Get Back On

I don’t want to make excuses.  This season has just been tough.  September 10th will be forever etched in my memory.

So much of what has been in me has been sadness and hurt.  So much of what I write has been depression and anger.

Are you in a difficult time?  Has the world come unraveled?

Yeah, I get that.

My dear people, my friends, can you see God’s goodness?

A while ago, I saw the movie “Saving Private Ryan”.  In the beginning they show, in very realistic ways, what it was like when the Allies attacked the beaches of Normandy.  The chaos, the death, the horror.

The thing that has amazed me ever since is the overwhelming question of how?  How do you run off a boat into that hell?  How do you run toward gunfire that is ripping people apart around you.  Once you find a spot where you aren’t being shot, how do you move from that relative safety?  How could you, how could any sane person do what they did?

I have no idea.

But they did.

And we are called to also.

I fear for my country and what the future holds.  And in this season, I’m a bit gun shy.  I don’t want to get up.  I don’t want to move.  But I have to.  You have to.

Get up.  Move.

In Jesus name, take the hurt and fear that you carry and lay it on the cross.  Take the pain that you’ve been through and rush the guns of satan that have destroyed so much.  Stand!  Pray!

We will stand together, you and me.  And through it all, we will find again, that God has been good all along.

Don’t Quit

As my head emerged from the water, I knew I was in trouble.

Stupidity, meanness had brought me to this place of cold and death.  Pride and humiliation had combined to make me step off the bank into the icey depths.  But, I don’t think I thought about dying until I resurfaced and saw them standing on the bank.

It dawned on me then that my brother had maybe been in the same situation all those years before.  He had stepped into a November river, been shocked by the cold, and then died.  Maybe he saw us figuratively standing on the bank.  He certainly died alone.  Maybe he saw nothing but his pain.

For me, the sight of my children there, watching me die, was enough to bring me back, to not submit to numbing lethargy, to not give up.  I swam back to the bank and pulled my soaking wet, frozen body out of the water.

I know God gave me strength.  I know I had a choice.

I think maybe there is someone out there who needed to hear this story today.  Someone addicted, someone struggling with pride and fear, with stupidity and anger, that just needs to hear, “Don’t quit!”

Pride and fear, being stupid and mean toward others are forms of quitting.  So is giving in to addiction.  Love, courage, understanding, humility, kindness, they take work,strength that is beyond our human frame.

God will give you strength.  You will have to choose.

I know I need Him every second of every day.  I know I have a choice, every second of every day.  So I say to you, and to myself.

Don’t quit.

Anger and Vengeance 

Everyday we are offered opportunities for anger and vengeance.  As I listen to some, I think it is what gets them through their day.

It is cyclical.  People – anger – vengeance – people – anger – vengeance.

It starts with people interacting with their environment.  Alarm clocks, weather, traffic, work, food, music, talk, money, the list goes on.  We come in contact with the world around us and immediately there is conflict.  Much of it stays beneath the radar, beneath our consciousness.

I woke up the morning to the alarm clock.  It is cold, the bed was warm.  I do not want to be up.  I want to sleep.  I was torn between being actually too warm under the covers and not wanting to experience the shock of cold when those covers were removed.  I got dressed in the frigid air while my wife remained warm and sleeping.  I walked to the kitchen where there was no coffee and my lunch was not made.

In the space of ten minutes I had already been offended multiple times.  I had offended myself.  

This is normal.  But it can build.

Traffic.  Don’t get me started on traffic.  Worries start to bombard us.  And then we meet people.  The cheery morning person, the grumpy one, all take their toll on our sensitivities.  Everything is fine (sort of) until someone says something that can be perceived as against us.  We want to stop the offense, make it like it never happened, make it like it has no effect on us.  Sometimes, too often, it illicits a response of lashing out, verbally, physically, mentally.  We want to control.  We want to survive.

It happens at home, at school, at work, even at church.

I had a great day at church.  A great day right up until someone offended me.  It damaged the rest of Sunday, ruined Monday and began to poison today.  

Here’s the thing though, I talk to God.  The God who loves me unconditionally, who sent His son to bear my offenses and die for me.  I talk with a King who forgives.

Can I see that no one wanted to offend me?  Can I see that I am loved and appreciated?  Can I let go of my anger, my desire for vengeance and pour out the love that has been poured out on me?

It should never be that the Church of Jesus, our Messiah, is anything other than a place where all can find peace, all can find forgiveness, all can find love.

And it starts with me.

Right now.

“Well that’ll never work!”

The world is going to tell you how you can’t, how you won’t, how it’s impossible.  It will point to all your inadequacies, all God’s inadequacies.  They will make sure you remember prior failures, dreams that died, hopes crushed.  And, in case you haven’t given up yet, they’ll make you aware how little you can change, how dumb the idea is and how tired you already are.

That’s the world.

It always makes me laugh to hear people talk about God and His rules.  The picture is painted of a God that looks down sternly on His children, waiting to zap them if they get out of line.  His angry look is intended to keep us from sinning and doing anything stupid.

Anger is usually pretty poor at keeping evil at bay and, can I get real here for a second, He knows us.  Do you think He envisions us never doing something stupid?  Nah!

He is our creator God.  He is creative.  He created imagination, intuition, dexterity, intelligence.  And He put it in our hearts.  He put inside us a warrior’s heart, a couragious heart, and a curious mind.  Those things have to be knocked out of us.  Questions come naturally, not rule following.

He clarifies what won’t work but it’s actually a pretty short list.  It can be summed up in two statements.  “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” And, “love your neighbor as yourself.”  This does not inhibit creativity, it frees it.  It channels it in healthy directions.  It moves it to bring life, not destruction.

My picture of God, at least the one I’m trying to wrap my mind around, is of a God of laughter who looks down at His kids, amazed and enjoying the myriad ways we show His love.  He opens His hands to bless as we move in His Spirit.  He casts down the walls, the hinderances, the enemies that stand in our way.  He miraculously intervenes to show His glory and power.  He enters to make what should be impossible, not only possible but completed, finished, accomplished.

Do you dream?  Do you believe?  Listen to Him.  I hear Him cheering you on!