Waiting On A Starry Night

Christians and prayer are a strange combination. We are ones who trust in an omnipotent, all-loving God and yet believe in our ability to manipulate the system.

Even when He says no.

I often think about my son that died. He wasn’t technically my son, but he was still my son. It hurts so much still that he is gone.

I prayed the prayers, sang the songs, believed in God’s power to heal. But, he still died.

He is still gone.

So what good does it do to pray?

I believe that our prayers move the heart of God, that our approach to God calls out the armies of heaven on our behalf. I believe that amazing, miraculous things happen when we pray.

But wait! There’s more! (TV infomercial voice)

I can’t manipulate or coerce the Great God that I serve. Shoot, my attempts to manipulate and coerce my wife are failures at best. And she’s just a human.

But I can join Him. We can talk.

That’s why I like the imagery of waiting on a starry night. I come out of my house amd look to the sky and see a God who is so much bigger than me. He surrounds me. He surrounds my whole world, figuratively and literally.

And I look to Him. My eyes, my heart, my prayers are open.

More an act of rest, don’t you think?

Pushing It

I’m sick.

No, I’m really sick.

Breathing is difficult.  Head is spinning.  Photophobia.  Coughing.  Influenza.

How did this happen?  I rarely get sick.

I’ve been working as a janitor, a custodian for a church.  One of my jobs is to clean the carpets with a big extractor (carpet cleaner).  It is self-propelled.  Pull the trigger and steer basically.  Only trouble is it doesn’t go very fast.  I can’t tell you how many times I catch myself pushing it.

And do you want to know how much effect my body has on pushing a heavy machine that is set to go a specific speed.

Zero.

I have been doing that with God, with my life.  Pushing and pushing to see things happen.  Working really hard to get some where, to make things happen.  Trying to be a good husband, a good dad, a good servant, a good man.

Pushing it.

Influenza.

Broken immune system.  Fatigue.  Depression.

Today, I picked up my guitar and sang for no one but God.  I played, not to practice, but just to spend time with Him.  In my impatience and scattered thoughts, I had about a fifteen minute window with Him.

It was good.

I’ve been pushing too hard and too long against a life that won’t “get better”, circumstances that I can’t change, a past that won’t go away, a God who is immovable.

Here’s what I can do.  Be grateful for the good life I have.  Accept the circumstances of my life as a product of my decisions AND the Grace of God on me.  Forgive my past and let it go.  And ask what He wants instead of telling Him what I want.

And I can rest and cough and shiver and ache…

And heal.

Fix Me

My wife has this little bump on her nose that I think is just adorable.  I think her nose was injured at some point which is how she got it.  I’m pretty sure she thinks it makes her less attractive.  I think it’s cute.

My wife has many flaws.  Some are not cute.  I have many, many flaws.  Some of them are downright frightening.  I am the worst as a husband when I am trying to fix her.  She is at her worst when she tries to fix me.  We are truly at our best when we see only the good.

It is when we are most like God.

Tonight I was praying through some of my flaws.  I cried out for what seems like the millionth time for God to fix me, make me whole.  His response shocked me and brought me to tears.

“I’m not interested in ‘fixing’ you,” the Great I AM said.  My lover, my Husband, my King does not want to fix me?!

“I am only interested in loving you.”

But I am broken, I am hurt and ruined.  That should make Him love me less.

But, it doesn’t.

But I need healing, I need help, I need fixing.

You will find it all, and more, in My love.

“Perfect love casts out fear.”

“Love covers a multitude of sins.”

“We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us…”

“Nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.”

I could go on.  But, right now, I’m tired.  I think I’m going to just rest a bit.

Something About Him

The waves crashed against the sides of the boat as it floundered against the raging sea.  The men in the vessel turn and yell at the one who is sleeping in the stern.  “Save us!”  They cry.

We often treat Jesus like our buddy, one of the “guys” in our life.  I like thinking of Him as my friend, someone I can talk to.  And He is.

But if He is less than God Almighty, if God is less than God Almighty, why do we expect Him to fix all our problems?  If we know Him as Lord of all, King over all creation, why do we fear the tempests that surround us?

In one sense, it is admirable to me that the disciples knew to cry out to Him.  Yet He rebukes their lack of faith because they did not see Him in charge of the winds and the lightening WHILE THEY WERE STILL VISIBLE.  We can see God’s love and power when He takes problems away and question Him so deeply while they remain.

But, His authority never changes.  His power, His sovereignty is not diminished because we can’t see the way through.  His glory is no less evident when He chooses to “sleep” through our struggles.

If we could glimpse His great love for us, the love that conquered sin and death for you and me, we would see that His inaction, His lack of overt displays of power are really evidence of a heart that believes in us and knows what is best for us at all times.

“Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.”

“I am only a man…”

I’m not sure if it’s true, but the saying is, “the greatest trial of man is the praises of the people around him.”

I stopped at the library yesterday to read books and play with my grandson. He was having a tough day and just needed to get out of the house. While we were there, I saw one, then two, then several of the kids that go to our church. I am their worship leader so I often have children coming up to me, some that I don’t even know.

Children are such loving creatures. They were delighted to see me and let me know that they knew me. Their smiles were so beautiful as they let me know that I go to their church. We talked a bit and then they moved on to wherever their minds and a building full of books would take them.

I love to see them, to talk with them, hear their laughter, be blinded by their smiles, but I am joyfully reminded that I am only a man. In Acts 9, Peter refused the reverence of Cornelius with those words. And inside, I refuse the temptation to think that I am something more than I am.

As worship leaders, as ministers to the church, we can hear the affirmation of those around us and see ourselves as “above” them, more important, special, blessed by God. We are blessed to serve as we do. But it carries a weight, a responsibility that we can not carry and don’t deserve.

It is a great place to be where you love what you do. It is sweeter still to rest in the hands of the one who placed me there, knowing that it is His glory that is evident, not mine.

I Am the GREATEST!

Humans, particularly musicians, are walking contradictions.  Monumental insecurities followed by and mixed with untenable pride.  What are we thinking?

What am I thinking?

I work with children and so have a constant reminder of who Jesus says are the “greatest in the Kingdom.”  Most of the time, I see their fears and constant search for something to build themselves on.  I see their amazement at insignificant details and boredom with so much that I think is important.  And I come to the end of myself.

The truth, the sure truth is that I don’t know who I am.  I can not tell you how important I am to the accomplishment of God’s plan on this earth.  I can not see the power He has placed in me.  I can’t touch the heavens or plumb the ocean depths.  I don’t understand.  I can’t….

But He knows me.  He sees.  He understands.  He can.  He is the GREATEST!

If I spend too much time on trying to figure this out, reason it out, see the plan, make the deal, order my day, I become God.  If I rest, if I trust, if I look to Him, He becomes God to me.  I can find my place and know His presence in my moments.  What I consider essential falls before His majesty.  What I build my life on shatters in the storm of His might and glory, the end of me, the beginning of Him in me.

What awe and wonder, excitement and peace are ours when we take our eyes off ourselves.

I am not the Greatest, but I’ve met Him.

When to say when…

When is it ok to call it quits?  When do we get to take a break?  It can seem like a constant fight, constant struggle when you are in ministry.  You have pastors and leaders over you, leaders with you and people under you and at times your at odds with everyone.

When can we step back and reassess?  When is it good to question what you are doing?

Never, always, sometimes, I don’t know.

Let’s take a look at the battle weary soldier surrounded by the enemy, fighting for his life.  Not the time to call it quits, I think.  The temptation is certainly there.  Just give up, let them shoot you and be done with it.  But there are others around you, a purpose inside of you.  That is where you must know what you are fighting for.  This is the time to scream at yourself and in the face of fear, “MOVE OUT!  Get up, get going, fight!”

You might not know this, but one of the hardest times is when the “battle” is over and there is a time of peace.  Our purpose, our calling can seem so clear when we are fighting.  Then it all evaporates when there is a lull.  Time to take a break?  Yes.  Time to look for a new fight?  Yes.  Time to get some feeding and rest?  Yes.  Time to reassess, question, listen, get into God’s word?  Yes.  Because, as a soldier, you know the enemy will be back.  You know that it is only a matter of time.  Time to call it quits?  Please hear me.  Check your wounds.  Be honest with your brothers and sisters that hold you up.  Ministry can cut deep.  This is no place for wimpy christians.  We will get beat up and we have to have those around us who can honestly tell us when we’re to bloodied to continue.  We need bandages, ointment, stitches, breaks reset, tourniquets from time to time, people to lean on, just like any warrior would.  Know the medics in your life, and if you don’t have any, find them – be them for others.

And yes, in the end, there is a time when we pass the sword, the staff, the mantle, the fight onto those who can continue.  But let that be at the end.  Don’t see it until you’ve got no more fight to give.  Many are leaving, giving up before it is time.  Don’t.

“It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus.”  So the hymn says.  Live more.  Love more.  Fight more.

Don’t give up.

The Power of Being Clueless

I was reading again the story of Joseph and his dreams in Genesis 37.  It is one of those moments that makes you smack your head and go, “what was he thinking?”  I have heard people talk about his arrogance, how God used his brothers to bring him down a notch or two.  He can be seen as someone who thought he was above his brothers.  After all, he gave a “bad report” about them.

Was it pride that made him give a bad report or were his brothers doing something wrong that deserved a less than positive response?  Was it temerity that caused him to share his dreams?  What would have happened if he had kept it all to himself?  What if he feared his brother’s anger and retaliation so much that he said nothing at all?

Here’s my take on this; Joseph was oblivious.  He was so clueless (though, no doubt an intelligent guy) about how others would perceive what he said.  He hadn’t developed the filter that would allow him to understand how others would take what he shared.

And it was a good thing.

He shared his dreams and God’s will was done.  He gave a bad report and God’s will was accomplished – for an entire nation.  He served, was a slave, and the lives of his family were saved.  He took what came and was made the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.

Fast forward a few thousand years to me, today.  You’ve read my posts and seen a bit of my struggle.  The underlying issue is I want to know what’s coming.  I want to know why I face my issues.  I want to know what doors will be opened and when.  All these questions that I want answered.

But I’m clueless.

In light of what Joseph went through, not a bad place to be.

“Come to me….”

The end of a day, and everything has gone wrong.  It’s dark outside and it feels as though no one in the world knows you exist.  You take off your shoes and socks and let air hit your feet for the first time in many hours.  You step into the shower and let the water calm your twitching muscles and aching back.  As you step from the shower, you realize that you feel new again, the grime and sweat of the hours before have all been washed away.  Yet, you are tired, tired to the bone and now more than ever all you want is sleep.  As you stagger to the bedroom, still thinking about what wasn’t done, what still is waiting for you tomorrow, you feel your shoulders droop and your head hang down.  You pull back the covers and lay your body down.  The sheets are cool, the pillow soft and you sense your body melting into the mattress.  Rest.

Jesus called us to, “Come to me, all who are weary…and I will give you rest.”

This is part of worship too.  Those moments when we let go.  We are tired of the race, worn out from frustration, from disappointment, from fear.  Our bodies are beat up by cares and worries, faults and failures and we just want to lay down.  And Jesus says, “Come.”

God wants us to meet with Him, to proclaim His power and majesty in the face of all that Satan and the world shout back at us.  But, He also knows we can’t make it without Him.  That if we are not renewed daily that we will give up.  Our bodies “are but dust,” there is only so much we can take.  So we come to Him.  We rest in Him.  “You will find rest for your soul.”  Not just a cat nap for our minds but a place where all we are can let go of all we can’t control.  It is a place where we can let God be God.

We need this.  He’s the only place you’ll find it.