I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

Psalm 139, verses 7 through 12; from the New Living Translation

Rather than my ponderings, reflections, and musings–you get to write today’s blog. At the risk of sounding like an English teacher, write your essay–in your heart and mind, and in the comments below if you are so inclined–write an essay answering these 4 questions:

  1. Where are you seeing God today?
  2. What is He saying to you today?
  3. Where do you see God at work today?
  4. Where is He asking you to join in with Him today?

Wanting One Thing, But Doing Another

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 

Romans chapter 7, verse 15, from the New Living Translation

The news is filled with stories about conflict. From homes, communities, within nations, and between nations. Even the “Church” is not exempt from conflict. But this morning I want to bring that word closer to home. And the word I am using isn’t conflict–but Conflicted. The definition of Conflicted is “having or showing confused and mutually inconsistent feelings. Notice those last 3 words: mutually inconsistent feelings. In this morning’s passage, Conflicted is what Paul is talking about–mutually inconsistent feelings.

It’s not enough to say there is conflict. Nay! It must go deeper within each person to realize that one is wrestling between 2 mutually inconsistent feelings. For example–let’s say someone has hurt you and you refuse to forgive them. And maybe it doesn’t bother them that they refuse to forgive that person. BUT. . .one day they read Ephesians chapter 4 verse 32: “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (NLT) Now, if they are serious about following Jesus there is more than a conflict going on. They should be Conflicted.

There are 2 mutually inconsistent feelings happening. More than feelings, it’s conflicting ideas; more than ideas–it’s between truth and THE Truth: Unforgiveness versus Forgiveness. Our “truth” (not being willing to forgive, as in this example) is in conflict with THE Truth (that forgiveness is uncondition)! If we are serious about following Jesus, the result should be that we become Conflicted! Like with Paul, we know what we should do–maybe even “want” to do it. But instead we don’t. In every issue of life there is our “truth” and THE Truth.

Until we are Conflicted we will never deal with the difference between our truth and THE Truth. And when we become Conflicted, what should we do? Well, simple! First become Conflicted! In verse 24 Paul wrote: “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” Thankfully for us, Paul answered his own question (and what should be OUR question) in verse 25: “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”

Jesus delivers us from whatever it is that is Conflicted with THE Truth. He doesn’t bless our truth–but works to take away that Conflicted desire we have. And to my fellow United Methodist Institution tribal members, we should be Conflicted over what is happening. We have mutually inconsistent feelings within this Tribe. So, will you live with and in “your” truth, or will you trust God enough to take you into THE Truth? Being Conflicted is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing. Now we are contronted with truth versus THE Truth. Don’t allow truth to guide you to your conclusions. Instead, let THE Truth guide you and trust God with the results.

HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR DECISIONS?

Making decisions is the most important decision you can ever make! But to make more than good decisions–you need to make GREAT decisions. But to make a decision you need a source that will shape and form that decision. And it needs to be a tried, tested, and proven source; unchanged by time. An ever changing source leads, always leads, to poor choices. This scene from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade bears it out.

For example, the Supreme Court of the United States. They are preparing to undo a flawed decision made 22 January 1973 with Roe v. Wade. The SCOTUS at that time ruled that abortion was a constitutionally guaranteed right. But there’s nothing in the U.S. Constitution that guarantees it. So, it is about to be overturned. Now, before my Fundamentalist friends declare that abortion is unconstitutional, that’s not what this Court is about to declare. Their decision, and a right one I might add, is that abortion is a state and legislative issue, not a constitutional issue. Bravo, SCOTUS, bravo! About time the Tenth Amendment is recognized. Enough about the SCOTUS.

Today’s culture wants to make decisions based on feelings and how they think. Forget the proven science–each decision is a matter of personal preferences and how one feels. If you feel a certain way, then you make your decisions based on that feeling or that thinking. Remember my earlier comment about having a source for making great decisions? That source needs to be anchored to an unchanging truth. Feelings are subject to change more than the weather. And about our way of “thinking”? Well, thinking is always influenced by information. Unfortunately many are using flawed and untruthful information. (Go back and watch that scene from the above and what happened to Walter Donnovan)

What about you? What is the source for your decisions? Anything that is tethered to human logic and thinking is flawed. Always flawed. Think about it. Have you ever bought something and when you got home and opened it up, you discovered that it didn’t work! Why do you think there are so many automobile repair shops?

What you need to make GREAT decisions is the most reliable and greatest source ever: The Bible! Not what people say about The Bible. But what the Bible really says. The Apostle Paul reminded young Timothy of this by writing in 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verses 16-17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

And when (not IF) you can’t or don’t understand The Bible, God has an app for that! It was developed by James, the biologically half-brother of Jesus and the full brother of Jesus by faith. He wrote in James chapter 5, verses 5 and 6: If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Remember the words from William the Lion, Duke of Brittany in the movie The Last Crusade: Choose Wisely! And yes, the picture is of my Go-To Bible!

THE GRIP!

The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go. This is from the encounter between Jesus and what we might call a successful young man that had everything going for him. The story is found in Mark chapter 10 and the above quote is from The Message. Think about it. This young successful man knew something was missing in his life and to his credit, he brought it to Jesus. It seems to me he was looking for Jesus to simply confirm he was getting it right–or at least tell him which one of the things he was holding on to was the best.

When Jesus told him (btw the point isn’t that Jesus was against him being wealthy, sorry you so-called ‘Christian Socialists’) what he needed to do, he would not let go of The Grip he had. What Jesus said was last thing he expected to hear and pay attention to what he does next: he walked off with a heavy heart. The Grip he had denied him the very thing he wanted. And it still happens today.

Not with money, but a lot of other things. What things? Things like bitterness, resentment, hatred of that other political party, the politics that created this mess is going to clean up this mess, fear, past mistakes OF OTHERS, anger, jealousy, and a gazillion other things. The Grip they have in reality has them in It’s Grip! So, what is The Grip that has your face clouded over? What is The Grip that is making your heart heavy? And why do you still have The Grip? Let go of it and Grip the life of following Jesus.

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

AND THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

“Raising up to the skies” has taken on a new meaning these days. What once was the price going up 2 cents a gallon, has become 10 cents or more a day for fuel. What gives? What’s happening? Who’s to blame? Some want to say it’s Putin’s insane invasion of Ukraine. And many more want to say it’s President Biden’s fault. And the ones who are struggling and suffering because of these ludicrous increases are individuals and households who have a low and limited income. But let me give you a different perspective–one that goes deeper than finger pointing.

Decisions! Decisions are causing this economic disaster–and it is a disaster. A decision was made that everyone must give up hydrocarbons. A decision was made that the world would be better with nothing but electric cars, and electricity produced only by the wind and sun. And the biggest decision made was to shut down the Keystone Pipeline. The decision was made that the masses did not know what’s best for them, so a decision was made for them.

These decisions were not made by a single person–but a block(head) of people who think themselves so enlightened that they are qualified and empowered to make decisions for anyone else–for everyone else. And how did these pompous elitists come to have so much power? Simple–A decision was made! At the ballot box a decision was made to listen to the hype rather than the truth. At the ballot box a decision was made that it makes sense to turn our lives over to the government to take care of us from craddle to grave. A decision was made to stay away from the ballot box.

Decisions, however they are made, lead to consequences. Even decisions made sincerely and with the best of intentions, can lead to horrible consequences. So, does this mean we are all chained to an Orwellian life? Well, you can make that decision to say, “Yes”! Or, you can make another decision. But this other decision will require you to think–think long and hard–for yourself, using the wisdom of those outside the news media, social influencers, and political parties.

This debacle did not happen overnight–and to reverse this tousled train wreck will not happen overnight either. And the first way to begin the reversal of this mussed up mess, is to form a decision at the upcoming primaries. Decide that enough is enough–of career politicians. Then you can make a decision to reduce your personal consumption of fuel–don’t go to the store for just one item. Plan your shopping trips. Don’t go shopping just to go looking. Don’t go out to eat–there’s a marvelous invention called the kitchen stove. And the best decision you can make right now is to not give in to fears and frustrations.

THE WANDERING MIND!

This morning, my mind was a wandering! I’ve noticed here lately that it wanders off more frequently–and sometimes it forgets to come home. And in the darkness before today’s dawn, The Spirit gently and softly confronted me about this. And even as I tried to focus in on the Spirit, my mind started wandering again. I tried all kinds of words to get my mind back, focused on Him–but it was still trying to wander off to a thousand and one things I needed to get done today. I was about to think it was hopeless–all my attempts to reign it back in failed. It was then I said something different and it helped me. Maybe if you have a wandering mind like I do it will help you.

Here is what I said: “I will stop wandering and keep focusing on Jesus. This is my decision for today. And I will begin every morning with this decision. And with God’s help, I will live into this decision! And instantly my wandering mind came home. Why was this so powerful for me? I surrendered my will and my inabilities to control my mind. When I surrendered, The Spirit stepped in and said, “I can handle this–I’ve just been waiting for you to me permission.”

I had to face the truth that I wasn’t able to control what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking “bad” things–I was thinking about other things–things I needed to do–things I didn’t do yesterday–things I needed to get done today. And my mind went wandering, chasing those things like a beagle chasing rabbits. My decision to admit my powerlessness opened the gates of Heaven–and two things happened. I was focused on and aware of my Companion, The Holy Spirit. And I now have clarity. I may or may not get everything done today–but I have the ONLY One to help me sort through what needs to be done today. I leave you with this:

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.

Isaiah 26:3-4 (NLT)

THE JOURNEY JOURNAL: DAY 48

This morning at 4:52 a.m. CDT the temperature is 21 and the “feels like” is 12 degrees here at Dad’s. That’s usual for us in Alabama–but I’m not worried because in Alabama the weather changes almost as much as a politician’s opinions. And in that “feels like” temperature I found something to share in this Journey Journal of walking with Dad in this difficult season. As a child, he walked with me; and now I walk with him. If this is the first time to read my Journey Journal, here are the previous posts. (Day 1; Day 2; Day 3; Day 4; Day 5; Day 6; Day 8; Day 11; Day 18; Day 23; Day 24; Day 30) And this morning, the Syllabus from the Lesson Plan of The Holy Spirit is this: It’s A Bad Day For Making Decisions.

Yesterday I got a call that Dad was nauseated and vomiting. In addition, his A-Fib was acting up. So a quickly grabbed a few things and headed north to his home. Fortunately I had the foresight to leave a couple of changes of clothes and toiltrey items at Dad’s. 2 hours and about 20 minutes later I arrived, and found him feeling less nauseated but really weak. The last food he kept down was the day before yesterday’s lunch. For supper he felt like trying some cream of chicken soup, and so far so good.

But earlier he told me that he made a decision, one that I wouldn’t like. He was going to check into getting into a nursing home. He’s been making it pretty good–up until he got sick. Yes, it was a bad day for him. And what he taught me–unintentionally I’m sure–and what The Spirit wanted me to see is that when we have bad days, it’s not a good day to make decisions based on a bad day. I ought to know–Lord knows I’ve made too many decisions because of a bad day. Bad day decisions are usually bad decisions. And I’m asking you to pray with me that Dad will not let a bad day shape such an important decision. In a short time, he will be getting up to start his morning routine. I’m praying that a better day will lead him to a better decision.