer, motivated by a sense of duty, was troubled to have to deliver such harrowing news to headquarters.  She knew that the captain’s actions were wrong and that sailors were in grave danger.  Following the lead of the second officer, she helped to loosen the ropes of the life boat.  Provided she lives, she knows others will ask her three questions: What she knew?  When she knew it?  What did she do about it?  She believes she must have something respectable to say.

The saga continues on the Mediterranean, five miles off the Italian coast.  While water permeates the ship’s hull, it allows the floating Rome to burn.  Will 48 sailors make it to shore alive?  What about the rest of the crew?  Will the capsized ship sink?  How will the officers answer for their actions?  I will respond to those questions when the story ends.  In the meantime, are there times in your life when you have exhibited the traits of each of these officers?  Where are you on any given day when you forget to put on or give up your armor of faith, the knowledge of His word, the spirit of courage, the guidance from prayer and wise counsel, or a line of sight to the foot of the cross?

James 1:2-12 tells us, 2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.  You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.  So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.  5-8 If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father.  He loves to help.  You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it.  Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.  People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind-whipped waves.  Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.  9-11 When down-and-outers get a break, cheer!  And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer!  Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it.  You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers.  Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem.  Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.”  At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.  12 Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate.  For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life”  – (TLB). 

In You Are I Am, Mercy Me reminds us that while we doubt, God delivers.  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 shame.  I’ve been the one to fall apart and start to question who You are.  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

When you choose to sit out, be prepared to stress out because the shame of standing by lasts a long time.  If you choose to get strung out be prepared to stroke out because the guilt that comes from abandoning others can never be medicated enough.  If you choose to stand out, you may strike out but you can rest with the dignity of knowing you gave it your all.