ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR THE STRUGGLES?

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians chapter 5, verse 18; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Well, I didn’t muse and write yesterday because we were packing up and cleaning up from our recent spiritual retreat on the beach at Pensacola. Then the drive home. A few stops for food, gas, and shopping–then unpacking when we arrived home. And though I usually take Saturday as a Sabbath from writing, this morning is different. As the Spirit and I were talking (for the uninformed it’s also known as prayer) He gave me this thought: Are You Thankful For The Struggles?

So many are in some type of struggle–myself included. Shocker Alert: We all have struggles! For some of you, I didn’t have to say that. Maybe you are struggling with some type of addiction (and surely you know there are more types of addictions than chemical addictions, don’t you?) Maybe it’s a rebellious child at home. Perhaps it’s you are living out the story of The Prodigal Son. Maybe it’s your marriage. A friendship. Your health. The health of a loved one. Perhaps even finding a new job or career. As Forrest Gump said in the movie: “It happens.” Or maybe your struggle is in and with the United Methodist (Alleged) Church.

The struggle, whatever it may be, is literally eating you alive. You’ve tried a gazillion things to end the struggle. Perhaps you’ve resigned to burying you hand in the sand, hoping it will go away–but even Ostriches know that doesn’t work. So, what now? Maybe now is the time to follow Paul’s advice to the church at Thessalonica–Be Thankful! Did you or someone else just think: “What tha’………….?” Yes, I said Be Thankful for our struggles! And I just heard a reader say out loud, “You’re crazy Preacherman! There’s nothing to help me by being thankful! I’m not reading any more of your insane gibberish!”

Hold on, pardner! Try to stay in the saddle just a couple of more minutes. Struggles are ripe moments to grow in both grace and wisdom. Lord knows we need a lot more wisdom in these days. We can be thankful for our struggles when we do 3 simple, yet deeply profound things–and here they are:

Lean Into The Spirit!

Choose in this moment of struggle to get closer to The Holy Spirit. Struggles are loud–VERY loud. And without leaning into The Spirit we will not be able to hear Him.

Lean on the spirit!

Let’s get real! In every struggle we are leaning on something! No exceptions! Either ourselves, another person, our chemical of choice–remember, no exceptions. Instead, lean ON The Spirit. Rely on The Holy Spirit to help you and even carry you when you are totally overwhelmed.

count on the spirit

When struggles seem impossible to overcome, it’s because we have empowered the struggle to be more powerful than anything else. Put your confidence in the work, power, and purposes of The Holy Spirit! ALL of your confidence. It may well be that His Plan isn’t in alignment with YOUR plan. Still, Count On The Holy Spirit to bring Victory over our struggles. The Spirit will never abandon you! So, count on The Spirit in the struggles.

As we do these 3 simple yet profound things, something amazing, maybe even unexpected by us, happens. We become thankful–thankful that God’s plans are so much better, so much more powerful than anything we can ever imagine. For then we live fully confident in God. And when we are living fully confident that God has us AND our struggles, those struggles lose its power over us and we become Victors! Even in this season of pondering disaffiliation!

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Are You Ready To Be Amazed?

Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. 

Acts chapter 10, verse 44 and 45, from the New Living Translation; emaphasis mine

Tell me, are you going through some difficult “hard to see any kind of favorable future” times? Are you ready to “throw in the towel”, “raise the white flag of surrender”, “knucle under”, “concede defeat”, or “give up the struggle”? At the risk of sounding like a late-night infomercial hawker, I say now unto thee: “ARE YOU READY TO BE AMAZED?”

Last night I was doing my Tuesday Night Facebook Live Bible Study. We were in Acts chapter 10 and the story of what is appropriately called The Gentile Pentecost! God gave a vision to this Gentile named Cornelius to call for Peter to come to his home. Then God gave Peter a peculiar dream about sheets and a variety of critters. Cornelius responded immediate to God’s vision. Peter, on the other hand, was trying to figure out the meaning of his dream. And God interupted Peter’s “trying to figure it all out” moment when Cornelius’s entourage knocked at the door with an invitation to come to his home–and mind you–it was the home of a “Gentile”! That was a place where no self-respecting Jew would ever go! But Peter went, and he brought along his own entourage.

After they arrived at this “Gentile-Unholy-God Awful” home, Peter shared the Good News of Jesus and The Kingdom Of God. And before Peter could even finish his sermon, the Holy Spirit came upon and within those “Gentiles”! And that infilling resulted in the very same thing that had happened earlier in Jerusalem during the Feast Of Passover. And the Jewish believers were “amazed”, “astonished” that it was happening to these “unclean” Gentiles. And get this: They weren’t even converted Jews–they were still Gentiles!

I looked up the Greek word translated amazed or astonished. Among it’s many meanings is this: “to throw out of position, displace”. In other words, they were not expecting such a display of God’s power in the place they were at. Maybe you’ve sung the song Amazing Grace. But tell me–be honest with yourself–“When was the last time you were amazed, astonished, thrown out of place by the display of God’s Grace and Power?” The synonym that should be used (but seems to be rarely used) is AWESTRUCK!

So, when you are stuck between the proverbial “rock and a hard place”, don’t you dare hand over to our Enemy your hopes and dreams! Even when the obstacles seem to be unsurmountable. Grace is truly amazing when we allow God to be in control of ‘dispensing’ it, even in unlikely places! And to my Tribal Members who are facing a difficult time trying to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Institution (see, I can’t even bring myself to call it a church anymore!) don’t you dare “Say Uncle” and give up on God’s Vision to bring into our messes, another Great Awakening! Allow yourself to be displaced from what seems to be an unfavorable outcome and get ready to be Amazed!

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!

THE TIMES, THEY BE A CHANGIN’!

The picture is our last Thanksgiving with Dad, November 25, 2021

Life is full of changes; it just the nature of life. We can embrace them or fight them; accept them or resist them. Yet, change still happens. Yesterday was another reminder of how life changes. Yesterday I went back to Dad’s home to pick up some of the things he and Mother left me. To my new readers, allow me to give you the backdrop to my painful activities yesterday. My Mother died May 23, 2018; and my Dad died this year; January 14 to be exact. Debbie and I were with him, at his side when he slipped from the bonds of this life and into eternity. And I still miss him. I still catch myself reaching for the phone to call him.

And as I entered that house, it all came back to me–how much I still grieve. But this is another of the many examples of how life changes. Our Expedition (extended length) and my utility trailer were full. More than items, there are memories and stories that go each one. Such as that bedroom suite; my Mother’s parents bought it when they were young. In fact, it was one of the first “store bought” bedroom suites in their little community. People came over just to see and admire it. Then there is Dad’s table saw. He used it to make everything from little projects to shelves to baby craddles. I credit these memories (and perhaps my grief) for awakening me at 1:12 a.m. and not allowing me to go back to sleep.

And I am not alone. Perhaps there have been some changes in your life. They may be fresh, a few months old, years old, or even decades old. But the memories of those changes are still a part of who you are. And this “change” can, and often does, fill us with grief, anger, fear, and uncertainty. And in the darkness of this morning, the Holy Spirit gave me this passage–and I want to give it to you who are experiencing “changes”

When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Isaiah chapter 43, verses 2 and 3; from the New Living Translation

And for my United Methodist friends, sisters, and brothers in Christ, we are facing changes. Like my memories of the items I brought to my home yesterday, you have memories in the United Methodist Church. Many of them are great and wonderful. And you may even long for things to be the way they used to be; but change in happening! And like any change, it is unsettling, perhaps making you fearful–or even angry. We may not even want things to change. You could even deny that change is happening. But “not wanting” and “denying” will not stop it. It feels like deep waters, raging rivers, even a fiery furnace. So, how can you and I approach AND deal with these changes? The best way is to remember these words of Isaiah. His “Tribe” was facing serious and what could be devastating changes. Be the prophet reminded them–and because we have The Bible–he reminds us.

  • He will be with us in the changes
  • He will not let us drown
  • He will not let us be consumed
  • He is with us and will stay with us until we see His glory

God is with us taking step for step with each of us along these changes. So, my friends, be strong and courageous. Don’t give up and don’t lose hope! God has His Best in mind for us; and it will bring Him the Glory! And whatever else changes, this will never change!

YOU BE HE CAN!

Yesterday I was full of vim and vinegar. But I figure at 66 years old I’ve earned both the privilege and right to be such. Yesterday’s words needed to be said, and more need to be saying them! But I have learned enough wisdom in these 66 years to know one cannot truly live this way 24/7. So, today I am turning to the hopeful me for something to write. And today’s thoughts are this: YOU BET HE CAN!

Disappointments and frustrations abound on this third rock from the sun. Think about those first disciples of Jesus. That Friday was a deep, deep disappointment for them. They were a mess! One of them, Judas, was such a mess that he committed suicide. The very last thing they probably had in their minds and hearts was HOPE! But Sunday turned it into their joy and hope, and it gave them their Message. And I’m thinking right now about Jeremiah. Jerusalem was surrounded by the Babylonians and he was in jail because he was telling them what God wanted said.

In that jail cell, God told Jeremiah that a cousin was coming to visit him with an offer to sell his land to him. When a company is about to go bankrupt is NOT the time to buy stock in that company. They are about to be carried away into exile. So why buy land when it’s about to be seized and taken away? Because God reminded Jeremiah that there’s more to the story. So Jeremiah does exactly what God told him. And when the transaction was completed, here’s what Jeremiah said:

“O Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!”

Jeremiah chapter 32 verse 17 NLT

Can God turn your disappointments into joy and hope, and a message? You Bet He Can! And here’s a song to remind you of this!

MEANWHILE BACK AT DADDY’S

Just when you think you’ve gotten over the hump, real life happens! Yesterday morning Debbie and I headed back up to Daddy’s home. I had hoped that the worst of this grief thing was now behind me. It wasn’t. During the two plus hour drive up there, once again just like all the other trips, a heaviness began to come over me. And pulling up, it was just like all the other times. I felt like I was invading his home and plundering his things.

Daddy loved to make a garden, and when he wasn’t any longer able to make a garden he turned his attention to the plants and flowers. We were going to get some of those plants and flowers. Years ago Debbie and I shared some of ours with him and Mother. Now, some of them were going back to our home. And somehow, I feel guilty about digging them up. I made a new flower bed and that is where I will transplant them. And as I watch them grow and bloom, I’ll think about him. And this morning, I’m wondering and thinking, “As I look at them, will this pain grow deeper and will I ever get over it?”

Isn’t that absolutely rediculous to think that I will ever get “over it”? How many people have I ever told that grief isn’t something you get over–it’s something–a journey–that you get through. But never get over! And this morning I find myself wanting to “get over” something that isn’t made to “get over” but something to “get through”. I know that the only thing that is keeping me from totally falling apart is My Heavenly Daddy. In spite of me wanting to “get over” this, He is faithfully and persistently working in me to show and help me in this path of “getting through” my grief.

Today I will begin transplanting those plants that once brought Daddy such great joy. I hope I can watch them with that same joy that he had. Perhaps they will be a means of grace to help me stop wanting to “get over” my grief and enable me to be confident that I will “get through” this season. My verse from The Bible will be this:

 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans chapter 15, verse 13 from The New Living Translation

May it be so Lord. May it be so!

NEW YEAR’S EVE 2021

Today is New Year’s Eve 2021. If you look at calendars, there are only two days with that designation of “Eve”–Christmas and New Year. There is no Thanksgiving Eve, Valentine’s Day Eve, St. Patrick’s Day Eve, Mother’s Day Eve, Father’s Day Eve–nope it’s not on the calendar. Never has been, and probably never will be. But today is one of two days designated as “Eve”. Look at the picture above and definition number two: the period preceding or leading up to any event. Let’s take a deep dive into the idea of an Eve.

Are you excited that this is New Year’s Eve? This morning I was thinking about other New Year’s Days. Specifically 2019–I mean who could have imagined what 2020 was going to bring? Church sanctuaries were closed. Businesses considered non-essential were closed. Stores had limited capacities. Us preachers unfamiliar with live-stream learned how to use Facebook Live (and I still use it). We had to purchase equipment to enable us to do drive-in church. People who were in the hospitals and nursing homes were denied visitors. And so much more. Then New Year’s Day 2021 shows up–and while some of the restrictions have been lifted–this ain’t been a glorious year for most.

But we’re talking about 2022. Are you excited about 2022? Today I am truly excited for several reasons. I don’t have to worry about a ruptured appendix, that happened in 2020. I am excited that today THE University of Alabama (Roll Tide!) will be playing in the Semi-Final for another National Championship (Roll Tide)! Yes, I get excited over certain things. Don’t you think Jesus was excited at the home of Zacchaeus when He said, “Salvation has arrived in this home!” Personally, I think Jesus was shouting at the top of His lungs! If your image of Jesus saying that is one of a solemn face and monotone voice–you need a different Jesus.

Every morning is an Eve–leading up to some event! And I believe this event is the Eve of God pouring out the fires of Revival across our nation and around the world! Why would I believe such a thing with the ways things are? Because I’m not looking at the way things are–I’m seeing them the way that God wants them to be. Each morning is The Eve Of God Doing Great Things In Hearts And Lives! See, there are more than 2 eves–every morning has both the potential and very real possibility to be a life-transforming day for us and everyone else. It’s there–we just need to recognize it.

When we get excited about the movement of The Holy Spirit–before we ever see it–we call that Faith! Faith isn’t about WHAT we see–but WHO we see! Today is the Eve of God doing what Paul said God does in 2 Corinthians Chapter 5 Verse 17 from The Message–Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Did you see that word anyone? Anyone means anyone. Isn’t it exciting to see new life emerge? In just a very few weeks a new life will emerge in our family–our first great-grandchild! He’s going through a process, as is his Mommy. It’s not always been pleasant–and the delivery won’t be easy. But all of us will be so very excited about this precious wonderful new life! Will you get excited each morning knowing that this moment is the EVE of God bringing another Great Awakening? I’m excited! If you’re not, then you’ve got a serious problem. Now if you will excuse me, I’ve got some exciting things to do before Kickoff! And Roll Tide! Oh, here’s a song to help your mindset in the right place on this and every following Eve!

I Say, Hold On For Just A Cotton Pickin’ Minute!

Are you on hold? Maybe you’re calling that alleged “customer service”, only after you’ve been yelling at a computer or punching in 3,678 numbers, and you’re on hold. Maybe you just answered the call about your car warranty about to expire and you’re on hold. Maybe you just called about the latest electronic innovation but you’re having issues getting it up and running, so you hear “Your call is very important to us. Please wait for the next available ‘customer service’ agent.” You’re on hold.

Waiting is not a new human experience, though some treat it that way. We don’t like to be put “on hold” because we see it as the obstacle to the resolution we most desire. Being put “on hold” isn’t enjoyable! And the music you are forced to hear. . .geez where do they get that stuff? Musicians and composers who couldn’t sell a single record? “Alleged Experts” say that elevator music is calming down the person on hold. Really? Who did they interview? Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum? Being “on hold” is annoying and frustrating to the point that no amount of elevator music is going to calm us down–regardless of how they hope it will! So what’s a person to do?

May I make a suggestion–with no elevator music involved? When life feels like you are on hold, switch those 2 words on hold. Now it reads “hold on”. Now, YOU say those 2 words out loud: “Hold on!” Why are you reading my next words when you haven’t done what I asked you to do? . . . I’m waiting! . . . I’m still waiting!! . . . Now you’ve got me “on hold”! OK, you’ve said it. Now I want you to shout it loudly: HOLD ON! Is that as loud as you can scream? Come on, try it again, this time even louder!

Hold on are the two most important words to shout and scream when we need help! But don’t say it to yourself or any other person. Say it to God! Shout it out to God! Scream it to the top of your lungs to God! When everything seems to be falling apart–and when you’re loving it because the plan is coming together–and in every moment between these 2 extremes–we need to allow God to hold on to us. When we are at our best–and especially when we are at our worst–we need to ask God to hold on to us.

God wants to–longs to–hold on to us in the most loving way possible. But He will not–until we allow Him. This is what I learned in this morning’s worship time–and it came through this song. Listen to the words–and when you are not “someone you believe in”–well just listen to the song!

Mountains And Floods!

What mountain is between you and the kind of life you deeply long to have today? At this exact moment, what flood is sweeping you away from the life you once knew? Where does your hope come from that says you will get over that mountain? Who will rescue you from that flood? IS there a source of hope AND strength that will simply get you through today without being crushed and broken? IS there even hope for a better tomorrow? What source of help has been tested and proven true over and over? IS there such help?

Image if you will, a new car manufacturer comes up with what they claim is the best, safest, and most reliable car ever. Imagine if you will, they claim it will get 60 miles per gallon of gas and go from 0 to 70 in 4.6 seconds. But then they also say, “We haven’t tested it yet. Heck, we haven’t even tried to crank it! But we just know it will do what we claim!” Would you be the first in line at the dealership to buy one?

Imagine if you will that you see an ad for a used car; the picture looks like that car is in immaculate shape. You go to see it and the first thing the salesperson says is “Well, sometimes it runs great, and sometimes it won’t run at all.” Would you pay Kelly Blue Book full retail price? Maybe even throw in a couple of thousand extra, just because? As nonsensical and preposterous as this sounds, yet this is what many do when facing mountains or when being swept away by some raging flood.

You will never be able to climb that mountain, and that flood will sweep you away–unless and until you trust God enough to surrender completely into His hands. He may not do it in the fashion you want–but He will do it. Trying to conquer that mountain or trying to be rescued from that flood by any other method (see my pun? I’m a Methodist!) will always end in disaster. Cry out to Jesus in this moment–and He will help you climb that mountain. And He will rescue you from this flood. This is His promise:

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Isaiah 43:2-3 (NLT)

When It’s Dark

When this post appears, it’s dark outside for us. Truthfully, I can’t tell you exactly where we are–because I don’t know. Thanks to this marvelous thing called “Schedule your post”, I can share my thoughts even though I’m not sitting at my desk. Debbie and I left Sunday afternoon for our semi-annual sabbatical visit family at Lake Millsite near Bartow, Florida.

When this post appears, it’s still dark–but I’m not worried. You see, I have some things going for me. One thing is our headlights. I never have to worry about seeing the road. Another thing is I know where we are going. We’ve been there enough times, so we don’t need a roadmap (for you old folks) or even a GPS. The route is known to us. We know where the gas stations are; and where the Rest Areas are. Finally, I’m not alone–my gift from God, Debbie, is with me. She’s probably asleep right now–but that’s OK. She’s with me, and that’s good enough.

Now, let’s do an application of this little story. When darkness tries to overwhelm you, even make you afraid, or seem to be lost, remember that Jesus Is The Light. Remember Psalm 119: 105–“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” When it’s dark, go to the Word that became flesh!

Second, remember your destination. Your destination is more than heaven. Your destination is to become exactly like Jesus, the image you were created in. And for this remember Philippians 1:6–“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Every day so far, God has been at work in you. And even when it seems so dark outside, God is still at work!

Finally, remember you are not alone! Allow me to rephrase this: You Are Never Alone! He’s closer to you than Debbie is to me right now in the passenger seat. Jesus had something to say about Being with us in Matthew 28:20–“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Depending on the current time you are reading this–we may or may not have arrived at our destination. But we’re closer than we were at 4:00 p.m. Central Daylight Savings Time. I’m not frustrated we’re not there yet–I’m just confident, through God’s Grace, that we will get there!

P.S. Since this is a sabbatical, I may not be posting every day. But then again I might. We’re recharging our batteries. So if I don’t post tomorrow, remember:

If A Frog Had Wings

If a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his butt every time he hopped. This is one of the many facts in scientific law. Wish as the frog may, he has no wings–so each time he moves as he is designed to move, he bumps his butt. But (pun intended) still he hops, even though wings sure would help soften the landing. What does all this have to do with the Kingdom Life?

How many people today are living with their own IF? And because they are living with that IF, they feel that hard landing of the frog. They look around and see others who seem to be having much easier life than they are. They think to themselves, and often out loud, “You know, IF I had been born to different parents. IF I had their money. IF I had married that person, or NOT married the person I did. IF life had treated me fairly–then I would be as happy as a frog with wings.”

And they go through life sad, disillusioned, defeated, and miserable. IF you think about it, IF is a tragic way to live. Still, they are like that frog who wishes he had wings as he moves about his day doing what frogs do. While it’s true that a frog with wings would not bump his butt every time he hopped–it’s equally true that he wasn’t designed with wings.

And some people have that IF when it comes to God. That somehow God isn’t all He claims to be. That God isn’t fair with them. That God doesn’t care. That God has forgotten them.

  • IF God is real, why is there such a mess out there?
  • IF God cares, why did my spouse leave me?
  • IF God loves me, why did my child die?
  • IF God will provide for me, why did I lose my job?
  • IF God is all powerful, why am I having to take chemotherapy today?
  • IF God _________________(insert your own IF here)

But the problem with this thinking is it focuses on what we don’t have–rather than what we do have. The IF that you may long for will not, cannot give you the kind of life we are created to experience. It is true that while money cannot buy you happiness, it will buy you a place on the beach–and the beach is a better place to be unhappy. But it will not satisfy your heart.

There is a better way to live than like the frog who wishes he had wings. It is living within the relationship where God keeps every promise He ever made for you. God didn’t promise an easy life–but He provides an unshakable life. He provides the life that isn’t shaped by circumstances–but by His Truth and Faithfulness to us. How can I confidently say this? Because all of us are created in God’s Image. We just need to trust–to hang in there even IF everything inside of us screams to let go of God. I leave you this morning with these words of Paul–words that strengthen us for a life better than a frog with wings:

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.

2 Corinthians 1:20 (NLT)

When You Can Feel Something’s Wrong

Yesterday, Monday, September 27 is prompting today’s thoughts. More than just thoughts, it’s been and continues to be a journey. To tell the story I need to go back to June of this year. My wife, Debbie, had her annual mammogram. The report came back all clear. That’s good news, right? But remember, I’m telling the story of a journey.

About 3 weeks ago Debbie felt something in her right breast that just wasn’t right. I could feel it, too. She calls our family practice, and the nurse practitioner agreed. Since it had not been that long since her mammogram, she ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound confirmed what the Nurse Practitioner, myself, and Debbie already knew that there was some type of cyst present in her right breast. The radiologist report was to come back in 6 months to see if it had grown any. That advice certainly didn’t feel right.

She scheduled an appointment with a local surgeon for another “opinion”. Dr. Evans agreed that 6 months was too long for a just “wait and see” conclusion. He attempted 2 needle biopsies but could not draw any fluid from it. So yesterday, Monday, September 27, we went to the hospital for surgery. Everything went good and Dr. Evans was able to remove it, along with some tissue around the lump. He sent it off for a pathologist to carefully examine it. Now we wait for the pathology report.

Now Dr. Evans doesn’t think it’s cancer–nonetheless–sent it off for to pathology to do their thing. The pathologist will determine the nature of what we could feel was wrong by carefully examining deep inside that lump. The radiologist could only “think” it isn’t cancer. Dr. Evans, based on experiences, can only give his personal opinion. But that pathologist? They will know for certain! And that is what Debbie and I need in this season.

And this morning I am realizing how this “journey” is comparable to the spiritual journey we are all on. There are times when something is wrong with our body and our spirit–and we just can’t feel it. But other times, we know something doesn’t feel right deep inside our heart, mind, and soul. So what is going to be our response to this “it just doesn’t feel right” moment?

Well, you could take that radiologist’s guidance to “wait 6 months and see what happens”? And truth be told–sometimes that’s the advice other people will give us. But when something deep down inside us doesn’t feel right–when there’s something that shows up even though life has been going well, we need to know exactly what it is. It may not be anything–but then again–it may be. Ignoring it will not make it go away. Delaying the finding out will only make it worse. The sooner that “foreign object” is removed and identified, the better the outcome.

One opinion did not suffice for Debbie nor myself. That opinion did not suffice for Dana, our Nurse Practitioner. And it did not suffice for our surgeon, Dr. Evans. We all need to hear the full report from the pathologist. And when it’s about our spiritual journey? Go to the one who told Samuel in his quest for a new king, “Stop looking at the outside because I’m looking at the inside!” And even if you feel it’s not “safe” to bring what doesn’t feel right to God, remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Lamentations 3:22-23

God is able and willing to handle all those things that just doesn’t feel right. He alone is able to get to the core of everything–to remove from inside of us the things that don’t belong–to heal us–and to restore us. Debbie and I will not know the pathology report until Friday, but we know who holds Friday in His hands–and He holds us in His hands.

Oh, one more thing–October is almost here and October is

BEFORE I EVEN KNOW

Right now, the time is 4:22 a.m., I’m already on my second cup of coffee and I still don’t know the results of the Presidential Election. Did I wake up so early because I was so worried about who will be occupying the Oval Office? Not hardly! Yesterday an oral surgeon had to extract 3 teeth. When I was asked did I want a local anesthesia or be knocked out, I wisely opted for what they termed “the happy juice”. I slept all the way home and slept a lot with the aid of the lingering effects of that “happy juice” and a pain reliever. I’ve been sleeping like a baby!

And now the effects of the aforementioned miracle drugs worn off, I’m simply read to get up and get my day started. Yet even before my first cup of coffee I made a decision; a wise decision. I opened up my ®Spotify app and selected one of my playlists I named Holy Water because that is the first song.

I don’t need to know who will sit in the Oval Office for the next 4 years. I need the One who sits on The Eternal Throne. As this song boldly states:

God, I’m on my knees again

God, I’m begging please again

I need You

Oh, I need You

Walking down this desert road

Water for my thirsty soul

I need You

Oh, I need You.

Writers: Andrew Bergthold, Ed Cash, Franni Cash, Martin Cash, Scott Cash

I need the One Who Sits On The Eternal Throne not because of who will be sitting in the Oval Office, but because I really need HIM! This has nothing to do with Presidential Elections–it has everything to do with my own inclinations to lean into sin rather than Him. I need Him because His strength is the only source of power that will enable me to reflect Jesus. I need Him because He and He alone knows how to help me live the kind of life I’ve been created to live. I need Him because He loves me. I need Him because I love Him. And as I sit here at 4:46 a.m., I am filled with His peace and most of all His Hope for our world. I am all of this right now, and I don’t know who will sit in the Oval Office. And after I know the results? Nothing has changed. You see, I have Him, and HE holds me!

There Is No Quick Fix

This is the last in my reflections of my recent medical emergency. If you haven’t read the first one, then click here.

When we are hurting–whether physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or relationally–we want the pain to go away and go away quickly. And here is another lesson I have learned in my most recent episode:

The quick-fix rarely, if ever, works.

In my situation of my ruptured appendix, Dilaudid made the pain quickly go away. And for a little bit the quick-fix solved my problem with pain. But guess what? The effects of Dilaudid wore off and the pain returned. Other than making me feel comfortable, the Quick-Fix did nothing to solve the real problem. Can you make the connection here?

In case you did not, allow me to explain. There are things that will help us numb the pain but cannot treat the real condition causing our pain. It’s not just in the realm of physical pain–but all other forms of pain. For example, holding a grudge against someone who wounded you deeply can hide the pain momentarily–but the pain returns. Trust me on this one; I personally know about holding grudges–it won’t heal the pain.

There are a lot of ways–chemical, emotional, and mental–to numb the pain. Yet they fail to heal the cause of our pain. This is why we turn to God in times of pain. God doesn’t offer us a quick-fix–but He does offer us wholeness. And sometimes, wholeness requires both time and a process. In the case of my ruptured appendix, they did not immediately remove that vile and evil beast. To have done so would have exposed my entire body with poisonous toxins that would have put me in further danger. By treating the poisons in me first, it decreases the probability of further complications when they will remove my appendix.

Next Wednesday I revisit my doctor. Hopefully he will tell me when they will schedule surgery to remove my appendix. Doctors have helped me understand why I need to wait–and I trust their knowledge and skills. And you can trust the knowledge and skills of the Great Physician to restore your whole health–spiritually, emotionally, mentally and relationally. You can trust Him because He created you–and offered you redemption through His Marvelous Grace. God doesn’t offer us a day-trip with a quick-fix. He offers us a journey–filled with His more than sufficient Grace–and His Presence to help us when we can’t help ourselves.

IT’S BROKE! FIX IT!

Since everyone else is either saying something or writing something I thought I might as well put my two-cents worth into the fray. Due to the inability of the vast majority of Americans to stay home when they have symptoms of even the flu or even the common sense to wash their hands, the government has been forced to step in with this thing called quarantine and social distancing. Some states and municipalities have gone further than the Federal Guidelines and moved into total lock down.

Florida has even closed it’s borders to outsiders unless they have a Federal Certificate of being a necessary person. Of course native Floridians say it’s too little, too late because of the damn Yankees. In case you are wondering what that term means, I will explain. A Yankee is someone who goes down South but then goes back north. A damn Yankee is someone who goes down South and stays. A good friend of mine once said that we should round up all the damn Yankees, put them in cattle-cars and ship them back north. But in all fairness, there are a few damn Yankees who are good; few but nonetheless good. They have adapted to our Southern Culture. They have repented of and renounced their Yankee ways. If there was only a way for them to get rid of their accent you wouldn’t even know they were once a Yankee. I am digressing so I will get to the point.

Due to social distancing and quarantine, community has been broken, well except at Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club Costco and the local grocer. But the fact remains that what once was known as community is now broken. Not only in the sense of towns, cities and counties, but it has become illegal to assemble as the Community of Believers. And the very nature of The Kingdom of God requires being and living in Community. And many Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters are bemoaning this current reality. And now the first penny of my two-cents worth.

The Community known as church, at least in the U.S., was already broken. Long before it was known as “church” the word used to describe this gathering was “kononia”. Kononia means a shared life, fellowship, and a sense of each contributing to the welfare of others. The U.S. church has been turned inward–and though it considered itself a “community”, it wasn’t the kononia community. It had already quarantined itself from a fresh movement of the Holy Spirit and had socially distanced itself from the very ones we are designed, called and commissioned to reach. This social isolation and quarantine only revealed what already existed–Real Kononia Community was broken. My first penny. Now, for the second penny of my two-cents worth.

Community, as it HAS BEEN defined SHOULD NOT BE fixed. If the COMMUNITY that HAD BEEN was the right kind of COMMUNITY, we would not be seeing the fear, panic, hoarding and complete disregard for their fellow human beings. There! I said it! Community BEFORE COVID-19 was defective, mean, ugly and it sucked at being Community. And not just outside the church. Many congregations who cherished their buildings and traditions in those buildings more than people in their community now have neither! And the social distancing now in place has been in practice by many congregations BEFORE COVID-19–and I pray it does not continue after the all-clear is given.

Truth Time! Can you handle it? We do not need community as it has been. My deepest prayer is that out of this calamity, there will be a Resurrection of Koinonia Community–This is Community as God designed it to be in the beginning. A Community unmarred by selfish desires and behavior. A Community that longs to be defined by the Creator rather than the created. A Community that reaches out to make sure no soul is left behind. A Community that celebrates together and that mourns together. A Community that isn’t defined by buildings and habits–but IS DEFINED by the heart that is completely surrendered to God.

Community is broken. May that community never be seen again. And may the Community of the Kingdom of God rise in its place. And it will happen if each of us heeds the words of this song:

IT’S TIME TO STAND UP AND. . .BE CALM!

(image generated at http://www.keepcalms.com)

I am sick and tired. . .tired and sick. . .and sick and tired of all this unrelenting caterwauling that is happening. No. . . not in Washington D.C.; rather the incessant caterwauling ABOUT what’s happening in D.C. And I’m NOT referring to newscasters or political underlings. I’m talking about. . . NO! I’m talking TO those who profess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The social cannonade that covers Social Media by those who say that Jesus Reigns but . . . are quibbling with others about this cauldron of toxicity and sewage. By the way. . . am I the only one who has notice that “Social” Media is actually “Unsociable Media”? Here’s all I have to say to Jesus followers who engage is such characterless dribble:

Oh, and those pusillanimous recreants who are saying “Well, this just goes to show that Jesus is about to return. Come, Lord Jesus, come and take me away!” I refer to them as Calgon Christians–remember those commercials? “Take me away, Calgon.” As if that’s the answer! Bejeezus, folks; where’s your fortitude? Don’t you realize that if Jesus does come today that billions of people will NOT be ready for that moment? Where’s your compassion, your heart like Jesus? Geez. . .

Come on people, think about it. What has all this pestiferous arguing achieved? I mean, what does “How can you be a Christian and vote democrat?” or “How can you be a Christian and vote republican?” produced? Has anyone really said to you, “Oh, thank you for reminding of that. Yes, I’ll change my political party immediately. Bless you my child for you have delivered me!” Nope! Ain’t happening! Here’s what I say about all that mindset:

In crisis moments, sometimes we to need to STAND UP AND FIGHT! But this, my flummoxed sojourners, IS NOT THE TIME TO STAND UP AND FIGHT. May I suggest a different tactic? Would you just love to see the pundits speechless? Would you love to see them stop and question what’s happening. . .even to entertain the possibility that there needs to be a change in how they visage the current dubbing?

What if. . . I mean we are getting nowhere fast with these current proclivities. . . WHAT IF, we who are Citizens Of The Kingdom Of God stopped all this frenzied panic and refused to engage in this debate? Oh, I just heard someone think: “Well, just what in Heaven’s name should be do? If we don’t speak out who will?” (he-he-he–I’m giggling inside with that question!) Speaking out has’t worked. What if . . .

WHAT IF we make the Choice to Be Calm? What? Did someone just ask me to prove that’s what the Bible says? OK, buttercup, I’ll give you what the Bible says about how to respond to our culture. . . any culture: (remember, you asked for it)

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

Answer me this: Is the current behavior and customs of this culture Calm? Would you LIKE to see things calm down in D.C.? How about seeing our whole nation become CALM? Then, YOU BECOME CALM! Refuse to engage in ANY political drivel. Stop equating political parties with saving our nation. Stop the name calling and belittling of others. Return to the earliest and most powerful affirmation of faith in the church: JESUS IS LORD. If HE isn’t in panic mode (by the way, God never panics), then why iterate the emotional mush being passed off as forward thinking. After all. . . that’s the source of the chaos, anger and confusion.

Walk away from it and become the model of Calm. Who knows, maybe that will change someone’s heart, mind and life. At the very least, it will drive them nuts. In my book, that’s a win-win. So . . . love Jesus with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM! Oh, one more thought:

I Choose To Be Hopeful

(Picture from doinggreatbaby.com)

Yesterday’s post got me to thinking this morning. Please, no comments from the peanut gallery about me thinking. I need to focus on my choices, so I will attempt to write something about my “Choice Of The Day”. I blame Andy Andrews for this. I’ve been going back through my Kindle and reading some of his books I read several years ago. And my mind is rumbling because….well….truthfully….OK, I haven’t given enough thought and reflection on this radical idea of “choices”.

Today my choice is to be HOPEFUL! I’ve chosen HOPEFUL today because if I listen to the skeptics (they are all around us and some of them operate news networks) I need to renew my passport and seek asylum in Australia or New Zealand. I’ve been “sick and tired and tired and sick” about the culture around me. Well, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. But that’s not the right choice. I need, and maybe YOU need, a different choice.

Today I choose to be hopeful–hopeful that the wisdom of eternity breaks in on the mindless chatter around me. Hopeful that world peace begins when I am at peace with people. Hopeful that a person’s moment, maybe even their life, will change because of something I do or say. Hopeful that I will act like Jesus in the circumstances that happen to me today, rather than reacting. Hopeful that amidst the toxic waste oozing throughout our culture, that oozing waste that smells something like a combination of raw sewage, paper mills, and chicken houses will begin to recede and go back to hell, where it came from.

Today I choose to be hopeful that in the darkness of our times, the glory of God’s Kingdom will break through…and it will. Not because of me. No mam! But because that’s what the Kingdom of God does–it breaks in, breaks down, breaks through the darkness around us. I choose to be hopeful today.

Remember what Paul said:

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

Who knows, maybe this choice I make today will change the direction of our culture. I know it will change the direction of my life. And remember…Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the Glory goes to HIM! Oh…choose to be hopeful…