Random Blog Clay Feet: 2010
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Accept His Presents

Christmas is possibly most associated with the idea of giving and receiving presents. Yes, there are many other traditions connected to this time of year, but presents usually play a very central role in our relationships with others during this holiday season more than at any other time. This tradition has also enabled commercialism to exploit our fears and desires and has produces a whole different twist to the holiday season that is far from what God has in mind for our lives.

As I sat watching a program on television relating some of the fascinating things to be learned from the earthly sanctuary given to the Israelites through Moses by God, some thoughts came to my attention that relate directly to our relationship with God. Some may be more open to thinking about these things this time of year more than at any other.

One of the hardest things we have to discover is how to maintain a healthy relationship with God in the area of presents, gifts and the appreciation that these are supposed to produce in our hearts. Some have a very difficult time admitting that they ever need gifts from heaven while others take God's blessings for granted so easily that they fail to experience any significant appreciation for the many things God provides for them all the time. Unfortunately too often I fall into both of these categories.

As I jotted down notes of ideas as they were coming to me, the very first thing I wrote down was, Accepting His Presents. Several times I have written about this topic and I am still fascinated with the way that God sometimes puts interesting things into the language that I grew up using in ways that convey subtle but important lessons about my relationship with Him. To my amazement, the more I looked into the idea of presents and how it is directly linked to the word presence, the more in awe I am of how these two synonyms tell me what God really wants most to do in my life.

God wants me, more than anything else, to come to know the joy of His presence. And the greatest, most valuable and life-changing gift He can ever offer me is His presence – which is His present to me.
As I have pondered my own desires relating to the traditions of gift-giving, I have come to realize that what I usually long for far more than presents someone might try to offer me is the presence of their heart and person. If someone I care about would offer me themselves in ways that were vulnerable, meaningful and heart-connecting, it would be far more exciting and bonding for me than anything else they might try to purchase to give me instead.

Now, I have heard people talk about these kinds of things for years, but most of that talk seemed like so many religious platitudes to me and had little effect on how my heart felt about God. I suspect these words may have the same ring to some who may come to read this as well. But when a person begins to experience the deepening of these principles more at the heart level and the words begin to come more from a taste of the actual experience rather than just an intellectual theory, the experience begins to really come alive and so many other things begin to fall into place that it is impossible to convert many of them into words adequately.

I have sought to really sense the presence of God in my personal journey to know Him for many years. I have deliberately practiced making myself more aware of His presence, have visited places where I might better encounter His presence. Sometimes I have been disappointed when I discovered that where many people insisted they could feel God's presence readily that in fact they were more likely pursuing an emotional high from intense music rather than really meeting with the true God described in the Bible. Elijah had that problem at times and God had a few words to say to him about it.

Something I learned today that is very important for me to remember in my desire to experience much more of His presence/presents in my life more consistently is my own need to stop agreeing with Satan. It is so easy to think along negative lines, to allow discouraging assumptions, and let the insinuations of the enemy act as dark filters to block me from enjoying the presence of God who might be very close but not affecting me as I want to be affected. Someone has reminded me tonight that along with my need to stop agreeing with Satan's insinuations about God that only reinforce his lies in my life, but I also need to start affirming the truth about how God feels about me and about my true identity.

Instead of verbalizing discouraging thoughts, I need to take charge of my expressions and begin to vocalize the truth as it is in Jesus and about how much God really loves me. I can express faith, sing faith, become bold in faith by simply choosing to dwell on those truths in my thoughts and speech instead of falling into my default rut of gravitating toward viewing the faults in others or amplifying problems and difficulties. I can focus on God's goodness, His faithfulness, His everlasting forgiving attitude and His incredible grace.

Speaking of forgiveness, I also felt impressed in my spirit that the issue of offense that I have been learning more about recently is one of the main stumbling blocks that can prevent me from embracing the presents of God. When I allow offenses to remain in my heart, I will be quickly sucked into the trap of Satan and there soon will follow darkness, deception, anger, bitterness and all sorts of other problems. With these heavy cloud covers over my life it then becomes next to impossible to embrace the joy of God's presence with me as I can only see the problems in and around me.

If I want to live in the presence of God and celebrate the presents that He provides for me so lavishly all the time, I must be willing to become aware of any offenses I may be holding onto against anyone or against God. I must take ownership of the pain caused by those offenses in my heart, releasing the other person from responsibility for resolving them. Then I can in turn give them over to Jesus for release and healing and freedom in my own heart.

When I let go of offenses (which is the real definition of forgiveness) I become less and less encumbered and have increasing capacity to embrace joyfully God's presence/presents in my life. In effect, when I lay down the offenses I have been holding onto so tightly thinking they will somehow give me protection or advantage over someone else, I free up my hands to then be able to take hold of God's glorious presents for me and can enjoy the pleasure of His presence.

Do you think the Scriptures mean nothing? The Scriptures say,
"The Spirit God made to live in us wants us only for himself."
But the kindness God shows is greater. As the Scripture says,
"God is against the proud, but he is kind to the humble."
So give yourselves to God.
Stand against the devil, and he will run away from you.
Come near to God and he will come near to you.
You are sinners, so clean sin (resistance) out of your lives.
You are trying to follow God and the world at the same time.
Make your thinking pure. Be sad, be sorry, and cry!
Change your laughter into crying. Change your joy into sadness.
Be humble before the Lord, and he will make you great.
(James 4:5-10 ERV)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Where the Terrorists?

I had a lingering dream some time before I completely woke up this morning that later grabbed my attention. As dreams often go, the logic of the plot makes little sense to an awake mind, but the underlying concepts that are revealed sometimes are very enlightening.

I was dreaming about security lines that people are forced to pass through at airports. Now, I'm not going to comment on my intense feelings about such matters, but to dream about such a thing for so long is rather unusual for me as I don't even remember dreaming about such a thing before.

Most of the time in my dream, the lines of passengers were unusually sparse and the activity wasn't exactly as intense as in real life. After a time I actually found myself interacting with the security personal (when they were there) on a more friendly basis than is customary.

For whatever reasons I kept having to go back around and around through the various stations as some of the other people sometimes had to do. At times it seemed that the whole area was almost devoid of any people which I found a bit strange. Even the surrounding rails and walls were not all that secure. It seemed like these were more temporary setups, like they were portable or something. It was more like they expected you to honor the system more than forcing you to do so. But that was not the point that really got my attention later on.

After some time I became aware of a man who seemed to have been designated to pass through all the security processes in a very thorough way for a most unusual reason. It seems now a bit vague and even illogical, but in the dream it seemed like a bright idea. At this point in my dream it was even starting to take on religious connotations as this man was supposed to somehow function as a stand-in for a number of children that he would be responsible for in such a way so as to eliminate the need for them to pass through all that security themselves. It was assumed that if he could pass security well enough that he could then vouch for those under his care and they could pass on their way with less hassle.

Again, in the dream it seemed rather logical, even a great idea. But as I watched him try to implement this unusual idea my dream seemed to bog down. I found myself beginning to sink into a deeper sleep where dreams don't function very well, but then suddenly I woke up to a lighter sleep with a jolt. The following thought then struck me with force and I sensed that there was something very important to learn from this illustration. These thoughts came clearly to my mind about the dream:

Man can develop all kinds of strategies and equipment and techniques to try to detect weapons or figure out who might be a danger to others, while the real problem is in the motives of the heart. But there is no way for humans to create equipment or develop programs to scan that part of a person. In fact, as I pondered it after waking all the way up, I realized that the very people who most avidly seek to expose those they label as terrorists, in the very process of looking for them begin to cultivate the very same attitudes and attributes in their own hearts. It is a principle of reality that the very act of looking for faults in others unavoidably begins to develop those same character traits in ourselves.

Only God has the 'equipment' to be able to discern the motives and thoughts of the heart. And only those who are willing to come into close fellowship and humble submission to Him will have the privilege of Him sharing with them at the right times what they need to know about what is going on inside others. Only God can see the heart while the rest of us obsess about the outward appearances.

A terrorist is not someone who is discovered carrying weapons around but is someone who harbors hate and bitterness inside and seeks for revenge. Given that definition I suspect that most of us could easily be found to be terrorists, especially those who spend much of their time trying to detect them.

The real danger in our lives does not come from bombs or guns or any other physical weapons, but it comes in the attitudes that we harbor against others that we think to have less value than ourselves. The whole system of society that we have grown up in has become a mold for inducing terrorists. And the more we try to use force, fear and violence to eliminate or incarcerate those we consider dangerous, the more we create resentment causing others to join in seeking to oppose us and use violence against us.

Like attracts like. When we resort to force we activate this universal principle that always operates. When we rely on violence thinking to suppress violence, we only end up producing more violence that will react back upon us. Jesus told Peter that those who take up the sword will die by the sword. The methods that we are subscribing to as a nation now becomes the very thing that produces and proliferates our enemies. And trying to stay ahead of others in the ability to use ever greater force only intensifies and hardens the resolve of those who resist us.

By choosing to follow this path in the name of promoting freedom we are actually destroying both the freedom of others and undermining and disassembling our own freedoms. Our government has chosen to reject the principles of freedom that we claim were the foundations of our nation originally. We have been deceived into thinking that we can rely on a different set of principles, weapons and logic of the kingdom of darkness, and still enjoy the benefits of living in freedom. But just like love, when freedom violates others and abuses those who disagree with us, it quickly disintegrates and morphs into nothing more than an empty claim, a thin shell of pretense that covers up the presence of the very same motives as in those who now attack us. All the time we reject responsibility for our own horrific actions against our enemies by blaming anyone and everyone else while we are becoming the true terrorists.

I believe it was Winston Churchill that once made a famous statement with so much insight. “We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.”

Only by following the methods and principles of heaven will we be led to living in true safety and freedom. The more we obsess over security for ourselves the more we are destroying the freedom of our own people. The claim that it is necessary to sometimes exchange freedom for security is one of the most successful lies of Satan to enslave free people and throw away all that has been won for them at such a costly price by their forefathers along with the death of Jesus Christ. Security cannot be achieved by denying it to everyone but ourselves while abusing anyone we don't like. That is not real security, it is just plain abuse of power and only serves to corrupt and destroy our souls.

It could well be said of us if we were willing to admit the truth that Churchill discovered, “When we meet the terrorists we discover to our horror that the greatest terrorists are in the mirror.”

Friday, November 26, 2010

Washing Dishes With Gratitude

We are having a time of great interest right now in our lives, my wife and I. We don't know yet where it is leading us, but we sense that life is at a turning point and that quite likely it may look quite different very soon. But let me share how something little might reflect that something larger right now.

Because we had no children choose to come and spend the holiday weekend with us for Thanksgiving and had no invitations to spend the day with anyone, my wife called up a church in a nearby town to volunteer us to help out with their Thanksgiving day dinner offered for the public. We chose to arrive there not too long before they were to quit serving figuring that they would likely need more help cleaning up than serving.

Of course, when we arrived they wanted us to eat but we had just finished breakfast at home so declined the invitation, instead asking what we could do to help out. We knew no one there so we didn't really know how to fit in well, but we soon found a place at the washing sinks to relieve people better suited to do other jobs in the area. They had a very large sink well suited to washing the large cooking containers being used and then two more sinks next to that that we used for rinsing. I began washing whatever utensils were being dropped off and my wife started rinsing and drying them.

Given the ongoing nature of such a project, we spent the rest of the time there processing the containers and various utensils without any backup. From our corner of the kitchen we were also able to observe the interactions between the others and get a feel for the social network in place among these friends. Most of the lunch crowd had already finished when we arrived and so there was not a whole lot of activity going on except for a few meals being served and a number of take-outs made up for deliveries.

A half an hour before closing time even arrived it became clear that no one else was likely to show up and so they began putting everything away and cleaning out the big cookers. The servers were eager to go home after many hours of volunteering to leave the cleanup to whoever was left. We actually found it enjoyable to be able to efficiently and quickly clean all of the pots and utensils and dry them; it did not seem like a real burden for us. I noticed that my wife was often humming or singing some Thanksgiving song all through the time there which she enjoys doing this time of year.

As the staff dwindled down to just three or four and the decks were cleared, it was evident that there was a lot of mess around the counters and on the floor that no one was too interested in dealing with. I decided to wipe the decks clean and then located a mop and bucket in a nearby closet and thoroughly cleaned all the floor of the kitchen. I remembered with pride how well I had been trained as a teenager how to mop floors in the sanitarium that I worked in as a student by an old German lady who insisted on us doing an absolutely thorough and perfect job. She taught all of her students well and many of them later in life impressed many people as they demonstrated their ability and willingness to do an exceptional job handling a mop. It makes one feel good to know they can do a really good job when others are expecting far less and assume that this kind of work is to demeaning to enjoy.

As we left we were showered with appreciation but did not really make any social connections at all. I began to sense during that time that my own motives were not nearly so noble as my wife's and felt a bit ashamed of my selfishness and secret desires to get some benefit for myself out of this experience. I felt convicted that I need to learn to participate in acts of selfless kindness and generosity with no desire for personal gain as part of my training as a Christian. For too long I have focused on my own needs and how any situation might be used to profit me in some way. I have a long way to go to be free of this habit of looking out for myself first.

After we arrived back home, my wife shared something with me that really touched me. For the past several months, actually back in August, she was suddenly stricken with a severe condition of pain from bulging and ruptured discs in her lower back that left her crying in pain and lying on the couch 24/7 for nearly two months. Very slowly she has been recovering but it has been an intense time of reevaluation of priorities and heart searching to see how our relationship with God fits into all of this. Of course she had to quite her job and since I have had very little work myself our finances have been very if'y at best. We are finding ourselves forced by circumstances to seek to know much better how to live a life of faith rather than trusting in our own resources to take care of our needs.

Last night she shared with me that what was going through her mind as she was helping with the dishes at that church was a sense of extreme gratitude that she could actually once again stand there and do those dishes without the extreme pain that she has been experiencing for so long. She has recovered to the point now where by Thanksgiving day she was able to do this activity for several hours and not even need to rest or feel tempted to complain of the pain. For her, this was a wonderful cause for deep gratitude and she didn't even need to mention it to anyone else. She just chose to enjoy it and praise God for it from her heart.

God has given me a wonderful wife who is perfectly suited to meet many parts of me that are sadly lacking. She has been appointed by God to bring suggestions and promptings that, if I am humble enough and willing to pay attention, might save me a great deal of grief and problems. I am a slow learner in this area but am trying to practice being more sensitive and willing to listen and pay attention. I know that God designed each of us to be incomplete without a mate of the opposite sex designated by God to unite with us as a more perfect reflection of the wholeness of our Creator.

33 years ago today God sealed us into marriage. She was 18 and I was 22 and she felt like I had nearly robbed the cradle. She was shy and quiet and pretty and I still had enough hair at that time to be attractive. Within a couple years we had our first baby who is now a beautiful young woman with interest in a suitor for her affections. I pray that God will protect and guide her and that she will make Him the highest priority in all of her decisions. We later had a son, formed in our image just as God designed us to do, and now they both live at the other end of the country from us.

God is also very busy reeducating us in matters of the kingdom right now and we are seeking to cooperate with Him and be better students than we have been in the past. We are also coming much more into synchronization with each other's hearts more than ever in our union with each other and are finally beginning to experience a level of the love and respect we wish we could have learned long ago. But as the saying goes, 'Better late than never'.

We are thankful, but we desire to be much more thankful and have a more consistent attitude of gratitude all throughout the year. We are richly blessed with a house to live in, warmth in the growing cold, cars to drive, food to eat and love to share. We are blessed with friends who open their lives to share with us and who can challenge us to change when we need it sometimes. And most of all we are blessed with dramatic revelations over the past few months from various sources that God has brought to us concerning the real truth about God and how He really views us. We want to absorb and soak up these truths and allow them to wash our brains and our hearts of all the lies that have poisoned us for so long. It is time to live in the joy and freedom of real love for our Father in heaven and with each other.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Revisiting The Shack

Although I love to read, I find it hard to actually get all the way through any book and finish it. I have lost count of how many books I have started and really enjoyed but that ended up in the pile next to my chair still unfinished even a year or two later. (I am almost breaking my own pattern because in the past few weeks I have actually finished two books.)

But once in awhile I either take the extra time or I am so riveted in a book that I actually get all the way through in a relatively short time. The last book I could not escape until I finished it was when I purchased The Shack. I had been told about it by a good friend and it sounded interesting, but I had no idea how close it was to what I am coming to believe about God through my own personal study. This book was both intensely emotional for me and refreshing at the same time. And the insights about God's character were so advanced I was caught by surprise but very delighted. I can also see why there is so much intense opposition to it for it does not support the dark views of God held by mainstream religions.

As I looked over the ensuing books available that were ignited by the popularity or notoriety of this book, I noticed another one that caught my attention and I ordered it as well. It is called Finding God In The Shack. It is written by a theologian who wanted to come to the defense of The Shack considering all of the flack that it has received. The reviews sounded interesting so I have had it lying here for several months waiting to get into it.

Last night I picked it up and began about a third of the way through from where I had gotten and began to read the rest of it. Again, I was encouraged to discover a thinker who was willing to stand up to the traditional views of God and reexamine the long-held opinions in religion that have made God out to be the frightening terrorist that many teach Him to be. I was quite surprised to find this theologian willing to challenge even the fundamental beliefs held by many Evangelicals and Christians as he presented insights from the Bible few have taken seriously. I highly recommend this book and would even like the chance to dialog with the author myself if that were possible. But only read this book after taking the time to first read The Shack if you have not read that yet.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Freezing Holocaust

Last night I decided to go out and rescue the last of our tomatoes before the expected freeze overnight killed them off. Because of a new product I used this year on the plants and ground, we have been blessed with abundant tomatoes all the way up to now in stark contrast with previous years where the plants were all dead and gone by this time from a fungus in the soil. This household cleaner that is useful for all sorts of other applications dealt with the blight fungus that normally kills most of my garden and we have been very pleased with the results and the many tomatoes this year.
I picked all the ripe ones last night, all the ones even hinting at turning ripe and also all of the green ones of any significant size no matter how green. I did something similar a few days ago and set them in the window. They are starting to turn color quite nicely and also have very few bad spots in the process. We are so pleased with this blessing but still wonder how to eat this many tomatoes quickly.

As I was finishing up picking two more bags of tomatoes with a flashlight last night I was almost overcome with a strange thought. Here I was, like some diabolical monster deciding between which would go into my bag and which babies would be left to freeze to death in the coming holocaust. I couldn't shake the feeling of guilt even though with my logical mind it was an utterly silly idea. It made me realize how sensitive our hearts start to become the closer we get to viewing things through the eyes of heaven where nothing was ever intended to die.
This morning I went back out and sure enough there was heavy frost on everything. The tomato plants still look normal because they are only in the first stages of death by freezing, but I know that very soon they will wilt and turn yellow and die for the winter. I still felt guilty as I looked at all the little babies that I knew were past saving this morning because all the moisture inside them was frozen hard. What a guilt trip. I'm sure glad its only false guilt though it still doesn't feel very good.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Youth in Harmony

Yesterday was a long but quite enjoyable day. I made it even longer by waking up at 12:30 AM and not being able to go back to sleep. Leaving the house shortly before 7 I helped unload risers at the university and then spent the rest of the day singing with around 100 high school boys learning 2 songs with the help of a world-class trainer from Nashville.

This was the seventh annual Youth in Harmony event put on for all the area high schools who want to participate. This year we had eleven schools send students and teachers to participate with a 15% increase over last year. I believe we had around 350 students attend this year with most of the girls. Then in the evening a concert is put on with the students singing their music for the teachers and parents as well as visiting quartets and a Sweet Adeline's chorus putting on a good show for everyone.

It was tiring being on risers for hours but the music invigorated us and kept us going. This is the third time I have helped at one of these and it is something that is always quite rewarding. My wife came for the evening performance though with her current physical problems we had to bring her up in a wheelchair. She too really enjoyed the guest quartet's performance as well as all the music that evening.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cheek Slap

The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. But He said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. (John 6:18-21)

This is the story that I am studying right now and documenting on my blog where I record what I am learning. This morning it took on a whole new meaning for me personally.

Yesterday I found myself suddenly in the middle of a very intense storm of unexpected, stirred up emotions. I was blindsided, attacked by a self-appointed 'policeman' who loves to enforce arbitrary policies especially when it gives him a sense of power over others. I was caught totally by surprise and it triggered me in some of my most vulnerable areas which immediately caused a great deal of adrenaline to begin circulating through my veins.

I knew instantly that I was under spiritual attack, not just from this man who delights in confronting and manipulating others, but much more so by my real enemy who remains invisible but who delights even more in stirring up old emotions and shaming me publicly. I was strongly tempted to retaliate, to defend myself, to counter-attack and I did take the bait for awhile, giving this man some pleasure in being able to jerk me around publicly with his advantages over me. But I also realized that there were other people around us who were spiritually vulnerable and who are influenced by my example and I needed to be extremely careful how I acted and spoke.

The deeper issue here was God's reputation, not mine. But the matter was very complex. It was not simply a matter of whether I was following some petty rules made up by a committee in secret that had never been shared with me before. That is what it looked like on the surface. But in reality, there were many facets of this temptation that nearly no one knew about that conspired to lure me into Satan's trap of offense. I knew that instantly and I knew I had to be very careful not to bite that bait too readily or I would fall into that trap of deception and it might take a long time to get back out or recover many things I have gained over the past few months.

As might be expected, this incident and all the emotions surrounding it kept my attention the rest of the day. I woke up this morning early and pondered it carefully as I discussed it with God. I realize that I already have many blind spots that set me up to be vulnerable to this attack and I want to receive healing in all of these areas of weakness that play into this. But because a blind spot is not easily discerned it is difficult to even discuss that with God or one's self because it is hard to see clearly to know what to talk about.

I try to focus on the areas that seem to have the greatest trigger effect on me. That is almost always a sure way to go after the most sensitive core issues that remain unresolved in such a situation. I know that anytime a person is disproportionately triggered by something or someone, it is almost always because there remains a hidden lie deep in the heart that needs to be exposed by God and replaced with healing truth. When the deep core issue is addressed then future encounters with similar triggering situations have little to no effect on the life. That is when one can experience genuine freedom and can begin to truly advance in maturity.

I don't want to get stuck in my maturity growth. I don't want someone else's immaturity to lock me into bitterness or cause me to react in-kind from a desire to get even. It is ludicrous to want to get even with a person who is very immature. To get even with such a person is to copy their level of immaturity, and why would anyone in their right mind want to do that? But that is the nature of temptation in general – getting us to lower our own maturity level. That is why our churches and governments are full of leaders who are very immature. People who thirst for power more than for maturity and integrity generally rise to the top in our culture today. That is what sin has done to our thinking and our social relationships.

As is often the case, God arranged for the readings for today to match my situation. Funny how God always knows when something is going to happen and arranges years ahead of time to have that topic covered on that exact day when someone compiles a book. Both of the devotional books I am reading addressed my situation rather eloquently and I accept the messages God is giving me through them.

Watch when God shifts your circumstances, and see whether you are going with Jesus, or siding with the world, the flesh and the devil. We wear His badge, but are we going with Him?
...We have the idea that we ought to shield ourselves from some of the things God brings round us. Never! God engineers circumstances, and whatever they may be like we have to see that we face them while abiding continually with Him in His temptations. They are His temptations, not temptations to us, but temptations to the life of the Son of God in us. The honor of Jesus Christ is at stake in your bodily life. Are you remaining loyal to the Son of God in the things which beset His life in you? (My Utmost for His Highest September 19)

I sensed yesterday that this temptation was designed primarily to steal away my fellowship with Jesus and my sense of His presence and leading in my life. But at the same time, Jesus was allowing this confrontation to expose weak areas of my life that still are in need of repair and strengthening. My problem is that I don't know how to properly respond yet to these situations. Because they are my weak areas I am weak in knowing what to do. I guess the main thing I need to do is to cling to Jesus and not allow anything like this to divert my attention from focusing on God's goodness and faithfulness and His presence with me. That's what Chambers said here. Continually abide with Him in His temptations in my life. It is Jesus being tempted here and I need to let Him handle them. I also need to not forget to keep an atmosphere of praise and gratitude in my spirit no matter what is going on around me.

I still don't know how this is all going to play out. I still feel very raw from this attack but at the same time I realize that I must pray for this man and experience the passionate love of God flowing through me for him. I need to see this man through heaven's glasses instead of my own reactive emotions which is going to be starkly different. And I have to do this at the heart level, not just put on a facade of 'Christian piety'.

There is much more than just my feelings toward one person involved here. Other sore relationships are involved as well. In addition there is also the issue of a lack of respect between many people who are part of this group along with a spirit of arrogance and pride. But then, what's new? Those things are always going to be present among growing believers and it is God's job to take care of those problems, not mine. I am not in charge of growing up other people; I have a hard enough time dealing with my own growth in maturity. Yes, other people's issues and pain and immaturity certainly cause problems for me, but my job is to learn to always see them through heaven's eyes and to respond to them differently than what they expect from those they offend. This applies to everyone no matter whether they hold a position of authority or if they just feel like a peon in society.

I also sense that if I choose to respond to this situation better than 'normal' that I have a wonderful opportunity to move into a new phase of growth and responsibility in my own experience. I have no idea what that involves and don't really want to know at this point. But it does feel good to sense that I opportunity to grow up and not remain stagnant or stuck mature-wise. God meets us where we are but He never leaves us where we are. I don't want to be left where I am and so I am actually grateful for this encounter even though it is very painful initially. Growth is often painful because it requires change. But unless I am willing to change I can never grow.

Father, I choose to cooperate with You through this growing experience. I still don't have the wisdom to know just how to relate to all the facets of this problem and I suspect I may have already made a number of mistakes. But what I most want is to remain close to You, to feel Your presence and to know the value You place on me from Your heart. If I have Your assuring presence then I can feel safe enough to face my faults and the weak, vulnerable areas of my soul.
Keep me close to You and help me with wisdom and perspective. Fill me with Your attitude. Allow me to both see these people through Your eyes and feel toward them the way You feel instead of with resentment or shame. Help me keep my eyes on You and see Your attractiveness so that it eclipses all other attractions or attacks.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Meant to Be?

A few weeks ago I found myself standing near this sign which really grabbed my attention. Since one of my favorite hobbies is to sing in a local Barbershop chorus in Illinois, I thought I would capture this sign and let my directors see it to maybe prove that destiny had me in mind when I came across them a couple years ago. Whatever the reason, I still enjoy making harmony with them and bringing pleasure to the hearts of those whose lives we touch with our unique blend of music.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Like Old Times

So on a whim while poking around in my garage, I noticed my unicycles that have been hanging from the rafter pretty much ever since we moved here six years ago. I decided to take one down and see if I could either seriously damage myself with no one around to pick me up or find out if I still might have it in me.

Well, for an old man I didn't do too bad even if I do say so myself. I never hit the ground (though the cycle did a few times) and for someone who never did really master this skill I managed to stay on for some extended rides much to my delight (and exhaustion).

Sorry, since no one else is around (I already said that didn't I?), I had to take a picture of it without me on it. So you can believe it or not, but it was fun while it lasted.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Life Getting Interesting

Just a note or two about what's been happening lately in our lives. Last Sunday afternoon my wife and I both sang in the annual Lenten concert produced by the Coles County Barbershop Chorus that I joined a couple years ago. We always enjoy these concerts as each year the chorus invites women to join us for the Lenten concert. My wife has sung in it for two years now along with another lady in our church.

My life has become very busy and quite exciting for the past six weeks as I have decided to become involved in a very profitable but also very stable home business that requires no large investment, no inventory, no sales and no risk. I know, it sounded too good to be true to me too until I thoroughly investigated it for several weeks. But believe me I did some serious homework because of previous bad encounters with home businesses. When I finally decided to give it a test run the results were far better than even I might have expected and without all of the danger to relationships that usually accompany such ventures.

I am now quite confident that with this new channel of income provided for me by God as His current way to take care of us that within a short time my wife will not have to work under the difficult circumstances she is having to put up with at this point. I am seeing good success and very positive reactions from nearly everyone I share this with, even those who have been seriously burned by other businesses they have tried out. It is also a very wonderful opportunity to make a lot of new friends as well as re-establish a number of old friendships as I now have a very positive gift to offer them without any of the risks that are usually connected with such ideas. This has been a real growing experience for me spiritually as well as God has been using this to confront some of my old fears and lies from past experiences that were far less stable or socially beneficial.

So that is what has been keeping me busy. I would love to hear what is going on in your life as well.

Monday, February 15, 2010

One Provider, Different Channels

Our lives right now are in serious transition and things are getting exciting. At the same time a lot of old memories, fears and emotions are also being stirred up that I am having to face and deal with. But I can see that God is in charge of all of this and intends to use my current circumstances to mature me and help me overcome many things that still hamper me from functioning and relating to others the way I need to do.

I have sensed rather clearly over the past few months that God is changing channels on me. I learned a few years ago how to relate to finances the way heaven intends we should. This means that I must have as my unequivocal foundation the fact that Jesus has promised to take care of all of our needs irregardless, no matter what I do or how much I tithe or give offerings or anything else. His care for me is a promise not based whatsoever on any performance on my part. All that I need to do is to believe that truth with my heart and mind which then allows Him permission to fulfill His promise to me.

When that step is firmly underfoot, then I am prepared to move to the next steps in properly relating to how God may choose to provide for our needs. He does not always use the same channels through which to provide for us as demonstrated in the life of Elijah. He will provide one channel for a while such as a job that I can cooperate in to bring in what is necessary for us to live. But later that job may disappear and it is then that my true belief system will be exposed.

If I begin to fear and fret and stress out about my lack of money, it only reveals that I do not have the first step as my foundational belief firmly in place yet. Jesus made it explicitly clear that we are not to be anxious about anything. This is not something we can force ourself to do, it is a natural result of what we believe in our heart. If I don't want to be anxious in obedience to the command of Jesus I have to first have a real trust in His heart that He is taking care of me no matter what external circumstances may appear to indicate. Otherwise I am only attempting to repress my anxiety, not eliminate it.

If I do have that foundation in place securely, then I have the freedom to feel even a sense of anticipation instead of fear because I know that God has something else in mind for us. He is faithful which means He has some other channel ready for me to use to receive provision from Him. Elijah depended on ravens and a little brook for his provisions for awhile which is pretty strange compared to the jobs that most of us depend on. But when that provision dried up he trusted God to show him the next channel and God sent him to an ever stranger source of provision – a starving widow in the area that was the center of the worship of the false gods that were at the root of all the problems in Israel.

So when my work in remodeling and construction dried up over the past few months I chose to deliberately focus on not becoming anxious but talked with God about what He might have in mind as His channel for me next. As I look back I can see clear indications that He has apparently chosen to introduce me to a new business through a friend I have known for many years and who was in business with me some time back. This friend was a person of integrity that I have admired and appreciated and was probably the only person I would even have been willing to listen to about looking into starting a business like this. But since I knew what he had been through previously and how similar it was to my own experience, I listened to him with an open mind and felt God prompting me to give it serious consideration.

As a result I have sensed that God wants me to get serious about doing this business as the new temporary channel of His provision for me until He indicates another change. Part of the important aspect of relating to God in this way is the fact that I need to do my part in participating in whatever it is He is using to provide for us. If He gives me employment with someone else I need to actually go do the work and do it with all my strength. If He gives me a business to run then I need to do it with enthusiasm and integrity. All of these things are not just ways of providing money for my family and needs but are also ways of living out the plans that God has for me to interact with others in more important arenas of life and also for my own personal growth and development of character.

As I said, this is also raising a number of old wounds and emotions that I realize God wants to deal with along the way. I am seeking to cooperate with Him as I see Him healing me deep inside where I am not able to reach. Even when it involves having to face very painful areas of my heart, I am actually excited that I am beginning to experience more and more freedom and joy and feel that I am actually learning what it means to thrive. God has a great deal of work to do yet but it is good to see that He is working in every way possible to change my relationship with Him and to bring me closer into harmony with His ways.

My wife too is experiencing a great deal of stress and tension in her work. But we keep reminding ourselves that God is our only real boss and that the other people we work for are only temps that He is using that may be there to shape our character at times. If our time is up on that job then we can be confident that He has something even better in mind because He is faithful and He is always good and He is our only real provider.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Catching Up

It is that time of year again. We had a reprieve of a little milder weather for about a week and now we are heading back to below freezing temperatures again for the foreseeable future. I won't mind seeing the weather move closer to spring anytime now, but that is what winter is like.

It is also the time of year for quite a number of my own family's birthdays. My Dad's birthday would have been a few days ago, my sister's birthday was the first day of January and my own birthday is today. This year is a little bit different than the average birthday, at least according to the traditions of the culture in which I find myself. This year, at least according to the opinion of many institutions in this country, I officially turning – yes, it really is true – I am turning 'old'.

My daughter asked me yesterday if I was really feeling old and I told her that as far as my memory is concerned I certainly can qualify. In other areas I don't really feel as old as the number might suggest, but then I better be very careful what comments I make about such topics because people who are older than me sometimes have rather sensitive and very strong opinions about such things and are not afraid to get defensive about this subject.

My wife's birthday is next month in about three weeks but she is safely four years behind me yet. She is trying to catch up and as far as percentages go she is getting closer all the time. But according to my sharp mathematical calculations I don't think she will ever be able to catch up – at least as long as both of us stay alive anyway. My children are also fast catching up with us on the percentage side of the math but they too will still stay safely behind us for quite awhile.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

What is a Garage For?

We experienced a moment of history-making last night.

No, it was not accompanied with a fireworks display or written up in the newspapers. In fact, no one hardly even noticed including myself until I stopped to think about it this morning. But it was a milestone of sorts anyway and I thought I would at least take note of it for the record.

We moved into this house a little over 5 ½ years ago in a very great hurry. We were not only urged quite compellingly to leave where we were living but also found ourselves greatly needed to occupy my parent's house after the death of my step-mother. My dad was in a nursing home at the time and my mother's death from a car accident left their house unattended and all the affairs of their estate in need of a caretaker.

The problem was that we then moved into this large house with stuff that not only we had accumulated but the leftover stuff of several other people who had lived with us or had left their things in the previous house we had lived in. On top of that, my parents had taken in my step-mom's mother for awhile before she died and so they had many of her things stored in this house already. So as you might guess, the house was already quite full when we arrived as we began to unload truckloads of furniture and household items here. The only thing we could do under those circumstances was to pack the two-car garage completely full as well as several rooms of the house and the basement.

Needless to say, it took several years for us to find many of our things and we are still sorting through boxes and furniture uncovering things we have not seen in quite some time. Over the years I have managed to reduce the height of the stuff in the garage to a level where I could navigate around in it and at least have access to most of it. Last summer I finally got enough courage to tackle this job for several days straight and was able to at least go through a once over with most of the items still stored there and rearranged the whole garage in the process.

A week or two ago I did a small version of that raid on part of our basement area. As a result I hung all new lights (new to us) down there and mounted some shelves and even built a very large clothes hamper out of an old wooden kitchen table to catch the clothes from a new chute I had built into our bathroom upstairs. This greatly reduces the stress of trips up and down the stairs for my wife with the laundry and also makes me feel like I am doing something useful while out of work for over a month.

Anyway, my wife has been gently nudging me about the possibility of maybe getting the car into the garage this winter. It would be such a wonderful thing to do and would eliminate a lot of time scraping snow and ice off the windows in this weather. I told her that it was a nice idea but that we needed a lot more intense cleaning in the garage before I could reduce the clutter enough to pull that off.

But then yesterday I got to thinking about it seriously and even though the temperatures were well below freezing I decided to go out there and just see what I might be able to do. I also figured that since it was so cold anyway for the next couple months I would not likely be spending a lot of time in the garage looking through things anyway and so I might just be able to accept smashing everything to the sides enough to make room for the car, at least temporarily.

That is in fact what I was able to do. I made enough room to get the car inside and still have space to open the doors comfortably. Last night I drove the car into the garage for the first time in over five years and today I laid down some boards to act as alerts to let me know when I have backed in far enough. This same car actually belonged to my parents and is the car that was involved in my step-mom's death. It took six months for the repairs and bodywork to be finished on the care after that accident but it has been a very good car for us, both my parents and now for us after their passing. They actually had been keeping it in this garage all along until the accident happened and we moved in, so this was something sort of like a reunion for the car and its long lost friend and protector, the garage.

So, hopefully when the heavy snows come and the ice storms hit, if we can keep this arrangement going until spring we might be able to actually enjoy our garage for the very purpose for which it was built years ago. Now imagine that – what an idea!