Dear Lord, What Did I NOT Do? Panic Mode!

it’s crazier to be convinced–much less think–that we human beings are capable of fixing all that’s wrong in our culture.

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Image from imbd.com

It was Saturday, somewhere around 3:30 p.m.; during the Alabama-Florida football game. Bama (Roll Tide!) started out real good. At the end of the first quarter THE Crimson Tide was ahead 21 to 3. Then Florida started a comeback, and it looked like Alabama was stumbling hard. And I began thinking, “What did I miss in my pregame rituals? Did I wear a Bama shirt on Friday? Yes! Did I put on a Bama shirt Saturday morning? Yes! Did I have on my gameday underwear? Yes! Did I follow my pregame menu? Yes! Did I have on my Gameday Shirt? Yes! Did I have the correct snacks and beverage? Yes! Did I let down my ponytail? Yes, Yes, and Yes! So what did I forget??? It must be my fault that Bama is slipping!” This may sound crazy to some, but do you remember this Budweiser commercial?

Somehow, I was convinced that Bama wasn’t performing at its best because of me–and something I didn’t do right! Crazy to think that the outcome of an epic contest between two teams somehow depended on me and what I did, or didn’t do! And it’s crazier to be convinced–much less think–that we human beings are capable of fixing all that’s wrong in our culture. Yet this fatuous, frivolous, and futile half-baked conviction is driving so many today. And it’s driving us off that proverbial cliff.

Like a herd of lemmings, we continue to run even harder, only to fall of that cliff. You see, us hard-headed, pea-brained vacuous human beings–the only control we have in this vertiginous world is our will and our choices. Oh, these is one other thing we can control and fix: Our Reactions to what happens. No one but YOU has control over these three maxims. But the problems in our world? It matters not how many titles are after your name; it matters not what you think about yourself or another; and it certainly matters not how many initials you have after your name. It’s all BS when it comes to resolving our current crises.

So, am I suggesting that we throw up our hands in surrender to despair? Heaven’s to Betsy, NO! To relinquish and renounce hope is definitely NOT the ticket to a better world. Back to my Crimson Tide. They did win the game–but not because of my Gameday Rituals. Coaches coached to the best of their abilities. Players played hard and proved themselves at those critical junctures. I had nothing to do with the win–but I did enjoy it!

So what do we do? What CAN we DO? The remedy to this enervation? It’s not to be found in more sedation. It’s not found in the red or blue pill. While the Bible student may desire to blame Adam and Eve for this discombobulation, the castigation lies closer to home. We messed it up–and though we can fix some of our messes–this one lies outside our abilities and way beyond our capabilities. But it is not, I say NOT beyond God.

It’s NOT above His abilities. It’s NOT beyond His capabilities. And it’s NOT on the far side of His willingness. Oops, my ESPN kicked in again. One of you were just thinking: “Well, if God is able, capable, and willing–why hasn’t He done something?” And it’s a valid question that is worthy of a truthful answer, not some vapidity. He’s waiting! “Waiting for what???????” You and I.

That’s right. He’s waiting for our unconditional and absolute surrender. One day a young man who could easily be called a “religious man” came to Jesus seeking unending life. Jesus reminded this young man of how God said we are to live. And this religious young man saw those “rules” as a formula, not a lifestyle. He admitted to Jesus something was still missing, and dared to ask what was missing in his life. And Jesus told him: “Get rid of all your possessions, give the money to the poor, it will produce eternal wealth, and then follow me.”

Jesus wasn’t speaking against this religious young man’s wealth–Jesus was speaking into his surrender. We see in Matthew chapter 19 verse 22 the response of this religious young man: “But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” I love how The Message rendered the text: “That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.”

He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go. Do you get the point Jesus is making? If we want to see real change in the culture, it begins with absolute and unconditional surrender to Jesus. Then, as Jesus told the disciples: “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Quit looking for the formula to cure these many ills. And start surrendering to Jesus and God will do the impossible–Beginning With Us! I leave you with a song:

It’s Out Of My Hands–But I’m Still In Control!

Though the pain persists and intensifies–we refuse to let go of being in control–even though it’s conspicuous that we are far from it.

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Here’s one of those, call it, Inconvenient Truths: Much of life is way above our paygrade! We lack the skillsets and knowledge to handle it. Deep down we know this is true. But that craving to be in control is the impetus induces us to hold on and not let go. I’m trying to think of an analogy to describe this choice to not let go. It’s like seeing a hornet’s nest and thinking how good it would look over the mantle. So we reach out to take it down and the hornets attack. But we won’t let go because we want it on our mantle–and the stings of those hornets keep on multiplying. But we want it. Got the mental image of this? Good!

There have been, are now, and until Jesus returns, continue to be problems and botherations that we cannot fix! And for most of us–that’s the irritation and vexation, and it’s becomes that hornet’s nest. Though the pain persists and intensifies–we refuse to let go of being in control–even though it’s conspicuous that we are far from it. And if we continue that hunger and aspiration to be in control, our life will reach terminal velocity–and the resulting crash leaves us unrecognizable.

Why do we have this hankering to be in control even though we know the outcome? Blame it on Adam and Eve–Satan promised them something he couldn’t give them and that they were incapable of–Being In Control! Now that the blight and debility has been identified, what can we do? Would you believe there’s a story in The Bible about this very thing? Who wouda thunk it?

It’s in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 19, starting at verse 16. Some think it’s about the evil of being rich. Only a dolt would see it that way. It’s the story about a young man who realizes something is amiss with his life–and so he comes to Jesus. A good place to go. It’s the question about life–lasting life–enduring life–life now and life forever. The first thing Jesus tells him are the things he already knows–and also knows that aren’t really helping him.

So Jesus tells him to do one more thing–let go of your wealth and pursue God’s Kingdom. In other words–stop trying to be in control! After hearing what Jesus had to say, I love how The Message puts it in verse 22: “That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.

Listen to me people! We got mega-tons of problems–in politics, in the economy, in society, in our culture. Add to these, we all have issues that are draining the life right out of us. And as long as we hold on to them–and refuse to give up CONTROL–they will persist to our annihilation and the lights go out.

Give up the futility, senselessness, and ineffectuality of holding on to that illusive and imaginary thing we call being in control. Ask the Nail Scarred Hands to take it out of your hands. I commend this song to your listening:

Don’t be like that young man who refused to give up control and left the presence of the Only One who is in absolute control–with that hangdog look.

RECALL ALERT!

every day Recall something that God has done for you

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Recall Alert! No, not your vehicle. Not some baby product. Not your C-Pap machine. Not the food in your pantry or freezer. Not your coffee maker. Not your hair dryer or curling iron or flat iron. Not some power tool. Not your washer, dryer, refrigerator, or freezer. It hasn’t been on the news, but it should be. Are you wondering what I’m writing about this morning? Well, let me first tell you a short story.

One Sunday morning at my previous appointment, I was talking with someone about something (I forgot what it was), but as I was talking, I forgot some key point of the story. The person I was talking with was Dr. Joe Cooney, a physiology professor. I told Joe, “Oh, man! I can’t remember! I’m losing my memory.” And in his usual calm manner, Joe told me, “No, you’re not loosing your memory. It’s up there. You’re having a RECALL problem.” God bless Joe! I wasn’t loosing my memory, and he’s spent his whole life understanding and teaching about the human body, including the brain!

Recalling that episode this early morning got me to thinking–about Recall! And what does Recall have to do with this thing called the Journey of Life? Sometimes I forget. Do you? It acts like memory loss–but it’s a Recall issue. As a matter of fact, life can be, scratch that, life IS difficult to say the very least. You don’t need this old preacher to remind you of this reality.

Problems at work. Problems at home. Problems with our health. Unexpected deaths. Failures. Divorce. Abandonment. Loss of job. Foreclosure. Depression. These are just a very few of the moments in life that will cause us to question–question the Only One who loves us and takes care of us no matter what happens. Or am I the only one who has ever questioned the faithfulness of God? Felt abandoned by God? Felt like He just doesn’t care? When those moments overwhelm us–we act, think, and feel like there are no memories of how faithful God has been to us. But He has been–we just need to Recall those memories of other overwhelming moment when no doubt, God was with us!

One of my favorite memories was in July of 1971. At a youth service the Holy Spirit moved in my heart and invited me into this relationship with Jesus. I fought so hard that I held on to the pew in front of me–and I said NO to God. Why is this a good recall for me? Because a year later, that same Holy Spirit spoke that same message to me–and this time I said YES!

In September 2003, another of my favorite memories happened. I was a total train wreck, and the darkness was strong in me because of my divorce. I had performed a wedding ceremony for a very good friend’s nephew. A friend called me that next week and told me I really impressed one of the wedding directors and that I really needed to call her for a date. Debbie became God’s Gift to me in my darkest times. And on November 13, 2020 we celebrated our 16th Wedding Anniversary.

It’s not easy–but if we stop focusing on what we have forgotten–and start to Recall, well–it just changes everything. We recover the Truth that God hasn’t abandoned us or forgotten us. Recall is a good thing–an excellent thing. May I suggest, as I did this morning–to Recall moments when God overwhelmed us with love, mercy and grace.

Don’t wait until the crucible heats up–every day Recall something that God has done for you. And if you are having a Recall Problem and can’t remember–then think about Jesus on that cruel Cross. Look at the Cross–and the Recall Problem is resolved!

This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

1 John 4:10 (NLT)

It’s Right There In The Bible! NOT! Part 1

God doesn’t cause everything to happen that happens on this spherical orb called earth!

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This is the first of I don’t know how many blogs on Things In The Bible–NOT! Isn’t it amazing how many things people believe are in the Bible–but it’s just not there. Maybe amazing isn’t the word–sad is a more apt description. Some of my fellow members of The Order Of The Backwards Collar (a.k.a. preachers) have done a whole series of sermons on this issue. I promise you that these thoughts are my thoughts–not someone else’s. With this said, please put your trays in the upright position, turn off all electronic devices (except the one you are reading this on), and fasten your seatbelts. We are about to take off!

The Lord never puts more on you than you can handle!

Oy vey! This one is absolute bupkes (Yiddish word for “goat droppings” or “horse droppings”, and in the South we say “bull s&%#”)! Show me in The Bible where it says such a heinous and horrid thing! This is wrong on so many levels, where do I begin? What besotted person would even contemplate such a thought?

Well, what does the Bible actually say? I hear some referring to 1 Corinthians 10:13–“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” Now, this I do believe. God will not allow a temptation to be more than I can handle and will be with me in it to show me the way out. That’s temptations, not life.

Listen! There’s a difference between temptations and life as it happens on this spherical orb called earth. NEWS FLASH! God doesn’t cause everything to happen that happens on this spherical orb called earth! Sorry Calvinists! NOT SORRY! Here’s another NEWS FLASH! We live in smack dab in the middle of a fallen creation. And right now, I’m still struggling with something that is too hard for me to handle. I’m having trouble focusing on the tasks in front of me. I’m grieving. I’m grieving for my Dad. I’m grieving for my family. One more NEWS FLASH! It’s more than I can handle! And God didn’t put this on me. Life did; more exactly–death is the cause. And God doesn’t cause death! And I pity the fool who believes God is the cause of any death.

I just wrote “one more NEWS FLASH”–but that’s not so. I have yet another–let’s call this one a GOOD NEWS FLASH! I’m not alone! I have the Body Of Christ surrounding me with prayer, compassion, and presence–literally being the presence of Jesus to me in this season of life when it is too much for me to handle. And just what does the Bible say exactly, when life is too much to handle? Does it say that I just need more faith? Oh, heck NO! A million times NO!

I choose to listen to the one who experienced life’s crushing experiences–Jesus! As a matter of fact, here’s what Jesus and The Bible says: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT) He overcame the world AFTER He fell beneath the weight of that cross when he was being led to His place of execution!

God doesn’t put grief, pain, disappointment, hurt, nor anything else that crushes our hearts. But He is with us in the crucible–and He will guide us out of it. Just ask Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. God hasn’t given me more than I can handle. But life has–so I cling to the one who conquered both life and death!

Oh–and if you have a favorite pet peeve on something that people say is in The Bible, but it’s not, share it in the comments section! See ya’ tomorrow!

What The What?

Dysphoria–it’s a word frequently used in our culture–especially in the realm of gender identity. And it is being especially applied to children and adolescences. There was a time when Genesis 1 verse 27 was sufficient: “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” This was the rule–with the exception of chromosomal abnormalities. Simple, look below the waist–and there’s your gender, period!

But with the inflation and over evaluating of the most unreliable of human sensations–that of ‘feelings’–we now have multiple choices. Gee, whiz! How could God get this so wrong! The term “gender dysphoria” which Child Mind Institute defines is this:

Gender dysphoria was created as a distinct disorder to clarify that being transgender, or identifying as a gender different from the one of your birth, is not in itself a psychiatric disorder. The new disorder was meant to remove the stigma from being transgender, and to shift the concern of mental health professionals to assisting those for whom the experience of being transgender has resulted in significant distress and impaired functioning.

https://childmind.org/guide/guide-to-gender-dysphoria/

Recently in Tuscaloosa, Alabama a father was interviewed about this very issue. He was affirming that his son, now his daughter, has every right to make such a life-changing decision and encouraged other parents who have dysphoric children to enable their children to follow his example. But what IF–the parents said to that child, “Look, we feel like you are more of a daughter than a son. And we want to help you, make the necessary decisions for you to become our daughter. After all, that is how we feel about you.”

Does this really make sense to you? To anyone? Some would reply, “It’s not up to you and how you feel. You have neither the intellect or wherewithal to make such a decision!” But what if their feelings are very real? Shouldn’t they have this right based on their feelings? When one insists that it is legitimate to travel on the road of feelings, this is where that road will eventually AND inevitably lead us.

The real dysphoria of out is not about gender identity–the dysphoria is about the Truth–to be exact–the source of Truth. Do you know what the word dysphoria means? It’s not psychobabble invented by psychiatrists. It means: melancholy, restlessness, despondency. As long as one lives outside The Truth of God’s Design for life–dysphoria is where we will live, and where we will die.

THE MATURITY CRISIS

crisis [ krahy-sis ]; noun: a condition of instability or danger, as in social, economic, political, or international affairs, leading to a decisive change.

dictionary.com

Much has been said and written about the current election cycle. But this morning I am choosing a different topic: Maturity. I’m not talking about age, but something that appears to be an endangered species: Wisdom. Some say wisdom comes with age, but I can cite you many examples that this isn’t true. Wisdom does not happen automatically, and wisdom doesn’t just show up. Wisdom is the result of a dedicated pursuit for wisdom. It takes years of pursuit for a person to model wisdom. And wisdom will never be found in the Ivory Towers of academia–though the Ivory Tower folks think they are full of wisdom. Many are full of it–but “it” isn’t wisdom.

However, there is a common thought the kids possess the wisdom to make many important choices in their lives. Psychologists, sociologists and parents believe that kids have the necessary tools to make important decisions in their lives–among which is gender and sexuality. They believe that kids today are born with the skill sets and wisdom to choose their own path without interference from any adult.

Turning kids, adolescents, and teenagers loose to make important decisions is another form of child abuse. They lack the skill sets, experiences, and wisdom to make adult decisions. Heck, I know adults who are not equipped to make adult decisions. So why would anyone think kids can make adult level decisions. We had a bishop who thought that teens and twenty somethings held the key to church growth and that all of us over 40 were the problem.

The current crisis, I’m not talking about the election, has been fueled by those who claim kids are capable of making adult decisions. I’m not blaming the kids–I’m blaming the adults who have allowed, even encouraged kids that they are free to make any and all decisions on their own. To all parents and teachers out there, I challenge you to stop this carnage. Can’t you see you are hurting those kids?

It is unfair to our kids when we allow, even expect them to make adult level choices in their lives. As adults, our role is to give them the tools of wisdom BEFORE they made decisions and draw conclusions that will impact them for the rest of their lives. But we adults can’t give the kids what we do not have. So, to all you adults out there, I have something to say to you:

  • Education is not enough. I know many highly educated idiots.
  • Parents, your job is not to be your kid’s friend. Truth Time: If you haven’t made your kids mad at you, you haven’t done your job!
  • Educators, don’t fill their heads with your beliefs, but create an environment that nurtures deep thoughts and even wrestling with the answers. You’re not a god with all the answers. Not sorry if I hurt your feelings.
  • Let kids fail at something. Then let them know that failure at some task is not final.
  • Teach kids that all decisions and actions have consequences, and sometimes those consequences are not pleasant at all.
  • And a final word to adults: Seek and pursue after wisdom for yourself. Kids won’t find wisdom until and unless they see it in you. Don’t forget there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. By the way, the best source of wisdom comes from God. Wait, scratch that! The ONLY source of wisdom is God.

The crisis we are facing is the lack of wisdom. The ways people are thinking has created and is fueling our crisis. Speaking of wisdom, a man noted for his wisdom once wrote:

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

Proverbs 14:12 (NLT)

BUT NOT COMPLETELY!

Well, in the immortal words of Jack Nicholson. . .

It’s been a while since I’ve put my thoughts, emotions, and questions in blog form. This respite has been intentional; I’ve been in a season of observation and reflection. At this stage of my spiritual journey I have come to understand how priceless observation and reflection are navigating this world as a citizen and warrior of the Kingdom of God.

Some of the observations and reflections resulted in my previous and current sermon series. Some of my observations and reflections have been planted in my “thinking about it” garden to see what grows out of it. And honestly, this was not going to be my “return to blogging” article. But then. . .real life happened.

It started on the afternoon of Sunday, July 12. After preaching 2 services I engaged in my Sabbath Discipline, A.K.A. a nap. When I woke up, I just didn’t feel good. Tried doing a couple of things and nausea set in. Nausea turned into more pain and then vomiting. All Sunday night the pain only intensified. But late Monday the pain eased up and I thought the worst was over. So much for my thinking. Finally, I told Debbie I needed to go to the emergency room. The rules at our small rural hospital meant she could drop me off, but not stay with me. But my high threshold for pain had been exceeded.

I signed in and then had to wait even though, on a scale of 1 to 10, my current pain was at 12.5. When they finally called me back the first order of business was a COVID-19 test, and then the reason why I was there. An injection of  Dilaudid became a gift from God to me. Then things started happening pretty fast. A CT-Scan with contrast revealed a ruptured appendix. The nurse came in with the bad news and said “The helicopter will be here in just a few minutes.” It seems the hospitals closest to me that had the facilities to care for me didn’t have any beds.

When I arrived at University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center, another COVID-19 test, conversation with some doctors, I was sent to the appropriate unit. Once there I was hooked up to IV antibiotics–and constant care. Wednesday was another day of pain and pain killers. Thursday morning was another whirlwind. I was taken for another scan; returned to my room, only to be turned around and taken back for 2 drainage tubes (one of those tubes was inserted into an orifice that shall remain unnamed).

In this same time my IV stick had to be moved 6 or 7 times because my vein had blown. My daily routine was pain, pain-killers, more IVs, and walking the halls for my physical therapy. Sunday morning I was feeling a little better, so I took a shower and even shaved. I was feeling a bit hopeful, that is, until the usual returned on Sunday night. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually I had been on the Roller Coaster From Hell.

Finally, on Monday, the numbers started moving in my favor. The pain was subsiding and I was feeling hopeful again. Tuesday morning one of my doctors came in and removed the most invasive drainage tube (remember the orifice I mentioned earlier?) and I wanted to sing the doxology. A little later he cleared me to go home with the other drainage tube. After a “how to flush the drainage tube” lesson and extensive discharge orders, 1 week later I arrived back to where this all started. Now I am home reflecting on these part 2 weeks. Allow me to share one of the lessons I have been learning.

We have no control over most of what happens to us in life

The need to be in control is only adding to the anger and chaos that is consuming and destroying our nation. I looked all through my calendar and to-do list and no where have I found “ruptured appendix” in my plans. The need to be in control over life, relationships, other people, families, even church–goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Satan offered that lie to Adam and Eve. Now I want to really upset some people:

We are not equipped to be in control!

Now that the bad news is out of the way–there is one thing over which we have absolute control. No thing or no one can control it for you. It is your reaction to what happens that you and you alone control. No whining and no excuses. Your reactions come from your perspective and no one can give you or choose for you that perspective. While lying in that hospital bed did I have a pity party? Of course I did! In fact, I had more than one. But I had a choice–do I choose to live in that pity party or do I choose to change my focus? I chose the later–and when I focused on God’s faithful presence, which at times I doubted; the pity party ended because I know that regardless of how I feel–God hasn’t abandoned me–and He is loving on me. Tomorrow I will share another lesson.

THE GREAT AND HORRIBLE WAR!

“This morning is hell!” Doesn’t sound nice, does it? Yet this is exactly what many are feeling; not just a morning feeling–but an all day kind of feeling for many. It’s because of the Great War And Horrible War. And yes, even this Preacherman understands this feeling–because sometimes. . .it’s the truth about me. If you think this isn’t you–Remember The Eighth Command–Don’t you dare lie–to others, about others, or even to yourself! I know it says “your neighbor”, but who lives closer to you than YOU?

Satan knows which buttons to push. His strategy in this Great And Horrible War is rather simple–but effective. Successful military strategists understand this and put it into practice–if they want to win a battle. Satan’s strategy is this: Hit At The Weakest Points! He does this daily. . .constantly. And the casualties he causes–though they won’t make the news this evening–are mounting up into catastrophic proportions.

And one of the weakest points in many lives, even mine, is our Will! But something my mentor, Andy Andrews, is teaching me is that our Will is stronger than our feelings. But the Opposing General doesn’t want us to believe this truth. There’s much I could say at this point. . .but I defer to someone with more battle scars than myself–a guy known as Paul. Read carefully what he wrote in Romans 7:14-25. This is my personal autobiography. Here’s what it looks like from The Message:

14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Be honest with God. He is GOOD, you know. He will change you from having your feelings into knowing His Will in your life. And more–HE will give you HIS strength to live in that Will rather than your feelings. WE cannot stop this Great And Horrible War, but we can’t stop becoming another casualty by asking HIM to change our “want to”, which is nothing more than our feelings, into Will; and Satan can’t stop that Will. He tried in the Garden of Gethsemane–and failed. He tried on that cruel Cross–and failed. And he tried in that Tomb–AND HE FAILED! Daddy’s Grace is the field hospital where our wounds are tended and our hearts are mended. . .and our feelings are transformed into HIS WILL!

Continue then, to love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!

How Do You Let Go?

When one is in the middle of a tsunami, Cat 5 hurricane, 8.5 earthquake and an EF5 tornado all rolled into one, cute and easy doesn’t cut it; at least for me.

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How do you let go? Of the past? Of your growing up children, your grown children? The persistent pain? The chaos? That bitterness? The fear? The inundations of the current political climate? The uncertainty of the future? How do you let go of WHAT IS RIGHT NOW? Allow that last question to sink in a bit.

Well, some would say (and perhaps cheerfully say) “Well, you just gotta LET GO AND LET GOD!” And I reply, “Exactly what does that mean?” And some, maybe you would reply, “Silly, it means let go of it and let God take care of it!” And my response will be, “Yeah, but. . .what does it mean when I’m right smack dab in the middle of the storm?”

Some may chastise me (even flog me) for my next thoughts: “That sounds real cute and easy–but right now I don’t need or even want cute and easy. I need HELP!” When one is in the middle of a tsunami, Cat 5 hurricane, 8.5 earthquake and an EF5 tornado all rolled into one, cute and easy doesn’t cut it; at least for me. Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way. . .but I suspect I’m not the only one.

In my spiritual journey, I started out as a “Methodist”. Then in 1968 I became a “United Methodist”. This has been my Tribe since 1956 when I was born and God said, “You better watch out for this one!” I had always thought I would die as a “United Methodist”. And now, at 63, it’s not going to happen. I am literally watching the Tribe that nurtured me, helped me see Jesus, find grace, explore and affirm God’s call on my life, implode and disintegrate before my very eyes.

For some, it’s not about their Tribe, but for some other horrible reason, they are in that tsunami, Cat 5 hurricane, and an EF5 tornado all rolled into one moment. Whatever was, and currently is–that “feeling” comes upon us with a weighty realization–It’s time to let go! It may be living in a harmful relationship, the rebellious child hell bent on destroying the lives of people around them, overwhelming grief, that crushed dream; even that bitterness of soul that comes from the wound no one sees but you. . .and God. It’s this question: How do you let go?

This is the question that is haunting me, and perhaps you, or maybe someone you know. As one struggling with this, and speaking on the behalf of fellow strugglers, don’t give me, or us, cute sayings or post on our FB page some “inspirational quote”! This only tends to exacerbate our inner turmoil by either making us feel like we are failures in faith; or that you haven’t really listened to us. How do you let go? I’m really asking, millions are really asking, “Can you do something to help me let go?”

The answer is No! And Yes! Wow! You’re thinking (I know you are because I have the gift of espn!), “Preacherman, you’re a world of contradictions! It’s gotta be Yes or No; not Yes AND No.” I guess I need to explain myself, and hopefully lower your blood pressure, and keep you from chastising me for my lack of faith.

No, you cannot help me let go because this is my choice, and the choice of all who are in the WWE Smackdown Steel Cage Match of our lives. We who are wrestling with this question are not unlike those battling some type of addiction. We can be clean and free for a season because you give us cute phrases or simply nag at us; but if it’s not our choice, then we relapse into that vicious cycle. We who are in the alligator grip of seeking to trying to decide how to Let Go must decide to Let Go for ourselves, not for any other person–just to release whatever it is that has filled our minds, and our hearts with all this smog. Not that this gator from hell is going to let go of us, he won’t; but now he knows he’s losing, even lost, the battle.

And Yes, you can help us Let Go; and here is how:

  1. Listen to us. Fight your personal urge to “fix” us. Many times we just need to talk and know someone has heard us, who doesn’t have on their agenda to “fix” us. We’re not asking you to agree with us. Remember Proverbs 18:13–“Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” And in case you didn’t get my message, hear how The Message puts it: “Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.” Got it?
  2. Love on us without trying to fix us! It’s called “unconditional” love. The Biblical word is Grace! Remember the mark of a follower of Jesus. John 13:34-35–“Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Yes, Jesus wants to change us–but never before we know we are loved by HIM. Do the same!
  3. Pray for us! Pray that God puts a person or 2, maybe 3 or 4, in our path today who will share with us God’s wisdom. Pray that our eyes will see a surprise from God, who is always at work to heal us. Don’t pray for God to give YOU the answer we need; pray that WE see God’s answer, however it comes to us.
  4. Be an example for us! Don’t “tell” us what to do; SHOW US what it looks like to Let Go! And you can’t do that for us if you haven’t been there! After my divorce I got a lot of “counsel”; and honestly–not much if any at all helped. But when I found (I think someone was praying that I find it) my Divorce Support Group, I found how to Let Go from a small group of those who were in various stages of Letting Go! Show me your scars and I will first watch you, then I will listen to you. Otherwise, either pray for us or bug off!

While I may grieve what may appear to be the end of my Tribe, and while I may wonder what to do next, I know the ONE who can either CHANGE THE TRAJECTORY of this current mess–OR–who is prepared for what happens next, always prepared for what happens next. Only HE can help us Let Go WHEN we are ready to let go.

So, when you think of me, and when you see someone in different circumstances but still is wresting with the question, How Do I Let Go, remember to Love God with all your heart. Love others (even us who are wrestling that gator) the way Jesus loves you. And please make sure that all the glory goes to HIM!

Is It Time To Change The Rules?

Recently I entered a strange world–it’s called Twitter. Oh, I’ve had a Twitter account and these musings here show up in my Twitter feed. But instead of just “tweeting”, “liking”, and the occasional “retweet”, I decided to dive in to a thread that, well, got my attention.

It was about doing away with the Electoral College because it wasn’t . . . fair. I was amazed at the number of people wanting to abolish the Electoral College all because “their” candidate wasn’t elected. The theme of being unfair rang throughout the rants.

And I was dumbfounded by those who didn’t understand it. I made a simple comment, excuse me, “tweet”, that the U.S. is a Representative Republic and not a democracy. One “twit” (I know my snarky is coming out) corrected me by saying that Google corrects it to “Representative Democracy”. I tweeted that just because Google said it doesn’t make it true. Right now I’ve drawn all the curtains and regularly peek outside to see if the mob armed with torches and axes are approaching the house. And I wept that so many were being educated by Google rather than knowledge and common sense.

I could go on about what I encountered, but another thought came over me. It was the question that is the title of this post: “Is It Time To Change The Rules?” It seems to me that our culture is being driven to accept only the results that it desires in the moment. If rules gets in the way of achieving those desires, then the rules need to be changed in order to achieve the wanted outcome.

Now, those who know me knows that I can be a rebel by breaking some of the rules. And there are some rules that indeed need to be changed. Our nation has a history of changing rules, rules that are unjust, rules that demean human life, or make it impossible for citizens to reach out for their potential. Some rules have taken a long time, too long of a time, to be changed.

It has happened even in the church. Wrong and sinful things were justified and approved. People were segregated by social status and the color of their skin. Women were denied the opportunity to pursue God’s call on their life. (Some still deny them that right. And for those who sincerely believe I am wrong on this, it’s OK for you to be wrong. And if you take Paul’s “let women be silent in church” out of context, then I’ll take it out of context and say that women can’t sing in church! Yes, that’s me being snarky.)

Yes, rules have been changed. Those changes happened because there were rules that needed to be broken, urgently needed to be change. Why? Not because a group decided those rules were unfair. The rules weren’t changed so that some group could get their way. They were changed because those rules were unjust.

It’s the desire to change the rule in order have one’s own way at any cost that disturbs me most. There is an attempt in my Tribe to change the rules on Christian conduct; to change the definition of God-Approved Marriage. And when the rule won’t change, they live in open disobedience, with little or no consequences. And this desire to change the rules in order to get one’s desired outcome has led to chaos and anger; anger and chaos; and it’s ripping apart both our nation and church.

Yes, some rules need to be changed. But never, ever, ever simply to achieve some personal desire or wish. Rules that need to be changed are those of justice and keeping the doors of opportunity open to anyone and everyone. Changing the rules needs to be done through discernment, deep thought, and focused on the issues of justice and human dignity. The Electoral College is about as fair as it gets–so it’s not about justice. The Electoral College doesn’t take away human dignity. And this is for the cupcakes–when your candidate isn’t elected, it’s NOT a matter of dignity; it just that you act so UNdignified. So why change that rule? Changing rules to achieve one’s personal (and often selfish and void of common sense) desires, will only devolve into chaos–and that chaos will invite tyranny into the U.S.; something the Founding Fathers worked hard to prevent.

Drout!

Are you looking at the title, scratching your head wondering, “Doesn’t this guy know how to spell?” Ile hav u no that huked on fonics wurked for me!

No, let’s get serious. “Drout” is how the dictionary says we are to pronounce “drought”. Here in West Alabama we are in a rainfall drought. It’s been at least 4 weeks since it has rained. The dust and the pollen have really agitated and aggravated these sinuses of mine. Late Tuesday afternoon I was outside looking around when I felt a slight sprinkle. Heck, that wasn’t enough for me to remember my baptism–and I’m a Methodist!

But this word drought moved me to thinking–not about the lack of rainfall–but a more critical drought crisis going on in my culture. I found this “other” definition of drought:

a prolonged or chronic shortage or lack of something expected or desired

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

My culture is in a prolonged AND chronic drought–and the evidence is everywhere. Here are some of the things I see that our culture is in severe lack of. Feel free to add to my list in the comments section.

  • Common Sense
  • Truthfulness
  • Kindness
  • Honesty
  • Jesus-Centered Ethics
  • Accepting Personal Responsibility
  • Determination
  • Inner-Peace
  • Joy
  • Contentment
  • Purpose
  • Hope
  • Forgiveness
  • Respect
  • Integrity
  • (Add your insight to the list in the comments section below)

I think perhaps the following image says something about our culture:

And here’s what irks me, aggravates me, exasperates me, irritates me, annoys me, drives me crazy, makes me want to grab a person by their shoulders and shake them: No one wants to do anything about this drought–other than whine, complain and blame; oh more thing, and live oblivious to the damage it is doing to themselves and their culture.

I’m beginning to understand that bumper sticker I see from time to time: The more I see of people, the better I love my horse! So how do I change it? How do YOU change it? Because if we are not seeking to eradicate this drought we are only contributing to it, AND reinforcing it.

The quick and easy answer is “Pray!” But I want you, our culture needs you and God desires FOR you to go deeper. Yes, pray, but What next? You cannot say, “Well, yes our culture is in a drought but I’m doing my part–I’m praying for rain! Come Holy Spirit and rain the grace of God all over this land!” If all you are doing to end this drought is praying–my friends, I say this with nothing but love in my heart for you: “You are only adding to the drought!” Don’t read what’s NOT written. I didn’t say prayer wasn’t important; It Is VERY Important. But. . .What’s Next?

Last night I read a book that is giving me insights in What’s Next. It will only take you one evening, one morning, one afternoon to read it. The book is How Do You Kill 11 Million People? Why The Truth Matters More Than You Think by Andy Andrews. To end this Moral/Spiritual Drought begins with me. . .and you. . .to pray and then to do What’s Next. You and I have a mission and a purpose–to bring Truth back into our culture in ways that helps others see The Truth! And The Truth has a name–Jesus!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!