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

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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Our Story

There are times

in the Christian walk when it is clear and obvious what God is doing in our lives and the lives of those around us.  However those times, at least for me are few and far between.  When God asks us to walk a particular road there are times when we never (perhaps until we are in the glory of His presence) know the rest of the story.  There are other times when we are far past that path and have moved to other roads of His choosing that He honors us with a glimpse of the rest of the story.

Sometimes we are “the rest of the story” for someone else.  Early in Allana’s battle with Leukemia we were both in a dark place.  The realities of Chemotherapy had begun to set in. We were separated from our children because of the epidemic levels of illness in the Toledo area and Allana’s dropping immune levels.  The nature of the Leukemia and the length of the battle ahead was becoming apparent.  The response of our faith community, friends and family was amazing.  They were all definitely the boat that God provided to keep us afloat in the storm, but still the waves, the wind and the darkness were overwhelming.  Into this storm walked a young nurse.  She was not one of our regular nurses, in fact we never saw her again.  She came in to the room during her shift and told us that she had heard we were believers and asked if she could pray with us at the end of her shift.  The prayers of many, all kinds of prayers, have been a comfort and strength throughout many trials in our lives, so of course we said, “of course”.

When the end of her shift came, she arrived as she said.  She was so young and seemed so small in comparison to our plight.  Don’t get me wrong we appreciated her heart and the prayers of everyone who lifts us up to God’s throne, but our expectation was perhaps a little wind for our sails.  However God knew that at that moment we did not need a little wind in our sails.  We needed light to shred the darkness and we needed to FEEL the presence of God.  This little nurse began to pray and called down the fire of heaven into that hospital room (and yes I am crying as I type this).  The darkness and the storm shredded in the light of God’s presence.  I can certainly imagine the joy of a mariner caught in a seemingly endless storm when the sun breaks through to warm his face.  I honestly don’t remember what happened next, it is lost in the overwhelming presence of God. I am sure that we thanked her.  I doubt that she realized the importance of her obedience to God in our battle.  I have told this story a number of times, but I don’t know if she has ever heard the rest of the story.  I hope so but that decision rests in the hands of God.  We are so blessed when He imparts the rest of the story into our lives but as His children we can be assured that the rest of the story is amazing.

 

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Clock“My son, thou art not yet strong and prudent in thy love.”

“Wherefore O my Lord?”

“Because for a little opposition thou fallest away from thy undertakings, and too eagerly seekest after consolation. The strong lover standeth fast in temptations, and believeth not the evil persuasions of the enemy. As in prosperity I please him, so in adversity I do not displease.”

“The prudent lover considerest not the gift of the lover so much as the love of the giver. He looketh for the affection more than the value, and setteth all gifts lower than the Beloved. The noble lover resteth not in the gift, but in Me above every gift.”

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

prudent – adj – acting with or showing care and thought for the future

Kempis has uncovered the weak lover.  The one who falls away in the storm, seeking only for consolation.  He has proclaimed the strong lover.  The one who stands fast in the face of temptation and whose love does not rest on the whims of circumstance.  Now we find that there is yet another quality of love that we are called to in our Imitation of Christ.  The Lord turns his conversation to the prudent lover.

How often we mistake the gift for the lover.  This is the sign of imprudent love.   The gift is wonderful and amazing.  We wrap ourselves up in the gift.  We hug it and caress it.  We proclaim the gift to the world.  It thrills the soul, but like all gifts it fades in value.  The storms of life batter the gift and the sands of time wear it down.  Suddenly that thrill is gone, that tingle that we called love has faded away and because we have been so focused on the gift instead of the lover, prudent love that might have been is never found.

Jesus speaks of this love in Matthew 13:5-6.

5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

The gift of the Gospel is heard and perhaps even believed but the faith that springs up is in the gift, not in the giver, not in the lover of our souls.  So when the circumstances of life arise there is no depth to hold our faith because our eyes are not on Jesus.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

As great as the gift is (For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord .Romans 6:23) it is only great because it opens the path for us to focus on The Lover.  If we take our eyes off him….

As is so often the case, the qualities of our vertical relationship with God speak into our horizontal relationships as well.  The gifts of our life both given and received should conduits of intimacy drawing us into relationship with others.  When the gifts are the focus, the love is compromised and when the circumstances change one finds that it is not love at all.  We are all to often ready to believe that gifts (given or received) are enough but there is no endurance in gifts when they do not bring clarity of focus on the lover.

The prudent lover looks to the future, not to the present or the past.  The actions of the prudent lover are framed to sustain and grow intimacy over time with the beloved.  This is the focus of a steadfast relationship, one that will stand the test of time.  It is this kind of love that Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Be prudent in love, setting ALL gifts lower in value than the lover who gives them.

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