Archive for the ‘I’m Just Sayin’’ Category

High Places

“A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

“Higher, Higher”

“Higher and Higher”

 

Everyone wants to get to higher ground in their Christian experience.  Unfortunately too few want to do the work that takes us there.  The Bible is our comprehensive guide to Hupomone living and when one adopts the Hupomone lifestyle the practice of the Gospel of Jesus Christ prepares us and carries us to the high places that we want to go.  So here are three principles for getting to higher ground.

 Carry the right equipment.

My son Robert is in the picture.  My brother-in-law, born and bred in Colorado, is an avid hiker of 14’ers.  These are mountains where the summit is above 14,000 feet.  This picture is taken at just such a summit. He made sure that Robert had all of the equipment that he needed to reach the summit with as little discomfort as possible.  Without the right equipment the journey is painful and difficult and there are many who opt not to complete and settle for lower areas.  Layered clothing protects you from the elements.  Higher Ground can throw all kinds of damage at you.  Wind can rip at your skin and steal the water from your body.  The sun can burn and blind in the thin atmosphere of the heights requiring quality sunglasses to keep the path visible.  The right shoes are essential as the steep inclines and uneven surfaces tear at your feet and legs.  Consider Ephesians 6, a much quoted passage about the armor of God.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore *, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, 15 and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Paul uses a military metaphor to make the same point.  If you want to get to higher ground you need to have the right equipment.  The higher that you want to go, the better the equipment you need.

Train for the journey

My son made several trips to Colorado.  Along with ensuring that Robert had the equipment that he needed to make the trip, his uncle built and tested his stamina through smaller local hikes.  God provides us multiple options for training and has given us the Holy Spirit to navigate our spiritual formation.  His Word the Bible is of course the basis for all maturing.

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Just as his uncle guided him in preparing to seek high ground, God provides each of us with spiritual leaders in our lives who will help us train for the heights that are ahead of us.

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together * by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.  Ephesians 4:11-16

Take the Journey with others

Robert did not hike any of summits by himself.  He went with his uncle and cousins.  He went with family whom he trusted and who were more mature in dealing with the mountain than he was.  There are stories of men who foolishly tested mountains alone or in groups unprepared.  They typically do not end well.  The circle of trust that you enter with brothers and sisters in Christ cannot be a mutual admiration society.  It must be one that recognizes the weaknesses of its members and steps in bring the fellowship to the summit.

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2

The Holy Spirit is of course the penultimate member of any Christian fellowship journeying to higher ground.

26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; Romans 8:26

The Spirit steps in when our humanity fails us.

God did not design His people to operate alone.  While Robert is pictured alone, he is with a group, one that he both admires and trusts.  While the journey is one of fellowship, the joy of the summit is even more the fruit of godly community.

By all means reach for the summit.  Seek the higher ground that God has for you.  The air is thin making it difficult to breathe, the cold wind will chap and chill even while the sun burns.  Your legs will feel like wooden posts and your eyes will struggle to pick out the path but higher ground is your purpose.  It will draw others to you and fulfill the Gospel.  Just remember to bring the right equipment, train under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the men and women of faith that God places in your life and take the journey with others.  Now this doesn’t mean that you won’t make it to the summit without doing these things, but the joy will be lost in the struggle and the summit may just feel a little hollow as you struggle to catch your breath.

The Lord is my Strength and he has made my feet like hind’s feet and makes me walk on my high places.  Habakkuk 3:19

 

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Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God. Psalm 84:3

maphome

Turn right onto 140.  Take a slight right onto Highland continue through the S Curve onto North Vine St.  Turn left onto Reservoir Rd. and then make a right onto Violet Circle…

Going home really doesn’t seem such a big deal to most of us.  Simple directions like those above bring us….home.  Well at least they bring us to a place where we have a roof over our heads.

“Honey when you are home, you are not really home.”  Allana’s words stung.  Of course I was home.  I knew my address and could navigate my way.  The reality of this statement was both so much more subtle and reached so deeply into who I was that it would not be until years later that I would see the truth in it. This particular disability strikes deeply separating us from the Hupomone God who loves us just as it separates us from those around us who would do the same.  We cannot remain under or about a place that we have never really been.  As I look back I can see God calling to me so many times “Beloved, when you are home, you are not really home”.

Walking through the motions of “getting home” does not cut it.  There is an undeniably spiritual aspect of HOME. More importantly it takes a spiritual intentionality to enter into a HOME relationship with anyone, but especially one with God.

Then the Lord said,
“Because this people draw near with their words
And honor Me with their lip service,
But they remove their hearts far from Me,
And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,  Isaiah 29:13

Israel knew the way HOME.  If you asked them, they would tell you they were HOME.  They followed the traditions, they followed the law, they sacrificed, celebrated; they did all these things and believed it meant HOME.  They were wrong and there would be consequences just as there are for all of us.

Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous;
And the wisdom of their wise men will perish,
And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.”  Isaiah 29:14

I wish I could say that today I am an expert at being home, that it comes naturally.  The truth is old habits die hard and the technology of the 21st century makes easier than ever to not be wherever you are.  Being home requires an ongoing commitment to God, to my family and to all the people God brings into my life.

Jodi King of Love and the Outcome has perhaps more opportunity than any of us to miss being home.  The life of a musician on the road and in the studio, constantly having to be new and fresh for the fans could certainly leave one with little time to be home.  She recently started video blogging on Mondays and this is one that touched my heart and gave me the ending for this blog (that I initially wrote over 6 months ago, so thank you Jodi!)

 


 

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Clock

When I was younger I thought a lot about moments and what an important part they played in the very existence of creation.  I even created my own definition for God based on them.  I proposed that God was the being who was able to experience every moment in its completeness and that He did this in the moment or in the present.  Stated another way God’s present encompasses all of creation in all of time in His moment and He alone is able to full perceive that present.

Imagine that.  Just for giggles take the moment that you are in right now.  Experience as much of it in a discernible way as you can.  Human beings are extremely limited in what they are able to perceive (observe with knowledge).  These limitations are based partly in the narrow ranges of our senses (physical) and partly in the limitations of our ability to process the information that our senses deliver(mental).  Another real limitation is that our mind likes to play tricks on us and will interpolate expected results into the perceptual results of our senses.  Trained observers can enhance the percentage of any given moment that they perceive. Some people have an innate ability to process and retain the information conveyed by their senses to a much higher degree, and yet even these extremely talented individuals only perceive a small percentage of each moment that immediately surrounds them, never mind The Moment that encompasses all creation.  I am not sure that in many ways my definition of God was that far off.

However the conclusion that I drew about the purpose of humanity was far afield.  I suggested that given that we are God’s creation…in His image (there, wasn’t that nice of me to drop a little Bible into it) …our purpose was to experience every moment to its fullest extent possible and that the common good was for all men to help all experience their moment to its fullest.  In that way we would be operating in the Image of God.  The fatal flaw in that line of thinking is that we are called to take on “the mind of Christ” not try to be God.  This is the very flaw that Satan introduced in the Garden of Eden. “‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…'”  Genesis 3:5.  When we try to be God instead of taking on his heart and mind the result is a blurred image of who He is.  Our inability to perceive as only he can coupled with the foibles of our human condition condemn even the most perceptive and skilled among us to failure.  We fill our lack with judgement and legalism transferring our failure onto those around us.  Only in the constant attack can the mirage hold, grace becomes uncomfortable and truth is out of focus.

This is not to say that developing our abilities of perception is an ungodly task.  In fact the Bible speaks again and again of men whose perceptive abilities were enhanced by the power of the Holy Spirit.  As followers of Christ we become trained observers, growing our ability to perceive the moment, by developing our relationship with God.  When we do that we will not only be empowered by the Holy Spirit in our perception, we will naturally grow our own abilities as well.  I have heard a theology of intentional incompetence preached in a variety of venues.  It suggests that we sit back and ignore our natural abilities so the Holy Spirit can step in and work.  This is absolutely not in Scripture.  With Paul I say, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed accurately handling the word of truth…”  2 Timothy 2:15.  We are called to make our best effort in conjunction with the Holy Spirit and empowered by our relationship with God.  The Holy Spirit often came upon Moses as he directed the journeys of Israel through the wilderness, but it  listening to the wisdom of his father-in-law that set up a workable system of governance among the people.

We need to be diligent but still rest on a God who exists in The Moment.  How comforting it is to know that He sees it all!  How joyful to know that Eternity is our inheritance and that he calls us to His mind and heart, not to His ability.

“in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.”   Romans 8:26

“For such is God, Our God forever and ever; He will guide us until death.                         Psalm 48:14

 

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June 18th

Another great piece by my wife and ministry partner Allana.

5 years. It’s a big deal. It’s a little surreal being here in this moment. Isn’t it funny how when you are walking through the thick mud of life that it can feel like it’s inching along, but then it seems as though you blink and you are standing on the mountain top and you just marvel at how far you’ve come.

I knew from the moment that I was diagnosed with leukemia that the road would be a difficult one to travel on. But I wasn’t the least bit ready for HOW difficult and to be very honest, how lonely this road would be.

FightThe fight inside yourself between who you used to be, who you want to be, and who you are is extremely tiring. This is real. I’m going to be totally transparent.

I’m thankful for every single person in my life who reached out to me during that time. The love and support, from so so so so many helped me through! I will be forever grateful. Even to those who never spoke to me and yet still prayed for me and my family. Each one of you made the way a little easier.

A few have continued to be an active part of my life through these years of cancer and transplant recovery. You know who you are. Thank you so much for supporting me, loving me, praying for me and endlessly cheering me on. Thank you for caring enough about the old me to press through to love the new me…. even when it took me SO long to accept and grow to love the new me too.

Thank you for seeing me as strong and courageous, even though those who are closest to me saw my very strong and very real battle against sever anxiety. You didn’t judge me. You just loved me where I was, yet continually giving me messages of God’s truth. For this I am grateful because it has helped me heal from my fear.

Thank you for understanding that it has been a very slow process for me to even want to leave my house. After being away from my home for 100 days while in Cleveland, and that doesn’t even count all the hospital visits before that and a couple afterward, as well as the monthly trips to Cleveland over the past 4 years…. when I was home, I just wanted to be home and not go anywhere. This is for sure a new me. I know for some, especially for Samantha, this was extremely difficult to get used to. We were always busy doing something and going somewhere and it was weird to have mom just want to sit on the couch and snuggle with her family.

Yes, some of these changes haven’t been awesome like I’ve been in an inward fight that has left me more exhausted than I’ve ever been in my life. There has been more times than not that we get to church, I find my seat, I sit through greeting time, once service is over, I basically run to grab Nisa from the kids’ area and out to the car, barely looking anyone in the eye. I am sorry if you have been offended by this. It isn’t personal…. I’ve been tired, I’ve been dealing with things inside, I’ve just needed my space. Thank you for those who have loved me through this very strange time in my life.
I know it’s also been difficult to deal with my chemo brain – man, it is a real thing and something I’ve struggled with so much. Forgetting everything. Like really scary bad forgetting.

But, some of my changes haven’t been all bad. In fact some very good changes have come through my cancer fight and recovery.

I am more bold. I find I say what I think. Though this has been a learning curb to try to keep my sweetness while sharing something tough with someone. I’m less afraid to give my opinion. I have more confidence. I’m even more closer to God because HE has been the only ONE who has been able to walk with me through every single moment. Every single frustrated hissy fit while trying to desperately find the old me and hating the new me. He has stayed with me speaking truth to my heart when I was feeling unlovely. I’m so thankful for a personal God who loves me even when I’m being difficult and that He still finds me precious. There are no words to describe my gratitude of God’s love. He continues to rescue me and save me and this is why I cry so much through worship. He’s such a loving God.

For Sam and I this has been a very strange and difficult journey. Yet, one we both feel so blessed to have gone through it. It’s been… well… interesting…. trying to figure out our roles with each other – where does husband and wife fit in with caregiver and patient?! We both have had to go through some freak out moments and time to heal from the whole experience. Cancer changes people. Not just the patient but everyone in the family. It’s been frustrating and scary and yet exciting and wonderful to take our commitment to each other and fall in love with who we both are today. Our marriage is held together with so much Holy Ghost Duct Tape – there’s not much that could break us apart now 😍

Yep. This sure has been a journey. A painful yet joyous roller coaster journey. 5 years. There’s so much more to share…. I’ve been pretty quiet over the last couple years….. I have a feeling, that may change. 😉 I think I’m ready to start speaking again.

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Silence

When did noise become a prime value for the Church?  Certainly as human beings our capacity to create noise and maintain it has grown exponentially in the last century.  We invest in state of the art sound and video systems.  We carefully choreograph our worship services to ensure that there is not a moment of silence.  We are encouraged to soak in worship music during our “quiet” times.  I recently saw a social media post in which the author was lamenting the lack of passion that he/she perceived in the worship of others.  The comments made it pretty clear that the overall measure of passionate worship was the noise and activity of the worshipers.  I would imagine that they would find an hour of silent worship before God unbearable. (For my pastor friends perhaps this is a challenge, hold a worship service of silence before God and let me know how it works out.)  Now don’t get me wrong, making a joyful noise to the Lord certainly has its place in our spiritual repertoire, I just think that worshiping in silence does too.

Peter Scazzaro quotes Dallas Willard in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of our life.  It reminds us of death, which will cut us off from this world and leave only us and God.

Silence strips us of the insulation between God and ourselves and between ourselves and ourselves.  This is a daunting place to be.  It is a place of revelation.  Ask Elijah.

After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 1 Kings 19:12

The Hebrew word translated “gentle blowing” here is daq.  It evokes the picture of a think layer of fine dust.  In Exodus it is used to describe the coating of manna found in the morning.  Scazzaro asserts that this can be correctly translated as silence.  My knowledge of Hebrew idioms is not sufficient to fully agree.  However I am sure you can find some dust at home (if not we have plenty).  Go find some dust and focus on it.  Hear the sound it makes and spend some time listening to God.

 

 

 

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This is a second post started on October 30, 2013.  It was a time of processing the trial that God had already brought us through and preparing for what was ahead.  i have no direct memory of what brought me to Psalm 118 but remember well the joining of Blessing, Sacrifice and Thanks in my heart and soul.

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.  Psalm 118:26-29

As I was reading today I found this passage of Scripture interesting in its fusion of concepts:  Blessing, Sacrifice and Thanks.  We are always excited about blessing.  We see ourselves as coming from our Lord God and appreciate the blessings that come from Him as well as those that come by way of His people.  Likewise we are often prepared to lavish our thanks on Him in prayer and song.  However when it comes to the centerpiece of this Scripture we tend to balk a little, or a lot.  In a culture of individual value the concept of personal sacrifice in service of our God has been watered down almost to the point of non-existence.

How we hesitate (or refuse) to bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.  This act was in preparation for sacrifice.  It may be that the picture that David is painting is of a temple court crowded with animals to be sacrificed.  Binding them to the horns of the altar committed them to God as they waited to be placed on the altar.  The Hebrew word for cords here is indicative of a celebratory garland as opposed to utilitarian rope.  Sacrifice is in celebration of the blessing and the thankfulness that arise from our faith in a good and loving Father.  How often we bind our sacrifices to the altar with the dingy and weak cords of reluctance.

“Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  2 Corinthians 9:7

We need to wrap our sacrifice in the garland of joy and love.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of Worship.”  Romans 12:1

Jesus has led us to the path of real sacrifice.  It is absolute.  It is sacrifice of being.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking  the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. Philippians 2:6-8

Once we come to this place sacrifice becomes culture because we recognize that it is all His to begin with and that the true nature of sacrifice is abundance freed from circumstance.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38

I do not believe that this is talking about a quid pro quo relationship with God.  He is not a God of “this for that”.  We do not sacrifice for reward, this would be meaningless, and probably not qualify as sacrifice at all.  Instead we demonstrate our capacity to receive blessing by embracing the sacrificial example of Jesus Christ.

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I wrote most of this piece five years ago.  We had recently gotten back to Toledo after 4 months in Cleveland following Allana’s bone marrow transplant and after weathering what was easily the greatest test of our lives.  I can remember hearing this song that morning and feeling the impact of the words more than I had ever.

TisSoSweet

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,Just to take Him at His word, Just to rest upon His promise and to know ‘Thus saith the Lord’

Wonderful words penned by Louisa Stead over 200 years ago ring true today.  She lived in a world that served up tragedy on a regular basis just the same as we do today.  Even as we struggle with the trial of Leukemia the trials of this world impact so many others all around us.  A young bride is bereft of her husband on the way to her honeymoon.  A mother and grandmother passes away.  A child is desperately ill.  Families are losing their homes.  All these things rock the carefully manicured lives that we try to prepare for ourselves and those closest to us.  It is in the midst of grief and turmoil that the words of this great hymn begin to make sense Jesus, Jesus how I trust him.  How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er.  Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus oh for grace to trust him more.”    It really makes sense because it is grace that makes our trust possible.  I have in my life attempted to trust by study, by effort and by ostrich (sticking my head into the sand).  I can attest to the fact that these paths to trusting our Savior do not work.  In the end they magnify the turmoil and most often leave one sensing an ever increasing gap between God and oneself.  We end up feeling unloved and that God has somehow failed to keep up his end of the bargain.  Thoughts like, “But God I have done everything you asked…”; “Lord I don’t know what you want from me I can’t do anymore…” tear at our faith and bring in a spirit of defeat that can be more devastating than the tragic events themselves.

It is when by grace we detach our faith from circumstance and effort, relying on the Holy Spirit, simply fanning the flame of the gift that God has given each of us through whatever circumstances occur because we are convinced that He will guard us and the Gospel He has entrusted with us through the Holy Spirit (1 Timothy 1:6-14).  Paul follows up this impassioned guidance to Timothy with the difficult circumstances that Paul found himself in and the sustenance that God provided to Paul.  I think that even in his chains Paul would have sung Louisa Stead’s lyrics with an honest heart.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Him,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend
And I know that He is with me,
Will be with me to the end.

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