thinking on one of Christ’s promises, & other musings…

What would you say, what testimony would you share, what message would you bring if your life was on the line?

Paul’s was.

The trouble and opposition that had followed Paul from place to place on his missionary journeys came to a head upon his arrival in Jerusalem. It was assumed, wrongly, that Paul had taken a Gentile into the temple. Chaos ensued. Paul was attacked, beaten, and the crowds tried to tear him to pieces. Fortunately, Roman soldiers stepped in and saved his life – for the time being – and gave him an opportunity to speak. And speak he did:

• To a hostile crowd that wanted to kill him, and saw this as a prime opportunity to do so.
• To a Roman tribunal that trying to figure out WHO Paul the rabble-rouser was.
• To the Sanhedrin (Jewish religious council), which was looking, to build a legal case against him so he could be put to death.

How did he do it?

Paul was living in the grace of the promise that Christ gave His disciples:

And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. Luke 12:11,12 ESV

The Holy Spirit will teach you what to say.

Christ’s promise.

You’ve filled your heart and mind with God’s Word. You’ve looked to put into practice and obey the LORD in every area of life. If (& when) you’re put on the spot, even hot, hot spots, don’t worry. Because the Holy Spirit was given to indwell us for just such moments, and fills not only our mouth with words, but our heart with courage and boldness.

So don’t worry. Don’t be anxious. Instead, give thanks that what we say at that moment of crisis (or in the grocery line) is something that WILL BE given to us at the appropriate time by the One who will never leave, forsake, or abandon us.

thoughts about Paul’s ‘mission from God,’ suffering, perseverance, & other musings…

Acts 21 tells of Paul’s intent to head to Jerusalem, and also the fact that he received several prophetic words and pictures declaring, “If you go to Jerusalem, you will be thrown into prison.”

I never understood why, after hearing these multiple warnings from the Holy Spirit of the imprisonment, persecution and suffering awaiting him in Jerusalem, Paul still purposed to go to Jerusalem. I even tried to come up with possible reasons WHY he might be so intent to finish this journey; none of the reasons made sense, especially considering the man the Apostle Paul was. So I asked the LORD, “What would make a man choose this path and persist in the face of what looks like preemptive warnings of danger and trouble from the Spirit?”

Immediately, an earlier portion of Paul’s story flashed into my mind, from the time right around his conversion (Acts 9:10-19.) From the beginning, God revealed that He had made Paul His “chosen instrument to testify of Christ and spread the gospel, before the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” And one of the first things revealed to Paul was how much he would suffer for the sake of the Name of the LORD.

Aha! I get it. Paul was on a mission from God.

The single-minded purpose to get to Jerusalem wasn’t an exercise of stubbornness on Paul’s part – he simply understood that this was part of the living out of the mission given to him by the LORD years before. The fact that his obedience and persistence could (and would) result in imprisonment and suffering were almost an afterthought; the mission, and the spread of the gospel, were preeminent.

I think that we might have an underlying assumption that suffering is to be avoided at all costs, probably because suffering hurts. Digging deeper, we may have an unscriptural ‘karma-like’ belief about good and bad happening in our lives, e.g. if we’re doing what God wants us to do, life will be good, and if not, then that’s when the bad stuff happens.

Jesus told His disciples, “The servant isn’t greater than his master; if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…” (John 15:20) If I’m living a life of obedience to the LORD, living for eternity and not just for comfort in the here and now, I will suffer. The good news is that any “present sufferings won’t even compare to the glory that will be revealed” in, through, and around us in Christ Jesus and by His Spirit (Romans 8:18.)

Paul was sure about one thing – God had given him a mission, and therefore, whatever it took to complete the mission, he knew that God would provide it.

I pray for such a faith to grow in my heart and mind, and for that kind of faithful perseverance to the calling and mission that God has placed in front of me. LORD, help me live life with eternity and Your values firmly in sight, and with a single-minded focus on my mission.

on the road again & other musings from an early Monday…

No, I’m not traveling; just reading.

TheBean’s schedule for theBucks means that several days a week, she’s up & at’em in the wee hours of the morning, often by 4. Perhaps there’s not a whole lot of ‘quality time’ one can spend with their spouse while they’re getting ready, applying makeup, doing hair, etc… but I can make sure that the coffee is hot. And ready. And delivered to her in person with a smile (or at least the best version I can summon at such a time.)

I need to be up – I purpose to be up – but my body disagrees, protests, & lodges a complaint against the management… which is why I made the decision to GET up last night, before I was in the spot to have to deal with my recalcitrant self. The early morning is for coffee, yes, but its also reading time. Stolen moments for pondering in the Scriptures.

Today it was Luke 24; what jumped out at me was the walk the 2 guys had with the (unrecognized,) Risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. The time of discussion, supposing, wondering. Confusion, frustration, crushing grief. Having seen Christ’s crucifixion, they’re now trying to wrestle through the reports of “Christ sightings” by Mary & the ladies. Hoping beyond hope that it could be true. Fearing that its not.

And Jesus meets them. He hears their conversation & joins in. Challenges them for their slowness to ‘get it.’

And He said to them, “O foolish ones, & slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things & enter into His glory?” And beginning with Moses & all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

When I see the word “fool” in the Bible, I can’t help but think of Mr. T. And then I remind myself that Jesus isn’t ‘pitying the fool’ the way Mr. T would. It helps.:)

The two men don’t recognize Jesus until the point where He’s breaking & blessing the bread – there’s an “A-HA!” moment, & He’s gone.

This morning I resonate with these two guys – so focused on the difficulties, troubles, & disappointments in my up-close-&-personal world, that I miss the living, risen Christ right under my nose. I think that’s what happens when one walks with one’s head down, eyes on the ground. The obstacles & worries on the road become the focus, & its easy to get stuck in the potholes.

A song comes to mind, a reminder to lift my eyes up – its from one of the Songs of Ascent – something that the Jewish pilgrims returning to Jerusalem for feast & festivals would sing on the journey up the hills into the City of David.

I lift my eyes up/to the mountains/where does my help come from?
My help comes from You/maker of Heaven/creator of the Earth
Oh how I need You, LORD/You are my only hope/You are my only prayer
So I will wait for You/to come & rescue me/to come & give me life –
Psalm 121 – I Lift My Eyes Up – Brian Doerksen

Man Night, home, & other musings…

Sitting in the coolness of my office with a fan blowing on me drinking an iced-coffee. All to try to avoid the heat of the day, the heat that has been turned up to “11.” Thinking over the soon-to-be-happenings of Man Night. Proverbs 27, especially verse 17.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens the countenance of another

Got me thinking about the ‘act’ of sharpening… & how in order for a tool (like an axe, a knife, or a sword – c’mon, it’s Man Night, so I’m thinking of wielding Manly tools) to be sharpened, one has to strike the item to be sharpened, skillfully, in just the right places with an item or implement that is stronger & harder than the item to be sharpened.

So how does ‘iron sharpen iron?’ One way for this to work is for the ‘sharpening iron’ to have been tempered – or put through a process of controlled reheating to harden & strengthen the implement. Interesting….

I wonder how this ‘tempering’ translates to people, to me. What does the heating process do? I don’t think of getting heated to red-hotness being something that is desirable.

But the process makes the forever-changed implement useful. To shape other implements. Hmm.


Regret raises her head occasionally, usually at times where I’m most pensive & introspective. Kinda like when I’m doing the deep cleaning of a room at home… opening up ALL the drawers, going through the corners of the closets, making sure the lights are on in order to see just what is in there… & then I discover a Mess. A big Mess that I distinctly remember thinking that I’d eventually get around to cleaning up. A big Mess that was forgotten, due to the forgetfulness caused by falling into routine busyness. A big Mess that begs to be addressed. But it’s such a big Mess. The only way to deal with the Mess is to put on the special gloves & head into it. A little bit at a time.

Even if it hurts.


Home is ultimately not about a place to live but about the people with whom you are most fully alive. Home is about love, relationship, community, and belonging, and we are all searching for home. Erwin Raphael McManus – Soul Cravings – Entry 8

That resonates with me – I think its because when I think about home, I don’t think about a place. Granted, I live in Sparks, Nevada, & have been a resident of Northern Nevada within 35 miles of my current home, all of my life. But instead of Sparks, I think of people. Faces flash through my minds eye. People that are intimately associated with being ‘home.’ Home is people, & being in a place without those people would be unbearable. No matter how ‘cool,’ elegant, spacious, or desirable that place is.

I see that I have changed. I’m changing.. Will continue to change. At one point in the not so distant past, home was being in my Cave. The place where I could be by myself & get lost in a book, a TV show, or a good movie. Alone. Where I didn’t have to be WITH people. Looking back, I can see times where even in the presence of people I’d try to be apart from them, to be by myself, to isolate & withdraw in the name of my (very real,) introversion. I regret that. The lost opportunities to discover “home” with others. With myself. Where I’d been so focused on my own discomfort that often comes being around people that I missed the joy & wonder of being WITH people.

A hard thought: in not being WITH people, I missed out on things that God wanted to do in & around me THROUGH people.

I don’t want to ‘miss’ God & ‘miss’ others in the name of a misguided self-sufficiency. Fear has stolen enough from me: fear of rejection. Inadequacy. Pain. Being unloved & unlovable. Of making a mess. Saying the wrong thing. Saying nothing. (like the lyrics from REM’s “Losing My Religion” “oh no, I’ve said too much; I haven’t said enough…” ) How many things, friendships, experiences I missed out on because of fear. Knowing that if I couldn’t do it perfect, I wouldn’t try it at all.

Heavy sigh.


So I’m thankful for the process & act of redemption. That as long as its still called today, its never too late for things lost to be regained, restored, healed, & transformed.

musings on a Sunday travel day…

This last week it looked like my long-planned trip to Frankfurt wasn’t going to happen due to the ash cloud created by the spewing Icelandic volcano.

Tuesday-ish the ‘flight ban’ over Europe began to dissipate as did the ash cloud… so theBean & I decided to make the final decision to go/stay on Wednesday… prayed about it. Confronted Fear. Not necessarily fear of not getting back on schedule, but Fear as an ominous, lurking, dark cloud that would take any & every unknown & make the thought of it sinister. Menacing. Dangerous.

We don’t want to live with Fear. Bound by it. Making decisions, being preoccupied with ugly “what-if’s” that try to masquerade as Common Sense, but are really only a thinly veiled attempt to steal, kill, & destroy.

Which reminded us that we don’t have to live with Fear. That we have a Peace that guards & protects our hearts & minds in Christ Jesus.

And also reminded us that where Fear tries to lurk is in our minds… infiltrating thoughts & ideas, in the attempt to establish a mindset that is fully grounded in doubt, & fully devoid of the presence & promise of God in Christ Jesus.

So we prayed. Talked. Prayed some more. And it was decided when theBean said, “You need to go to Germany.”

And so I go… leaving today at 1:40 PST.

Walking through Philippians, thinking about life…

Our church family is currently going through through the book of Philippians… which for me means I get to spend time doing a few of my favorite things: lots of reading, researching, studying, & listening. In all of it, I’m finding myself really intrigued, captivated even, by the unfolding theme & message of Philippians.

The context of the letter is that it’s author, Paul, is writing to a church in a place called Philippi, a church that he helped to start. (Check THIS out for some background on it.)

The letter is sent to the Philippians while he’s in prison – in Rome, awaiting trial for his unswerving commitment to the declaration of the good news that people can have relationship with God & forgiveness of sins through the death & resurrection of Christ Jesus – he was specially commsioned to take this message to the Gentiles, something that really fired up some of the Jewish religious leaders… so much so that Paul was forced to defend himself in a Roman court of law.

One of the things that ‘gets’ me is that even though he’s in prison, it doesn’t seem to phase him. As a matter of fact, the main theme that keeps popping up throughout Philippians is Joy. And Rejoicing. And being joyful.

Huh?


Prison seems like a worst-case scenario to me; the kind of circumstance that would naturally lead one to use all their energy, effort, & focus to try to get OUT. Instead, Paul writes that he is rejoicing at his circumstances… because being in prison served to have the good news/gospel message advanced throughout the whole imperial guard, & to all the other prisoners.

Further, other Christ-followers were able to observe his clear, consistent, & faithful example in the face of suffering, shame, & the unknown… & from it were encouraged to tell of this good news, to speak God’s Word, without fear.

That’s why Paul rejoices. The gospel is being lived & declared, even in prison.


I’m confronted by my own fears… wondering at my own life-circumstances. What would I be focusing on if I were in Paul’s shoes? (Sandals?) Makes me think of the difficulties & messes I’ve been in, where the only thing on my mind was crying out for God’s help & deliverance… and it seemed that my only declarations centered around the theme, “GET ME OUT OF HERE!”

Paul reminds me that even in the middle of a bad situation (& prison is BAD,) God is still at work in my life. He’s never left me, never abandoned me. Even more, He’s right there with me in the middle of my trouble. And somehow, someway, He can & does manage to turn the situation for His glory. Somehow Paul sees that; & its not that he doesn’t want out of prison, (he does!) he just wants God’s purposes & plans in, through, & around his life more.

Thankful…

Yesterday, there was an 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile. A short while after the quake, theBean & I received notice that, as a result of the quake, tsunamis were expected to be hitting various areas of the South Pacific, including Hawaii. Where our 13 year-old theWeez is on vacation with some of her best friends… There were several concerned phone calls we & she received, foretelling doom & gloom. And here we are, in Sparks, Nevada, unable to get through on the phone, let alone do anything to protect our girl.

Being several thousand miles away has its benefits. We prayed. Reminded ourselves that we dedicated Weez to the LORD when she was a baby. That He is our fortress. Our Rock. Our protector. And waited. Watching CNN, wondering what would happen.

Turns out, nothing did. Got a few calls through to theWeez. Talked. Prayed together. Laughed about her times in the sun. She made the Mendive volleyball team.

Whew.


Got a call from Pasty at 8:30 this a.m. Words a dad never wants to hear. “There’s been an accident.”

Heart in throat. Cell cutting out. Expedition totaled. Ice. T-boned by another car. Mt. Rose Highway. And nothing.

Thinking back to yesterday. Breathe. Breathe. Call cell. Nothing. Text. Waiting. Praying. Reflecting on my Rock. Fortress. Protector.

Call cell. Brief connection. We’re ok. Some headaches. Paramedics are here. Cutting out again. Breathe. Breathe. Pray. Peace.

Text from iDoey. Everyone is mostly ok. Some pains. A couple in the car going to get checked out at the hospital, just in case. Cutting out again. Breathe. Breathe. Wait.


Times like this remind me that this is where my faith has opportunity to grow. To be put into practice. Times that are easy, where everything alls as it should be aren’t stretching. Times where there’s unknown. Temptation to fear. Worry. Panic. Confronted with faith. And the choice to believe that the LORD is in control, in the middle of my unknown.

Breathe. Breathe. Peace.


Everyone checked out ok – bumps & bruises. Soreness & a headache or two. The car is a mess, but its only a car.

God is good. And we’re thankful.

A Sunday Snow Day, & other musings…

When I went to bed last night, I saw that there was some snow. Checked the local forecast, which happened to call for a rain/snow mixture, tapering off around midnight. Ok. Beings as I usually leave the house around 7:30 to head to church, I mentally figured I’d give myself a couple extra minutes for the morning drive.

Woke up this morning to the surprise of Snow, with a capital S. 9″ to 12″ worth.

Snow like I haven’t seen since the January 2005 blizzard that threw Reno into a 2-week long funk of Snow Days for school-aged kids, & transportation issues galore.

Brother was already on it – he’d been calling & texting the house, trying to awaken me from my slumber. He was wondering – “Are we going to cancel church today?”

Shaking the cobwebs from my brain, thanking the LORD for a coffee machine that has a Magic Timer that allows it to be set to go off at the Desired Time in the a.m. Looking outside again. Consuming the nectar of the java bean. Watching the Snow fall, with flakes the size of silver dollars. Goodness.

Checked in with a couple of friends to get a report on other parts of the Reno/Sparks metroplex. It was just as bad (good?) all over. Ok. We’re canceling.


When it comes to canceling church, today was a no-brainer. Lots of Snow (with more falling,) little-to-no notice of the storm, messy roads… the only thing that really runs through my brain is, “Can we get the info communicated in time to those that need it?” Between email, Facebook, texting, & the 411 Mass Email Program that Mr. H is masterminding, I think we were able to get the word out.


Sitting inside with a full belly, hot coffee, & myBean, I’m pondering the falling Snow. The accumulated Snow. Thinking back to the last time Hillside canceled church & had a Snow Day. It was the 1st week of January, 2005, & we got absolutely slammed on a Saturday. I can remember struggling for about 30 seconds over the decision. Mostly because of a feeling deep inside that you really CAN’T cancel church. Almost like it was doing something bad.

So I prayed & asked God for clarity – was this sense from Him, or was it not? The gentle encouragement I received quickly was that I was feeling Fear, something that was most definitely NOT coming from Him. Fear of what people might think of me for canceling church. Fear of not measuring up. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown.

So I rejected the Fear. Smacked it away like it was a ping-pong ball. Said, (out loud even!) “I will NOT be afraid!”

And BOOM! It was outta here.


Not too long after the 2005 Snow Day, I was at a ministerial meeting & the topic turned to the big Snow that we’d recently had. When it came to my turn to talk, I shared that rather than try to ‘have church’ we’d decided to take a Snow Day. Talked about my confrontation with Fear, & how I responded.

One of the guys said that he would never, ever, ever cancel church, no matter what. I asked why, & the answer blew me away: “Because you can’t receive an offering if you cancel church.”

Another guy agreed, & added, “If you lose a Sunday offering, you’ll never get that money, cause it’s not like the people are going to give it the next week…”

Hmmm. So the reason to have church, to not cancel, is so that people can give money? And that if they don’t have the opportunity on that Sunday to give the money, that money is lost?

Ok. That sounded a lot like more Fear to me.

We can talk a great game about God being our provider, & sing the songs, quote the verses, but when confronted with Snow & people missing an offering opportunity, Fear shows up.

I’ve GOTTA believe that God is my Source & my Provider, for everything I need, in every area – & not look to or put my trust in people, offerings, or Publisher’s Clearinghouse, for provision. Because He has promised not to abandon us. Or forsake us. Or forget us. So say BOOM! to the Fear. Booyah. Hope that didn’t end up sounding like a rant. But, goodness!


And the neighbors are out riding their snowmobile down the street. Marvelous. Now THAT brings me joy.


TheWeez is off to Hawaii for 11 days. Lucky girl. Which means we’re down to 2 children. More like 2 mostly grown men. And probably less Taylor Swift playing in the house… One of the results of theWeez leaving is that theBean has gone into cleaning mode… in & around theWeez’s room, the loft area, & the upstairs.

Me? I’m watching the Olympics. Pondering going outside to watch the neighbors some more. Shovel a bit. Thank God for always watching out for me. & enjoy my Snow Day.

I’m sailing! I’m sailing! I sail…

NOTE & DISCLAIMER: I’m not sailing. Haven’t sailed. Don’t have any plans to sail. Not against it. Just wanted to share a What About Bob?! moment I had this weekend.

Last Saturday, I finished my 40th birthday celebration. I do realize that the date was February 13th, & that it was almost a full 5 months since my ‘real’ September 19th birthday… but a couple of scheduling conflicts kept the final celebration from taking place; most notably, Petey’s 6-week National Guard deployment to an unnamed location in the Middle-East.

See, as a part of the inevitable ‘taking stock of life’ that my birthday always brings me, I decided that there were a couple of things that I would like to change – habits, patterns, ways of living. (When I was getting ready to turn 25, I read a statistic that said something to the effect that a person develops most of the habits & skills they will have by the time they hit 25. So, I decided that I needed to learn to play guitar. And I did.)

One of the things I decided to change this year involved a decision I’d made about a particular food that I had chosen not to partake of since a rather negative experience from 22 years ago. Sushi. I had it once, & I didn’t like it one bit.

I decided I’d try it again.


I’ve never been a fish or seafood guy. Don’t exactly know why, other than the smell of fish & fishy-ness sets me off. A fish market is the worst. (Actually, any really strong smell has the potential to do that. Fish. Chemical-ly & flowery perfumes. Floral ‘plug-ins’ that are supposed to make the air smell better. Most air-fresheners. Except for the new Febreze that is like the ‘clothes fresh out of the dryer smell…’ But I digress.)

Growing up, my family ate fish. Trout. Shrimp. Crab. Salmon. Halibut. You get the picture. I didn’t. I can remember trying a few of them, & feeling the repulsion, revulsion, the nose-wrinkling displeasure of EWWW!

I’ve heard from plenty of people that I just needed to try “fill-in-the-blank” seafood, prepared in the “fill-in-the-blank” way, & that I would be a convert. I tried a few. Always ended with EWWW!


My friends Petey & Debi kept encouraging me to try sushi again. Not just any sushi, but sushi prepared by Iron Chef Heif: Chris Heifner. My friend Chris is an artist in the truest sense of the word – amazing musician. Worship leader. Painter. Writer. And sushi chef.

And so, the combination of their gentle encouragement, Iron Chef Heif’s skill, & a willingness/desire to change created the perfect storm: a 40th birthday sushi celebration where I would once again give sushi a chance.


It happened Saturday, around our counter, in the company of a few friends, good music (theBean’s 40’s swing/big-band faves,) some Sapporo (as a shout-out to the real sushi-masters,) & a healthy appetite.

I don’t really know what I ate, other than I ate at least one part (portion? slicing? proper terminology would be helpful,) from every roll that Iron Chef Heif made.

My reflections:

    -I don’t like fish eggs. “Caviar.” Big or small. Black, brown, or pink. But I ate it. Salty. Like tasting a fishy part of the ocean.

    -Spicy is better. Jalapenos, wasabe, & the hot red sauce (don’t recall what it was,) were very much enjoyed & appreciated.

    -Soy sauce. The more the better.

    -Enough is enough. The pace of the eating, balanced by the time necessary for the preparation allowed me to know I was feeling full before I’d reached the proverbial “Super-Bowl” or Thanksgiving full-ness. Which probably made the whole experience more enjoyable, in that I didn’t have the “I can’t believe I ate so much” regrets. Other than the little fish-egg leftovers I was picking out of my teeth for at least 3 hours after.


I’ve been asked if I liked the sushi. It was good. Different. Don’t really have anything currently in my world to compare it to. Not a negative experience. Just don’t know.

But I’ll let you know if I end up craving it.


So… Thank you Chris, for your hard work & artistic preparation. And Pete-Debi, for your encouragement. And friends for celebrating with me.

Did you know what’s happening? I’m growing.

A thought on Joseph & his brothers…

I was reading this morning where Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers – the very same brothers that had sold him into slavery years before…

Instead of getting his revenge on them, Joseph used his position of leadership in the nation of Egypt to provide a way for his father, brothers, & their families to escape the brunt of the worst famine in recent memory by being relocated from their homes in the Promised Land to Egypt.

The 11 brothers were loaded down with loads of the best produce & provision that Egypt had to offer to make the journey as pleasant as possible.

What stood out to me was the last thing that Joseph said to his brothers before they left with their caravan to bring their father & families back:

Don’t quarrel about all this on the way.

I laughed when I read it.

I laughed because here are 11 brothers whose lives have been utterly turned upside-down for the good; whose worries about the famine & what they would eat, & how they’d provide for their families in the present & foreseeable future had been answered; whose past lies, treachery, greed, & jealousy had finally been uncovered; & also whose brother, the one that they’d sold into slavery, was now the 2nd most powerful man in the world.

Ouch.

They had to go back to their father & confess what they’d done to him years prior. Come clean about the carefully crafted ‘stories’ they’d told over the years to keep up their deception. Look into the eyes & face of their father, the man who they had directly caused so much pain to with their actions.

All of that can make one feel fear.

And rather than confronting our fear, which makes us feel weak & powerless, we respond in anger, which makes us feel strong. Placing blame on others, doing anything to shift the weight of personal responsibility, if even in appearance, onto the shoulders of another.

Joseph knew his brothers. Knew what they’d be doing when they got home. And knew that in spite of all the good that was going to happen to them & theirs, they’d first have to confront their own sins & wrongdoing.

It’s a good word – in the face of having to walk through tough stuff:

Don’t quarrel on the way.