accountability is a deal braker

“Search me, God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts.  See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the everlasting way.”  Psalm 139:23-24 (WEB)

As I pulled into the church parking lot for my weekly meeting with my mentor, 2Tim (as I like to call him), I was surprised to see the flashing lights of a deputy sheriff’s car in the church’s front parking lot.  My second and greater surprise, however, was that the car the deputy had pulled over belonged to 2Tim!  “What in the world?” I thought to myself.  It turns out 2Tim had been pulled over because one of his brake lights was out unbeknownst to him.  The officer didn’t issue him a ticket, fortunately, and only wished to inform 2Tim the light was out and needed to be replaced.  Who knows how long the brake light had been out up to that point, and how much longer it would’ve stayed that way had the deputy not pulled him over?  While the brake light being out is not a seemingly big deal, driving without both brake lights could actually lead to a dangerous situation in certain circumstances so 2Tim and I both agreed as the deputy pulled away that this was one of those “blessings in disguise.”

Isn’t this so often the case in our own spiritual walk as well?  I can’t help but wonder what issues I have in my own life that I’m unaware of that need to be addressed so that I can make it right with the Lord?  So many times we are literally blind to some of our own spiritual failings.  The bottom line is that unless a “deputy” comes along to speak much needed truth into my life I’m very likely going to keep on driving merrily, but ignorantly, along as I go about my day to day life oblivious to the fact I’m crossways with the Lord in a particular area of my life.  The bottom line is we each need “deputies” in our lives provided by the Lord to make us aware of the shortcomings, or sins, we are fostering in our lives that are in need of our attention.   Yes, we’re talking about accountability to another person, someone you can trust and confide in, who loves you, and most importantly loves the Lord first and foremost.

The enemy would thoroughly enjoy seeing us continue on down our path of blindness, of course.  Isolation is a key ploy of his to help ensure we stay on that wrong path.  We are not meant to fight the good fight alone.  Ecclesiates 4:12 (WEB) tells us, “If a man prevails against one who is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  So, do you have an accountability “deputy” friend in your life?  Do you have a 2Tim? If not, ask the Lord to send such a friend your way realizing that a relationship of this sort is also very much a two-way street of hope and promise for the both of you.  Simply put, remember to brake for accountability before your lack of accountability breaks you.  Lord, we thank you for sending dear and close Christian brothers and sisters into our lives to help us navigate our way through this life as we seek to please You, amen!

“A man of many companions may be ruined, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  Proverbs 18:24 (WEB)

return to sin-der

“The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them.”  John Stott

Several weeks ago I was asked if I’d consider becoming a spiritual pen pal with a fellow believer whom I’d never met and who happens to be incarcerated.  Although I’ve never done anything like this before the idea immediately appealed to me so I wrote the letter and sent it on its way eagerly awaiting my new found friend’s first response confident that the Lord had something to teach me through this new relationship.  Weeks went by with no reply much to my growing disappointment, but then just when I had almost given up I finally got my “reply.”  Much to my surprise it was my very own unopened letter being returned to me.  Attached to the letter was an adhesive notice from the prison informing me that the return address information I had provided was not sufficient and couldn’t be delivered.  The problem? I had left off my first name and had only provided my last name on the return portion of the envelope.  Who would’ve ever thought that leaving off my first name could make such a boomerang difference?  Not I obviously.  The bottom line is the prison needs complete information to be supplied on everything and everyone attempting to make contact with anyone on the inside before allowing access.  In other words, they want to know exactly who you are before they’ll welcome you inside.  Supplying only my last name without my accompanying first name simply didn’t get the job done in their eyes because in doing so I was only partially identified.  To their way of thinking my partial compliance was no different than not providing any return address information at all.  Immediately I was reminded of Jesus’s thoughts as found in Revelation 3:15-17 (WEB):  I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth.  Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing;’ and don’t know that you are the wretched one, miserable, poor, blind, and naked;”

Not that long ago I read something captivating that John Eldredge, the Wild at Heart author, said in his latest book, “All Things New” regarding our hearts being transformed by hope you can taste:  “If you woke each morning and your heart leapt with hope, knowing that the renewal of all things was just around the corner—might even come today—you would be one happy person. If you knew in every fiber of your being that nothing is lost, that everything will be restored to you and then some, you would be armored against discouragement and despair. If your heart’s imagination were filled with rich expectations of all the goodness coming to you, your confidence would be contagious; you would be unstoppable, revolutionary.” (emphasis mine)   Those words, “contagious, unstoppable, revolutionary” have stuck with me as if they’re on permanent loop in my very soul since reading them that very first time.  As a believer, who doesn’t want to be contagious, unstoppable, and revolutionary for Jesus?  That, my friend, describes a world impacting soul on fire for the Lord laser focused on matters of eternal significance.  As I thought and prayed over these three qualities I realized I am not contagious, I am not unstoppable, and I am not revolutionary for my Savior.  So, what is holding me back?  The truth is that like the insufficiently addressed returned letter containing only my last name, I am not fully engaged with Jesus.  Or put another way, I’m half-hearted and that’s why my desired destination is not happening.  Again, thoughts of the lack of appeal lukewarm water presents trickle through my mind.  This is a mouthful I’d like to spit out.

Recently I completed a YouVersion devotional by John Bevere based on his book entitled “Killing Kryptonite.”  Although I’ve not yet read the book some of my friends who have told me it’s basically about identifying what’s holding us, and the Church, back from becoming everything God desires us and His bride to be.  In its presence kryptonite renders Superman not just helpless, but can with prolonged exposure, kill him.  Referring to the early Acts church as compared to the modern day church Mr. Bevere asks, “Why are we not seeing the greater works God promised?” He answers that question by saying, “I believe that just like Superman had kryptonite, the church-the collection of individuals who claim to follow Christ-does as well.”  Continuing on Mr. Bevere observes, “The state of the church today, which seems to clearly be at cross purposes to God’s intentions and purposes for our lives as Christ-followers, should frustrate you.”

Now I don’t know about you, but those last three words, “should frustrate you” catch my attention.  In fact, they haunt me, but not for the obvious reason.  No, sadly they pursue me because I realize I am not contagiously, unstoppably, and revolutionarily frustrated with the Church being anemic and therefore unlike the early Acts type of Church.  Saying you’re frustrated is one thing, however, and doing something about it is another.  If you’re truly frustrated then shouldn’t that manifest itself in change being sought that addresses these issues?  Sincere frustration should result in my actively trying to implement change shouldn’t it?  Perhaps I’m not doing something about the Church’s failings as I perceive them to be because the truth is that the Church’s problems begin with me.  How frustrated with my own walk with the Lord am I?  Isn’t that the first question I should be asking before casting any stones towards the Church?  Yes, it’s the painful but much needed “log in my own eye” perspective scripture warns us about.  I can easily see the Church’s problems, but can’t, or worse yet, won’t, see my own.  A good, long, honest look in the mirror of God’s Word confirms this to be true about my own shortcomings in devotion and faithfulness to Him.  How can I even begin to be frustrated with the Church such that I actually attempt to do something about it when my own frustration with myself is minimal at best?  Again, sincere frustration drives heartfelt change, doesn’t it?  Sadly, the evidence at hand says there is only partial frustration, partial conviction for change on my part.  As a result I am forced to admit that I am half-hearted in my devotion to the Lord.  Rephrased, I have to squirm and uncomfortably confess that this is so because the Lord is not my only God.  Ouch, yes, writing those words is painful.  Lord, please forgive me that I have been unfaithful to You!  John Bevere calls these other gods the kryptonites in my life.   Comparatively speaking, I see once again that I am no different than my returned, unopened letter filled with pages of well-intentioned words with their message never delivered, never received because I had withheld a part of my name, a part of who I am.  My words in the letter fell short and remained unread because I was not all in from the very start.  They had no chance from the moment I first wrote them, yet I didn’t perceive that reality until later.  Such words are no different than bodiless bird’s wings (Grounded flight of freedom) unable to soar because they are being held captive by the quicksand of my own half-heartedness.  Is it any wonder that almost no one, friend or stranger alike, seldom asks me as to the reason for the hope that lives and breathes inside of myself?  Perhaps such inquiries rarely happen because that message is not being received in the first place.  Why?  Because delivery cannot successfully take place so long as the message we’re sending begins its journey with anything less than our being wholehearted for Jesus.

My return address was incomplete, and that meant I was not “all in” enough so as to warrant my message contained in the letter successfully reaching my pen pal.  My voice was silenced because I was only half-hearted from the outset.  As I considered all of this the story about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet came to mind as found in John 13:1-17. One part of the story stood out to me in particular.  At one point Peter’s unbridled, wholehearted enthusiasm causes him to spontaneously exclaim, ”Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” This, then, was Peter’s response to Jesus saying to him, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part of me.” Although Peter didn’t completely grasp everything Jesus was saying and doing at the time I think we can all agree that Peter’s unrestrained zest for what Jesus was doing was without equal and was without reserve. The world is in desperate need of “all in” believers like Peter who generously deliver life and hope as found only in Jesus wherever they go.  Such passionate excitement and eye-opening devotion for Jesus is nothing short of contagious, unstoppable, and revolutionary isn’t it?  Imagine for a moment what His Church might look like if we were to be so wholeheartedly abandoned for the Lord as Peter.  Why, the world would never be the same.  People would be naturally drawn to such a church bubbling over with sincerely aligned hearts.  There’d be no mistaking who we are in Christ both inside and outside the walls of the church.  Such a city on a hill would burn brightly as never before beckoning all to come, see, and share in what the Lord is doing wouldn’t it?

Yes, my initial thought that the Lord had much to teach me through this new relationship was indeed true…and all He needed at this early part of the journey was simply a letter marked “return to sender.”  Half-hearted is not getting the job done, friends.  The world needs wholehearted Jesus followers otherwise what we have to say is lukewarm, watered down, and doesn’t stand much of a chance of getting through.  Driven by holy frustration let our voices be contagious, unstoppable, and revolutionary for Him this day because our hearts are all in for Him and Him alone with no other gods before us.  May our united trumpets’ herald be pure, clear, beautiful, and distinct faithfully proclaiming exactly who He is to a world in desperate need of hope.

“The secret of the Christian’s passion is simple:  Everything we do in life we do as to the Lord and not to men.”  David Jeremiah

“Christ did not die to make good works merely possible or to produce a half-hearted pursuit.  He died to produce in us a passion for good deeds.  Christian purity is not mere avoidance of evil, but the pursuit of good.”  John Piper, The Passion of Jesus Christ

“The Holy Spirit cannot conquer the world with unbelief, nor can He save the world with a worldly Church.  He calls for a crusade, a campaign, and an adventure of saving passion.  For this enterprise He wants a separated, sanctified and sacrificial people.”  Samuel Chadwick

“All other passions build upon or flow from your passion for Jesus.  A passion for souls grows out of a passion for Christ.  A passion for missions builds upon a passion for Christ.  The most crucial danger to a Christian, whatever his role, is to lack a passion of Christ.  The most direct route to personal renewal and new effectiveness is a new all-consuming passion for Jesus.  Lord, give us this passion, whatever the cost!”  Wesley L. Duewel

“One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.”  E.M. Forster

John 13:1-17 (WEB)

13 Now before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that his time had come that he would depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he came from God, and was going to God, arose from supper, and laid aside his outer garments. He took a towel, and wrapped a towel around his waist. Then he poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. Then he came to Simon Peter. He said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”

Jesus answered him, “You don’t know what I am doing now, but you will understand later.”

Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!”

Jesus answered him, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

10 Jesus said to him, “Someone who has bathed only needs to have his feet washed, but is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you.”11 For he knew him who would betray him, therefore he said, “You are not all clean.” 12 So when he had washed their feet, put his outer garment back on, and sat down again, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me, ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord.’ You say so correctly, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Most certainly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his lord, neither one who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Recommended additional reading:  Psalm 119

Be-loved

 “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” Song of Songs 4:7 (NIV)

This photo has captivated me since I first saw it a few years ago.  How I wish I could say that I was the photographer that seized this remarkable moment, but I’m not.  No, that honor belongs to my friend, Amber Fletcher.  If one could give love a face, then, for me, the expression on the little girl’s face embodies everything I believe to be true about love.  The purity and unrestrained beauty of wholehearted love is utterly captivating isn’t it?  It’s breathtaking and draws our very souls with a deep yearning and longing.  Who among us doesn’t want to experience such a pure love as both giver and receiver?

Imagine, if you will, from a spiritual perspective that you are one of the two girls in this photo and Jesus is the other girl.  Which of the two do you choose to be?  Which one is Jesus?  If you’re at all like me then you chose to be the younger girl which makes Jesus the older girl, of course.

Why was I so quick to place myself into the young girl’s shoes?  The sad truth is my choice was based not so much on how great my love for Jesus is, although I do love Him, but rather my inability to believe Jesus could love me so absolutely unconditionally like I see in this photo.

In 20-20 hindsight I’m beginning to realize that even though many years ago I said “yes” to His marriage proposal from the cross that night in my living room I never fully embraced all that He had to offer beyond our wedding day.   Strange sounding I know.

I was able to accept that He loved me enough such that He would die for me, but somehow I managed to not allow it to go much further than beyond that point.  I have kept Jesus in sight, but at bay.  I have kept Him at arm’s length allowing no warm embrace between the two of us.   For years and years I have been halfhearted.  I have not been all in.

Yet, even in the face of my unwillingness and rebellion, He has loved me still with “an everlasting love, drawing me ever closer with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).  He has persisted and never given up on our relationship.  He has been faithful while I have not been.

I ask you, “Is there another who is so patient?  Who is so long-suffering? Who is so kind? Who is so forgiving?  Who has not ceased to continually scan the distant horizon in hopes of my complete return to Him?” And as I turn back towards Him, He runs to greet me knowing full well where I have been.

Who is this God?  Who is this Heavenly Father of ours who would run towards me as fast as He possibly can so as to embrace me even though I’m still wearing the dirty, filthy rags that proclaim for all to see all the years of my disobedience apart from Him?  Who am I to Him such that He would do this?  There is but one answer: I am His beloved.

And so, my friend and fellow believer, you are His beloved as well.  Will you allow Him to truly love you from the cross and beyond?

“Yahweh, your God, is among you, a mighty one who will save.  He will rejoice over you with joy.  He will calm you in his love.  He will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17 (WEB)

“Aren’t five sparrows sold for two assaria coins?  Not one of them is forgotten by God.  But the very hairs of your head are all counted.  Therefore don’t be afraid.  You are of more value than many sparrows.”  Luke 12: 6-7 (WEB)

Grounded flight of freedom (remix)

(note: please turn your smartphone sideways to view this post correctly)

“I am the vine. You are the branches.  He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (WEB)

Wings all
alone
searching for home
gently caressed by a warm, late afternoon breeze
whispering
"Get up, get up, this empty grey cage is not where you belong.
Can't you see?  You are created for so much more than this!"
Improbably held hostage by fingers of sandy
lies
the wings in silence sit
except for the flicker
of a few random feathers
that sadly have not grasped their true
potential
Yet another day
ends
as the horizon of regret captures
the light of the hope of the disappearing sun
casting a shapeless shadow from
these wings
without purpose.


High above jubilant wings coupled with meaning
soar
and awaken my heart's innermost longings
to come and experience as they do
life's intimate journey with Him
but
the risk is far too great for my heart to bear
for fear these dreams and longings
might not come to pass
if i were to earnestly pursue them
so
i resign myself to live a lesser life of an ostrich's retreat
mired in the sand
doubting my true potential and worth
i do not see me
as
He does.


Ungrounded in Him we are grounded
detached wings entombed as castaways along the lonely strand
impoverished souls in search of true meaning, purpose, and
connection
held hostage by ever-present and unyielding chains of fear and doubt
our shapeless shadows cast wilting echoes of

dreams...dreams...dreams
fading memories of blossoms we thought might be
that
remain captive in eroded and concealed canyons of our hearts
we are unable
or is it unwilling?  or too afraid?
to apprehend.

Oh, but to suppose for a
moment
a bird's effortless and graceful flowing motions
the pied-piper's heavenly call of an untethered life
wings and body wholeheartedly joined
lovingly engraved
deep within humanity's breast
buoyed aloft by the breath of His divine purpose
life transformed
a stunning companionship
for they rejoice knowing
this is exactly who the Lord has created them to be
hand in hand these lovers stroll
to the rhythm of an altogether enchanting melody
of His presence and goodness
a crescendo of harmony that our souls have longed to experience
created to dance inseparable
amongst floating white miracles for all to see
in hopes of drawing others near
that they too might
be set
free.

Healing light of a new day dawns
His hand outstretched
newly born purpose our calling embraced
wings and body climb intimately entwined

to see through His eyes our bright future of hope
where the Son never sets for
He alone
is the source
of our true identity and strength.

 

His wings-crop edit WP
It is His breath of life that creates true flight
providing lift to our wings
Grounded in Him we are ungrounded
our hearts lifted skyward
freed from the tear stained clay
buoyed aloft on the winds of His inspiration and purpose
we are sent soaring according to His good and perfect will
casting a new unmistakable shadow of

hope
upon
this
weary
world

still
the
  glorious message of freedom proclaimed
by
His
gift
of
the
cross
to
each
one

of
us.
No longer alone we are home with Him where we belong.

 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old things have passed away.  Behold, all things have become new.”  2 Corinthians 5:17 (WEB)

 “You will show me the path of life.  In your presence is fullness of joy.  In your right hand there are pleasures forever more.” Psalm 16:11 (WEB)

 “but those who wait for Yahweh will renew their strength.  They will mount up with wings like eagles.  They will run, and not be weary.  They will walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (WEB)

Grounded flight of freedom

My heart and imagination soar at the sight of a bird winging its way across the spacious blue sky, doesn’t yours? Lost in the moment a deep longing stirs within my heart and very soul whenever I watch birds playfully dance in the wind’s exhilarating embrace.  I can’t help but sigh at the very thought of an untethered life such as theirs delightfully content in the knowledge that this is who the Lord has created me to be. As few others of God’s creations can, birds in their flights of freedom amongst the puffy, white cloud filled sky give rise to my deep yearning for true meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in my life.  As they effortlessly fly across the sky it’s as if the sky is filled with plump seeds of aspiration and joy liberally sprinkled ‘round about them ready to be picked.  So impactful on the human heart are birds that Emily Dickinson poetically likened a bird to hope writing, “Hope is the thing with feathers-that perches in the soul-and sings the tune without words-and never stops-at all-.” I long to soar as the birds do, and in this unguarded moment of my heart I am wonderfully lost to imagine and yearn for what might or could be believing that I too can fly, I too am free.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in their heart…”  Ecclesiastes 3:11a (WEB)

For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a hope and future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (WEB)

Deep within me I feel the tug of these jubilant wings in mid-flight calling out to my heart’s innermost longings to come and join them.  Yet, with sad resignation, if you’re at all like me, wee* dare not act upon such desires.  Wee choose to live a lesser life of retreat as bodiless wings because this is a desire, a thirst, which wee must restrain because the risk to our heart is far too great to bear for fear these dreams and longings might not come to pass if wee were to earnestly pursue them.  So they stay tucked away in a distant, well defended canyon of our heart where even the echoes of our soul’s deepest cries for meaningful purpose and connection are held hostage by fear and doubt.  I quietly say to myself, “It feels like I am called for more than living a life of mere subsistence alongside uncountable grains of sand, but who am I that I should entertain even the very idea I might one day be set free to fly as these birds do?”  Embracing the lies the enemy whispers in our ears about not only ourselves, but our Heavenly Father as well, wee accept the ground as our home choosing to live a life of a far lesser purpose than He has created us to experience.  So long as wee choose to go it alone apart from Him wee are but a collection of feathers mired in the abrasive and gritty muck of unrealized and unrecognized potential.  A light, late afternoon breeze gently caresses the wings in hopes of a reply whispering, “Get up…get up…this patch of ground is not your true home.  Can’t you see? You are created for so much more than this!”  Unmoved the wings lie motionless save for the flicker of a few random feathers that sadly have not grasped their true purpose.  Ungrounded in Him we are grounded.  Yet another day ends with the hazy glow from the sunset of regret casting a long, shapeless shadow from these captive wings.

“Yahweh’s hand was on me, and he brought me out in Yahweh’s Spirit, and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones.  He caused me to pass by them all around: and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and behold they were very dry.  He said to me, Son of man, can these bones live?  I answered, Lord Yahweh, you know.”  Ezekiel 37:1-3 (WEB)

In order for us to no longer be earth-bound and be set free to soar to the heavenly heights He desires for us, we, the wings, must be intimately connected to Him, the body, for He, and He alone, is the source of our true identity, strength, and purpose.

“Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and don’t be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”  Galatians 5:1 (WEB)

“Again he said to me, Prophesy over these bones, and tell them, you dry bones, hear Yahweh’s word.  Thus says the Lord Yahweh to these bones:  Behold I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.  I will lay sinews on you, and will bring up flesh on you, and you shall live:  and you shall know that I am Yahweh.  So I prophesied as I was commanded:  and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, an earthquake; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.  I saw, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh came up, and skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them.  Then he said to me, Prophesy to the wind, prophesy, son of man, and tell the wind, thus says the Lord Yahweh:  Come from the four winds, breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then he said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.  Therefore prophesy, and tell them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh:  Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, my people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel.  You shall know that I am Yahweh, when I have opened your graves, and caused you to come up out of your graves, my people.  I will put my Spirit in you, and you shall live, and will place you in your own land: and you shall know that I, Yahweh, have spoken it and performed it, says Yahweh.”  Ezekiel 37:4-14 (WEB)

It is His breath of life that gives flight to our wings.  In harmony as one with His body our wings break free of the dry ground on which we were once imprisoned and are lifted skyward, buoyed aloft on the winds of His inspiration and purpose.  It is in this beautifully intimate dance between wings and body miraculously bound together that we truly experience freedom and our full God-given potential is released.  It is in this mercy and grace-filled union alone between Creator and created, between Father and child, between body and wing that we are sent soaring according to His good and perfect will.  We have been made new.  Grounded in Him we are ungrounded.  We are airborne.  Our true potential is set free and takes to the sky leaving the sandy confines we once knew as our home far below us with each flap of our prayer-filled wings of adoration and worship.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old things have passed away.  Behold, all things have become new.”  2 Corinthians 5:17 (WEB)

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellence of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”  1 Peter 2:9 (WEB)

“You will show me the path of life.  In your presence is fullness of joy.  In your right hand there are pleasures forever more.” Psalm 16:11 (WEB)

his wings-crop edit wp

Unlike the unrecognizable shadow of the detached, stranded wings, when your true identity, meaning, and purpose are found in and through Jesus can the shadow cast upon this world by your soaring and victorious flight be anything other than the glorious message of freedom proclaimed by His cross?  Where will your flight with Him take you today?

“I heard the Lord’s voice, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’  Then I said, ‘Here I am.  Send me!’”  (Isaiah 6:8, WEB)  

“I am the vine. You are the branches.  He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (WEB)

 “Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (WEB)

 “but for those who wait for Yahweh will renew their strength.  They will mount up with wings like eagles.  They will run, and not be weary.  They will walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (WEB)

*(I like the idea this purposeful misspelling of “we” as “wee” conveys in this instance because of its implication regarding our own smallness of faith)

being clothes-minded towards Him

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known.” I Corinthians 13:12 (WEB)

“He’s got the whole world in His hand, the whole wide world in His hand.”  Who isn’t familiar with this lyric?  We’ve all sung it probably countless of times before beginning back when we were children.  Great, but when push comes to shove in your life because you find yourself in dire straits do these words carry any real weight, any real substance for you?  Do they make a difference in your day that is hanging by a thread of hope stretched impossibly thin?  If you’re a believer like me your immediate reaction to such a question quite possibly smacks of some degree of loftiness, “Well, yes, of course they do, don’t they for you?”  But, here’s the thing, though, in a maddeningly contradictory twist I have to admit that even as I sing “He’s got the whole world in His hands” I sometimes find myself wondering if He actually has me in His hand.  Even though I realize there are some lyrics later on in the song that say He does this question still remains.  I rarely hear those later lines sung, by the way.  All I hear is this first line like it’s on loop in my head so that’s where my attention goes.  It seems that there are times it’s far easier for me to believe He has the whole world in His hand than it is for me to believe He has me in His hand.  Certain circumstances, abnormally difficult circumstances that hover around me like circling vultures, cause me to  wonder if I was indeed in His hand at one time only to have somehow managed to slip through His fingers later.  “Yes, Lord, I know you have the whole world in Your hand, but do You have me there, too?  That’s what I really want and need to know.  To be perfectly blunt and honest with You that’s what matters most to me in this moment in these perplexing and trying circumstances because from where I’m standing it looks like You’ve dropped me.”

Am I the only one that struggles with these questions and doubts?  I’m uncomfortable even talking about this because these admissions force me to take off my Super Believer hero mask.   And, my cape, too.  To put it bluntly, my masquerade has been exposed by this unplanned confession.  I’m not Superman.  I’m not even Clark Kent.  Far from it, in fact.  I’m Clark Bent at least, or even more likely Clark Broken at worst.  I hadn’t planned on having my true identity revealed when I sat down to write, yet here I am like the emperor who was found to be wearing no clothes.  Meaningful transformation begins here in His light, of course.  There can be no healing so long as the enemy successfully keeps me in that dark place that encourages me to continue thinking, “I look pretty good wearing this mask and cape.”  Who’s to say to the contrary, then,  that so long as I stay in the dark that I don’t look like Super-Believer-man?  The truth is, though, that only comic book heroes experience benefits by keeping their true identities hidden in the shadows.  God’s Kingdom needs reshaped and retooled Clark Bents and Brokens, and the only way that sort of transformation can take place is in the warmth of His healing light.  So here I am, Lord, stripped and naked of costumes of my own making and in need of Your real clothes.

“to provide for those who mourn in Zion, to give to them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Yahweh, that he may be glorified.”  Isaiah 61:3 (WEB)

Can you even begin to imagine in your wildest dreams what an asteroid strike impact such a radically transformed group of sincerely outwardly focused, faithful, utterly trusting and healed believers clothed by the Lord would make in this whole wide world?  In his book, “Reformation Years,” John Eldredge answers that question saying, “If you knew in every fiber of your being that nothing is lost, that everything will be restored to you and then some, you would be armored against discouragement and despair.  If your heart’s imagination were filled with rich expectations of all the goodness coming to you, your confidence would be contagious; you would be unstoppable, revolutionary.”    Indeed!  As a believer I hunger to be contagious,  I yearn to be unstoppable, and I long to be revolutionary… don’t you?  Jesus was all of these and more.  But where or how can I obtain such priceless treasure?

This ground I now find myself standing on seems parched of God’s hand even though I know it is He who has led me to this place.  It is He who has ordered my steps.  I am not the first to walk here.  This dust bowl filled with swirling, choking, blinding clouds of doubt and lingering questions accompanied by fist shaking in His direction has been trod before.

“The Egyptians pursued them.  All the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horseman, and his army overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baal Zephon.  When Pharaoh came near, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them; and they were very afraid.  The children of Israel cried out to Yahweh.  They said to Moses, ‘Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness?  Why have you treated us this way, to bring us out of Egypt?  Isn’t this the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it were better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.”  Exodus 14: 9-12 (WEB)

Unmasked and cape-less I can now tell you that I used to look with disdain at the Israelites in this situation wondering how in the world they could so quickly and easily question God’s sovereignty and His might in this situation in light of all the miracles he had already performed for them regarding their exodus from Egypt.  Here they are backed up against the Red Sea with the Egyptian army bearing down on them and all they can see is their imminent destruction.  They have gone from praising God on their journey to severely questioning Him in short order.  How swiftly they have forgotten all of His Jordan stone moments of miraculous provision along their way.  Am I any different than these ancient travelers that I have been so quick to condemn and judge for their lack of faith and trust in Him?  Sadly, with my hat in hand and head bowed low as I stare at my shoes, the answer is, no, I am no different. Yes, I may sing, “He’s got the whole world in His hands,” but when the going gets downright nasty and the world seeks to destroy me on this path He has led me on how quickly my song becomes, “He’s got the whole world in His hand, but not me.”

Overwhelming circumstances seem like such an incredibly unlikely place to plant trees of righteousness don’t they? Hope is a scarce commodity to the naked eye and weak heart.  Yet, it is in exactly such dire circumstances where hope in our Father is abundant and ready to be gleaned.  Yes, as improbable as it may seem, this is exactly the soil in which oaks of righteousness grow nourished by His hand that liberally supplies hope and trust to the faint heart.  How does this happen?  Fortunately for the likes of even a Clark Broken of little faith such as me the Lord is not bound by human understanding or standards, or by our little faith not even the size of a mustard seed.  The Lord is incredibly long-suffering isn’t He? He certainly has demonstrated that to me time and time again on this journey of mine.  Continuously my Father rises above all of my questions and doubts and proves Himself to be trustworthy and true…and amazingly patient and kind.

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful.  He can’t deny himself.”  2 Timothy 1:13 (WEB)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.  ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”  Isaiah 55:8-9 (WEB)

“Moses said to the people, ‘Don’t be afraid.  Stand still, and see the salvation of Yahweh, which he will work for you today:  for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall never see them again.  Yahweh will fight for you, and you shall be still.’”  Exodus 14: 13-14 (WEB)

Just a few weeks ago my attention was drawn to the reflections seen in the puddles of water left by a recent rain.  A continuous sheet of water on the parking lot would’ve been able to mirror image practically the entire immediate surroundings, but it was the interrupted reflections found in the numerous isolated puddles that caught my imagination that day.  Sensing some inspiration at hand I tried to take photographs from several different angles of various puddles only to be quickly reminded by the Lord as I did so that this scenario visually sums up the differences between the way He sees things as compared to how I see things.  I see my life only in part consisting mainly of upside down bits, pieces, and snippets of the world immediately around me.  Meanwhile He sees everything in its complete entirety and that includes my own very limited vantage point as well.

“while we don’t look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:18 (WEB)

A few days passed before I was able to finally sit down to begin collecting my thoughts to begin writing.  As I did so I began to think that perhaps this specific parking lot filled with puddle sized reflections is far too narrowly focused, far too limiting of God, the Creator of the universe.   “Why not use a picture of the entire earth, like a globe, to depict what our Lord sees?” I thought to myself.  “If I did that then I could use a much smaller segment carved out of the big global picture to illustrate what I see for comparison’s sake.”  It was at that moment that the “whole world in His hand” song lyric came into my head.  “Yes sir, things are rolling along just fine now,” I thought.  In a moment of clarity, though, I realized that, no, that’s not the way to go here at all.  Far from it, in fact.  Why do I say that?  Because you see it dawned on me that God was somehow using these parking lot puddle reflections to address my question as to whether or not I’m in His hand even though the answer was not yet apparent to me.  Yes, the world is important to Him, but the plain, beautiful, life-giving truth here is that He sees my much smaller world in incredibly vivid detail, too.  In short, He knows and greatly cares where I live and that means He knows and cares where you live, too.  The photos I originally took that day in the parking lot are from my world, my life as I see it and live it day in and day out.  While the globe and far beyond is certainly well within His reach, it’s well outside of mine.  That’s why I have trouble truly relating to “He’s got the whole world in His hand.” I can’t really grasp the earth in its entirety, but this parking lot on that day was intimate to where I live and what I’m experiencing.  Yes, I exist on and in this whole wide world, but I experience life on just a small portion of it.  And in this moment of “this is where I am, Lord” He’s graciously and generously reminded me that this is where He is, too.

At the time when I took this photo I paid no attention to the fact that the sign said the clearance of the nearby drive-thru was “10’6.”  As I contemplate it now relative to the “whole wide world in His hand” lyric it would be easy to say that measurement seems well short of any sort of ceiling or clearance one would expect our Father to create for me, for you.  It’s certainly no “the sky is the limit” sort of grand arm waving unlimited boundary one might expect to hear as the answer from someone if you were to ask them about what God is capable of accomplishing in your life.  While it’s true that whenever God is involved there are no limitations to the possibilities,  I can, however, emphatically tell you that 10’6” is far greater clearance than I can possibly use or need right here where I am right now.  As far as I’m concerned in this season I’m now in it might just as well say the sky is the limit instead of 10’6”.   The clearance He is giving me here in this spot at this time is far more than I could ever possibly need.  There’s at least 4 feet of extra provision present.  Such extra clearance will allow me to easily pass through with no worries whatsoever of bumping and bruising my head.  I feel unlimited and unrestricted because  He has exceeded my immediate needs has He not?   He gives me what I need plus some.  Of what possible use would it be to me to have a “sky is the limit” sort of clearance from Him in this situation?  It occurs to me that such extravagance at this time in my life is probably just exactly what I don’t need, in fact.  Whether it is a clearance the height of the sky, or 10’6” it is still miraculous and perhaps even more so because I’m able to at least somewhat grasp the nature, kindness, and generosity of His provision.  He has graciously allowed me to see His hand at work.   He is more than capable of providing me with “the sky is the limit” clearance, but it is far too grand for me to comprehend in this season, but not so the 10’6” clearance.  Yes, Lord, I see that you have recognized my needs in this moment exactly where I am, and not only that, You have abundantly exceeded them.  I have room to spare as I pass through where I am because You have made it so with Your hand.

“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’  Jesus answered, ‘Neither did this man sin, nor his parents; but, that the works of God might be revealed in him.  I must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day.  The night is coming, when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had said this, he spat on the ground, made mud with the saliva, anointed the blind man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, ‘Go wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means ‘Sent’).   So he went away, washed, and came back seeing.  The neighbors therefore, and those who saw that he was blind before, said, ‘Isn’t this he who sat and begged?’ Others were saying, ‘It is he.’  Still others were saying, ‘He looks like him.’ He said, ‘I am he.’  They therefore were asking him, ‘How were your eyes opened?’ He answered, ‘A man called Jesus made mud, anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash.’ So I went away and washed, and I received sight.’”  John 9:1-11 (WEB)

Did you know that numbers “10” and “6” have Biblical meaning?  I was aware certain numbers have meaning in the Bible, but I didn’t know if such was the case for these two numbers so some research was needed.  It turns out this is an intriguing combination.  The number “10” is understood as a perfect and complete number as are 3, 7, and 12.  The phrase “God said” is found 10 times in Genesis 1 testifying to the Lord’s power regarding creation.  Man was created on the sixth day so the number “6” represents man who is weak and dependent on our Heavenly Father.  Without Him we simply wouldn’t exist.  Our very existence, then, testifies about Him.  What is one to make of all of this?   Well, that depends on one’s perspective doesn’t it?  For me, I find this combination interesting because I am now in desperate need of safe passage through my current season of difficulties that are of such magnitude that only God’s creative provision can make that happen.  That probably sounds overly dramatic, but the truth of the matter is this 65 year old’s almost 3 year old startup business is in desperate need of a miracle in order to survive.  My family’s financial future is on the line.  Yes, we are on the ropes as the saying goes.  We need a “but then, God” lightning bolt strike of provision to happen otherwise the sea drowns us, or the army destroys us.  Our future is…in His hands.

I can’t help but suddenly laugh with delight as I listen to myself saying that last sentence because I now realize He’s brought me full circle in my understanding using nothing more than a clearance sign and reflections found in isolated puddles in my church’s parking lot.  Today’s journey has taken a while, but it has been worth every step, every word…and then some.  He has brought me to the place where He has wanted me to be all along.  My Father has gently and generously reminded me that it is only in and because of His hand that I exist in this whole wide world.  I can’t think of a safer, more secure, and glorious place to be in this world than in my Father’s hand, can you?  Father, thank You for there are no clothes that warm my soul and bring true meaning into my life such as Yours do.

“for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  Galatians 3:27 (NIV)

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,”  Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

“He humbled you, and allowed you to be hungry, and fed you with manna, which you didn’t know, neither did your father’s know; that he might teach you that man does not live by bread only, but man lives by every word that proceeds out of Yahweh’s mouth.”  Deuteronomy 8:3 (WEB)

“Therefore I tell you, don’t be anxious for your life: what you will eat, or what you will drink; nor yet for your body, what you will wear.  Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  See the birds of the sky, that they don’t sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns.  Your heavenly Father feeds them.  Aren’t you of much more value than they?  ‘Which of you, by being anxious, can add one moment to his lifespan?  Why are you anxious about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.  They don’t toil, neither do they spin, yet I tell  you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today exists, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, won’t he much more clothe you, you of little faith?  Therefore don’t be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘With what will we be clothed?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given you as well.  Therefore don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Each day’s own evil is sufficient.” Matthew 6:25-34 (WEB)

The One Way in the manger

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign.  Behold, the virgin will conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”  Isaiah 7:14 (WEB)

“For to us a child is born.  To us a son is given; and the government will be on his shoulders.  His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, on David’s throne, and on his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from that time on, even forever.  The zeal of Yahweh of Armies will perform this.”  Isaiah 9:6-7 (WEB)

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, there came with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man, and He came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.  There was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him:  his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”  Daniel 7:13-14 (WEB)

He is so much more than a way in the manger…He is The One Way.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father, except through me.’” John 14:6 (WEB)

you can’t fake stake

“Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  1 John 4:1 (WEB)

Yes, although it’s a little hard to make it out in this photo, that’s our brand-new-to-us Snoopy and Woodstock Christmas blowup yard decoration you see lying there on its side in our front yard.  One recent morning we awoke to colder temperatures, rain, wind…and our blowup rolled over on its side rocking back and forth with each gust of wind.  Sometime during the night when the weather changed the wind managed to pull out several of the stakes that were holding it down so over it went.  When I first put it up a couple of weeks ago I was careful to follow the instructions, especially the part about securely staking it firmly into the ground.  So I have to admit I was a bit surprised to see it flapping around on its side since I’d been so conscientious about setting the stakes just right.  As an extra precaution I usually unplug all of the outside decorations before going to bed, but that particular night I forgot to do that.  I also didn’t bother to check out the weather forecast.  Right now you’re probably thinking that I must not have been that concerned about any of this in the first place otherwise I wouldn’t have forgotten about it on my way to bed.  That’s a reasonable thought that I certainly can’t argue to the contrary.   It’s a point well taken since misplaced confidence, or being overconfident, will get you every time sooner or later.  Unfortunately for Snoopy and Woodstock  I had placed my confidence in the stakes I had set out a week or so ago.  So confident in my work was I that I hadn’t bothered to check on them since.  Dry ground turned soggy from rain changes everything.   My stakes didn’t allow for those kind of conditions.  Out of a total of eight stakes only three of the stakes remained in place that morning as I worked to reset and reposition the blowup after first deflating it.

Smack in the middle of rescuing Snoopy I was reminded of the similarities between this blowup yard decoration and the spiritual importance of exactly where we stake our faith.  If you’ve ever owned an inflatable lawn decoration you know the very first thing you have to do is secure it to the ground with stakes.  Once the stakes are in place and it’s anchored to them you can then turn the blower on to inflate the decoration.  If you’ve not staked it to the ground very well then as soon as any sort of higher than normal wind, especially if it’s accompanied by rain, comes along the risk goes way up for your decoration to take an unplanned trip tumbling down the street visiting various neighbor’s flower beds along the way.  It follows, then, that If you want the blowup to stay in place the most important part of this whole process revolves around the stakes.  And so it is with our relationship with the Lord, as well, isn’t it?  Throughout our lives each of us drive spiritual stakes into the ground depending on them to hold us in place eternally.  As with the blowup we place our complete confidence in these stakes believing we can rely and depend on them to get this eternally significant job done for us.  We anchor our most precious eternal possession, our very souls, to these stakes.  We risk it all on them.  The stakes for each of us are eternally high.  Oh how we pray that they indeed allow us to reach such a glorious height.

We’ve made our choices. Our stakes are in place. The time has now come.  Cue the blower.  As the air begins to circulate inside us we rise and begin to slowly dance swaying to the rhythm of the gentle breeze that accompanies the silent night sky.   The stars are shining brightly.  All is calm, all is bright.  Sooner or later in this world, though, this serenity will be broken because the harsh wind and the lashing rain will come to test our choice of stakes which we have placed our hopes upon for eternity.  Buffeted and contorted by the fierce winds will our stakes be true and hold us in place?  Or will we be uprooted and ripped loose from our misplaced moorings only to be sent tumbling helter- skelter off into the cold darkness far, far, far away from His radiant beams?  Have we mistakenly placed our all on fake stakes that cannot possibly hold us in eternity’s place with our Heavenly Father, or have we found the One true stake of our salvation?  In spite of the storm raging round about us will we at long last securely sleep in the arms of His heavenly peace on this holy night that was created for each of us long before we were even born?  Will we remain steadfastedly in place through the night to be greeted by a new and glorious morning dawn richly overflowing with the pure light of His redeeming grace?  Will we, a weary world, become thrilled with His hope on this divine night of deliverance, fall on our knees, rejoice, and hear the angel voices ?  The answer to all of these questions, as we all know by now, entirely depends upon exactly what, or rather, Whom, we have staked our faith upon, doesn’t it?  Christ the Savior, Holy infant so tender and mild, has indeed been born into this world for your sake.

“There is salvation in none other, for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men by which we must be saved!”  Acts 4:11

Have you staked your faith in Him and Him alone?  Once you do all is eternally calm, all is eternally bright, and everlasting glories stream into your life from afar.

“that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God didn’t send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him  He who believes in Him is not judged.  He who doesn’t believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the One and only Son of God.” John 3:15-18 (WEB)

“but these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”  John 20:31 (WEB)

“He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered, ‘The Christ of God.’”  Luke 9:20 (WEB)

sound affects

“So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  Romans 10:17 (WEB)

Rising much earlier than usual one morning I was surprisingly greeted by the subtle but distinct sound of the ocean waves coming ashore from the Gulf of Mexico which is located a little more than a mile south of our home. 

In between the barrier island facing the Gulf and our home is an almost mile wide expanse of water that provides an unobstructed pathway for the faint but wonderful melody of the faraway waves crashing onto the banks of the barrier island’s shore to travel across.  As if custom made for the purposes of this writing this divisional body of water is divinely, from my perspective, called the sound.  

Just to the north of us is a heavily traveled 4 lane highway that during normal daytime hours creates a constant humming noise as cars and trucks relentlessly zoom past one another in a frenzied attempt to get to their scheduled destinations on time.  Try as you might during these “NASCAR” hours the din of an all-too-hurry-up, get-it-done-now world completely drowns out the ongoing beautiful symphony of the cascading waves of the Gulf as they rhythmically greet the waiting shoreline.  

If you desire to hear the sound of the beach from where I live you must break free from your established and usual daily routine and do something entirely different as I did that particular morning.  Hearing the alluring refrain of the waves requires you to purposefully reposition yourself in some meaningful way relative to them. 

You must turn aside from your daily routine that otherwise has been focused on everything but these sounds.  But will you? Is hearing these sounds important enough for you to make such a needed change in your life or will you continue to go on about your day with little to no regard to hearing these sweet sounds?

Now then, what if we were to change things up a bit and apply these circumstances of hearing the sound of the waves to our walk with our Lord?  Simply imagine in your mind and heart we’re no longer talking about hearing distant waves break, but instead we now are talking about our listening for the sounds of the Lord.

Are we hearing Him?  Why or why not?  Based on what we have discovered about our hearing the waves in this story it’s about the position we choose to place ourselves in relative to Him regarding whether or not we are able to hear His voice. Jesus is essentially asking us as His followers, “Will you alter what you’re doing by turning aside from _____ (you fill in the blank) to spend time with Me?”

“Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the back of the wilderness, and came to God’s mountain, to Horeb.  Yahweh’s angel appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the middle of a bush.  He looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. Moses said, “I will turn aside now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.”  Exodus 3:1-3 (WEB)

When we make such a conscious choice, as Moses did, we’re essentially saying to Him, “Here I am, Lord. I choose You.”

“When Yahweh saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the burning bush, and said, ‘Moses!  Moses!’  He said, “Here I am.”  Exodus 3:4 (WEB)

Taking that first conscious step in His direction and away from our own worldly selves is so vital, of course.  

As His sons and daughters we can confidently rest in the knowledge that God calls out to each of us personally and intimately in ways that speak deeply and individually to us.  After all, as our Creator He knows our hearts so well, better than we do, in fact, so while our own personal experience with the Lord may not quite be the sort of spectacular “in His presence” encounter Moses had with the Lord, it is still no less a miracle, it is still no less personal, it is still no less loving.

Simply put, He gets us and understands us as nobody else possibly can.  At this moment He is lovingly watching each of us to see if we will purposely turn aside for Him.  Why? Because He greatly desires to spend meaningful time with us, His much loved children.  While that’s certainly good news it doesn’t stop there.  No, far from it, in fact. 

He longs for us to desire to spend time with Him as well.  After all, intimacy is very much a two-way street.  When you choose Him by turning aside to spend time in His Word and in prayer you capture His attention.   And as a follower of Christ who among us isn’t affected such that we are moved into action by the sound of that life changing wave of understanding as it completely washes over us?

“Yahweh appeared of old to me, saying, Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love:  therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you.”  Jeremiah 31:3 (WEB)

“Deep calls to deep at the noise of your waterfalls.  All your waves and your billows have swept over me.”  Psalm 42:7 (WEB)

A life danced to the rhythm of God’s wisdom in a Byrd’s song

vapors turn turn turn touchup edit

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (KJV)

 Turn!

  “Lord, make me know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am.  Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreath; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.  Selah. Surely every man walketh in a vain shew” Psalm 39:4-6a (KJV)

 Turn!

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.  For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” James 4:14 (KJV)

 Turn!

My longtime close friend and fellow explorer of life’s byways, both real and imagined, Russell, passed away a week ago.  Our friendship goes all the way back to the days of junior high school.  My favorite memory from those days is the times we would spend riding our bikes through the woods exploring trails together alongside other good friends as if we were all some sort of heroic band of New World explorers boldly going where no man had gone before, to borrow Captain Kirk’s famous opening line from one of our shared favorite TV series, Star Trek.

It was unimportant and of no significance to any of us that the wild universe we were exploring was the wooded area adjacent to where we all lived.  No, as far as we were all concerned we were on the outer reaches of the galaxy discovering strange new worlds just as the opening Star Trek monologue so enticingly beckoned us to do. It was a wonderful siren’s call and we were all willingly spellbound.

The only thing holding us back from our appointed mission on those Saturdays was the lengthening shadows of dusk that, sadly, occurred far earlier than any of us ever wanted them to in our sun-shielded galaxy of planets populated with towering, mysterious beings whose outstretched arms branched out and sought to capture, or worse, any uninvited explorers such as ourselves.

What exciting and amazingly uncluttered with life’s demands good times those were.  As the song goes, “we thought they’d never end.”  But, sadly they did come to an end. Russell’s dad was transferred to another state before we were able to embark on the next grand adventure of exploring the looming and mysterious galaxy known as high school together.

Years passed with no contact between the two of us.  It wasn’t until decades later that we finally reconnected thanks to the internet.  Russell took a chance and left an anonymous post on a social media site looking for people that had graduated in our year of graduation from our once shared hometown high school.  I stumbled over his post one day and decided to take a chance and reply not knowing who was on the other end.

Imagine our surprise when we realized exactly who had just stepped back into our lives after such a long and silent absence. Oswald Chambers has a quote from his great devotional work, “My Utmost For His Highest” that I dearly love and that fits so well into the context of such an unlikely “lost then found” reunion between two friends:  “Do you perceive mere coincidence, or do you discern the hand of God?”

As I reflect on the lasting effects and impact of our renewed friendship stemming from that unexpected reunion I am certain this was no chance or random coincidence.  To think otherwise isn’t a viable possibility.  How can a gift that keeps on giving owe its very existence to anything other than divine providence?

As cliché as it may sound our friendship was something akin to Lennon-McCartney, or perhaps Rodgers and Hammerstein.  At times I’m sure it was also like Abbot and Costello, or Laurel and Hardy.  Penn and Teller come to mind as well.  In my mind Russell could’ve easily been either Lennon or McCartney while I, even on my best days, was merely a shadow of the other half of the team.  Regardless of who was who all of these famous duos or teams shared a common bond of creative chemistry.  Spontaneous combustion was just a lone spark away from igniting a burst of creative energy in each of these pairs. And so it was between the two of us.

Remarkably this close friendship was rekindled and forged fairly quickly over a relatively short period of time through emails that ended up spanning many years marked by only an occasional phone call.  He loved to write.  I love to write. It was that simple.

Russell managed to bring out in me a creative side that few others have yet been able to access. He had this ability of encouraging me to step outside of my comfort zone.  I never feared rejection or ridicule when I did so.  When I think of Russell the phrase “freedom to be me” quickly comes to mind.  Each email volley presented a wonderful opportunity to boldly go where I’d never been before on a variety of subjects and yes, do so creatively.

We played off of each other with rare ease on a variety of subjects.  His knowledge on a wide range of subjects never ceased to amaze me. Our email duet was reminiscent of that wonderful back and forth volley between banjo and acoustic guitar found in the song, “Dueling Banjos” and it always left us grinning ear to ear.

So many times on so many subjects, but especially so when it came to music, he would be the teacher and I would be the student.  How was it possible for him to be so well versed and aware of so many artists and songs that I was not?  I used to say to him, “Russell, there you go again.  You’ve saved me from my Neanderthal existence by pulling me out from under my rock and into the light of day…thank you…again!”  He’d always reply with a laugh, but not with the laugh of superiority.  No, it was never like that.  It was always the laugh of someone who delighted and enthusiastically embraced the joy of seeing another person suddenly experiencing the epiphany of a great beauty or mystery that has just been revealed.  I loved how he expanded my otherwise flat, vanilla sort of world into an amazing multi-colored and textured sphere.  It was obvious  he genuinely loved being such a gracious guide.

 “And God said, Let there be light:  and there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.” Genesis 1:3-4 (KJV)

“You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV)

I am thankful God sent Russell’s light to speak life into me.  His light will continue to burn brightly within me.  That warm glow I feel in my heart whenever I think of him and our friendship remains a great gift.

As I reflect on all of this I have to ask myself a few questions. “Do I speak and act in such a way that brings warmth into other people’s lives? Will that warmth continue after I’m gone?  Do my words and actions say I truly understand there may not be another day beyond this one, and, most importantly, is there any glimpse of Jesus at all to be found in me by others?”  In short, “What sort of lamp on a lamp stand am I in this dark and cold world?”

Eternal Lord, the time You have given each of us on this earth is short. Let us understand and embrace how truly fleeting our lives are so that we may humbly live in purposeful and joyful fellowship with You and with those You have so generously and graciously sprinkled into our lives along the way. May we joyfully walk the path You have set before us making the most of this day that You have given us realizing we may not come this way again. Today is the day to speak life into those whom You have surrounded us with, both those we love and who love us, and those we have only just met for there may be no other earthly day granted to us beyond this one.  My friend understood these truths of Yours. May I understand them as well. Lord, I thank you for sending him my way, and into so many other lives as well.  I thank you for the life-giving impact our friendship brought me and continues to bring.  Because of my friend’s walk I can truly say it’s a life well lived if after that life is over here on this earth it continues to speak life into those of us who remain behind.  What a marvelous gift!  Thank you that my friend’s light was indeed a lamp on a lamp stand that spoke life into myself and others, all to Your glory.  May we in turn pass along the light and warmth of Your love as well.  In Your Son’s name, Amen.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”  Isaiah 40:8 (NKJV)