Saturday, July 26, 2014

HOW DO YOU HANDLE DISAPPOINTMENT IN YOURSELF?

Urrgggh!

Have you ever had days where you didn't do so well...and that's a very generous way of putting it?  I hit that territory yesterday and hit it hard.  I communicated strong ideas that were very difficult for me to approach.  Later, I found that my communication was not the best.  Therefore, I unnecessarily grieved a friend who surely didn't need my added stress.  But...I did it.

To risk something that I simply did not want to risk and then to discover I shouldn't have done it that way has incredibly deep ramifications of troubling discouragement if I don't attend to the Spirit and His directives.

Once again, I share disappointment in myself as a picture not only of what not to do; but possibly lessons learned as to how to keep from caving to the temptation of becoming very depressed.

Let's say it out in the open.  We all flub....sometimes very badly.  Denial isn't an option.  Gaining from it is.

So what shall we do with our talk and walk that occasionally turns into embarrassment or injury or whatever else could be negative?

We can turn personal failure into a ministry perk.  It is that pestering reminder that we not only don't run the show but that we are full of inadequacy in trying to even show up for the show.  While God has declared that our adequacy is only of the Spirit, we mistakenly slip into a belief that we can do a certain amount on our own.

Thus, the opening is created for necessary failure.

There is strong temptation to quietly believe we are better thinkers and better doers than our close colleagues.  Not the case.  Yes, each has gifts for these surely could not arise from our skill-set.  But ego likes to convince self that we are a step above. Clueless is attributed to others while ego-enamorization (unrecognized) is for mwah.

Failure is prominent in every believer.  We are weak in understanding, in direction, in commitment, and in vision.  Individually, we don't have what it takes.  I speak not of some of us, or a few of us, but all of us; even those we would regard as living from the apex of idealistic.

Failure is important for each disciple.  Until we admit we  are sinking (and strange, isn't it, how long we can live with our gurgling sound and not realize anything is wrong)  we will never reach for the rescuing arms of Jesus.  Yet, if we continued to walk atop of troubles, we would begin to wonder why we need him.  As we sink in frustration and embarrassment, the kingdom strategy begins to be perfectly realigned.

Disappointment?  I tend to cry in mine.  But I must not dwell within.  We must not cave to the warm blanket of being miserable.  Have you ever noticed that sometimes depression just feels better?  It takes intentional and determined energy to break the inner contentment of feeling sorry for self.

We must raise our eyes.  We must.  Then we shall see that failure is the valuable reminder that Jesus is our righteousness; our brains and our brawn are not; not even close.  When we need the arm of Jesus to be our strength, we are strong even though we are weak.

How do you handle disappointment in yourself?  Well...one way is to turn it into a good lesson to encourage another who struggles with the perpetual reminders that we never have been enough.  I hope I just did it.

Jesus alone is our strength.  We need him.


Friday, July 25, 2014

DIAPAUSE....YEAH, RIGHT

What may be holding you back is not the short straw after all.  It may be diapause.

You, I feel certain, will be as elated as I am that I have happened upon a new word...that I did not make up.

WEBSTER: D-I-A-P-A-U-S-E; a period of physiologically enforced dormancy between periods of activity.

This is a powerful as well as significant word to our walk.  Inherent in the awareness of this word is the excitement of possible transformation.  Romans 12:2, be transformed by the renewing of your mind, calls one to move past the delay via inactivity; the short-sheeting belief that at least no movement would create no error.

From what I can gather, hesitancy to transfer from one state to another is called diapause.  The idea is a struggle to let go as from a caterpillar to a butterfly.  Not so strangely, the Romans word for transformed is metamorphosis or the process of moving from one state to the other.  Diapause is the reluctance to make the transition as growth and development are suspended.  This happens, as science verifies, because the caterpillar is afraid to let go.

Sue Monk Kidd points out that it seems that at the moment of our greatest possibility in a decision, or an action, a desperate clinging rises up in us.  Suddenly we are not so sure.  We make a valiant attempt to save our old life as we become fearfully unsure of the promises of the new.

Daniel Day Williams supports her observation.  We fear it is all we have. Even its sufferings are familiar and we clutch them because their very familiarity is comforting...Yet so long as we aim at the maintenance of this present self, as we now conceive it, we cannot enter the larger selfhood which is pressing for life.

The call for the renewal of the mind is threatened by human diapause.  Fearful of the unknown is likely to keep one in their present condition, even when suffering, because that one would prefer the familiarity of disappointment over the uncertainty of possible success.  Men and women, in essence, are suffering from a diapausal state of the mind ruled by fear rather than adventure.

Faith of what can be is our theme.  Launching out is a gospel truth for believers.  Ours is the choice to live either as a creeping caterpillar or a butterfly in flight.  The former is constantly called to let go in order to enter.  The matter which would stop us is our own diapause.

Dare to let go...and let God.  It is always appropriate to remind us to remove our big toe from the bottom of pool and begin to swim.  The church awaits leaders who can let go of earth's certainties in order for us to soar into the wild adventures of great kingdom exploration and experience.

God calls us to live larger than life.  May we have the confidence in Him to let go.






Wednesday, July 23, 2014

LIVE HUMBLY

Regardless of how much we talk about humility, this one kingdom factor is as tough to master as would be trying to corner a hundred cats each wearing roller skates.  I feel that if I could ever master this for one week I would have reason to be very proud of myself.  (uh-huh)

We sing out to one another in church, Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord. Each of us respects another who lives in meekness.  Plus, the greatest command as well as the second one can only be obeyed by individuals who have no regard for self first.

May I ask why this concept is so hard for many of us?  And, would you mind if I take a stab at the answer?

Humility is elusive because we often have a self-installed spotlight above our heads assuring each of us that what we think, how we appear, and where we hob and nob is the first matter of every conversation.  To amplify this situation, we have such a strong tendency to believe that our perception of any situation is the right one.

Some of us are crafty enough to use humility as a front in order to blanket our inwardly ambitious audacity; but the truth beneath our low-keyed approach is adamant.  We are right, we know it, and we firmly believe the others are clueless. This is nothing but ego in pseudo-religious garb trying to appear cooperative while manipulating our way by quiet managerial control.

One of Paul's more thrilling calls is for us to engage beyond our imaginations in the God of glory (Eph. 3:20).  I love this text.  I am always in need of its perpetual reminder.  The preceding verses are just as potent.  The Holy Spirit working directly in our lives to the measurement and style of Jesus.

Yet, we must note our position to approach such a calling.  For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father...:14.  

In prayer we knock on doors because we have not the strength to pry them open on our own.  Furthermore, we don't have the intelligence to know which doors.  We take our hard-earned dollars and place them in a Sunday morning plate as congregational voices send God a message that our greatest earth-power won't work as well as Spirit-power.  The big stories of the Bible cause our best advice and strongest insight to wilt in authentic humility.

No.  Ours is not to be the mission to out-smart or out-labor or out-maneuver anything and then call it kingdom advantage.  Our role is to be on our knees while open to the Spirit working among us.  We are not to sit in rooms with brothers and sisters with a secret sneer at their incompetence compared to our quite capable self-evaluation.

We are to do the work of God with knees bowed; not once, not in the serious stuff; but always.  It seems, and I surely could be wrong, that education and effort and funds and expert leadership are never what the church needs first.

It will always be that humility lifts the windows of our hearts so that the Son can once again shine in.




Tuesday, July 22, 2014

THE GREAT NEED TO LIVE WITH OPENED EYES AND OPENED ARMS

It seems that community is swelling with fatherless children.  I don't speak of only those who have no fathers in the house.  I speak of a growing number who have a dad present; yet he isn't a father in the home.  He is distracted by or obsessed with other important issues in life; but has little attention for his children.

The Gospel story known as the Prodigal Son offers a quick glance at a few in a family. A younger son who is sinfully rebellious, an older son willfully stubborn, and then there is the father of both.  Take a good look at the loneliness of the father regarding his two boys.

One is missing.  The father is left with heartache.

While the younger is gone, it appears the older brother is in good sorts with his dad as they work the farm.  When the big sinner returns, it is at this point that the older one ratchets up his pouting.  From yet another angle, the father is rejected by a child.

In both scenarios, the father suffers heartache and break.

Note that the father did not react as was the pattern of his sons.  When rejected by either boy, he neither indulged in drunken sin nor took cheap shots at the rest of the family.  He stuck by his role regardless of painful rejection momentarily inherited from both sons.  The father remained the father of the story.

It seems important to notice that when each son was in deep and poor behavioral mode, the father did two important things.  First, his eyes were always looking for, as well as after, both boys.  He wasn't distracted from them.  And second, his arms were opened wide for both.  He seemed to favor neither and treasured both.

Receiving the full force of rejection, this man arose to his role.  He lived above treatment received.

In the story of the prodigal, we not only have the visual of what it means to be a father.  From his display of God-like love, we learn to be fathers...or mothers...or brothers and sisters...or friends when encountering the same sort around us.  And the reason we should/can/will do this is because we are oft times found to be one brother or the other....or both.

Luke gives us one of the greatest insights ever revealed.  He shows us in the Prodigal story the vulgarity of gutter life and in the same breath reveals the selfishness of religion.  Father had to fight for both.  So do we.

In this picture, therefore, we discover we are not like one of the two; but we find ourselves relating to each of the three.  May we mature in shifting our poor behavior as found in either son at times to live with new eyes and extended arms like the father.  May we be willing to experience the loneliness of hopeful waiting as we battle our way toward home.










Sunday, July 20, 2014

KNOWING JESUS....WOULD MEAN WHAT?

We are called to walk the most exhilarating course of all history.  Our path is to be that of Jesus'.  The dark powers of this world know this.  Therefore, we are targeted to get less from our walk than the heavens intend.

We must be alert.

Consider Paul's statement of Philippians 3:10...that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings....  Really?  This is our goal as well?  It should be.  And, what a different approach to life's venture.

We all want the first half; none prefer the last.  Yet, the power of His resurrection is found in the midst of His sufferings.  The two are correlated.  If there were no valleys, mark it down, there would be no mountains. Resurrection is prominent only when suffering has struck.

Knowing Jesus is to know that life is difficult, filled with chasms, and yet God empowers us to arise to have very good days because we connect with the pattern of Jesus.  If not on guard for the workings of the kingdom, we will miss them because we commit ourselves to a different path...the one of safety and assurance.

I urge us to be attentive to the difficult days.  Such is not a signal of our inadequacy as much as our calling.  These are to verify we have not bailed.  May we find that we live willingly in the Suffering Servant's sandals.  Without much thought, we tend to disregard.  I say give heed to the stresses among you for they may have the purpose of God buried within.




Friday, July 18, 2014

WORLD TURBULENCE AND INNER PEACE

We live in very strange and absurd times.  Yesterday's news was fascinating on many fronts.  It is concerning, disconcerting, and stunning.  298 die in a jet over Ukraine. Israel invades Gaza.  Troubles loom large as media focus is both intense as well as extravagant.  We are a generation that can watch live war from the comfort of our living rooms; chips and soda in hand.

So what does this do to you?  Bring about fear?  Arouse dis-ease?  Conjure insecurity?

World turbulence has a "yes" in it.  It drives one to search for the true hope of inner peace.  Such will never be found exteriorly.  Regardless of shelters man builds for protection, other men build bigger bombs.  We must have a better reinforcement against the most determined enemy.

God gives us Good News.  Mankind has a most unique hiding place.  We must seek such shelter.

Of course, I speak of Jesus.

When one is under intense fire which could be life-ending, man begins to set aside trivial Sunday School arguments and get serious about the things the Bible posts. There has always been correlation between new start, born over, bringing our old life to an end, and the act of baptism.  The beauty of this process has been lost on the fields of church wars.  And to be fair, baptism isn't the church's god; so forgive us for intimating such.

What I think the world of wonderful, cruddy, fair, and dishonest people would want to know is that there is not only great hope; there is direction given by God for our security, safety, and protection from all battles. This isn't found in a doctrine; but in a person.  Lavish hope is always found in Jesus.

Where baptism comes into play is that it is a part of the process of entering into him. Romans 6 expresses the fundamental fact that one is to be buried into Jesus.  Verse 3 says that one is baptized into his death.  Why death?

The safest place to get away from death is to get to the place where someone else already died and beat it.  We hide where Jesus died because in his death he was able by the Holy Spirit of God to break lose.  The way to encounter the highest and widest world threat is to take shelter in the Son of God.

In Colossians 3:1-3, the apostle Paul clarifies by stating, If you then have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When one is buried alive in baptism something goes on eternally wonderful.  Our old nature is transformed as a caterpillar to a butterfly.  No one can explain it; let alone argue it for it is a sheer fascination of God.  We simply have choices as enemies pose bigger and bigger threats?  Build our own shelters or hide in the only one that death can't crack.

Sometimes in one's Christian exuberance, the implication is that baptism is god.  It is not.  It is not the main thing.  Jesus is.  Baptism is the door to his grave so that we can be dead with him....so that we can experience the resurrection with him.  It is the importance of every person concerned that one know how to prepare for the onslaught of uncertainty in this highly threatening time.  We have a hiding place.

There is one name that rescues; Jesus.  Muhammad wasn't raised from the grave. Neither was Buddha.  Only Jesus.  Every person must know where to hide...and how to enter the hiding place.  These words of mine are fiercely inadequate, I feel certain. Yet, maybe for some this is one beginning place.

Inner peace is not found in a process nor is it in a church.  It is in Jesus, the Savior of the world.  He died so that we could live.  Let's not miss the living because we didn't do our homework.  May we find that protection from all enemies is not in a doctrine; but in a Person.

Please...isn't it time some make the decision as millions of others have?  Isn't it time we quit hiding in bottles, and activities, and multiple distractions that serve to numb our hearts from the inevitable?  Isn't it time?  Isn't it time to get serious about the safe place to hide?

I would urge you to contact a friend, a relative, or a minister and just tell them you are tired of trying to reinforce your eternal hope.  Tell them that you want to enter the Hiding Place.  They will help you.

Glory be given to God through the Spirit of Christ.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

OBSESSED WITH THOSE WHO HURT

Jesus redefines who we are, what we are about, and where we focus.  We are under threat to miss his walk in our shoes for we who are committed in the church tend to look toward the reverent rules and not the needy people.

It is the strangest of all strangenesses to watch Jesus.  He consistently bucked against the religious trends in favor of nameless societal underdogs.  The woman at the well. The good Samaritan.  The lame.  The blind.  The littler man up a taller tree.  Jesus was obsessed with those who were unfortunate.

Why did this bug the religious leaders of Jesus' day?  They weren't into people.  They really weren't into legalism.  They were obsessed with being right which leads to narrow-minded and deadening legalism.  This is why the word righteousness is to grab our attention anytime it is used in the New Testament. His righteousness versus our self-righteousness is of constant contest.

I write via email to one of our members, who is in a federal prison, everyday.  I have for months now.  Just this week she told me about a block-mate who is in desperate need of encouragement.  She has no family, no friends, and no funds even to receive emails....it costs 5 cents per minute of computer use.

My heart goes out to my friend...and now to this other woman who is in prison basically alone except for a random prison friend.  That's all she has.

So it is where you walk.  People need you.  Some are trying to sneak to the well in broad daylight without being noticed.  Others are atop balconies of wishfulness just hoping to get a glimpse of someone who knows the better road.  Yet others would love it if the religious sort could put down our busy schedules long enough to notice that they are hanging onto the next day only by a thread.

Much needs to change in Washington.  But first much needs to change in the church. May we increase in our drive to be obsessed with helping those who are in terrible binds.  There are many...and we can/do make a difference....just like Jesus did.

If we are not caring for the needs of others (including strangers) among us, we are very wrong while we tell ourselves how we are the only ones right.  People need help. We are in the helping business.