Tag Archives: Spirit

On Being Blind…

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life. James 1:12 (MSG)

The last few months at work have been filled with frustration. Four years ago, I headed out on a Spirit guided adventure to increase accountability in one component within my organization. It was a bumpy road, but one that was well worth the effort. With increased accountability came increased productivity. Each part felt responsible for itself as well as the whole, and each began to perform at unprecedentedly high levels, achieving impacts never seen before. As I completed the clearing of the path before us, I returned to the vision I had previously set, and began executing it in an unimpeded way.

Although my component made great strides towards our goals, we began to feel the resistance of the fully expanded bungee cord that tethered us to the rest of the fully-anchored organization. I explained the changes in the environment that required movement from our current position. I also explained how I had been successful at moving my component off of the rock it had handed on. At first my counterparts in other parts of the organization nodded with pleasant diplomacy and later rejected all offered assistance as uninformed arrogance from the blind and ignorant. Internally, I began to feel like a tugboat trying to tow two lost and disabled supertankers, whose engines are running in reverse, through a narrow shipping channel . Their wakes were much larger than mine and I did not have the weight to displace enough water to re-orient or dry-dock them. I was running full bore ahead to prevent the larger vessels from pulling me backwards and underwater. I began to cry out, praying that He would send some relief because it is impossible to lead the blind when they are afraid of movement and resistant assistance. In His normal, calm voice God said, “I am the shepherd who guides the lost sheep. I may use you as a small instrument in my larger plan to help guide them to the path of righteousness. However, their journey is one of choice. I have sent you out ahead to scout the landscape and to provide information, not instruction, back to them. It is up to them to accept or reject that information. You are not the catalyst of change that will save them from destruction. You are merely My utensil that is available to them to help them notice what is on the path in front of them. You cannot independently clear their way. That is what I sent my Son to do. You can only give them notice of what’s ahead. The actions they choose to take are their own. Stop trying to do more than I have asked! Move forward with what you have been given. I have plans for all of my children and am patient with them.” I instantly began to hum the lyrics to Mark McMillan’s How He Loves Us, “He is jealous for me. Love’s like a hurricane, and I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me.”

 I understood, at least conceptually, the message that had been given to me but I needed a visual to fully comprehend it. I did a little internet research on common instruments of the blind. I learned that a white cane is a long rod-like device used by visually impaired travelers to give them information about the environment they are traveling through. Using a cane can warn them of obstacles in their path, tell them of of upcoming stairs, warn them that they are coming up to a curb, and tell them of many other things in the environment in which they may have to deal.

To start using the cane, the person holds the handle at  waist level, using whichever hand is most comfortable. They hold the cane with their hand wrapped around the handle  with the index finger pointed along the cane shaft toward the cane tip, which is resting on the ground. While walking, the cane is swept from side to side in an arch a little more than the width of the body. As they walk along, the cane will touch the ground at the end of each sweep from right to left. It is done in such a sequence that the cane taps the spot where the next foot step will land. This allows the person to check things out with each step before their foot lands on the spot. If there is a hole there, the cane will find it first. If there is an object lying on the floor, the cane will encounter it and may prevent a  fall. Some are able to use the sound of the cane tapping on the walking surface to give them cues about the size of the area they are walking in, and other things that can’t be determined easily in other ways. However, the cane cannot walk for or take precautions for the user.

I had an Ah-Ha moment as I recognized I had been placed in this situation to learn many valuable lessons from the journey. I was also put there to be an assistance device available to those around me. But, my availability was not a guarantee of my use.

I then realized I have been frustrated because I have worked my knuckles to the bone yet continue to feel held back by those who cannot sense the wisdom around them or see the vision before them. I had rationalized that I am not seeking appreciation for my work, rather I simply want affirmation that I am doing well. The truth is that seismic change is happening inside the organization following the arrival of a new leader who is moving everyone in the same direction I moved my component. Rather than confessing that I felt justified and admitting my desire to remind others that they had rejected the information I provided about the road ahead, I have hidden behind a facade of humble righteousness. I immediately felt startled and anxious. The Spirit whispered, “relax and ask for forgiveness. Remember who you are and whose you are. Your purpose is still Kingdom building.”

We are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in his eyes. If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking. So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest. I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves us; Oh how He loves us!How He Loves Us

As I reflect on what I have been experiencing, I appreciate that work in the vineyard takes many forms. To fill the vineyard with trees that bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit, we must get to work now; not on the worldly taskings of our day, for they impair our vision, but on the Godly askings from our Lord and Savior. We need not fret. The vines of good news will overtake the grounds upon which the weeds of wickedness lay. That which is true will deliver independent evidence that will stand on its own accord.

Go forth and become an extension of Him! Remember, we are an apparatus of He who called us. Stay in sync with Him! “When the body is in motion, the cane is in rhythm”; meaning we must tap the cane from side to side, one tap per step, about two inches beyond the width of the user’s shoulders to be the best instrument.

The Spirit has told me, “Be satisfied with your calling and thankful for your execution because I will call you all home one day and expose the grand plan.” God frees prisoners. He gives sight to the blind, he lifts up the fallen. Psalms 146:8 (MSG)

What fortune lies beyond the stars; those dazzling heights too vast to climb. I got so high to fall so far but I found heaven as love swept low. My heart beating, my soul breathing; I found my life when I laid it down. Upward falling, spirit soaring. I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground. What treasure waits within Your scars. This gift of freedom gold can’t buy. I bought the world and sold my heart. You traded heaven to have me again. Find me here at Your feet again; everything I am, reaching out, I surrender. Come sweep me up in Your love again and my soul will dance on the wings of forever. Touch the Sky – United

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.

A Road Less Traveled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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