You Can Dance

One of the things I’m learning as I walk out this journey is that I am really not alone.  Oh, I feel alone a lot of the time, but I’m really not.

When I am struggling, in the thousands that make up my church, others are struggling too.  When I am fearful, in the people that make up the staff of my church, there are those who are fearful too.  When I am sad, defeated, broken by pride and shame, my family is sad, defeated, broken too.

And when I don’t know what God is saying, where He is leading me, others are questioning too.

Yesterday, I heard one of our great leaders express this.  We know something is coming.  We know God has great plans for us, individually and corporately.  We just aren’t seeing it.  God isn’t answering our questions right now.

So what do we do?

Admittedly, I tend to start answering my own questions.  “I should do this or that.”  I get angry at the vacuum, depressed because I am unseen.  I build walls and protect.

God suggested a new tactic as I talked this over with Him.

“You can dance.”

It would be easy for me to tell you what that means.  But I think it really means different things for different people.  So rather than explain myself.

I’m just going to dance.

Love you guys!

I Can’t Breathe

Worship is one my favorite experiences in Christianity.  We have an awesome worship team at our church, excellent musicians, hearts that love Jesus with all they have, lights, big screens.

But lately, I can’t breathe.

I sing but I’m afraid to pour it out, to let go.

I am going through a season where I don’t have enough.  We pay the bills.  We even get McDonalds or Chick-fil-A sometimes.  But we are just surviving, no money to dream, no extra to give when we see a need.

And it’s all my fault.

I thought…

I thought.  I thought.  I thought.

But things didn’t turn out the way I planned.  Dreams I hoped for died.  And it feels like everyone has turned away from me as I lay wallowing in the ashes of those fires.

It changes worship.

“You’re a good, good Father.”  Why Lord?

“Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”  Where are you, my God and King?

Our big, fancy mega-churches with comfy chairs and temperature controlled sanctuaries can’t take away the pain of what seems like abandonment.

I think about churches around the world.  Some hiding, many so small that the world will never know they existed.  Churches where believers die at the hands of government or suicide bombers, or apathy.

I think the beauty of the bride, the church of Jesus Christ, shines from a queen, not a princess.  A princess has everything perfected for her, protected for her.  A queen stands with her King, fights beside Him, rules with Him, dares with Him, suffers and dies with Him.

Our churches can give the illusion that we are all princesses, that we are safe and comfortable as we lift our hands in praise.

But that isn’t what is real.  What is true is that many that walk through the doors can’t breathe.  Life has kicked at beaten every bit of joy and peace out of us and we can’t see a way out.

That is where our life is found.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself take up his cross daily and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Blessing will come, through the cross.  Peace and joy will come, through the cross.  Life, real life will come only through the cross.

I can breathe, through the cross.

Opposite Attraction

I come to this with some fear and trembling.  So do me and your pastor and your family a favor, if you’re not going to read the whole thing, stop here.

Still with me?

Ok, good, let’s move on.

“He’s a coward,” the lie came whispering.  I was thinking about a pastor, one of my pastors, and that is what I thought.  It felt so real, so true.  I felt myself agreeing, believing it.

Now, maybe he isn’t the bravest man alive, but anybody who knows anything about the pastors at my church know that they are not cowards.  Especially when it comes to the Word of God.

So why did I think and start believing what I knew wasn’t true?  Did it make me look better, feel better about my place in life?  Or was it just from the “father of lies?”

Does it matter?

It was a lie.

What is the advantage or who gains an advantage by my belief a lie?  

We get these thoughts from time to time.  In marriage we can get them a lot.  

“He’s a bum.”

“Why did I ever marry her?”

And to these lies, and the ones like them that surround everyone I meet, I like to apply the principle of opposite attraction.

It works like this.

“That pastor is a coward.”  I pray to the opposite.  “God, I thank you for his boldness in standing for you.  I stand with him as he fearlessly lives for you.”

“Why did I marry her?”  The opposite, “thank you for bringing her into my life.”

Here’s the hard part, sometimes it isn’t actually a full out lie.  But make no mistake, a truth that leads us to hate someone is never a complete truth.

“He’s unfaithful.”

“She hates me.”

Oh precious, broken heart, be drawn to the opposite.

“Raise him up to be faithful.  I believe You are working in him to give his heart completely to You.  You are making him a man of God.”

“She is loving and blessed.  I believe You are softening her heart to love despite the hurts she has endured.  You are creating a woman of God who trusts completely in You.”

And in praying to the opposite our hearts can be drawn to the possibility of the opposite.  Our anger and fear dissipate in the presence of the God who says, “all things are possible.”  Our trust is placed in the only one we should ever completely place it in.  And the noise of all the lies diminishes.

Turmoil is replaced by peace.  Depression is replaced by power.

Hate is replaced by love.  

Can’t Help Myself 

I decided to step out in faith recently.  I was going to trust God to catch me or die in the attempt.  I can see that God is catching me.  I will start working for my church in a week.  We have paid all our bills though I have had no work.  But, there are still scary things looming on the horizon.

I don’t recommend that everyone just quit their job.  I do recommend spending lots of time reading the bible, talking to Jesus, serving Him and people.

Listen.

What I’m finding in this process is that I love Him more.  I want His voice, His presence more and more.  I want to learn more and grow more.  I want to share more.  

Yesterday, when it came time for the offering, though we have so little, I wanted to give.

This is not natural for this stingy old heart.

I’m not bragging.  This came out of what God put inside, it didn’t come from me.  

I love to worship, that is normal for me.  It has been a temptation to want to manipulate God (yeah, I did this) by my worship.  I wanted to win His favor by showing Him how much I love Him.

There is a quietness, a peace that has entered the worship of my King.  That is not normal for me, but it is so good.

I don’t know what you think of all of this.  I certainly have my times of crankiness, of fear and doubt.  I don’t know where we’re going.  But, I’m starting to enjoy the ride.  I’m excited about the journey, excited about the future.

I can’t help it…

Grateful

Life has been interesting for the past several months.  And I just have not been able to write.  Several times I have been inspired but couldn’t get myself to face the keys.  I have concentrated on the difficulties and ran the risk of missing so many blessings, not least of which is the arrival of my twin granddaughters, Anna and Rebecca.

So, today I was thinking about the children of Israel.  Well, ok.  I was thinking about Paul and reading in Philippians.  Paul is in prison and makes the statement, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

I contrast this with the Israelites who have just been delivered from the hand of Egypt.  They are finally free and they respond with complaining and demands.  I get the one about water a little bit.  I mean they’re in a desert.  But demanding food, complaining about starving, hold on a second.

This is an agrarian society.  They raised animals and had throughout the history of the nation.  They had stripped the Egyptians of their wealth and taken their flocks with them.  But all they could see was what they didn’t have.  They wanted their cake and eat it too.

I can hear their hearts.  “What if I get to where we’re going and have nothing left?  What if something happens, gotta’ prepare for the worst?  I don’t have near as much as they do, so I’ve got to save all I can.”

Sounds like insurance sales.

I have to hoard.  I have to protect.  I have to prepare for contingencies.

Fear, unbelief, selfishness.  A Jedi craves not these things.

Wait…. What?

I mean a Christian craves not these things.

We serve a lavish God.  We serve a God that blesses greatly.  He loves us so much that he bankrupted heaven to redeem us.

Paul says in Romans 8 that, “if God is for us, who can stand against us?”  And the greatest prize is something no one can take away.  “Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.”

I have been so ungrateful, so bitter and fearful.

But, God is good!  Oh so good!  Help me see it Lord.

I Can’t Wait

I was praying for our youth group the other night and had this word from the Lord.  I don’t say that lightly, but don’t freak out on me either.  Youth group got cancelled so I thought I would share it with you.

I heard this:  “They’re waiting.”

Then I heard the following  (different voices), “I can’t wait till I graduate.  I can’t wait till I leave this house.  I can’t wait till I leave him.  I can’t wait till they can’t hurt me anymore.”

Then I heard, “I don’t want them waiting anymore.”

We are waiting.  We hold back from life because our circumstances, our environment is not what we want.  We won’t speak out about the wrong that we see.  We won’t speak out about the wrong that is being done to us.  We won’t pursue God, pursue His calling, pursue life with Him, because we’re waiting for life to change first.

It reminds me of a training exercise I was in when I was in the army.  We were attacking a fortified position and came under fire.  I hunkered down and looked back at my platoon sergeant.  He was frantically telling me to move and I refused.  I could hear the beeps from near misses on my training harness.  I turned back around and, “beep” I was hit.  The funny part was that I was mad at him for telling me to move.  It didn’t occur to me until later that he was trying to help me.

Well guess what, this is your call to move.  This is my call to move.  Don’t wait another second.  Speak out, speak up, get in there, get involved, press in, pursue God, pursue His love and calling on you.  Don’t wait.  You are not too old, or too young.  You are not too broken, too sinful, too ruined.  You are not DEAD.

The addiction that has its claws in you is not “fun” enough to hold you back from being what you were always meant to be.  So cast it off, be free.  Fear can not hold you anymore, rise above it and grab on to the Bible, His promises and truth.  Lies can’t deceive you anymore.  Live the way you were meant to live!

I can’t wait!

 

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.

Let God Write The Story

I know a man who has failed time and again.  He is so sure of his failing, he can not allow success.  If things are going well, he simply forces failure on all he is trying to accomplish.

Let God write the story.

I know an old man who has betrayed his wife, his children, many times. The guilt and condemnation he feels over all the hurts he has caused, the overwhelming shame that darkens every day, tell him he can not be loved.

Let God write the story.

The woman who had an abortion so many years ago.

The teen awaiting sentencing.

A child bound in slavery of a type no one should ever face.

Let God write the story.

We don’t believe that He is, sometimes.  We want to help Him.  Maybe just skip ahead to the good part.  Or just read the last page and close the book.

But, if we let Him, He can write something amazing.

It will have pain.  It will be terrifying at times.  It is a God story after all.

Don’t grab the pen.  Don’t rip out the pages.  Don’t speed read over the details.

It’s a good read, a beautiful picture.  Let it capture you.  Let Him capture you.

Let God write your story.

Coward

I can be totally immobilized by fear.

Seriously!

The one time I went into combat, we heard shots in the distance and I laid down and went to sleep.

When I know that my family must have the best from me, that I must make the decision to stand and be counted, I lock up.

Fear can just paralyze me.

Today, I found myself feeling that way.  Locked up, couldn’t think.  My wife grabbed my hand and prayed.

She prayed for courage and wisdom and her prayer went straight through me, into me, surrounding me.

Was it her voice?  The words she chose?  The touch of her hand?

Those were ingredients in the process, I’m sure.  But they can’t take credit for the power that welled up inside me.

Jesus loves me.  He loves my wife and family.  He’s on my side and He actually doesn’t care how perfect I am.  He knows me.

As Paul said, we find that His strength is made perfect in our weakness.  We seem surprised by that.  Like, maybe it shouldn’t be that way.  Maybe His strength should show up when we are strong, when we are doing great, when we are on fire.

But, His Kingdom is much more like a wife who holds her failing husband’s hand and admits the need for more of Him.  

His Kingdom is more like He’s at the center of it than we are.

And in that, even I can be brave.

Wait a second!

I was reading about a very familiar story in the bible last night and it hit me. . .

Moses, children of Israel, trapped by the Red Sea as Pharoah’s chariot’s draw near.

600 Chariots!

Wait, 600 chariots?  How many Israelites were there?  Over two million!  Over six hundred thousand men!

Panic!  Run!  Help!  Pick up a rock?!

Now the chariot was the latest in battle technology at the time, and a real game changer as far as the damage they could wield, but come on!

Slaves for over four hundred years and now finally free.  Do you think you would role over and cry like a baby?  I hope I wouldn’t!

But, do I?

Set free from sin, clothed in His righteousness, filled with THE HOLY SPIRIT!  And sin comes crouching, fear and worry dig their claws in, bitterness and doubt shout their lies, and what do I do?

Mommy!  This is too hard!  I want my blankie!

Fathers!  Men of God!  Mothers and Holy women!  We must stand up!  We must stop them from taking one more of our children!  We must speak truth and life into their lives so that our families and loved ones know the difference.  We must live for Jesus Christ, daily in His word, constantly in prayer.

When you see the power inside of you and expose the toothless roars of the enemy . . . well . . . It looks like 2 million against 600.