Sunday, February 27, 2011

thirty five years in the making

Rachel (not her real name) and I met somewhere in the neighborhood of oooh about 35 years ago, for a short while growing up she lived behind me and we used to walk kindergarten together. How we have managed to stay connected all these years is a God intervention in and of itself, but He knew 35 years after we met a miracle in our friendship would occur that only He could orchestrate.  We have both lived in numerous states and for me an entirely different country, we have lost touch over years but always seemed to reconnect with each other one way or another.  This last time, we were out of contact for about 10 years when we found each other again on facebook just a few years ago. 

As I have written here numerous times I lost job back in June, I felt God moving in my life and I felt Him getting ready to move me about six months before it happened, actually now that I look back on it was probably about a good year before it happened that I felt that still small voice, don’t get too comfortable here this job is only temporary.

I wrote this in my journal about 8 months ago when I lost my job, I think I may have posted it before:

I knew there was something more for me, there had to be, I did not believe that I was put on this earth to do what I was doing. Day in and day out I would anxiously await my break through, expecting it to come in some sort of grandiose revival, instead it came by way of being summoned to HR and informed that as of that moment I was unemployed.  I would be lying if I said I was surprised, I wasn’t, I had been expecting it for months.  I virtually skipped my way onto the elevator and  rode it down the 19 floors to the ground level, offering myself up to like a turkey on the Thanksgiving table, “here I am God what do you have for me?”  That day was June 15.

What He had for me next was a journey group (aka Bible study) at church that I signed up for just a few weeks later, a journey group that I would not have been able to take had I still been working, the time didn't fit with my work schedule.  That journey group is where I met my friend Debbie, who was only there to substitute for a few classes while our regular leader fulfilled a prior commitment.  Debbie, who also writes a blog was instrumental in me starting this blog and in September of 2010 I posted my first entry still completely clueless as to what God was up to, and what He was up to, I never saw coming.  For the next six months I would write and post thinking how ridiculous it was, no one reads my blog why am I bothering with this, and I said that to Debbie, who very matter factly informed me, Debbie is very good like that, it is not about how many people read it but who reads it, she probably doesn’t even remember saying that to me, but mercy how right she was. 

It was sometime in the beginning of February when I received an e-mail from Rachel that I wish I still had, but when my computer crashed I lost most of my information, including that e-mail, just to give you an idea, my eyes were puffy from the tears for days after reading it.  Unknowingly to me Rachel had been reading my blog all along and made the choice to accept Christ as her Savior. I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that that moment was 35 years in making, that God had that moment planned 35 years ago when He brought Rachel and I together as friends, and over all these years He kept us connected.  Rachel is now on her way to a new life in Christ. It truly is a, “but God” story, and I am certainly not tooting my own horn, my fingers were simply the fingers he used to type the words that Rachel needed to hear to bring her into a relationship with Him.

I am so not kidding you, I must have read that e-mail a dozen times, looked up at the ceiling, undoubtedly with my mouth wide open, and said “is that what this has been all about, is that why You fired me from my job”?  So I could take that journey group to meet Debbie to start this blog to reach Rachel. Noooo, I thought, brushing off the notion and keeping my suspicions to myself, He wouldn’t do something so drastic.  As I found out this morning in church, you betcha He would.  We heard the testimony of a man who had almost the exact same story I just told you, except he left a job to take another one that turned out to not exactly be the job he envisioned, this man and his boss at his new job mutally agreed it wasn't going to work out  and he was going to have to eventually leave but he stayed on a little while longer to wrap up a few projects.  When the time came for him to leave, during the exit interview his boss started asking him about Jesus.  At the end of his testimony this man said, God really used some drastic measures to get to this man. Glory to God, oh how He loves us.

Friday, February 25, 2011

friday thought

I am plagiarizing this from a quote I saw on a friends facebook page.

Money isn't going to make you happy, it just makes you more comfortable in your misery.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

word of God speak

When God speaks He isn’t quiet, when God speaks He wants our attention, when God speaks He has something to say.  If you have experienced God speaking to you this way you know what I am talking about, your life seems to be enveloped in the same recurring theme.

A few weeks ago I was watching a sermon from Andy Stanley, he said something and I am paraphrasing here, often times we get so focused on asking God what He wants for our lives that we forget to ask God what He wants for the world and how our lives fit into it.  When we put our lives in terms of that statement it takes us to the level of being totally overwhelmed and intimidated by where God is leading us and the realization that it is so much bigger than we are that we couldn’t possibly do it on our own, it is a show of how big our God is and how small we are. 

Admittedly I hadn't thought much about that until I began to reread some of the chapters in John Ortberg’s book, If You Want to Walk on Water You Have To Get Out Of The Boat, I stumbled across a chapter that I don’t remember reading the first time around.  Again I am paraphrasing but it was the story of a man, a Regular Joe, who asked if it was really true, if we ask for whatever it is we want in His name it will be given to us, John 15:7, this doesn't mean we have an all access pass to a blank check to fill in as we wish.  Anyway, Regular Joe started praying for the children of Africa and over the course of 6 months beautiful things started to happen.  Again, I admittedly  confess I did not think much about that, Andy Stanley’s words and Regular Joe’s story were on my heart but I wasn’t putting much of it into action until I was sitting at my desk in my home office and glanced down at the book that permanently resides in my book rack, I keep it there so I will never forget, not that I could forget that book anyway it has haunted me since the day I read it last July, yes I read that book in one day. That book is Priceless by Tom Davis, it is the story of the horrors of sexual slavery in Russia, it is not light reading but if you have the chance I would recommend it.  While I have heard many a story of girls trapped in the sex trade industry from all over the world, India, Thailand, Eastern Europe and even here in the United States it is the story of the girls in Russia that stick heavy to my heart, and not knowing what a Regular Joe like me could do I did nothing. 

When God speaks He isn’t quiet,
When God speaks He wants our attention,
When God speaks he has something to say.

Andy Stanley:  Find out what God wants for the world and how you fit into it…..
Regular Joe:  Decided to pray and when we pray God works and beautiful things happen….
Priceless:  I can start by praying.

Prayer is just the beginning, you never know where God will lead you as Regular Joe found out, but he started with prayer.

I just finished typing this and was getting ready to hit post, when, wouldn't you know it, on K-LOVE comes Word of God Speak. 


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

something special

This is the first season I have ever watched American Idol. I never really had an interest in it before, but since I love me some old school Aerosmith, I remember popping that cassette tape into the player of mom and dad's Buick and cruising along belting me out some Sweet Emotion like you don't know what, and Steven Tyler is a judge this season so I couldn’t resist. 

After one of the performances tonight Jennifer Lopez whispers, there is something special about that one, speaking of one of the contestants. 

How we all long to hear those words said about us, there is something special about that one, the Father whispers those words into our hearts everyday, you are so special to me.  Not when we perform well or behave right but always and forever, in our ugly and dark moments and in our moments when we shine, He whispers, there is something special about you.

Lately I have feeling God trying to slow me down, as if my life could get any slower these days, but slow down, rest in the silence and hear my voice,  slow down and be still I am all around you, I have not forgotten, you are special to me.

You are special to Him, slow down and be still, hear it, see it, feel it, you are special to Him.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

the blessing of blessings

Since I despise all things shopping, except for books of course, I starting making it a little more fun by striking up with conversations with random people in the stores, you should try it sometime it is really quite fun, and I have found myself immeasurably blessed.

When we hear that God will pour out His favor and blessing onto us we usually equate it to something material and tangible, but we find the real blessings of God when we slow down and look for them, the  blessing of our paths crossing with that random person in the store, the blessing of Him sending us the right friends, the blessing of finding the exact scripture you need at just right moment, the blessing of peace, the blessing of enjoying warm summer days and the fresh air blowing through the open window, the blessing of taking a walk on the first snow fall of the season, that was something Whitney and I did every year together, we never missed a walk during the first snow fall, the blessings of dinner with friends or a Sunday morning service that you so needed to hear, the blessing of getting out into God’s creation, I am not talking about being among God’s creation I am talking about breathing it in, taking it into your lungs and opening your eyes to beauty of it, the new start we are given each morning, the forgiveness of our sins, a God that loves us so much that He delights in having a relationship with us, the blessing of discipline and the blessing of hope.

Father, I thank you for opening my eyes to appreciate all the blessings you have given to me. I thank You for this time You have given me to spend with You, to strengthen myself in You and to strengthen my relationship with You, I can’t live this life without You.  It is Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

into the deep blue sea

Once upon a time, in my former life, I lived in Virginia and a favorite weekend hangout was Virginia Beach.  Beachwear clad patrons would lazily stroll the sandy streets and sidewalks visiting the surf shops and sipped cool drinks with umbrellas stinking out the top of their glasses at outdoor cafes.  I was in the Army at the time so I knew my stay in Virginia was only temporary, but one day, I would think to myself, I am going to make a place like this my home.  These days I find myself in a snowy little suburb of Wisconsin with an ocean no where in sight.

One thing I regret not doing while I was there was go scuba diving, I wanted to do it, had many an opportunity to do it, but I just never did it.  I mean what happens if my oxygen gives out or a shark attacks me, no thank you, that was not really how I wanted to die, so I stayed safely on the deck of the boat baking my skin, enjoying the deep blue sea from the surface. In my opinion it was quite beautiful there, calm and safe from where I was sitting, I was very content up there.  One by one my friends would make their way to the surface excitedly talking about what they saw down under, yes, they agreed it was beautiful from where I was safely standing, but it was majestic in the place they had just came from, and the further down they went the more majestic it became, I have to admit I felt a twinge, ok so I was totally jealous that my fears kept me from experiencing what they experienced, I wanted to see too, but I wanted to see while standing on the deck of a boat, I didn’t want to risk ending up in the belly of a fish, um Jonah anyone?  Or rely on a tank strapped to my back for every breath I would take.

Standing on the surface is not a bad place to be, it is a good place to start, but there is going to come a time when we will have to decide, are we going to go deeper?  Do we thirst to see the majesty of what God has to offer more than we thirst for the beauty of a calm, safe comfortable life? 

In Luke 5, we find Simon on the shores of Lake of Gennesaret, washing his nets, he is tired and I am sure a little disillusioned, he had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught a single thing.  This is when Jesus approaches, getting into Simon's boat Jesus teaches the people for a while before telling Simon to push out into deeper water.  That is probably the last thing Simon wanted to do, after fishing all night he probably just wanted to go find a quiet place and get some shut eye.  

In Luke 5:5 Simon answers Jesus “Master, we’ve work hard all night and haven’t caught anything.  But because you say so, I will let down the nets.

This time Simon caught so many fish the nets began to break and it took two boats to haul their catch back to shore and even then the boats were so full they began to sink.

Several things jump out at me in this story. 

Even though Simon was tired from fishing all night, he was obedient and trusted when Jesus told him to try again and this time in deeper water.

It was when Simon went into deeper water that he sees a miracle from Jesus.  It paints a picture of the power of Jesus and the reality of going deeper.

I am reminded of John 15:5
I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  

Jesus is our oxygen tank when we dive into those deeper waters.  Sharks will probably attack, after all deeper waters in the last place the enemy wants you.  Our fears can keep us living comfortably and safely on the surface, but it is when we go deeper that we see the miracles and majesty of Jesus.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

cries from the Cross

My God my God why have you forsaken me?
Mark 15:34

It was the loneliest cry of distress the world had ever heard, He was denied, betrayed with a kiss, mocked and tortured, and as Jesus hung on the Cross with nails piercing through his flesh and bone, bloody, his skin ripped to shreds, he cried out to God.  

We can learn a lot from the Cross.  It was the plan, it was reason God chose to come in flesh and blood in the form of a sinless man and became sin. No one could stop the inevitability of what was to happen on the Cross. We can ask did it have to be so bloody, so brutal, so torturous, so long, but it tells us a lot about God, He is thorough and complete and He doesn’t like to do things twice. The Cross, the cries of distress on the Cross, the brutality of the Cross, the blood of Jesus was shed on the Cross as payment for our sins, and it was done in such a way that it will never be forgotten.

We live in a fallen world where sin undeniably exists, bad things happen, but also, as we learn in the story of Job and Jonah and a multitude of other characters throughout the Bible, nothing touches us without being filtered through God first and that is a tough pill to swallow, a necessary pill but a tough one. Because as we learn from the Cross when we are in distress, when we find there is nothing left of us but the dust beneath the steal toed boot that seemed to so violently stomp us into the ground, when we are backed into a corner and there is no way out, when we find ourselves nailed to our own crosses, we cry out to God.  We don’t cry out to our posessions, the pleasures we seek, the power we hold, the person we chased after or anything else we pursued while forfeiting our relationship with God, because we know that we know that we know that none of those things can calm the chaos. I don’t care who you are, and atheist, agnostic, a pagan when everything is quiet around you and you are left alone with nothing but you and your thoughts, you know that something isn’t right, you can feel the tension in that deep dark cavernous place of your soul, that place that you have been able to keep so well hidden even from your own consciousness where you can feel the life being squeezed from you, you know that something just isn’t right that is God wanting to bring you into a relationship with Him.

He is thorough and complete, He will keep those storms whipping around you for as long as it takes to keep you, He wants you to remember that pain to ensure that you will never stray from Him again, so He doesn't have to repeat Himself. When those waves kick up so high that they threaten to drown you, the first place you go is on your knees to Him and you keep your eyes on Him and no where else, because His ultimate goal, the plan if you will, is to have a relationship with you, it takes priority over everything else.  It takes priority over your comfort and happiness, he has no problem taking everything away from you if it means it is going to get you to come to Him, and it is usually when we are free falling off a cliff, drowning in a Tsunami or buried under an avalanche that we come to the realization that our lives and everything in it are absolutely meaningless if we forfeit our relationship with God to get it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

no air conditioning please

Each year I can hardly wait for the first warm day of season when I can throw open the windows and blow out the staleness of the winter, when I can sleep on the crisp sheets that were dried on the clothes line, when I can sit at my writing desk that is nestled between two windows and feel the warm air on my face, hear the birds chirping, the squirrels racing up and down the maple tree and feel the gentle breeze on my skin.  I hardly ever turn on the air conditioning I just can’t do it, and from what I have learned over the past few years this is quite the archaic practice. That is what the pioneers did not 21st century people, 21st century people have temperature controlled homes.  But I can’t bring myself to do it, I feel trapped, like a caged animal, so for most of the spring, summer and fall it is windows open, breathing in the smells of the fresh cut grass and blooms, feeling the warm air and enjoying the sounds that only that time of year can bring, because winter will come, it always does and it will be time to close up shop for the year, the leaves will fall, the birds will begin their retreat to warmer climates, the blooms will begin to fade and will eventually be layered beneath the snow, so I want to take it all in enjoy it while I have it.

In a lot of ways we have temperature controlled our hearts, our souls, the very essence of our beings.  We can’t imagine that God could possibly have something better in mind for us, so we stay in the familiar of our perfectly temperature controlled lives, where it is a comfortable 70 degrees, we shut the windows and shut out the beauty of what God wants to give us, the beauty of what He created for us to enjoy and what He created for us to do. 

Think it can't get any better,  it can.  Think it won't get any better, it will.  God wants to give us those things that are immeasurably beyond our comprehension, but we have to let go and give Him our temperature controlled lives.  I can’t tell you how many times over the years I have had the rug pulled out from underneath me.  Relationships that were lost only to be replaced with people whose goodness I didn’t even know existed, a job taken away and replaced with passion awakening in my heart that I never imagined, I never knew my heart could feel this full.  It took opening the windows and letting God blow out the staleness that was decaying my insides and letting Him replace it with His beauty, a beauty that only He can give, a beauty that He wants to give if only we would let go of our temperature controlled lives, swing the windows wide open and let Him breath it into us.  So throw open the windows and let the breeze in, inhale the majesty of God into your lungs, sing to your ears and brush across your cheek.