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.

I Can’t Feel

Last weekend I lost a very dear friend of mine.  I have not recovered.

My mind, my head feel full, pressured, blocked.

My hands, as I write, feel numb, thick, unwieldy.

My heart, oh that feels.  But what?  As I hear his voice in my head, his laughter, see his goofy smile and remember the stupid, silly things he said and did.  What can I allow it to feel?

I break down in tears over and over again and then laugh.  Then I am so angry and embittered.  Not at God, not at this young man, not at myself even.  I think I’m just angry at life.

What a crazy thing this life is.  So strong and binding…

So fragile and transient…

I’ve seen the pictures of birds on the internet, the swallow that feeds his dying mate, the protection of a pod of dolphins.  I don’t know what they’re feeling, what is happening inside them.  Maybe we are unique in the depths of our feelings, the strength of the attachments we are capable of forming.

Maybe we aren’t…

But I know enough of all of us that, if we let ourselves, we all enjoy living, we love life.

That means that when it is taken, when it is ended too quickly, when it is ended at all, a part of us dies too.

So, maybe how I feel right now is a gift from God too.  Maybe the hurt that I can’t feel, and the hurt I can’t allow myself to feel are all part of the evidence that, as stupid and ridiculous as I am, I’m alive.

Whatever…

I only know that I would rather feel this loss and know love, know friendship, than to set my heart aside and truly never live.

I can feel.

Daddy, it hurts

I remember when we first learned that my brother had died.  

It felt like this.

I lost somebody special today.  Forever, the world is marred.  Forever darkened.

Oh, when he was here, he sure brightened it.  The memories I carry are of fun and laughter, craziness, brotherhood.

When my brother died, I knew so little.  I was in shock, couldn’t even cry for a long time.  I’m not sure I understand much more today, and I keep crying.

When my brother died, I felt so far from him, so unable to help, wishing there was something I could have said, something I could’ve done.  Not very realistic, it had been awhile since our last meaningful conversation.  And our control over circumstances is limited, no matter what we think or say.

But, for both of them, I would want them to know they were loved, that they are still loved, will always be loved.  I would want them to know that, despite their humanity, we were proud to have known them, honored to walk with them.

So daddy, your people are hurting right now.  King and Lord, we don’t know why and can’t breathe because of how sad this feels.

Can we lean on you right now?  Could you carry us a while?

That’s Not Him

A very dear friend of mine died last week.  The viewing was Monday and I was able to go.  I didn’t want to go, it is so hard to say goodbye.  I knew I should though.

As I stood in the line waiting to walk past the casket, I noticed the beautiful flowers, the pictures of my friend, the family chatting with loved ones.  It was beautiful.  Strangely enough, I noticed how handsome my friend was, in pictures.  I never noticed before.  I guess some of us are obtuse that way.

As I got closer, I caught glimpses of the body that lay there.  I then started trying to get a better look at the same time as I was trying not to look.  The person I saw lying there did not look like my friend.

You see, the person I knew was not a smiley type person.  He just had the power to make you smile.  He was not bubbly or exuberant, he just made you feel warm and loved by his presence.  He noticed things and remembered things that let you know you were cared for.

I found none of those things in the visage resting before me.  That somber, lifeless countenance did not compare with the friend I knew and loved.

Inside my heart I cried, “that’s not him.”

Now I know it was his body.  I said my goodbyes and knew that I would not see my friend again this side of eternity.  But I was right, too.  That body was not him.  This flesh and bone that clothes me, is not me.  With Jesus, I am eternal.  In Him, clothed in His righteousness, I am holy.  We who call on His name become something more, something greater than our outer form.

In this, we have hope.  Hope that is greater than our sorrow, greater than the unknown, greater than anything we face.

To The Last Man

What do you do when you’ve lost all hope?

What is your choice when you’ve done everything and all you hoped for is gone?

What do you do when all have betrayed you and you’re left alone, unwanted, unloved, forgotten?

The problem with the TV generation, the movie, Hollywood, Super Hero people who live their lives through the stories they see on a screen is they never know what to do.  When real life happens and things don’t go as planned, when there is no reset button to push or magical potion to fix all the problems, those that have not lived real life will lay down.  They will give up and let death take them.

Dylan Thomas said, “Do not go gently into that dark night.”  His stanzas speaking of there being more to do, to live, to “rage against.”

And in the light of this promiscuous culture, the family decimated by media, divorce, infidelity, pornography, addiction and abuse, it can seem that our hope, the promises we stand on, are awfully, woefully thin.

God’s love is not absent.  The power of the Holy Spirit has not waned.  But our reliance, our grasp of who He is and who we are in Him, is pitifully weak.

“Do not go gently into that dark night.”

So, though at times my hope is lost, I will stay in His word.  Though, at times, my faith is built on sinking sand, I will put on my helmet, my belt, my shoes, my breastplate, my shield and my sword.

And though I am bloody from every battle I’ve been through, I will rage against these giants and say, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty…This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of satan’s army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in America.”

And with my dying breath, I will let my children know, the children of my blood and of my spirit, that the living God reigned in me and I was His, will be His, forever.

Stand with me, by your prayers, your love, your worship, your sacrifice.

Give Glory to God!

The battle for Jericho has begun but it is hardly a battle.  The walls have fallen and the people of the city are panicking.  You run with your spear, stabbing and slashing at any who are in your way.  Though you are not a trained warrior, you have seen battle before and this does not compare.  All that you see is blood and death and blood lust in everyone’s eyes.  And you kill, and kill again.  Women, children, old men, babies, it doesn’t matter.  They all must die.  You are a rational, down-to-earth kind of guy and this all seems so crazy.

You have been going from house to house with others but for the moment find yourself alone.  Your friends have been grabbing things and taking them to a pile outside the city to give to the priests.  After taking several things yourself you find that it just seems a bit unfair.  You enter one last house and there find a robe, some silver and a little bar of gold.  The battle is ending and  instead of taking the things to the priests, you take them home.  You feel guilty but justify it because of your family’s needs and it really wasn’t much so no one will mind.

A couple of days go by and you’re on to the next town.  The guilt and shame of what you’ve done gnaw at you but now you feel the fear of knowing that if you say something, you’ll just get in trouble.  Joshua sends three thousand men to attack a small town and when they return, thirty six of them have been killed.  A warning bell is going off inside of you.  Maybe they died because of what you have done.  A rumor is flying around the camp that the battle was lost because there was sin that someone was hiding.  You almost mention it to your wife.  Your best friend sees you and asks what’s wrong.  Something tells you it would be better to confess and clear your conscience but now you feel trapped.

The next morning, the tribe of Judah is called out.  As the whispers pass between neighbors, you find your heart beating heavily and your palms are sweating.  Your clan, your division, your family and finally you are called out and it is too late.

“My son, give glory to God.”

You confess everything and though you are afraid, you feel free from that guilt, that bondage.  You are lead to the edge of the camp and look to see your wife crying as she stares at you.  Your children are crying too and looking at you to help them.  The people, your neighbors and friends gather around you and you watch as a stone strikes the forehead of your son and he falls to the ground.  Stones are hitting you too but you no longer feel anything.

The story of Achan, told in Joshua 7, is one of the saddest stories I see in the bible.  And it is the story that best fits what happens with pornography and men today.  And I am wise enough to know that church leaders, worship pastors, deal with it everyday.

I call you to not wait till God brings out this hidden failing.  Don’t wait till your family, your life, the life of your children are destroyed by this sin.  Bring it out.  Confront this.  Confess it.  Find a brother to walk through your healing.  Believe that you can still be that hero for your wife, your children.

Give glory to God.

“Give Her Something to Eat”

I see the seen, the bustle and stress of the ministry, the interruption of the woman with the bleeding issue, the people that tell Jairus to not bother the teacher, the wailing, the laughter, the healing, a dead little girl walking around. There would have been confusion, awe, fear, excitement.  Mouths dropped open, hands hanging limp, eyes unblinking, hearts racing, they stood there dumbfounded.

“Guys.  She’s been laying here sick for a while, she died and is alive again.  Kind of a busy day for her.  Could you get her something to eat?  She’s really hungry.”  The broken reverie, the nervous laughter that gives way to guffaws, especially from the dad.  And somehow, I see even the angels shaking their heads as they watched.  “He did it again.  How does He do it?”

I don’t know whether you’ve ever thought about it but angels never raised anyone from the dead.  Angels never healed anyone.  Angels do not do much that is miraculous, only what causes damage – burning things, making people mute, that kind of thing – and their good messengers.

Humans, we’re different, made in God’s image we are capable and called to do things no other being can do.  We are called to do the miraculous.  Through Jesus power, and in His name, we can bring healing.  We can prophesy.  We can raise the dead by the power of God Almighty.

And, because we’re human, we can meet the practical everyday needs of people.  We can feed them, clothe them, bring them medicine, touch them, love them. . . provide. . . speak life. . .

I’m seeing a correlation here.

God and us.  God in us.  Out of all creation there is just us and Him that can and should do these things.

A high calling, a nobel ministry, a war to be one.

Don’t you think it is time to get involved?  Don’t you think it is time for Him to shine through you?

Does the Hurt Ever Heal?

 

One of those scary places to go.  Death, sadness, irrevocable loss, days, weeks, months gone forever.

 

In 1978 my brother committed suicide.  His body was found almost six months later where it had washed up on a river bank.  As we waited through the months when we knew nothing and then endured the questions and analysis of dental records and other comparative data, we were torn between wanting to know and not wanting to know.

 

It has been thirty-five years and it still hurts so much.  I can’t write now without crying.

 

I miss him.

I would’ve loved to see him meet my wife, my kids.  They would’ve laughed at his idiosyncracies, some very similar to mine, some that put mine to shame.  They would’ve been amazed by his talent and insight.  And, if they were lucky enough to hold his hand, they would’ve have known the strength and gentleness that, to this day, is my picture of the hands of Jesus.

For those of you who have suffered great loss (some are so much worse than mine, so much deeper) you know that the hurt never heals, never goes away.  We compartmentalize, we bury, we cope with what has happened but we don’t “get over it.”

And that’s OK.

My Jesus will not remove all pain until I stand before Him in heaven.  When He claimed that He had “overcome the world”, it didn’t mean that the world was gone.  It meant that He was greater, stronger, deeper than what would happen to us here.  His triumph is not over the cross, it is through the cross.

And in that, I find His peace.

 

 

 

 

I Think He’s Dead…

No, I’m not.

I’m tired.  I’m discouraged.  I’m beat up.  I’m hurt.

BUT I’M NOT DEAD!!!

Do you realize the freedom and power in those words?  And, the pervasive truth?  The world, satan, my own flesh would like me to act as though I’m dead, to lay down, quit, give up, stop fighting the battles you’re never going to win.

But I’ll tell you a little secret.  Come closer.  I don’t want anyone to hear this…..

I’M NOT DEAD!!!  I’M GOING TO WIN!!!!

I bet you’re wondering how I can say this in the face of monumental decision catastrophes and an almost maniacal adherence to failure.  The absolute truth is, my life is not dependent on me.

Some people, probably none that would ever read this blog, charge forward knowing every decision they make is the right one.  They write books on “being a better you” and “making the most of every opportunity”.  Some even add the aspect of faith to their claims.  “Step out in faith” with the claim that you can ask for anything and God will give it to you if you have enough faith.

I’m not like that.  I’m a coward where God is concerned, and typically, only step out on faith in myself, which is ridiculous since I’ve proven singularly untrustworthy.  But God…

Another powerful set of words… BUT GOD!

God is good.  He takes this heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh.  He takes my head of stone and replaces it with something more functional also.  He takes every failing effort, every step in the wrong direction and uses it to bring glory to Himself.  He takes my striving, pitiful offerings and uses them, divides them, shares them with hearts that can weed out the useless drivel and find nuggets of love and truth.

And even if He doesn’t, hear this, listen please, I’m not dead.  He hasn’t given up on the potential that He saw in me when He called me to be His kid.  He has given me another second to live, to breathe, to touch, to speak.

He’s given the same to you.

PS:  Missed blogging for a week because of crazy work, church schedules.  My apologies.