Friday, January 16, 2009

War is Over

For those who know me best this is overdue..............

I love Christmas! But not so much this year. My Mom passed away in July after nearly eighty-four years on this earth... and a better woman (mom) this world has not seen. Up until now my feelings have either been numb or scrambled to the point that I have been unable to put pen to paper to expunge my hurting.... until maybe now.... on Christmas Eve.

All the while that I am writing this the children's voices singing "no more war if you want it" from John Lennon's "So this is Christmas" is stuck on replay in my mind's ear. (I fervently believe that God reveals His message to us only when our heart and our head is ready to receive). So.... now I feel the need to write.
For the happiest season of all, I like so many, am just torn apart with feelings that are raw and exposed. In addition to our loss of a loving mother (and grandmother), so many close to me are suffering through dependency issues, incarceration, broken or breaking marriages, debilitating financial woes.... anger ....and so much more. To some degree I feel some of each of their angst.... but its alright God has taught me thats how He built me...... (another story for another time).

I have said before that everything is personnal. Holding on to that thought it seems to me that God is telling me that is even true about war.... do you hear it yet?..... "war is over, if you want it"? Ive heard God, in His own way tell me that.... my "war" is over.... if I want it. In fact each of us have that same ability. Our war can be over if we want it! Its personnal..... Each of us war (use as a verb) everyday.... but it can be over but to do so would mean that we have to stop doing the same thing we've done every other day of our life.... and that AIN'T an easy thing to do. Even as I write this and firmly believe it to be a message/gift from God, I am uncertain that I can or even want to stop waging the internal wars Ive sadly grown accustomed to waging. Its oddly similar as to when we have a spot that hurts each time we touch it and.... what do we do? We keep touching it!!!! WHAT'S WRONG WITH US !!!!!!

To sum this up... for me anyways.... Im tired of war..... the waging of it inside my own being, my own heart.... and Im gonna do my very best to stop..... The first thing I am gonna really try to do to start me on that path is to adhere to a wise saying..... "You can't be offended if you don't take offense".... God help me! Afterall.... between me and Him..... its personnal.

Love and Merry Christmas

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tony Snow 1955--2008

This is an outstanding testimony from Tony Snow,
President Bush's Press Secretary, and his fight with cancer.
Commentator and broadcaster Tony Snow
announced that he had colon cancer in 2005.
Following surgery and chemo-therapy,
Snow joined the Bush Administration in April, 2006, as press secretary.
Unfortunately, on March 23, 2007,
Snow, 51, a husband and father of three,
announced that the cancer had recurred, with tumors found in his abdomen,
leading to surgery in April, followed by more chemotherapy.
Snow went back to work in the White House Briefing Room on May 3,
but has resigned since, 'for economic reasons,'
and to pursue 'other interests.'
It needs little intro . . . it speaks for itself.


'Blessings arrive in unexpected packages,
- in my case, cancer.
Those of us with potentially fatal diseases
- and there are millions in America today -
find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality
while trying to fathom God's will.
Although it would be the height of presumption
to declare with confidence 'What It All Means,'
Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.

The first is that we shouldn't spend too much time
trying to answer the 'why' questions:
Why me?
Why must people suffer?
Why can't someone else get sick?
We can't answer such things,
and the questions themselves
often are designed more to express our anguish
than to solicit an answer.

I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care.
It is what it is, a plain and indisputable fact.
Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly,
great and stunning truths began to take shape.
Our maladies define a central feature of our existence:
We are fallen.
We are imperfect.
Our bodies give out.

But, despite this, - or because of it, -
God offers the possibility of salvation and grace.
We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end,
but we get to choose how to use the interval
between now
and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.

Second, we need to get past the anxiety.
The mere thought of dying
can send adrenaline flooding through your system.
A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you.
Your heart thumps; your head swims.
You think of nothingness and swoon.
You fear partings;
you worry about the impact on family and friends.
You fidget and get nowhere.

To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death,
but into life - and that the journey continues
after we have finished our days on this earth.
We accept this on faith,
but that faith is nourished by a conviction
that stirs even within many non-believing hearts
- an institution that the gift of life, once given,
cannot be taken away.
Those who have been stricken
enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight
with their might, main, and faith
to live fully, richly, exuberantly
- no matter how their days may be numbered.

Third, we can open our eyes and hearts.
God relishes surprise.
We want lives of simple, predictable ease,
- smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see, -
but God likes to go off-road.
He provokes us with twists and turns.
He places us in predicaments
that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension
- and yet don't.
By His love and grace, we persevere.
The challenges that make our hearts leap
and stomachs churn
invariably strengthen our faith
and grant measures of wisdom and joy
we would not experience otherwise.

'You Have Been Called'.
Picture yourself in a hospital bed.
The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away.
A doctor stands at your feet,
a loved one holds your hand at the side.
'It's cancer,' the healer announces.

The natural reaction is to turn to God
and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa.
'Dear God, make it all go away.
Make everything simpler.'
But another voice whispers: 'You have been called.'
Your quandary has drawn you closer to God,
closer to those you love,
closer to the issues that matter,
- and has dragged into insignificance
the banal concerns
that occupy our 'normal time.'

There's another kind of response,
although usually short-lived,
an inexplicable shudder of excitement
as if a clarifying moment of calamity
has swept away everything trivial and tiny,
and placed before us
the challenge of important questions.

The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death,
things change.
You discover that Christianity
is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft.
Faith may be the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.
But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution.
The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks,
reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies.
Think of Paul, traipsing through the known world
and comtemplating trips
to what must have seemed the antipodes (Spain),
shaking the dust from his sandals,
worrying not about the morrow,
but only about the moment.

There's nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue,
- for it is through selflessness and service
that God wrings from our bodies and spirits
the most we ever could give,
the most we ever could offer,
and the most we ever could do.

Finally, we can let love change everything.
When Jesus was faced with the prospect of cruicifixion,
he grieved not for himself,
but for us.
He cried for Jerusalem before entering the Holy City.
From the Cross, he took on the cumulative burden of human sin and weakness,
and begged for forgiveness on our behalf.

We get repeated chances
to learn that life is not about us,
that we acquired purpose and satisfaction
by sharing in God's love for others.
Sickness gets us part way there.
It reminds us of our limitations and dependence.
But it also gives us a chance to serve the healthy.
A minister friend of mine observes
that people suffering grave afflictions
often acquire the faith of two people,
while loved ones accept the burden
of two peoples' worries and fears.

'Learning How to Live'.
Most of us have watched friends as they drifted toward God's arms,
not with resignation, but with peace and hope.
In so doing, they have taught us not how to die,
but how to live.
They have emulated Christ
by transmitting the power and authority of live.

I sat by my best friend's bedside a few years ago
as a wasting cancer took him away.
He kept at his table a worn Bible
and a 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer.
A shattering grief disabled his family,
many of his old friends, and at least one priest.
Here was an humble and very good guy,
someone who apologized when he winced with pain
because he thought it made his guest uncomfortable.
He restrained his equanimity and good humor
literally until his last conscious moment.
'I'm going to try to beat [this cancer],'
he told me several months before he died.
'But if I don't, I'll see you on the other side.'

His gift was to remind everyone around him
that even though God doesn't promise us tomorrow,
he does promise us eternity
- filled with life and love we cannot comprehend, -
and that one can, in the throes of sickness,
point the rest of us toward timeless truths
that will help us weather future storms.

Through such trials, God bids us to choose:
Do we believe, or do we not?
Will we be bold enough to love,
daring enough to serve,
humble enough to submit,
and strong enough
to acknowledge our limitations?
Can we surrender our concern
in things that don't matter
so that we might devote our remaining days
to things that do?

When our faith flags, He throws reminders in our way.
Think of the prayer warriors in our midst.
They change things,
and those of us
who have been on the receiving end
of their petitions and intercessions
know it.
It is hard to describe,
but there are times
when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up,
and you feel a surge of the Spirit.
Somehow you just know:
Others have chosen,
when talking to the Author of all creation,
to lift us up,
- to speak of us!

This is love of a very special order.
But so is the ability to sit back
and appreciate the wonder of every created thing.
The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid,
every happiness more luminious and intense.
We may not know how our contest with sickness will end,
but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God.

What is man that Thou are mindful of him?
We don't know much, but we know this:
No matter where we are,
no matter what we do,
no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects,
each and every one of us who believe each and every day,
lies in the same safe and impregnable place,
in the hollow of God's hand.'

T. Snow

Thursday, May 15, 2008

First Love

Most parents love their children enough, so much so, that they allow them to leave and seek their own way. Yet, the way is always open for that same child to return when they have the need to come home. I've heard that home can be defined as "where love is always found". That may explain why, when someone is hurt in the world, there is that response to the one hurt by their returning to where love can be found.... home.

At one time or another we have all been wayward and estranged from the love we've known and that we associate with being "back home". It has also been said and understood that you can " never go home again" .... with those two thoughts scrambled together the question becomes ... how can we return to the home (where love always can be found) if the love that was once there is no longer earthly bound ? Where then, can home be found? That place where love is.... where can that be found?

Imagine a prodigal son/daughter, unable to undo either something done or something said to a now deceased parent(s).... Knowing how important closure is..... how can we find that love, forgiveness and peace we once knew..... at home??? How do we return to that place of security and peace that once upon a time embraced us in the love that we ourselves moved away from? Especially if the ones who showered us with love is no longer living.... how can we find that peace that is only found in forgiveness?

My father passed away many years ago, and my mother is battling cancer right now. The thoughts of being unplugged to both of them is at times…..overwhelming. There is never enough time when this time arrives. Things undone and unsaid can loom heavier and heavier with every day.... every year. That is why I am often times reminded of a co-worker's story that he told me years ago about a funeral service he was conducting. It seems the family was so distraught that some there, while wailing, jumped down into the grave themselves. To which, my friend the minister, chastised them by saying "if you had done right by her while she was living you would not be so lost without her right now!" I have never forgotten that story, and I mention it to help point out that reconciling with those living is best but even after death there is a place (home) where we can still return to that love we knew.

As hard as it sometimes is to do, saying "I'm sorry" or the seeking of forgiveness is a difficult thing for many .... yet, it isn't a complex thing. This pride we often times cannot get beyond is the very thing God knew would block us from returning to His love (the First Love)...that is why, just like the father in the story of the prodigal who upon seeing his wayward son in the distance returning, ran to meet him. Similarly God comes to meet us while we are still in our prideful, self-serving ways through the loving arms of His Son, Jesus. I believe He meets each of us there, one at a time, as we start back to Him.

As Christians we have the promise that we will see our loved ones again once we all graduate from this life, and we will find them once again "where love can always be found" .... home....where God is ...His heaven. For those unable to hear the voice of a parent who is no longer living, you can find peace this day by returning home to God. If forgiveness is what you seek, He can and is willing to help you return to the peace that you can only know by returning home... to the One who first loved you. In Him all things can be made right.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What's Your Answer?

Several years ago in preparing for a Sunday school (Bible study) class I thought that people needed to know what their faith consisted of for themselves so I prepared questions that I hoped would help them. So many hold beliefs that were planted in them over the years but since that time had not grown to be fully and completely their own, and if you don't know what or why you believe what you do, you will become an easy target for those trying to get you to embrace what they are selling. These are most assuredly not all the questions one should ask themselves, but maybe they will help you to begin your maturing in the faith. (some of these are trick questions!!!)

1. Is heavenly residence based on doing enough good to outweigh the bad in your life?
Do you feel that you are "better" than most, if so..... do you win???

2. Do you recall when you came to know what you believe to be true??? (i.e., Adam & Eve, Noah's Ark, Virgin birth etc.)

3. How would you view yourself if you were looking through God's eyes?

4. It has been said that conscience attaches itself to the highest standard that we know. Is your moral standard your moral standard or is it God's? There is a difference, each of us must figure this out.....

5. Do you know someone that through them you have been blessed? Is it your desire to be that for someone else? As Christians we have most certainly been blessed by Jesus Christ, do others see that relationship in you????

6. Is there a particular sin in your life that you refuse to give up? Do you think that when you defend yourself before or to God He understands and relents to your position..... or does it damage your relationship with Him?

7. If belief = commitment, do you believe???

8 Do you feel incomplete because you have not been called to a "special" work or calling??? (Remember God calls us to be special where we are... cause we certainly can't where we aren't!)

9. Does God forgive without our asking for His forgiveness? Do we forgive someone else before they ask us???

10. It is said that the early Puritans use to pray for "the gift of tears" which is the expression given to the gift of repentance. Have you experienced that gift? Does this need to be public?

May I suggest The Way to Wholeness by the late Dr. Ray Stedman. After reading Dr. Stedman's work, take the quiz again. See which questions you might answer differently.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Growing in Grace

Many of us have retained the same images and beliefs about God we held in childhood without much, if any, variations to those first convictions. We are also unable to verbalize our beliefs using words much different from when we were nine or ten years old. Now I'm the first to acknowledge that a childlike faith is indeed a blessing, but as adults if we don't recognize that same faith with an adult understanding of its simplicity we become easy marks for those whose aim it is to shake us loose from it. There isn't a lot to like about anything half baked, including faith.

I firmly believe that children have the ability to recognize Jesus a lot easier than adults because they can identify (or sense) real love. Whereas adults have been jaded by all the negative experiences of falling in and out of love which causes them to tread lightly... children just gravitate to the real thing. They may not be able to describe, but they know it. If we have not developed a maturing relationship with Jesus beyond those early encounters we, as adults, live as if Jesus fell out of love with us because we have with Him. Therein lies our vulnerability, and our disconnect between God's love and our ability to love. His is unconditional... sadly, often times ours is not.

You've heard that if you don't stand for something you will fall for anything. That's so true!!! ... and because we have been beaten up for so long for having convictions we have become quiet..... and where has that left the society we live in? If you don't know why you believe what you believe you are just one conversation away (not even a debate) from either being conflicted or worse, off track. Then without a foundation a person can wander in their own wilderness for years and maybe even till death. It is in these environs many of us find ourselves now. All this and more because we have not grown to understand what we first learned as children. Maybe its like having to learn the multiplication tables in elementary school..... we didn't comprehend why that was important then but we surely
know the value of understanding their usefulness now.

What have we lost? Are we lost? Do we care if we're lost? I'll take a shot at that last question.....if you're reading this I'm guessing that you do.... care that is. If I'm correct about that and you've been doing that "wandering in the wilderness"-thing for some time now,,,, you must for your own peace of mind resolve that by coming to an understanding of why you believe what you believe. The old hymn with the lyrics "faith of our fathers" is of no redeeming value if it isn't your own. Remember we cannot be saved because a parent/grandparent was a good Christian. Do you know why you believe what you believe? what is the source of that belief? Was it from all those Sunday lessons when you were a child? Perhaps you got it right then (and I'm betting you did) but as an adult your faith hasn't
matured with your years. Faith that is not growing is dwindling.

Be careful..... there are alot of people from so many faiths and persuasions that will try to answer for you, but when we all (each of us) stand before the Father and the Son, only our answer to the question "Why should I let you into my heaven" is the one that will count.

May I suggest the late Dr. Ray C. Stedman's look at Christian maturity in 1 John 2:12-14, Growing in Grace, and The Maturing Process.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Out of the Mouths Of Babes

Here you'll find the video clip that was created just for you. Logan is a 13 year-old boy who lives on a ranch in a very small town in Nebraska. Logan listens to Christian Radio station 89.3FM KSBJ which broadcasts from Houston, TX. Logan called the radio station distraught because he had to take down a calf . His words have wisdom beyond his years.Since airing the audio of the phone call and now the making of the video clip, it has taken on a life of its own. People are forwarding it all over the world. We encourage you to share the love of Christ with anyone you can.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Confusing the Goodly With The Godly?

This is a continuing reflection from the previous two posts...

Many of us grew up in church, and that's a good thing..... but.... many like us fall prey to problems. Probably the biggest danger that those brought up in church will experience is the belief that growing up in church makes us a Christian. In other words, our ticket got punched
after all those years of perfect Sunday school attendance and we're registered in the Book of Life automatically without actually having our own personal conversion experience and daily walk with the Savior.

In today's world, more people than not feel "good enough" to enter into God's heaven. Many are quick to say that they have never broken the commandments, always abided by the law... and,well, they've never really killed anyone. All that being said (and most likely true) that is NOT what God is looking for, and honestly if you understand Christ, it shouldn't be what you're looking for either. FATHER, GIVE ME THE WORDS.

If we are quizzed long enough we might be surprised to find that we all mostly agree with this statement: that we agree with the "spirit of the law" more so than with many of the actual laws.
That's because laws are of no value until they are broken. It is then that a price that must be paid. Actually, doing what is right usually protects us from the breaking of any laws. One reason why God gave us the law through Moses so that we could live together, amongst ourselves, with rules that steer us to live good-neighborly... but He never intended that law-keepers, or even those who grew up churched could, in that alone, be saved. Just because you haven't been caught breaking a law doesn't mean that you haven't broken the law.... remember that spirit of the law thing?

That point that I made about the danger of growing up in church..... We often times mistake living within the law ( i.e. the church attendance ticket punch) as the same thing as Christ living within us. The difference is an eternity apart.... and I’m afraid, that many have not dealt with it. Please do not be so foolish (and proud) enough to think that living a "goodly" life is the same thing as living a "Godly" life.

Don't you remember thinking on how "restrictive" all those 'Thou shalt nots..." sounded. Yet, almost every evangelist you ever heard would belt out the phrase....' the Truth will set you free'. RESTRICTIVE vs FREE !? Are we confused yet? (Point to remember: confusion is of the devil, not of God). But the Good News (did you know that is what the word “gospel” means) is that you can know the Person, also known as the Truth, also known as the Good News who is the "Spirit" of the law. The One and only Jesus Christ. His entire life, death and resurrection was prophesized centuries before His birth and His life exampled what living with God is all about.

So it can be said this way, if we live being good without knowing God personally, our good will not be good enough to have our name recorded in that Book of Life I mentioned earlier. Sadly, we live in a time where even the churched are not receiving from our pulpits the needed call for repentance because we don't like to hear or think that we've ever done anything wrong. We can't be sinners.... We haven't killed anyone.... right? We are quick to point at others to offer our lives in contrast to theirs. Our aim is too low! We are told to compare our lives with Christ, He is the standard..... not the Billy Grahams’of this world! Do churches really teach people how and why to “pick up your cross” and follow Him?

Anyone been crucified lately for loving others???