I am still a student of grace. My Father in Heaven still has much to teach me. I confess that there are times when it is easier to not forgive, to clench my teeth real tight, my face all flushed in anger and the world is filtered through the red that I see in my eyes. I am still a student of grace.
Far too often I await the wrongs others will do to me. It is almost a sick celebration of the “I told you so’s” and the laments of injustices inflicted on me or soon to be inflicted. It is far too easy to adopt the “woe is me” attitude, while in my heart I never even gave others a chance; I never allowed that much trust to take root and put down into the deep soil of REAL faith. One could make the leap that I have only trusted God a part of the way. That I still pick and choose with whom I will love…enemy or not. One could judge me based upon how shallow my grace really is…and it is rather slim.
I am still a student of grace. Especially on the highway, when THAT driver is behind me, practically in my backseat, impatiently driving fast and soon will overtake me and then proceed to weave in and out of traffic…And some how, I have become the judge, jury and executioner of the world of speeding drivers everywhere. There is no need to search for that judgy old church member in the creaking pew, because he’s sitting in the driver’s seat, seat-belt clasp and I just glimpsed him through the rear view mirror for a moment…meeting his shame-filled eyes. Ah, yes, I am still a lousy student of grace.
But you will see me in church every Sunday. I will be active in the “hey how are you’s” and the occasional “amen’s”…but how far does my grace really extend?
I know, dear Lord that you ask me to love even my enemies…especially my enemies and sometimes, from afar I can “get with the program”…but there are still those other times (we’ll call them the ‘Most of the times’) when my heart is far from your decree to love them. You have said it is easy to love those who love you, and how right you are. I desire reciprocation. I desire affirmation and declarations of care and concern…and I got nothing from enemies. But here I am, still a student of grace…using it as an excuse to overlook this demographic of your creation. And I am drawn to the very cross where you died and took upon the sins of your enemies. You took upon that cross my sin and the sins of everyone here BEFORE we reciprocated, and provided any affirmations and declarations of our understanding of love. You, yourself even asked God to forgive those who were killing you because they didn’t know what they were doing…
Could it be? Is this what you want to teach… me?
I am still a student of grace…
but You are asking me to be much, much more than that. Lord, you are calling me to be an ambassador or Your grace. One who seeks out those who are still called enemy, stranger and outsider. And as I say those names, I am reminded that those labels were mine before I knew you…and still you loved me. Help me to become a professional dispenser of Your grace, without strings attached, or discrimination in my heart and mind. Grant me Your heart and Your eyes for those around me…until there are no more strangers, or enemies or outsiders.
-Just a thought and prayer today. Something more to ponder…
We are still in the throws of COVID-19 and obviously we all are hoping and praying for it to end very, very soon! Little did we know in 2019 that 2020 would be such a chaotic year filled with terms like “unprecedented” and “the new normal”…
The Church Unless you have been living under a rock recently (you know there are some who are) you would know that church has taken to streaming their services online, prerecording messages, and even staging drive-in style worship experiences. We have all endured the many state mandates, quarantine procedures and even threats of penalties or jail time to offenders. It certainly goes without saying that the Church has had to adapt and adjust to such extreme measures. Isn’t it ironic that we often make jokes about how non-progressive and un-moving church can be when it comes to change, yet when it is thrust into a pandemic such as this, we have seen drastic change like we have never seen the church take before. It is almost (and forgive me for saying this) as if the church needed something like this to take place in order for it to change.
With that being said, let us delve into 5 Opportunities the Post-Pandemic Church should capitalize on. This is merely a projection and speculation, but I believe this could drastically change the landscape of what we consider to be “the Church” in the future. So here goes…
1) Embrace The Technology Platform
Online streaming of worship services isn’t reserved just for those cliche televangelists who market their books and preach flowery sermons that only make you feel good. The Church has a tremendous opportunity to tap into the technology platform through the streaming of their worship content to social media sites with the touch of a cell phone screen or tablet device. This platform has been here for many years now, but churches, out of necessity, have finally begun to tap into its vast audience potential.
I believe that the Post-Pandemic Church would be foolish to abandon this opportunity in the future and that many churches will continue to experiment and utilize technology to enhance their reach of the Good News. Of course there is always the danger of becoming too dependent on technology, but by and large if used correctly and carefully measured, it could be a tremendous opportunity both now and the future.
2) Get Out of the Four Walls (Where we worship)
As with the technology platform and even the drive-in style worship settings popping up around the world, the Church and the Body of Christ as a whole (that’s you and me btw) have begun to see that we have protectively been meeting inside a church for years… Of course there are churches out there that pride themselves in doing this already, but by and large how we think of “Church” within this COVID-19 world has drastically changed. We no longer view Sunday mornings or midweek bible studies like we used to. There is more opportunity to adapt and change our approaches to how we worship and what that looks like. Perhaps the Church has grown comfortable within its respective four walls, and maybe even complacent in the Great Commission that we have all been tasked with.
I foresee the Church becoming more relaxed in how they approach worship and the mode of that worship. There will always be some churches who will slip back into comfortable patterns when this is all said and done, but I pray others will step out and get outside to do relatable, authentic ministry. Understandably, there are already churches who have been doing this, and perhaps to the churches who haven’t, it’s not a bad idea to observe, modify and emulate practices which relay the relevancy of Christ in our world today. The world needs Him more than ever before!
3) Eliminating Redundant Rituals and Practice for Practicality
Tapping into what was just discussed, is the notion that certain practices within the ‘order of service’ a church might traditionally roll out week to week are now observed to be unnecessary within the context of the pandemic. Perhaps some of these unnecessary practices like the taking of tithes and offering (which has been replaced with a tithe box in the back of the sanctuary by some churches currently) will no longer be used in future services, but rather the new (to us, but church traditionally ancient) practice will remain. Coupled with that one could insert a number of practices such as the printing of bulletins, the morning “meet and greet” (introverts everywhere are now jumping for joy…internally that is).
Of course the danger of eliminating any practice could be a loss of observation or even honoring the sacred spaces. One must always be careful when deciding what should stay and what should go.
4) Exercising Flexibility and Creativity Like Never Before! Along with the elimination of “worship bloat” the post-pandemic church will have the opportunity to tap into a far more flexible congregation and audience that it has ever had before. With this comes the need of more creativity when considering how “ministry” or “worship” should look and feel like. There will be a loosening of constraints within stodgy traditional molds and an opportunity to experiment with modern worship platforms. That being said, the danger with experimentation could be either the over simplification of the gospel or even the stripping away of biblical truths altogether.
The post-pandemic church might have new found freedom, but should be sober in how it uses that new-found flexibility, all the while never forgetting or losing the primary purpose of the church in the first place. I would not be surprised to see an increase in ‘house church ministries’ as people are drawn once again to the need for intensive fellowship, prayer and praise all centralized around the simplicity of home.
5) Fearlessly Taking Risks for Evangelism
Lastly, in a world so distraught and fearful all due to COVID-19, there will be an increase in people genuinely seeking hope and this notion of a ‘Higher Power’. The post-pandemic church should be spurred on into caring and loving evangelism. Make no mistake, this isn’t the “bullhorn, I’m going to thrust gospel tracts in your face” kind of evangelism. No, instead if the post-pandemic church wishes to truly reach new lives for Christ they need to be fearless and take risks like never before with a new found vigor for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. This will not come by just remaining in a para-house church, or stay in the parking lot of the new drive-in church, but rather get out (within our new understanding of social distancing) and love people right where they are at in life.
With so much in our world that has caused division, hurt and even hate, the world needs this post-pandemic church to step up and take risks for Christ and because they genuinely care about people and want to see people’s lives wondrously transformed.
So How About It? This is really the end of my pondering today and where the proverbial “rubber meets the road”. It is up Christ-followers like you and me to not only hear what God is saying to us, but to actually do it.
We, as The Church (big C) cannot simply revert into what we were prior to this pandemic…we have to move forward and in so doing, live this transformation so that others will see Christ through us.
Something more for this current and the future Church to ponder today.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” –1 John 3:1
What a gift this is! What a relief to be known as children on God! We have this amazing title, this identity and belonging. Can you even begin to imagine the depths of love this gift of being called a child of God truly is?
All of humanity was separated from God by sin and death, but God made a way for us to be reconciled to Him – through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of this blood sacrifice, which was impossible for us to atone for, we have been given this new life. We might have once been called “Dead man/woman walking”, but now it is possible for us to sit at the family table with Jehovah Jireh, our provider and Savior. Not only are we invited guests…because that in and of itself is a special thing, but we are more than just guests at His table, we are FAMILY! He calls us Son and Daughter. We are included in this illustrious inheritance of eternity with Him.
For some, this might sound like hyperbole…and nothing more, so it is dismissed and rejected. For others, doubts overshadow this good news, for surely we are unworthy of such a designation and title, and in part these rational thinkers are correct. None of us deserves this. None of us are ever worthy of such a blessing, and yet because of God’s grace and love, we are given this priceless opportunity to be grafted back into the Family of God. We never can earn this. We never can do enough good to receive the title. There isn’t enough good works to atone for our sinfulness. But Jesus, in the shedding of His blood, washes our sins away and makes it right.
Ah, but there’s a catch. (and some skeptics would say, “I knew it! There’s always a catch”) The catch is really this: It is our choice. That’s right, it is up to you and me. We decide if we wish to accept this offer, which is freely given to us. But in the giving, there has been real sacrifice, pain and labor…it may be given freely to us, but the cost, when we consider it, is unconscionably steep.
This catch is…our belief. We must accept the gift that has been given to us. We must receive it with an open heart and mind. Our joy of being called a Son and Daughter, a child of God, is received at the moment of our belief in His sacrifice and resurrection.
Questions: Will you claim your title of Son or Daughter of God through your belief in Jesus? How does this change the way you view yourself and others? What does being identified as a Son or Daughter of God truly mean? Are you willing to embrace this heritage and share it with others that you know who might not know about Jesus? What can you do today that will reflect this rich gift of being call children of God?
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to fully accept this gift of being called Your Son or Daughter. Help me to share this great gift with those around me today. May Your light shine on me and light this path that You would have me walk. Thank You for loving me and for lavishly pouring Your grace on me in this way. I love You Father! -Amen.
As with any pandemic or sickness people have been affected, and some have died. I in no way wish to cheapen that and I believe we have lived through a very challenging time. At the same time the scripture verse that keeps coming back to me over and over again is, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
I believe that what was meant for evil will be used for good. That is not to say that many have suffered through this pandemic. That is not to say either that there is no longer other evils in this world. But rather, I believe God is mobilizing the church in this strange and uncertain time. I should also say that God has always intended His people to be mobile, outside of a four-walled structure. God has always desired for His people to serve those in need everywhere and not just those who happen upon their individual church.
What does this mobilization mean? Perhaps we have grown too comfortable in our buildings and sanctuary. Perhaps we have become a little too lazy with our witness. Perhaps we as a body of Christ are being prodded to take the good news out into all the world again.
I will openly admit (if you will) that I have at times grown complacent with my testimony of who Jesus is to me. I don’t say that to imply that we ought to stand on the street corner with a bullhorn and guilt people into church, but I do imply that I fear we are becoming the church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22). We are in danger of being a lukewarm, tepid Church that does nothing more than sing songs on Sunday and hear heartwarming messages that gives us tingles but we don’t change nor do we feel compelled to help others find Christ.
I believe God is mobilizing His people during this pandemic to become a Church on fire for Him once again. This is a wake up call…and I believe many are responding to that call. Many Christ-followers are hearing His prodding and are adapting, transforming and have found that urgency of evangelism once again. If there was a time that the world needed the Good News, it is now. And so the Church, post-pandemic has to wake up from its lazy slumber, shake the cobwebs off of its prayer life, take a hold of the armor of God so we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11) and mobilize out in all the world not just gathering in the safety of the walls of a church building. We aren’t called to be pew dwellers but soul winners with the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through us.
The Danger The danger of this pandemic and in life is complacency and a loss of faith. We may be tempted to abandon our faith altogether, and yet with His help we can overcome. Be aware of the dangers around you, dear warriors of Christ. Satan won’t directly attack you, but rather chip away at your resolve, your relationship with Christ and the faith of those around you. Do not become discouraged or lose heart. The Lion of Judah is with us and His truth will overcome this present darkness. We must stand firm and not waver in our faith. We cannot allow any fear or doubt to falter our commission that Christ has given us. The Church He has called us to goes far beyond any four walls and must have feet with its faith. Evidence of fruit, love, compassion and grace ought to be seen.
Questions: Is there evidence of fruit in your life today? Have you faltered in your faith? Have you become lazy in your relationship to Christ? What steps can you take to avoid the trappings of a lukewarm, lazy faith?
The post-pandemic Church must be more than denominational differences. We have to put aside our issues with one another. There is far too much at stake here. We cannot be bound by our comforts, our patterns of ritual and worship…we have to go beyond all of those things.
If these questions and line of thinking causes guilt in us, perhaps that is the prodding of the Holy Spirit in our hearts today. Perhaps He is calling us into a deeper relationship with Him and we must not settle for our current state but instead become more resourceful, resilient and persevere. I see a Church on the cusp of greater things if we but listen to His leading and we love beyond our walls and into the lives of neighbors, co-workers, strangers and even our enemies. If we do these things faithfully for Christ, please do not be surprised with amazing, even miraculous things happen. We must venture into the unknown places, and purposefully seek out the lost, the hopeless and the hurting.
Something more to ponder today, may God continue to not only richly bless you, but prod you out into deeper waters.
It has been a while since I have written or updated. Sorry. A lot has kept me from writing. A lot has happened in the office and out of the office too.
Life in Central Alabama is interesting. This is a new life for me. A new experience. A new place to call home. Our kids are adjusting and coping with a new normal that includes limited connection with possible new friends because of this pandemic. Some days it is rather pleasant to have our kids engaged and around us. Other days it can feel claustrophobic and prison like.
I have worked throughout the pandemic in my office at Christian Services for Children in Alabama, located in Selma Alabama. Our staff are considered essential and we serve foster kids and families in crisis. I find it interesting that when you work within such a constant flow of crisis, living through a pandemic is almost like every other day. (That does sound a bit callous, but our staff regularly require some respite of their own and some self-care through various situations of compassion fatigue)
The families we serve and the foster children who come to us all have stories. Some stories would truly make you weep and mourn because of the trauma that these children have been through. Some are dealing with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) along with the visible scars of abuse and/or the emotional scars that are evidenced in their current mental state which varies from barely discernible to hospitalization. It breaks my heart to hear these stories. To hear how some parents, who never should have been parents in the first place, seemingly throw their children away or are just seen as collateral damage from a life time of drug and alcohol abuse.
We had a foster child just the other day who was found hoarding food in their bedroom, because as a survivor that’s what you do to stay fed and alive. This foster child is in a safe foster home now, but traumatic history often encompasses reason and current reality and the primal survivalist takes over. Children like this will require intensive counseling and support which will last for years…sometimes even their entire lifetime. That prognosis truly break my heart.
On Racism and Healing… Aside from living in Florida, if that counts, this is the first time that I have lived in “the South”. I watched in horror, like everyone else, as George Floyd was murdered on the streets of Minneapolis by police officers. I too decried the injustice and the nature of how wrong it was/is. I have stood in solidarity with my African America brothers and sisters, and I will continue to do so. I can only fathom the fear and anger a black man or black woman has when they are times targeted by police or pulled over on the side of the road for doing nothing except for having a darker skin color. I abhor the fact that such racism and inequality still exists in our world, and I acknowledge it. But none of us should just stop at acknowledgment…we must combat it at every turn. I must live and strive to be the change. I must strive to love and serve all people until such acts and prejudices are extinct. I truly pray that day will come in my lifetime. I have ruminated on what I might say about this vital topic in our country. And I have said it from the beginning that I don’t want to just say something, but I AM living something to help unite and bring peace, hope and equality to my African American friends and family. Living for just a short time in the South I can catch just a glimpse of how racism still runs deep down here. It is still living and breathing. I minister in a very poor community that has seen more than its fair share of extreme prejudice and pain. Selma is so much more than just a catalyst within the civil rights movement…it has survived, but it is still in need of healing because its wounds run deep and time has not been kind to this city.
I am wearing a button on my blue polo shirt to commemorate Juneteenth which is tomorrow. This is a day that celebrates the freedom of slavery. Isn’t it interesting that even after the famous Emancipation Proclamation slave owners in the South held onto their slaves for up to 2 1/2 years longer. In part because the news was not instantaneous back then like it is now, and another part because the present would be forever changed by the freeing of so many enslaved on plantations and beyond.
Isn’t it interesting how sometimes we need to relearn things over and over again in order for us to overcome the tragedies and injustices of our past?
I don’t know all of the right words to say in situations like we are seeing today, except that we can do much, much better than we have in the past. In order for true healing and reconciliation to take place in our country and in our communities we have to be willing to let go of our prejudices, our hatred, our need for vengeance, rage and above all our complacency. Reform ought to take place, but with it comes our responsibility to be better and to love better. We have to address the wrongness of racism including the racism that isn’t seen outwardly but perhaps lives in our hearts.
I want to live the change and speak the change, I MUST THINK the change and be the change in my community and in my home. I am praying for our country, our communities and for you.
I did not
know his name.
I had been invited,
just a guest
at the funeral.
losing a child at such
a young age…
Some were angry
Some beside themselves
drowning in grief.
Photos hung on a pin-up board
a life that had just begun
it hung there to declare
the cavern of sorrow
and the hollowed out eyes
of a mother and father:
I sat on the back row,
longing to bring
knowing there was
in this space.
thick and dreadful
I was here
in the mourning.
I love researching the origins of things. One of my favorite docu-shows is ‘Mysteries At The Museum’ where they tell stories and uncover some mysterious tale from long ago that I never knew existed. I think my love for television shows like this has to do with knowledge and better understanding the world around me. There is this hunger for understanding who I am as a human being and that of this creation around me. I would imagine in some way you are the same as me in this search for truth and understanding.
I recently came across the etymology of the word “Sincerely”. What’s funny is I know the origin story, but I liked the erroneous version of its origin better. I think I like it because I think it speaks to me on a spiritual level, and carries with it a deep connection of awe and wonder for me.
The story goes like this: In the Middle Ages, painters would use wax to conceal blemishes in their artwork. It was a technique to cover up these mistakes so that the painter would not have to start over and could sell these paintings to potential buyers. No one would know what was under the surface of the wax, nor would they notice unless they were to carefully analyze the surface of the canvas.
Thus, when a painter would paint their masterpieces they would sign their paintings with ‘Sincerely’ at the bottom in order for the buyer to understand that the artist had created this masterpiece “without blemish”, or without the use of cover up wax. This was a guarantee of honesty, vulnerability and transparency…
Regardless if the origin of the word “Sincerely” didn’t come from these painters and artists, I find the context here to be absolutely stunning and profound. Painters did indeed use wax to cover up blemishes on their canvas and many times without owners ever knowing that they made a mistake.
This is how the Lord has whispered into my heart this week as I approached Pentecost this year. For the first time in fifteen years I am no longer an ordained minister. For the first time in my career as a pastor, I have found a sense of emptiness that had been occupied by busyness and it was all my own doing. There were times that I covered over mistakes on my canvas. Times where I could fool everyone else of my sincerity and yet there I was waxing over the obvious blemishes without ever acknowledging them to anyone, let alone God.
This isn’t some sort of deep confession of moral failure, this is an admission of pride and arrogance. I was the painter covering things up and feigning my innocence. And through it all God wanted and still wants my sincerity.
Many of us approach Pentecost, the day where God’s holy presence literally fell upon those in that upper room with a certain amount of wax covering our canvas. We cover up the mistakes and pretend that God doesn’t see them. Perhaps deep down we know that He does, but as long as we keep fooling everyone else, all is well. But you see that isn’t the way things work with God. He wants us blemishes and all. He desires our vulnerability and our honesty. He wants for us to admit to Him that we haven’t got it all worked out yet. That’s okay. He wants us to stop pretending to be some thing we are not. God longs for us to just take the wax off of our canvas’ and SINCERELY come before Him with contrition and reverence.
So let me ask you today, how sincere is your relationship with God? How honest are you being with your walk of holiness? How much are you truly striving to live like Jesus every day? I know that there is so much to unpack here. I know that perhaps you will have to do some soul searching. Don’t wait to do it by saying “I’ll get around to it”. Don’t hesitate to come before the Father spiritually naked and without wax. He sees us completely and already knows. So if we truly want to experience Pentecost today in our lives, we MUST be sincere in our minds, hearts and lives.
Something more to ponder on this day of Pentecost. God Bless you today!
The night had grown dark as the shadows fell upon the buildings of Jerusalem like thick blankets, cool and sleepy. Creeping along the side roads and alleyways, Nicodemus made his way to the house where he knew Jesus was staying. He did not want to be seen, after all, as a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, he had a reputation to uphold…and yet he felt compelled to seek out this Rabbi.
Perhaps Nicodemus witnessed Jesus, red faced and angry as he cleansed the Temple when others had turned it into an ancient Walmart; Or perhaps he had witnessed or even heard through second-hand knowledge of Jesus’ miracles. Regardless of the ‘why’, Nicodemus had to seek Him out.
Nicodemus stands sheepishly at the door momentarily seconding guessing himself before finally knocking. He hears someone stir from within, and the voices that had been loud and jovial only a moment ago, quiet down as if to wonder who could be at the door at such a late hour. Wide eyes peer out as the door cracks open, for a moment there is silent, shell-shocked surprise as the homeowner recognizes Nicodemus standing there. Why would a Pharisee come here, and why so late?
As if in reply to the silent question, Nicodemus asks politely, “Is the teacher Jesus here?
I can almost envision a flurry of questioning and worried looks from within. Questions like, ‘Is this Pharisee here to harm the Master?’, and ‘What could he want?’, or even, ‘What can we say to make him leave?’ Finally the owner leads Nicodemus to the roof, where the cool breeze of the evening makes this space the most desirable place in the house.
Jesus is seated there, perhaps looking out upon the city, pondering…or perhaps He knew Nicodemus would come and so he was simply waiting.
Nicodemus, nodding gratefully to the owner seats himself beside Jesus. In a way of greeting, Nicodemus, a teacher of the law and Rabbi in his own right calls to Jesus, ‘Rabbi’ in a manner of respect. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teach who has come from God…” -(John 3: 2)
Such a public declaration in the daylight would most certainly have tarnished his reputation or worse, and yet here in the privacy of the dark Nicodemus pours out his heart and speaks plainly to Jesus. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Imagine the scene, as Nicodemus declares that which is nearing blasphemy to the ears of his fellow Pharisees, and yet here in this quiet evening space, he speaks to what He knows in his heart is true. He has arrived at “God must be with this man – Jesus”…and Jesus is about to take him to the very feet of God himself. For a moment there is a pause in the conversation as Jesus collects himself and then looks at Nicodemus with the wisp of a smile, and he says, “This is the truth that I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
For a moment this puzzles Nicodemus. What could that even mean? How can one be physically born again? It is not possible! A Rabbi who is used to telling stories to teach a point is completely lost when Jesus uses a very similar method. Nicodemus finally speaks and asks his question, “How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Then Jesus looks at Nicodemus as if he can see into his very soul…and perhaps he could. Perhaps in all of his many years as a Rabbi and religious law enforcer, Nicodemus has never seen or heard of such wonders from one man. Perhaps somewhere in his heart and soul, the words of Jesus are being heard in a much different frequency. It is the frequency of truth, life and the source of all love. Perhaps in this very moment the creation has caught a glimpse of the Creator and there is a skipping of a heart beat and an inward ‘leaning in’ as if in response to a hunger that has been reignited once more that was only known in his younger, more eager days.
Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, and this time Nicodemus physically leans in, as if to catch this moment and words with his hands, mind and heart. Jesus speaks of the heavenly things and Nicodemus barely grasps the earthly ones, and yet from this night on, he will never be the same. Soon, the truth of Jesus’ words will reverberate in his mind as he witnesses Jesus’ crucifixion and death. The truth has set Nicodemus free this night. Where there was once doubt, certainty begins to grow. Where there was once earthly wisdom, heavenly wisdom is now craved. Nicodemus may have come under the cover of night, but will soon perhaps declare in the daylight his new found hope.
I wonder where we are in all of this. Do we have all of the head knowledge the earth can give us and yet we come up short when it comes to grasping this faith that Jesus offers to us? How do we comprehend so new life? Is there room in our understanding of faith to find rebirth?
Perhaps some of us are still figuring things out. Maybe others have begun that late night stealthy walk towards Jesus, hoping no one will see us as we explore. Still, perhaps others have met Jesus and have put their trust in Him.
Wherever you are on this journey, please know that Jesus is waiting patiently for you…but don’t wait too long. Don’t hesitate. Don’t procrastinate…because one day it will be too late. Grace truly does have an expiration date.
“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” -Psalm 27:4
There is the old testament story about a woman named Hannah. Hannah did not have any children of her own and she desperately wanted a child. So after one of the Jewish celebrations, Hannah goes to the temple and fervently prays to God to give her a child. She prays and weeps and is in deep anguish over this heartfelt need to be a mother. As she is praying and weeping, the priest Eli sees Hannah there, and he thinks she is drunk because her lips are moving but no words are coming out. So Eli goes and confronts her and even tells her to throw away her wine.
Imagine that for a second, this woman is crying out to God in one of her lowest moments and she can’t even catch a break without having Eli confront her in judgement. Hannah doesn’t lash out though, she just tells the priest why she is there and that she is not drunk. Hannah outlines her heartache and even says “I am very discouraged and I am pouring out my heart to the Lord.” (NLT translation). The priest responds by saying, “May the God of Israel grant you the request that you asked of Him.”
Scriptures then tell us that Hannah goes home and is at peace and starts eating AGAIN. Let’s stop for a minute and recognize that in Hannah’s distress she had stopped eating and was so discouraged in her heart.
Have you ever been there? Have you ever been so heavily burdened that you lose all appetite and thoughts of self-care?
One such moment comes to my mind in my life. My Wife had just tragically lost her mother in a horrible accident and for the next couple of days in the midst of our mourning we couldn’t eat and we barely slept. It was gut wrenching sadness and heartbreaking pain. Scripture tells us that there is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3)…and in our lives, most of us have experienced those times of mourning. I believe Hannah felt a certain kind of mourning in her life as well and that is why we are made to understand in 1 Samuel 1:9-28 that Hannah was not eating…or probably sleeping. Her heart was so heavy and burdened with this deep longing and sadness for a child.
In the Seeking – We Find. Hannah sought out God in this dark moment of her life. She knelt before God and didn’t care if anyone else was watching, and as she poured out her heart to God, and He was there listening.
It had nothing to do with a priest answering Hannah’s pleas…although Eli certainly did that. There wasn’t some sort of mystical words that Eli spoke that eased her heart. Rather, it was Hannah’s faith in the God that she prayed to that allowed her to find peace again. There was a certainty that filled that place where her mourning had been. Faith blossomed while her mourning decayed and faded away.
There is a truth of us in this. David certainly found it when he wrote this: “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” -Psalm 27:4
When we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, ALL these things will be given to us (Matthew 6:33). But it starts with our seeking. Are we willing to search God and know Him? To truly know Him?! Not know of Him. Or about Him. But to truly KNOW Him?
What does it look like in our modern day to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life”? Let me give you a hint: it’s not just about going to church, but that’s a great start. It is about allowing God to dwell in your life every moment of every day. To literally breathe Him in and out in your actions, thoughts and words. So much so that your old self-induced life fades away to be replaced with a self-less holy one that reflects Christ completely.
Then, when we are heavy burdened, when we face daunting days of uncertainty (that can seem be insurmountable at times) we can seek God. We can know Him, and we can get up from our places of prayer and be rejuvenated in life by His spiritual nourishment, provision and love.
Questions to Ponder today: What is currently weighing on your heart? Have you prayed about these things to God? These prayers can be spoken out loud or silently. They can be written down or thought in your mind as you go about your day. But one thing that truly helps is that you verbalize your burdens to the Lord. Even though He already knows them, speak them to Him. Lastly do you trust that God is not only listening to your prayers, but that He is in your life and is a participant in it?
May we find what we seek today…and may we be seeking God as well purposely strive to dwell in the House of the Lord forever.
Something more for us to ponder today. To God be the glory.
(I have been learning a lot lately. How to speak a new organizational language. There are still so many abbreviations, and slang, and culture…and I only have eight to ten hours in a day to devote to it.)
Life right now is more than interesting. Sometimes frightening. Sometimes heartwarming. Sometimes gut-wrenching… especially when you hear some of the horror stories of cases our caseworkers are laboring through…things I cannot speak of for both reasons of confidentiality and because I can’t even put it into words. Questions swirl in my mind. Questions like “how could a biological parent do such awful things to their own kids?!”
But I digress. (Perhaps I am avoiding that subject altogether right now…maybe one day…)
Our Foster Parents are saints (well most of them anyway). But sometimes habits are hard to break.
For example: There are a couple of our elderly foster parents who are so used to being extremely independent and social. They love to get out of the house and spend some time shopping, but really what they enjoy doing is connecting with people they have known their whole lives. Isn’t that what small-town life is all about? Knowing that neighbor across the street. Or that friend you’ve known since high school. This is a small mostly rural community, albeit a very poor one at that. And this is the worldview and context of our dear elderly foster parents I am trying to broadly introduce you to.
A trip to the local Walmart is an excuse to say “hey” to a neighbor, a friend or family member. It is the original social media platform for walking up to somebody and talking face to face in close proximity, because to do otherwise is “Southern” for rude…and no one desires to be rude around here especially these aforementioned foster parents.
But things have changed.
COVID19 is a pandemic. People have died and/or continuing to die. It targets many, especially the elderly and those with a susceptible immune system.
Stay at home orders still linger, and for good reason… and yet we still have a couple of stubborn, well-meaning elderly foster parents who venture out.
Because these old habits keep them grounded in life. It is their life-line to sanity, when back at home fostering children with special needs and those with deep emotional scars can sap away that same sanity to the point of sleepless nights and paper-thin hearts.
They have been told to disconnect. to stay home. to become socially distant. to “lay low” for their personal safety. and yet, almost humorously (as humorous as times in a pandemic can get) these face to face socially depraved saints are venturing out. They are seen wandering the isles of the local Walmart store shopping for both food and fellowship.
Some times habits just can’t be broken, especially when those habits are physical and emotional lifelines. And so, with handbag slung on shoulders, and a need to converse where phone lines and texts cannot reach, they go out and fill their empty carts and replenish their social tanks.
Of course we know the dangers. All the while reminding them of children back home they have agreed to foster. Of course we express these concerns to them (countless times)… but sometimes habits trump the risks and their cars can be found parked in the local asphalt lot adjacent to their anchor of community connection.