The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart — it is a book full of all the greed and glory and violence and tenderness and sex and betrayal that befits mankind. It is not the collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice — it does not so much nibble at our shoe leather as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from the bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask.
This is one of my favorite Rich Mullins songs. But – really I like all his songs. Take a listen.
“We want God to inspire confidence. God wants to inspire fear. We want God to give us all kinds of assurances. God wants to give us faith. We want to become healthy, prosperous and unaffected by the world. God wants us to encounter the world as He did…”
“You get all that confidence and assurance and all that jazz…it’s hard to give it up…”
Blessings to you.
God uses our everyday experiences to teach us. A couple of days ago I was sharing with the women at our weekly Women’s Bible study class something the Lord had recently revealed to me. He brought to mind a past experience.
After my divorce, I spent a few years working in retail. When I first got into retail I was clueless as to how companies evaluate and assess employee performance to come up with a rating – a rating that determines one’s annual raise. I’m not sure if all companies have the same practice, but this company required managers to provide three positives and three negatives for every eval. No exceptions.
My boss was a very sweet woman. She was nonetheless – a boss. And although she could find no fault in my performance, she did find room for improvement. As I recalled the moment, my boss was praising my job performance…etc. Then came the but… “You are always on time, blah, blah, blah… however… you are not always at your duty station.” I was like – what?!. “It’s not detrimental, but when your shift starts you need to be on the sales floor, in your department. That’s where I need you.” She went on.
I knew I was always at work up to 15 minutes early. I clocked in and out, promptly. And the Lord said that’s like – church attendance – to me. I had thought about it before. But the Lord reminded me that I can go to church, Sunday, Wednesday, Bible study, etc… and still not be where He needs me.
For many reasons, Americans have hang-ups with church attendance, whether it be for or against. Many Christians have left the church for one reason or another. Unbelievers simply think of church goers as hypocrites. We say one thing – but practice another. I am one of those Christians that left the church. But the last couple of years I’ve been working my way back in, but I admit I am not impressed with the new church menu i.e. made to order – mega-tech – brick and mortar meetinghouse.
So where was I going with all this? Well, first – from the voice of my favorite singer-songwriter, long gone but not forgotten…
“We were given the Scriptures to humble us into realizing that God is right, and the rest of us are just guessing.” ―
When I considered God’s will for my life I remembered the words of Rich Mullins…
“God did not give Joseph any special information about how to get from being the son of a nomad in Palestine to being Pharaoh’s right hand man in Egypt. What He did give Joseph were eleven jealous brothers, the attention of a very loose and vengeful woman, the ability to do the service of interpreting dreams and managing other people’s affairs and the grace to do that faithfully wherever he was.”
“I would like to encourage you to stop thinking of what you’re doing as ministry. Start realizing that your ministry is how much of a tip you leave when you eat in a restaurant; when you leave a hotel room whether you leave it all messed up or not; whether you flush your own toilet or not. Your ministry is the way that you love people. And you love people when you write something that is encouraging to them, something challenging. You love people when you call your wife and say, ‘I’m going to be late for dinner,’ instead of letting her burn the meal. You love people when maybe you cook a meal for your wife sometime, because you know she’s really tired. Loving people – being respectful toward them – is much more important than writing or doing music.” ―
We may have different experiences, but we fall into the same darkness. We jump into the same abyss. We trip over the same potholes. We get sucked into by the same sinkholes.
Still, the God that leads me – leads everyone that He calls, everyone that calls on His name. God has a place for everyone He calls. He guides there. He meets us there.
“My son, give me your heart, And let your eyes observe my ways.” Proverbs 23:26
As believers, we must not forsake the assembling of the saints. But it’s not our presence in “church” that God desires. It’s our heart. When He has our heart – we will be in the assembly of saints and we will be where he needs us to be – when He needs us to be anywhere. But God doesn’t necessarily need me to be present anywhere. He does desire that I be willing to be present wherever He wants me to be.
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8 (NKJV)
Sometimes, we only need to be still and wait.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Frederick Buechner
“Speak in your own voice and speak about things that you have in some sense witnessed, not just things you read about or have been taught about in seminary. To talk about the resurrection, think about those moments where in some way you have been resurrected.” – Frederick Buechner
Thank you for visiting. Be Blessed!
“I look back over the events of my life and see the hands that carried Moses to his grave lifting me out of mine. In remembering I go back to these places where God met me and I meet him again and I lay my head on his breast, and he shows me the land beyond the Jordan and I suck into my lungs the fragrance of his breath, the power of his presence.”
The message at church yesterday touched on the love of Christ. As the pastor began his sermon – it was about the love of God. I have heard it often in church. Pastor’s message was focused on defining the love of Christ. Specifically, what do we mean when we say we love Christ? I thought, “I know what I mean when I say it.” As the pastor spoke, I had all these thoughts and questions going through my head. I wondered if I had a good understanding of what it meant to love God. How can I possibly know if I do? Can it be recognized? Do I show the love of God to others, to those close to me. Do they sense it? Does God acknowledge it? I wondered if fellow believers had a good grasp on the concept.
When I say I love Christ, I mean I love Him as He loves me. Unconditionally. As it says in Daniel 3, confident that God would save them, the young Hebrew men adamantly told the King that even if God didn’t save them they would still not bow to another God. I love my Lord so much that I prayed earnestly for Him to remove any desire for companionship. It was during my journey – during years of unemployment (not for lack of job searching) – I came to rely wholeheartedly on the God I could not see. Yes, He became the God I could not see, but yet He saw me clearly. He not only saw me, but with a raging fury He chased me day and night, calling me out. Several pastors became messengers, as did Rich Mullins and his music. During this journey, I came to realize the reality of my walk with Christ. I did not need a man, the lusts of the world, a job, or affirmation to feel complete, to feel worthy. It was in that time that the Lord began to chip away at the very core of who and what identified me. If you said the world. You are correct. The moment we exit the womb the world grabs us by the feet and throws us into its very clutches. The world that I was born into was remarkably different from the world my children and grandchildren were born into, thank God, but the mission has not changed.
The Lord unraveled years of socialization into a world that could never satisfy, or be satisfied. It was in those bitter years the Lord had me on a diet of trial, tribulation and honey. Slowly, the Lord was renewing my thoughts, revealing my true identity, teaching me His truths, teaching me to pray, and to accept that my walk with Him was not always about me. It took me a while to recognize that He was re-socializing me. It was indeed a journey full of reflection. Eventually, the Lord did say, “You are ready to go. Leave this place.” And of course, at that point I was not ready, but God, being God, He prepared the path and I set my feet on it – with Him leading the way. It’s easy to understand when someone invests time and energy training an individual that the purpose for the training is to eventually say, “It’s time.” I had a bible study teacher that would always point that out. He’d say something like, “I am training you in the things of God, so you can share the love and knowledge of Christ with others and bring them to the saving knowledge of Christ that brought you here.”
In my encounters with the living God, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, I found comfort and fulfillment that drew me ever closer to my Lord. Unattached, my thoughts could always be focused on Him. If He spoke to me in the middle of the night I was prepared to take notes. It was on this journey that the Lord brought me to the point of surrender and to identify with the King of Kings, as a child of the King, and forever resigned my worldly identify. The Lord took me out of the place I was in for so many years and He set my feet in a new place, a place I could never have imagined and I have a pretty good imagination. In a new place is where He has me now. He’s teaching me new things to build on what He spent years rebuilding.
I am quite familiar with the unconditional love of Christ, and all to familiar with His grace and mercy that flows ever so abundantly – too often in the most undeserving moments – and across circumstances. I pray the Lord will always allow me to show that same love, grace and mercy to others, as He leads and not by how I feel, or what others say I should feel. In your name, Jesus Christ.
The Lord used Rich Mullins, his music and his ministry to teach me. There is still much to learn in this walk with Christ.
“I would like to encourage you to stop thinking of what you’re doing as ministry. Start realizing that your ministry is how much of a tip you leave when you eat in a restaurant; when you leave a hotel room whether you leave it all messed up or not; whether you flush your own toilet or not. Your ministry is the way that you love people. And you love people when you write something that is encouraging to them, something challenging. You love people when you call your wife and say, ‘I’m going to be late for dinner,’ instead of letting her burn the meal. You love people when maybe you cook a meal for your wife sometime, because you know she’s really tired. Loving people – being respectful toward them – is much more important than writing or doing music.”
I closed 2017 with a new role, wife. Yes. I remarried after 22 years of living single. The year 2017 was marked by unimaginable grace and mercy, not just for me but for my household. Yes, it is a bit of a cliché, but it truly took me taking a leap of faith into unknown territory, literally, to behold God orchestrating a new beginning. To experience God’s miracles from the sidelines, is nothing compared to being God’s miracle. Actually, 2017 was a year of 360 change for me, one blessing after another. It was marked by events I was not even considering, like remarrying after 22 years of being alone, not even in my wildest dreams and traveling. Surrendering to change is not easy, so allowing the Lord to guide me through so much change was a bit scary at times. Often, I hesitated. I questioned every decision. I prayed asking God to confirm my decisions. The change was going to happen. It had to happen, because if we live for Christ He changes us and when He changes us, He never clues us in as to when, or how he will cause this change. So, when he sets change in motion we have to be willing to allow him to work in us rather than resist at every turn. Like Rich Mullins sang,
“Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight You for something I don’t really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I’ve beat my head against so many walls
Now I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees”
Change was coming. I knew it when I was laid of from my job in Sept. 2016. Layoffs generally cause all kind of change, mostly nerve wrecking change. I can say that after facing 3 layoffs, and two of those in less than a year. I was scared. I was frustrated. Then, my only close friend went home to be with the Lord. She had been in the hospital for a few months. I saw her as often as I could. I sat with her. I prayed for her and with her. I called our Christian friends to come pray for her. Only one came, Richard. He prayed and I sensed the inevitable. I just wasn’t ready. I did not get to say goodbye to her. Not again my Lord!, I prayed every night. I felt so alone. This was my first job after years of unemployment. I had been employed just over a year and it was only part-time at that and I get laid off. It was my first real job after seven years of underemployment and unemployment due to my first layoff in 2008, when the rug was pulled out from beneath me.
That first layoff turned out to be a harsh lesson. Year after year I was stripped and battered by circumstances, powerless to do anything. Every which way I turned I ran into closed doors. My soul was weary. My thoughts were constantly on the Lord for comfort, for wisdom, for courage and strength to face every day anew. His mercies are new everyday, He says and I trusted in those promises. Still, I was getting older. I was chasing 50. I questioned my identity. Trusting in God was a moment by moment thing. By 2016, things looked promising, but time was passing quickly then the wind changed. I get laid off and now my friend was gone. I had no one to talk to. I prayed. I prayed. I read God’s word. I prayed.
April 1, 2017 after 22 years of living single, raising my children, grandchildren, working to provide, trusting in God in all things and fully persuaded that I was meant to spend the rest of my days on this earth living single, content in the place the Lord had me…Well, lo and behold…a voice from decades long gone…reached out via Facebook.
“Yes. I am the Jeff you knew. Proof: almost got in trouble at the Airman’s Club with your brothers car, and sitting in your mom’s house when they came to the door and told you your brother had been shot .
When I saw this message, I was taken by surprise. I have thought about you a lot since back then. I did not respond back in 2010, I had met my soul mate after 2 failed marriages. I knew that if I responded and she saw it would upset her.
She was very jealous, I knew she was the one that I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I really knew God, had put us in a place to find each other. We married in October of 2011.
A year and a half ago we found out she had liver cancer, worst day of our life.
3 weeks ago my wife lost a tough battle, she is now pain-free sitting with my Heavenly Father. Sorry I didn’t respond in 2010, I hope you are doing well.
Maybe one day if our paths cross we can sit for a cup of coffee. Take care, and my God bless you. Your friend, Jeff.
I responded with “Oh my gosh! You remember all that!!! I’m in tears. So sorry to hear about your wife. I know it’s a difficult time….you will be in my prayers. I too have thought about you often…the one that got away. God has a perfect plan for everyone that trusts in Him. Take care. I’m here if you need an ear.
I text my sister…”you’ll never believe who just messaged me on Messenger! She’s like, who? Still in shock I text..Jeff! Remember? She’s like, “no way!!!! She remembered. Everyone I spoke to after this remembered, Jeff. Through the years, those that had met him when we dated asked if I ever hear from him. I never did. When he rode into the sunset he was gone. I often wondered if he was still alive. Was he happy. Then came Facebook. I did a search of old friends on Facebook at the end of 2010. Many old friends, I could not find, those I did I was not certain if I had the right person. Jeff was one I was not sure of, so I messaged him and asked him if he’s been stationed here in 82. I never heard anything back so I assumed I had the wrong man and forgot about it. It’s been 16 months since that first conversation and I still can’t believe how the Lord orchestrated so much change to bring me to this place. What place is this? It’s a place where the Lord set me to show me His glory, His favor, His mercy.
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
I cannot find in my own
And He keeps his fire burning
To melt this heart of stone
Keeps me aching with a yearning
Keeps me glad to have been caught
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God
As with any divorce, there is always left over hurt and distrust. Age can also make one a bit more skeptical when it comes to romance. I had completely surrendered that need to the Lord, yet when Jeff appeared, all those emotions resurfaced. I had not realized that God had been preparing my heart to love again. I had a love for this man that time could not diminish, that was so true, but time and trial had made my heart distrust love. I questioned God. Why this man? This is the only man I would even consider for a relationship, but marriage? I couldn’t. I prayed.
Rich Mullins sang about it…
Well the night was cold and my heart was
Hidden very safely in a shell
But I knew somehow I’d have to run that risk
Have to open up myself
Look at the stars on the face of the sky
They’re the same ones Abraham saw
Come under my wings I will make you shine
Give you strength enough to love
Oh now I’m getting strong enough
You helped me chip my way out and open myself up
And for the snow that comes with winter
For the growth that comes from pain
For the joke I can’t remember
Although the laughter long remains
For the faith that brought to finish
All I doubted at the start
Lord I give you praise for all that makes
For the hatching of a heart
Well my face was smooth and featureless
Just like an egg
And if I was moved you would never guess it
By the look upon my face
But You said man looks without but I look within
I can see the love you hide
It’s a matter of doubt it’s a symptom of sin
It’s a problem of too much pride
And I now I’m opening up wide
Wet feathers pulled out from beneath me
And You’re teaching me to fly
For the strength that comes with friendship
For the warmth that comes with hope
And for the love time can’t diminish
And for the time love takes to grow
And for the moonlight on the water
And for the bright and morning star
Lord I give you praise for all that makes
For the hatching of a heart
Rich Mullins The Hatching of a Heart
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: ‘I know your deeds Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.
Psalm 46:10 “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”“