Terrified

My wife turned a significant age yesterday.

It’s a reminder of our mortality.

I was terrified the day we met. Knowing, without a doubt, she could never love someone like me.

I was terrified the day I realized I could never live without her. Knowing she’d be better off without me.

I was terrified the moment I asked her to marry me. Everything inside me told me I was crazy to even ask.

I was terrified as I saw her walking toward in that beautiful white dress, shaking uncontrollably. What was she thinking? This couldn’t be real.

I hide it well but terror has been my constant companion.

Through four children, potty training, baptisms, teen years and empty nests, it has caused me to treat her as an enemy, a threat, a distant unknown, my nemesis.

She is none of those things.

I just wanted it in writing to remind myself. I don’t want to waste another second that I have with her.

Bad Reputation

Insert Joan Jett video here.

I’ve heard multiple people how they were in line or walking down the street or some such scenario.  In the story they run across some foul-mouthed person (probably worked in a factory or paper mill) and they set them straight.  That language offends me or my children or a lady or something.

I keep thinking about that idea in the face of our current world situation and I’m trying to figure out how to justify it.

Right now, our world is crying out.  So many are afraid. So many angry, depressed, lost. They’re calling on the government, on health organizations, on doctors to save us.

They aren’t calling on Christians.

The reputation that we have is one of judgment, condemnation, short-sightedness, stupidity, well, you get the idea.

And on the part of many Christians, we want to point them to Jesus, to the bible as the answer to the world’s problems.

I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling He’s pointing the finger back at me.

We get this mystical idea that He’ll move in world events, change the heart of the president, sway the vote, remove the sickness, eliminate sin and poverty.

That’s not actually how He tends to work.

Oh sure, He CAN! But…

He invaded the earth. His Spirit invaded the budding church. And He left! But He left His Spirit in us.

This leaves me short of breath, heart pounding. That means when He said ‘go’, He meant me. When He said He would be with me, it was AS I was going.

So I need to GO!

We may have a bad reputation. But if we go, with the love of Jesus burning bright inside us, maybe we can shine it up a bit.

Unstoppable Love

There are some amazing people in the world. Some that I am blessed to call my friends. Their passion for Jesus and love for people is inspiring. But more than that, they never give up.

I need to stop here. We hear those phrases, the meaningless cliches and we relegate people to category of weird religious zealots, pollyanna, saccharine sweet, smile all the time, unreachable.

People like that don’t inspire me.

My heroes of the faith are normal people who stepped out of normal living. They face down criminals, reach into horrible places with love, touch people that we would rather not even acknowledge the existence of.

I see them as people who, if God told them to, would step in front of a train, and stop it. They would take a bullet for you. They face things courageously that would make this soldier hide in a corner.

One such couple is Reuben and Michelle Zook working with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Indonesia as the organization Unstoppable Love International.

The more I’ve come to know them and hear their stories, the more I want to be like them. The more I want to help them. They are allowing the love of Jesus to flow through them and people are being set free. Slaves, REAL people who are being bought and sold, find freedom. They are given safety, a chance for classes and vocational training to support their children so that the cycle of slavery is forever broken. They lovingly but without compromise stand against pimps, corrupt officials and spiritual forces, very real demonic attacks.

They sacrifice their health and talents all because of love.

And they need help.

Check out Unstoppable Love Int. And please consider supporting them.

https://www.facebook.com/UnstoppableLoveInternational/

About Us

Remember

“I’ve been lately thinking about my life’s time. All the things I’ve done and how it’s been…” Poems and Prayers and Promises (John Denver)

I remember as a small child going for hikes in the woods around the farm where we lived. I would get lost but was never afraid. I knew I’d find home.

I remember as a teenager being so angry, so lost, so afraid and so alone. I told God I didn’t believe and would rather serve satan than him.

I remember being trapped in my bed as demons tore at me, unable to scream, unable to move.

I remember the freedom and peace and joy I felt when I gave my heart, my life to Jesus.

I remember telling him over and over that he could do whatever he wanted with me.

I remember yelling at him, rejecting his commands. Medicating the pain he wanted to heal and never again saying he could do what he wanted with me.

I remember being rejected in love over and over. Coming to believe no one could.

I remember meeting her. Seeing her smile. Knowing I was done. Knowing she would never love me and I would never stop loving her.

I remember, despite my inner protests, she said ‘yes’. And then, ‘I do’.

I remember children and fighting and leaving and coming home and more children and fighting and leaving and coming home. And being so, so tired.

And I remember falling on my face and asking God to forgive me and help me with the mess I’d made.

And I remember healing and joy and love.

So much love.

And yes, though I got lost, God brought me home again.

Smiling

He walked by me.

I smiled and said hello.

But he isn’t one of the people I like. He isn’t a hard worker. He doesn’t make me laugh. He does things I dislike or don’t agree with. He is different.

And so my smile was fake. The hello was fake.

GOD NO!

It is my belief that, if we could see things clearly, one of the most deleterious effects of this pandemic is the loss of the smile. Covered up by a mask, socially distant.

So when I don’t have a mask on and I see someone, please God, let my smile be real!

I know I have stresses and things are not easy right now. But I am a man of God, called to LOVE OTHERS because You first loved someone like me.

It’s not so hard. I want it to come naturally. Even for a scruffy old man like me.

Help me smile.

Too Loud

I married a girl who leans toward the shy. I grew up in a family that talks loud, argues loud, laughs loud. The only time I’m quiet is when I’m really angry (or I’m asleep).

Over the years, one of her chief complaints is that I talk too loud.

Bear that in mind with the following:

As the world becomes more fractured and divided against itself, we need to be louder.

And be prepared, as the voice of love, the voices of truth and grace and joy in the middle of trouble speak out, the world will say it’s too loud. They will want you to join their voices of hatred and anger and condemnation.

They may even tell you to be quiet or face the consequences.

Jesus said we were to, “be of good cheer,” because He overcame the world. And we overcome, “by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and the word of our testimony.” Revelations 12:11

I’m tired of the rhetoric. I’m sick of the way it eats at me.

And I live for the King.

Too loud?

‘Bout to get louder!

Beauty

Hollywood, Nashville, New York, and much of the modern church say you must be beautiful for me to listen to what you say.  The importance of your word is directly proportional to the face that speaks.

I would mention names but then that would take away from the honesty, heartfelt worship and real suffering that are a part of some very beautiful people.

My point isn’t to take away from what they say.

I don’t mean to offend, and I’m preaching to myself. But, if you’re “ugly” and you feel unheard, part of the problem is you.

Two things are at work. First, do you really believe in the God who called you? If you do, then preach it, sing it, live it, share it.

Second, who’s your audience? Who do you want for an audience?

Side note: I don’t accept that we have an audience of one. Remember, Jesus said we were to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. AND love our neighbor.

Where was I? Oh yeah…

I want the big audience. I want everyone telling me how great and deep and amazing I am.

I don’t want the audience that can only stand to listen to me for two minutes (unless I’m reading a book to them). Or the one that gets bored with my intellectual dissertation. Or the one that hates my God, my Bible, my faith, but still needs to see me love them.

We ask, “who am I? Why would they listen to me?” And allow ourselves to be quiet. We ask, “who are they that I should invest my time, pour out my heart and soul?”

I think it is time for the ugly to speak up, to let our voice be heard. We have a unique perspective on God’s love, His calling, a relationship with Him that the beautiful, the popular, the successful need to hear.

Most of them only see their ugly.

And as His light and live shine through us. . .

We become beautiful too.

Underwear

In Christian circles, we talk a lot about the “Armor of God.”

You know, “helmet of salvation, sword of the Spirit, feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel.”  Those things.

But, I was thinking lately that some of the “armor” hasn’t been sitting so well in my fight. Belt of Truth getting a bit tight, Breast Plate of Righteousness beginning to chafe.

Sorry, my metaphors are silly and intentionally trying to be humorous.

The reality is that if we solely concentrate on the armor, we miss something.  There are other aspects that we have to choose, things we must look for and put on.

“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Now, most people will tell you as you live for Jesus, the Holy Spirit naturally brings out these “fruits of the Spirit” in our lives.  I would suggest that they are attributes that you have to choose, to clothe yourself with along with the armor.

In the military, you learn pretty quickly that, to protect your feet, you need good boots.  But first, you need clean, dry socks.  If you wear a sweaty, nasty t-shirt for too long, you’re going to get chafed (and you smell really bad).  And, if you don’t change your boxers from time to time, well….

And, the idea of not having these items is not something you should choose!

Is it sacrilege to compare the Fruits of the Spirit to underwear?

I think it’s biblical.

When you lift up your sword, make sure you put on love.  When you hold up the shield, make sure it is also wrapped in faithfulness.  When you put on the belt, make sure it is over the garment of patience.

And if all this leaves you cold, 1 Peter 5:5 says, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another…”

Now, I’m ready for battle.

And I think I look pretty killer, too!

The Scepter

In the book of Esther there is a scene where the chosen bride goes before the king at the risk of her life.  In that kingdom, to go before him uninvited could bring an immediate execution.  She enters and he extends his scepter and she is welcomed into his presence.

I can’t get this picture out of my mind.

I was praying this week and saw it so clearly in my mind.  Only I was Esther.

And I think there are others out there that need to hear this.

I approach God with the idea that I could die, that he could judge me, hate me, reject me.  And in one sense, it’s all true, if I ignore the character, the nature of Jesus, the person of my Father King.

But in the story, you never get the sense of even a moment of hesitation.  It wasn’t like this human king even had to think a bit.  She enters and is accepted.

So am I.  So are you.

It’s not that we don’t deserve the shame we feel, the condemnation, the rejection.  But because of the cross, because of the blood of Jesus that makes us clean, we are accepted without question, without hesitation.

And do we get accepted so that we can go sit in the back and be quiet?  Ha!  Do we get accepted so that we can wait our turn as other “more important” things are dealt with?  Not at all!

In a very real sense, God pauses his usual activity to hear us, to spend time with us.

I don’t know how that works since I’m pretty sure if God took his hands off the universe for a second it would crumble.  But with all that he has to do in this world, his attention shifts dramatically to us, to me.

I know myself to be a fairly silly person, angry and emotional about some pretty trivial things sometimes.  I make requests of God that probably I should be embarrassed to even be thinking about.

But guess what?  Not only does He accept me!  Not only does He listen to me!  He also wants to hear what I’m asking.  He wants to know what I think I need.  And before I can even ask, He is promising me the Kingdom!

So why do I, how can I ignore Him?  Ever?

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)

Are We Good?

Temptations wax and wane.  Sometimes they’re overwhelming.  Sometimes, well, they’re easy.  It’s like he’s not even trying.  

This is not one of those times.

Interesting what our enemy says to us that gets us.  For me, one of the best weapons seems to be the reminders of just how wicked I am.  How much of a loser.  How much of a failure.

It would seem like that would have the opposite effect.  Particularly when addressed to someone who likes a fight as much as I do.

I learned two things that I really despise while I was in the Army.  The first is where someone tells you that there’s only one more mile to go when there are eight.  The second is like it.  It’s when someone tells you the end is twelve miles away when it is two.  I just want honesty.

The first one lies by saying you’re almost there when you aren’t.  The second lies by saying it’s too far.  

That is what satan’s voice says so much.  Pointing out all my weaknesses, all my inadequacies, he runs the reel of how I’ll never make it, I’ll never be worth anything.  And so I just want to quit, to give in.

The reality is, to the world, to most people, I am a loser.  But then I look in my God’s eyes.  I hear his voice in the bible that I read.  I realize that I am chosen.  I am called.  I am loved.

Have you ever noticed that, if you can’t see, stepping in mud, on a cupcake or in dog poop all feels about the same.  If you turn on a light, you can see what it is, wash it off and walk on.  If it’s mud or a cupcake, and you’re marching for the King, don’t worry about it.  If the accuser throws some crap in your path, it never has to be something we hold onto.

Wash it off.  And, walk on.

Now I know I’m making light of what can be so heavy to bear, so crushing to face.  But our armor is on, our weapons are made for “pulling down strongholds.”  And we serve a King who cannot be defeated.

So yeah.  When satan accuses, when my own heart condemns me, wash it off.  Wash it off with what Jesus did.  Wash it off with the Word of God.  Wash it off by resting in the “peace that passes all understanding.”

Wash it off and walk on.