Friday, December 15, 2023

An Early Gift

Trying to hear the voice that came to a prophet in the cave
after a season in the valley.
Psalm of David.
Spoken to Mary.
Spoken to Elizabeth,
                  and so many others.
Speak to me...
In this season of gifts and celebration.
Come softly, like an echo above falling snow.
And I will listen.  
I promise.

Someone said in a movie I watched once,
"You don't even know when you're gettin' lucky."
And I thought...what a condemnation.
But I think I'm the one in that space.
Too often.
A gift came to me this year.
It's in a simple understanding.
We sing, "Joy To The World!"
In hope.
But the understanding brought me
The words stand side-by-side.

What have I missed.
Who have I missed.
In the hurry.
In the midst of searching for significance.
It's an early gift, so that I will be more diligent about 
His coming.  
Then...but also now.
I...and also WE...are so blessed,
                                              By GRACE.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Making The Most of Moments

Several weeks ago we had the chance
to take 3 days away.
It was lovely.
I believe that it was actually... necessary.  
If you doubt me, ask my wife.
We were able to breathe deep, and take in our moments together.
We reminisced about when we were younger versions of ourselves on respite at a location we haven't been to for at least 25 years.
There were sunsets to look at and walks along the sea.
There was peace of mind.
There was joy.
There was exhale; and restoration.
In that reflection I came to something I felt significant to share...
As I grow older I feel a greater desire to find access to the kindness that 
is not native to my heart, but it flows over and through everything that is part 
of who God is.  It's the threshold of our entry into his presence. (See Romans 2)
All we have is moments.  
With him.
With others.
Less moments remaining tomorrow than we have today.
Yet, it's not about hurry.  
A man came into our offices a week ago and gave us an estimate for an alarm system update.
I asked how his week was going.
He said, "Honestly, I'm a bit overwhelmed."
Then he went on to tell me that about ten days earlier his wife, who was struggling with mental illness had wandered off, and then eight days after that, the police had found her body.  
"I'm so sorry", I said.
The man continued to elaborate about his family history and the processes they were 
sorting through up to this day.
At the moment he began speaking, I realized that for me, this was all there was that was happening in the world.
This instant.
This connection.  Nothing else mattered.
We talked in hushed tones for a bit longer and then I asked him if I could pray.
He said yes, so we did.
I asked him to let me know if there was anything at all that we could do
to further help him.  And he said something that I've heard many say, 
"It's actually been good to get back to some work and think some about other things."
We took deep breaths.
I put my arm across his shoulders.
And then he shifted back to explaining the new alarm system.
I don't always catch the significance of a meeting.
I'm sure I miss more than I want to acknowledge.
But this was obvious, and I didn't miss it.

Paul put it this way...

(Amplified)  Ephesians 5:2  "Walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.

A friend once penned the frustrations of living life at the intersection of the eternal and the temporary in a song titled, "Another Sliver of Eternity."  
It's a calling out.  
A yearning that we would hold our moments as precious.
That we would see beyond the immediate and yet be completely present with each other.
We are woven into it all.  The lighter
threads and darker ones as well.  
For purposes greater than we can see right now.
It is not meant to be heavy, but light; easy but worthwhile.
Our moments are valuable.
Particularly when committed to the one who made us,
And then also shared in appeal to those around us, made in his image,
Yet not aware.

"Another Sliver of Eternity" YouTube link: (Enjoy!)

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Maybe We're Kind of Common...And Maybe That's a Good Thing

My wife and I have done our best to create space in the world for two tiny, baby girls to grow into whole, healthy and happy young women.  
Some days I am burdened with the assurance that we have failed in at least some of our efforts. That is not an enjoyable understanding, but still true.
One of the areas of difficulty has been in trying to help them see how wonderfully unique they are while at the same time preparing them for the fact that everyone else in the world won't celebrate that the way that we do.
Being "fearfully and wonderfully" made is an incredible concept for our mind and heart to hold onto.  (see Psalm 139:1-18)

Prepare yourself.
I'm gonna flip the script a bit.  
As uniquely as we were created, I believe that our struggles, though they have specific edges to them, are rather common.  
In other words we are mostly united in our failures.
Once more...That is not an enjoyable understanding, but still true...if this is also true:

"No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it." (I Cor. 10:13)

I think that this matters to each of us because:
...We tend to think our stumbles, struggles, mis-steps...whatever we wish to call these moments of our lives...are so difficult to be understood or untangled, that we remain mired in them for years, 
          even decades, 
                            even a lifetime.
We must remember that there is one who works against us.
Who works against our hope.
Who works against our relationships.
Who works against our peace.
Who works against the truth that can set us free.
He wants for the shadow of all of our shortcomings to keep us forever darkened in spirit.

Please hear the other voice.  
The voice that says, 
"Yes! you were made completely, singular...
None other exists who is just like you.  
However, nothing you will ever experience, 
no lack of judgement or act you will ever commit
is so complicated that I cannot lift the weight of it from you 
                                                         or you from it. 
It's as though you were the hundredth person I've helped find this full release in the past  hour. 
All you have to do is trust me with the set of fetters that bind you
And when I break them apart, 
                          learn to walk, speak and LIVE IN YOUR FREEDOM."

Monday, August 28, 2023

A High Tower

I'm not sure how to put this thought to words, but I'm gonna try.  :)
It's an idea that came to mind without invitation.
It caught me and held me.  
It continues to do that when I allow for myself to be held.
There is an often quoted collection of words that read this way,

"For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Most of the time when I have read those words or heard them quoted the emphasis is on the 
second half.
The words "prosper", "hope" and "future" are elevated in significance.
And though there was a specific group of people who they were directed towards, during a specific time, they have found their way onto greeting cards, t-shirts, blogs and all sorts of other spaces as words 
of commitment from the one who spoke them.

I don't think this is a bad thing.
Because, in general, I believe this is his heart towards us.
Not as though it is a contractual obligation, but that...He really does love us and wills his relationship with us to have those ideas mentioned as by-products of that relationship.
What I've wondered about myself, and really all of us as followers; as his children, is this:
Are we secure enough in our faith ...
do we trust Him enough...
that if all we got was the first half of the verse, we would continue to follow anyhow?

              For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord...
In other words, which is the better promise?  
Is it that he will adorn our lives with a prosperous, hopeful future?  
                                                                       Or that He knows the plans he has for us?
Such a mountainous question isn't it...
How comfortable am I, living within..."He knows..." all by itself?
Don't get me wrong.  
I'm thankful for the second half of the verse, and as I said, I think it is the heart of God.
However, I know that the "prospering" part of life is open to interpretation.
He may see it differently than I, or those around me do.
There is no time-frame mentioned in that promise either.
In our particular situations, how far down the road is this "hope and future" he speaks about?
When will it arrive at my door?
Is he as efficient with delivery as Amazon?

What if when he said, "For I know the plans I have for you..."
I held up my hand and said, "That's all I needed to know."
And I rose with joy and went out into the day.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

In The Midst Of

In the past few weeks three friends have passed from this world into the "what's next."
I have my own sense of what that looks like for them, and I think it's far, far better than here, but that's not the point of what I want to say.
Two other good friends have been diagnosed with cancer recently. 
Another family we are very close to is working through the loss of their child because of a miscarriage.
I do not have any answers as to the timing of any of these moments or much else associated with...."Why?"....and I don't expect that I ever will.  
Honestly, I don't think that's why we're here.  
I think that what we're supposed to do instead of offer answers, is to support each other, while we're on this side, together, 
and "in the midst of"...well... EVERYTHING.
And in this way we hold onto God with one hand and hold onto those we love
with our other hand AND become a bridge of peace for them.
We ask for needs to be met.
We ask for healing, not only in the physical, but in depths of their hearts, and 
in their spirit.
And in this space of surrender we are linked into greater answers than we could ever offer.
And into plans that work together for the good of all.
In big things and little.
So that as Skye Jethani said,

"We are not merely passive set pieces in a prearranged cosmic drama, but we are active participants with God in the writing, directing, design, and action that unfolds on the stage of history." 

I have thought about my prayers.  
And about our prayers as a church so often. 
And what they accomplish.
Attached is an image.
There is one in the center, surrounded by several from different races and generations, but through grace, 
The one in the middle was broken before us,

and we were gathered around him, without knowing the answer to "Why?"...and we prayed.
How does that help?  I don't fully know how to answer to that, but I think it's one of the best
things that the church does...or can do.
I discovered recently that the definition of the word, "prayer" in the original Greek can mean,
"An exchange of wishes."
It pre-supposes our will is a part of the process
It pre-supposes we are listening to Him.
It pre-supposes He is listening to us.
It pre-supposes we actually share what's in us
It pre-supposes we are seeing what's truly happening around us
It pre-supposes we are bendable
It pre-supposes we have a relationship to God and each other
It pre-supposes we care about what's in the heart of God
It pre-supposes He cares about what's in our heart
The more I think about it, the bigger the idea of prayer becomes.
Paul wrote this to the church in Corinth a long, long time ago,
but I think it's still helpful thinking,

"We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love."

There it is.
We're not the answer-givers.
...we're the bridge to the one who is.  
Until the day when we too see him face to face, eye to eye, AND
There's no more sorrow, no more tears, no more pain.

Friday, June 30, 2023

In Between "Who Am I....and Here am I"

Part 1...

There were only two people who actually said it.
Perhaps, many more felt it in their hearts, 
discussed it within themselves,
almost muttered it out loud, 
but the words never tumbled across their lips.
It was only Moses and David.
     At a point of self-assessment, 
compared to the task at hand...
they considered their frailties, 
their shortcomings, 
their regrets,
their anxieties,
         and asked, 
                        "Who am I, Lord?"

Consider those names...


Two of the most dynamic leaders in all of world history.
Yet they clearly understood their absolute need for divine 
strength and understanding.  
It wasn't just that the job description seemed mountainous.
A great work needed to be done.
And it needed to be done in a way that 
                              reflected the character of their God.  

That's a lot.
Getting something done is one thing.  
Doing it in a way that consistently brings honor and glory to our maker...

                        "Who am I, Lord?"

There's a necessary humility in that question.
A necessary dependency that's elusive to a lot of us today.
Elusive because, first off, we don't like dependency.  
Counting on someone else to come through...
And honestly, we tend to want to be known for our achievements.  
We'll often deflect some of the accolades to God, but we like wearing the bulk of it.

However...I think... I'm getting to a place where I would rather be hidden in the cleft of the rock.
I truly wish to see his glory, while remaining protected by his hand.
Unseen by anyone else...I think.

Part 2...

Enter the prophet Isaiah.
He doesn't ask the same question as Moses and David.
He registers his humility with a declaration.
Having just seen the majesty of his creator, he says, 

         “Woe to me!  I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among 
            a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

There's the necessary humility again.
But he doesn't stop there.
After a forgiveness and atonement has been applied, he hears the voice of his King 
searching for someone who will step up and follow in the effort to bring healing 
to a nation.
A seemingly overwhelming invitation.
Yet, instead of shrinking back.
It's at this point that Isaiah steps up.
I don't know if his words were a shout or a quiet, but determined acknowledgement.
Regardless, Isaiah's response was, 

                           "Here am I.  Send me!"

Part 3...

This is the "in between" where Moses, David and Isaiah lived.
This is the "in between" where I think we must live.
In between the "Who am I?"...and the... "Here am I."
Knowing our weakness.
But trusting in his strength enough to raise our hand 
and volunteer to be sent.
In grace-sufficiency.
It will feel a precarious stance at times.
It will feel vulnerable.
It will feel too bold and sometimes not bold enough.
It will be awkward because we won't always know what comes next
Because it's not our agenda.
It honors The One who is over all,
                                in all 
                                          and through all.
                                                     It's where we become followers.

(Thanks to art by Richard McBee)

Thursday, June 15, 2023

I'm Still Here

A few weeks ago I heard a young woman share her story.
Her name is Gabby Lyons...look it up.
I love stories.
Especially I love true stories about people finding their way.  
Finding their way through
hardship, abuse, injustice, physical difficulty, financial difficulty, 
Or just working through the pain of being ignored; feeling invisible.

Gabby's story is one of saying, "I'm still here! spite of..."
(In her case it has been a litany of physical suffering)
It's not a success story in the sense of something amazing coming at the end of it.
She didn't become the head of a Fortune 500 company.
She didn't win any election.
She's not on the cover of a magazine.
Her autobiography is not a best-seller.
Again...she just said, "I'm still here!"
Feet, firmly planted in her faith.
In her trust.
With Jesus.
She hasn't been healed...yet.
And she's okay with that.
She's not going anywhere without him.  No matter what.
The phrase she used to identify her commitment was this: "Ten toes down!"
Oh how that made me smile.
And nod my head.  
She's digging in.
"As for me and my house..."

Not five toes down, with one foot ready to pivot and walk away.
Not looking over her shoulder for a better offer.
Ten toes down.  
Facing the challenge head on.
Quietly.  Determined. 
Drawing every bit of strength that she can from The Divine.
Leaning on support from all who may offer.
Thankful for what He's already done.
Returning her love for the love he extended to her first.
We need that example.
I need that example.
Let's choose this response today.
Let's choose it for ourselves and share it with others.
Not because it will get headlines or because it will pay off in something tangible.
Just because it will quietly ripple through us in a way 
                                                        that generates hope around us.
All of us.  Standing for each other.  
If you need me, I'll be here....
                                  TEN TOES DOWN.

Friday, March 31, 2023

Get the questions right

It sounds nearly uninspiring to say it, and I don't want to shout the words but rather whisper them.
But...I want to be a better follower, more than I want to be better a leader.
I want all of the "Be still and know" moments that may be available to me.
Just breathe.
Take in His Spirit.
(Then follow the advice of the "Fun With Dick and Jane" books.)
Through the eyes of a follower.  

(These were the thoughts behind what's written below)

In the quiet; not yet consumed 
By the day that's to come
There's a voice, that calls forward
In a song, still to be sung
The words are a mystery
The tune, all we hear
O' that we learn to listen
Closed mouths; open ears

Falling on my face
Stumbling in my pride
Comes something of a light
With mourning hope inside
I don't know the answers...but I'm starting to get the questions right.

I don't know how
I don't know when
I don't know why
Or where to begin
I don't know the answers...But I'm starting to get the questions right.

You will catch us there
Together; cradled in your grace
Nothing we can say or do
Nothing left to chase
None will be more
None will be the least
But all will be invited
'Round the table of a feast

I don't know the answers...But I'm starting to get the questions right.