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Urban Bedouins (Prose of truth)

There is a peculiar smell associated with packing tape. Boxes with “this side up” stamped on the sides, brown and crisp all stacked up in neat lines. This is what we are good at. The professional packer. The seasoned traveler that gets “the itch” after two Christmases have passed.

We are chameleons at adapting to new environments. It is a learned trait that pushes nostalgic feelings aside and presses the “this is an adventure” mantra out into the universe praying that one day those words will become reality…but they never will. Yet, with the U-Haul packed and the Tetris champion still undefeated in solid blocks of boxes without gaps or air pockets – the nomadic tribe that is our family piles into borrowed vehicles and closes yet another chapter in yet another state. The unspoken rule of not looking back nor clinging to a past that will only haunt and hurt. The city disappears from our rearview mirror and once more we are between homes. We are between spaces of rest and leisure, where familiar paths lead down into what can be imagined within the unfamiliar landscapes of the next chapter.

We are urban bedouins designed to travel and explore. We are adaptive and flexible and we purposefully seek out what the next hill and valley will reveal to our ever-hungry souls. Tomorrow does not bring dread as one more sleep lingers within this in-between time from one chapter to the next. When we are here in this space we are invisible, unidentifiable, and travelers without compass or map. And there is comfort here. No roots left in our past, we are merely succulents leaning towards the sunlight of tomorrow’s day.

Someday perhaps we will stop our exploration and the frequency of our journeys. We will sleep in beds we own and are not borrowed. We will travel familiar roads without the lingering nomadic call to move on. Perhaps at that moment those roots, shallow and malnourished will find fertile soil and we will dig down, down, down and we will finally be home.

Until then, the urban bedouins journey on…

Revealing All of Our Embarrassing Sins…

“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” -John 4:29

Imagine experiencing this.
Someone knows you, I mean knows you thoroughly. All of your mistakes, your failures, and your deepest, darkest secrets. Can you imagine the shame and embarrassment? I can. Some of us would be absolutely mortified of this prospect. Yet, standing before Jesus the Messiah, this Samaritan woman is filled with complete joy and amazement.

Perhaps she has for too long with her shame. Maybe, as the town’s pariah, she finally found someone who understood her, even showed her respect, and still did not shrink away in disgust and outrage.

Jesus asked her for a drink of water, yet He was there for so much more. He was there to offer her more than just surviving a disgraced life, and she was all too familiar with living with the scorn of her neighbors. Jesus offered her not only a listening ear but in His very presence a modicum of redemption and love. Isn’t that what agape love does for all of us? This Godly love, coming to our level, picking us back up, knowing all that we have done…and despite this knowledge of our shame – still loving us? God, in human flesh, making a way for us to be reunited – Imago Dei restored within us. This atonement: too good to be true, and yet it is. Living water flowing through us, restoring us, renewing us, redeeming us.

“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did…”

Before a wound can be healed, the healer must first see it. Then, all of the impurities of that wound and the potential infection must be removed and the injury – sanitized…

Jesus saw this woman – wound and all. Then living water was given to her.

Still today, Jesus longs to come to each of us, no matter if we consider ourselves sinners or saints, and He wants to see our wounds, our deepest darkest secrets, our shame, and the things that keep us from truly living. He wants to see it all, and he wants to remove the infection from us. Jesus doesn’t want to shame us. He doesn’t want to embarrass us. He comes to our level and offers us this living, restorative water for our body, heart, soul, mind, and spirit.

Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did…”

“…I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” -John 10:10.

If you are still seeking something in life and you struggle with internal shame and sadness in some of the decisions that you have made in life – Jesus desires to give you living water that will cleanse you and help you to live again. This is a new year with new hope, dreams and aspirations. Perhaps, for some of us, it is time to allow Jesus to cleanse us and restore us – and He will.

Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did…”
It’s not as scary and embarrassing as you once thought it was.
Come and see Him today!

Something more to ponder today! God Bless you!
Check out my new podcast on Spotify I will cover more topics like this over on that site so subscribe and get notifications when the next episode drops: https://open.spotify.com/show/0R08uxwKoAJhGGmwbWjd0V

Retrospect & life.

you once asked me,
with a hint of frustration,
what you were good at.
If I could only answer that
in but a simple sentence
but
I cannot.
The book I would
have to write
to explain all the things
that you do
would be immense.
It is not
about being good
but in your case
you exceed
those boundaries
and for that reason
I cannot
fully put into words
the depths
of your mastery
nor the breadth of
your intuition.
But perhaps it has never been
about the goodness
of something
but rather the
journey we take
along the way.

After Midnight

When you drifted off to sleep the other night
I was wide awake.
I heard the deep melody of your breathing
and I was jealous.
My heart was still racing
still clanging around
trying to catch my thoughts
as they drove flatout
foot on the gas pedal.
so many what-ifs
and careening plotlines filled
the spaces between my ears
I can still hear your quiet snores
wishing I could join you there.
but it was not to be
too many thoughts
too many heartsick fears
all bottled up
longing to be let out of
their cages
so for ages
and ages
I just lay here
listening to you sleep.

Calling Out To God – A devotional.

“…The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; he hears their cry and saves them. The Lord watches over all who love Him…” Psalm 145:18-20 (NIV)

A few years ago I had the tremendous opportunity to serve on an emergency disaster team that went to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island and killed nearly 3000 residents. When I was asked to go, my original response was that I did not speak Spanish. I was reassured that I would be okay and that I was needed. So I went. My flight left in the early hours of the morning and by late afternoon following a couple of layovers, I arrived in Puerto Rico feeling completely unprepared, still I was excited. On the drive from San Juan to the barracks that we would be staying I immediately saw the physical toll Maria had caused on the island. Trees were parted like waves in the ocean as the fierce winds ravaged all in its path.

I recall having to aggressively drive through thick traffic without the aid of traffic lights and any kind of right of way laws. It was like driving in a third world country all over again. For the next two weeks I was deployed with my emergency disaster team distributing food and water as well as being the correspondence officer (Public Information Officer). I spent days down at the JFO (Joint Force Opperations) working with wonderful people who were equally committed to helping people in need. Through all of this experience I never felt more undeserving of being and serving in that capacity. I often thought that other, more capable people could do this job and serve better than I was serving.

Sometimes self-doubt can paralyze us and make us feel unadequate for the tasks we have been assigned. Still God provides everything that we need to serve him, all that we must do is put one foot forward and then the next and faithfully follow Him. Faith, especially when we cannot see what the next step looks like, is hard, and yet it is so rewarding.

I remember calling home and hearing my wife’s voice on the telephone. Sometimes we had limited cell phone reception because of the damage to the infrastructure, but when I did get through I experienced a real joy in hearing my wife’s familiar voice.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, if God’s voice is not familiar to you, perhaps you need to spend a little more time listening and discerning as you pray to Him. He desires to hear your voice too. He wants you to call out to Him and trust Him as He leads you through life, sometimes through paths that are unknown to you.

Question:
Are you near to God today?
How is your relationship to Him?
What needs to change so that you can have a closer relationship with Him on a daily, even moment by moment basis?

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…” (James 4:8)
Whatever you might be facing today, whether you feel inadequate for the tasks you have been assigned, know that God is watching over you and if we “trust in the Lord with all our might and lean not on our own understand…He will direct our paths” (Proverbs 3:5).

So…do you trust Him?
Something more to ponder today.

Hatred of Waiting (a Psalm/Poem)

I keep my foot on the accelerator peddle.
I am impatient.
I am anxious.
I am agitated.

Open roads: Driving "fast and furious" during the pandemic Canadian  Underwriter

I want my prayers answered.
Not an hour from now
or a day from now
or a month from now
now.
I want to go fast

My heart is racing
I am out of the starting blocks
without much thought
only with the notion to move.
I want to go fast.

broken-rope-23354 - SPARK Creations & Company Inc.

But it is hard to go fast
when you are broken
torn and tattered.
Limping isn’t the same
in a sprint.

But I am constantly reminded to

gabydoodles | Art for Jesus! | Tattoo quotes, Be still tattoo, Tattoos

two of the hardest words for me to accept.

how can I ‘be’
when my identity is threadbare and fragile?
how can peace rule me
when all I know is the storm?

Keep an eye on the weather: Storms taking aim at the South could bring  strong tornadoes | KARK

I cry out to you oh God.
please answer me.
remove from me any evidence of sin
restore me
revive me
deliver me from the enemy
lay waste to the darkness,
destroy the lies
banish the liar forever
and cast your all consuming light on us.

Hate to Wait? Beat the Hate! – TEACHLY
I am waiting on you Lord.
deliver us
heal us
restore us
We do not want to live in this storm
I know you have called us to
so much more than this.

Still.
here we are.

“The Phone Call”

Conversations with my “Grampa”.

My grandfather called me the other day. Me at the gas station, getting ready to tackle a busy day at work, my mind on many, many things. Whenever my phone rings and I see his name on the caller ID, I answer the call no matter what. Now in his nineties, he still checks in and still has so much love to share with his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids.

“GranStan” Go Cubs Go!

Years ago, stern-faced and marked with his signature mustache, Grandpa (or Grand-Stan as the kids now call him) looked down at me with a level of intensity that could peel paint off a wall and said, “I’m getting mad!” To an outsider, one would wonder what had happened to evoke anger, but in his own way, he was expressing this deep love that he has in an expression of “I’m getting mad,” which was code for “let’s go get some ice cream.” Memories are funny like that, one minute you’re a grown adult carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, the next you’re ten years old eating ice cream and heading to your first baseball game – the Chicago Cubs and Andre Dawson at Wrigley Field. I remember the smell of Gramma’s house, always warm and so inviting. The place I still long for when the days are longer than the hours I have to work with. Their home was safe and filled with Cherubs and delicate trinkets perfectly perched on mantels, coffee tables, and ornamental ledges.  


            “How ya been?” my Grandpa asks over the phone, with a voice still stern yet filled with care and concern. I tell him about my day and the kids, but I know he wants to learn more. He has a deep love for God, and he has a passion for all “his kids” to know the Lord too. “What is God saying to you these days?” He asks out of the blue. For a moment, I am caught off guard and wasn’t ready to answer a question as probing as this. Ministry is still running in my veins despite a pastoral career change, though some days I still ask the Lord, “am I on the right track?” Life is like that sometimes; one minute you’re ninety-nine year old, childless Abram plodding along in life; the next, you’re Abraham moving to an unknown land and trusting (albeit some days less than others) God with your very next steps. I still question God about things that I don’t have the answers to. I still find myself stepping out into unknown territory, saying, “Lord, I don’t know what today holds, but please hold my hand.”

You never really ever leave the ministry, you know?” my grandfather continues, “some people think ministry is just what you do at a pulpit on Sundays,” I tell him I know this, and I am drawn to the many faces I see daily. It is the “mission-field” of relationships in need of encouragement and love. It is a place I have been sent to minister within, and yet after years of focused service-based ministry, I am having difficulty with the tangible nature of “here and now.”

There are times where you miss what wasn’t healthy for you in the first place. Like God’s people, the ex-slaves of Egypt, wishing to go back instead of living free and waiting for a promised land. “I believe that God is blessing you, Scott,” my grandfather continues, “can I pray with you?” He asks over the phone. My heart is whole and overfilled with such love. The Lord is indeed blessing me, and I am so blessed to have such a loving, godly family and grandfather.

I will always pick up that phone when my Grandfather calls. Time is precious when we have so little of it to spend. The concerns of today always pale in comparison to the treasures that we possess in the wisdom and love of such people in our lives. Years from now, I will be old and coming to the end of my days. I, too, wish to pass that love of God and hope onto that next generation. I pray that when this happens, they will answer my call and know that they are loved…perhaps I’ll even “get mad.” I love you, Grandpa. Thank you for your relentless pursuit of God and me (and the rest “of us”). Keep calling, and I’ll keep answering just to hear your voice, and perhaps a “new” joke that you’ve already told me.

Dear Christians, If Church is your foundation then you NEED to rebuild!

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” -Billy Sunday

Being a member of a church is not enough.
Carrying a bible and wearing “church clothes” isn’t enough either.
Saying all of the right prayers and calling out a timely “amen” isn’t enough either.

We can look the part.
We can act the part.
But if there is no difference in your heart.
Then it all that you have been doing is acting – not being.

We can often times get the “doing” before the “being“.
Do you know what I mean?

What I mean by that is this:
We can do church.
We can even do Christianese.
We can do all of the right things for all of the wrong reasons, and still not BE holy as God has called us to be holy. (1 Peter 1:15).

Doing requires works and action (Which in the right context are good, but AS the context can be bad).
Being requires deep, lasting change.
Being requires identity, the true source of context and provides us with the true foundation – God Himself.
We are made in the image of God.
We are His.
Being His requires surrender, sacrifice, dying of our old self and taking on this new image.

You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” -Ephesians 4:22-24 (The Message Version)

If we simply “do Church” we are attempting to “faith-hack” our relationship with Christ and with those He called us to minister to.

If our entire faith journey is all about how Church is blessing ME then we have corrupted our faith and have deleted the great commission from our ideology. We might rationalize it like this: “Sure, reaching people is good as long as they come to our church and as long as they fit the mold of what I think Christians should look and sound like.

I fear that our Western ideology has polluted our perspective of what being a Christ-follower looks like.
The Christ-following ecclesia (as found in the Acts 2 early Church) was about the Body (the group of believers) being unified, sharing everything while adding to their numbers by reaching out into the world and preaching, teaching and making disciples. The love (Agape love) was evident and was like a sweet aroma to the world around them.

Have we lost that lovin’ feeling?
In our attempts to grow our churches, have we lost sight of reaching out and loving others?

Jesus didn’t call us into the safety of a church building to being silos, develop our own church culture and making it hard for the “outsider” to relate let alone earn their membership cards to our exclusive club. We as humans can sometimes make Jesus almost inaccessible to the sinner when we ourselves are sinners save by grace.

Jesus didn’t call us to become comfortable and complacent in our faith.
He did not want us to leave people out or write them off either.
If we are hiding behind Church, or dare I say, if Church has replaced God as our faith in religious practices, rituals and observances, then we MUST rebuild our faith.

How About You?
Church is not four walls of a building where we practice piety.
Church is not about rituals and the styles of our expressions in worship.
Church is not about having an exclusive club membership.

Church is you and me, human beings, living out our faith expression first of all for the glory of God (and not because we prefer this style of worship music or style of service). Secondly, we express this living and active faith so that others might see the image of Christ through us. When we do this, we are helping others discover that faith journey too for the purpose of a Jesus relationship.

Burn the walls of division.
Burn the halls of exclusivity
Tear down the rituals that have hidden Christ instead of revealed Him to others.
Break the traditions that do not glorify but only serve to prevent new membership and fellowship.

YOU are the Church.
YOU are the prophet that God has called to minister to others (that only you can minister to).
YOU are called and equipped.
YOU must check your foundation and if it is in need of repair – begin the restoration process today!

-Something more to ponder today.

A Used Book (A Poem).

I prefer used books
pages yellowed with age
stains of coffee
smelling of baked bread
crumbs embedded
into the glue
of bindings

On this page
tears fell
hearts were broken
a reader’s trust
woven in two.
Another page
dog-eared and highlighted
wisdom shared
and eaten
and brought to life
with flesh and bone
tendon and sinew

These pages smell
like home
ancient in the way
that parchment can be
the only fragrance that
draws a soul
outward and pulls it
longingly into the past
where school desks
and raising hands
come back into
focus.

I prefer these pages
to be lived in
rather than hospital
clean and crisp
untethered and
void of hands
clasped to words
that penetrate the
wounded heart
and opens
gray matter to
create new groove
of thought.

They are the
well-worn paths
the fields of
ripened grains
of dreams bared
and dreams
yet to be imagined

Give to me
that used
copy
that treasure
trove
of human
thought
and I will
give in return
this battered
heart
this
dream that
dances on the tips
of anxious fingers
caressing brittle
pages
and dancing
to the song
of ancient
bards.

O, let the
sun
arise.


-S.Strissel
5/7/21s

The Gift More Expensive Than I Deserve…

“…What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Psalm 8:4.

Do you know that about God’s love?
Most of you would answer, “why, yes of course I do!”
But, what if I asked you, “do you personally know God’s love?” Does that change the dynamics of this conversation? I mean, do we really, truly, deeply know that God loves us?

What if I asked you, “Do you know and love Him in return?” Some of you might begin to think I am meddling. Others, when thinking about this particular question, might discover the answer is not that simple. We as humans tend to make things more complicated than it really should be, and our understanding of loving God, might be tainted or influenced by the current situations of our lives – for good or bad. When we respond to the question “Do you know and love God?”, some might consider the it but then offer the response, “well, do I really know God loves me? How can I know this when my life is so troubled right now?”

I Don't Deserve Your Love - Chapter 44 - Wattpad


In spite of ourselves…
God’s one and only Son entered into this world so that we might be saved from sin and death…in spite of ourselves. In spite of our over complications… In spite of our bad days, months or years… In spite of every bad decision we have made, or potentially will make – God introduced flesh and blood, holiness into our impure world.

Have you ever been blessed with a gift from someone that cares for you and it was completely and utterly unexpected? How did it make you feel? Did you find yourself at a loss for words of appreciation? Did you feel embarrassed because you didn’t have anything to give in return? With God it is like that, but He doesn’t want us to feel guilty or embarrassed because we couldn’t possibly match the gift that He has given to us. He wants us to know how much we mean to Him. He provided us with the ultimate gift of love and grace – His Son Jesus Christ, who came to be our blood sacrifice, so that in His death we might be free from sin and death. He was born. He lived. He died…all for you, me and for every person in our world.

Light of the World' Posters - Mark Missman | AllPosters.com


God, who am I that you are mindful of me?
How can I be so important to you – the Creator of the Universe?
I don’t deserve such love and grace…
I could never repay such a gift…
I know I don’t deserve this…
But here I am Lord.
I accept and receive this gift once more.
Create in me a clean heart.
Renew a right spirit within me.
All I can give you in return…is me, faults and all…every shred, every blemish, all of me.
Help me to receive this grace and love every day,
and to offer the same to everyone around me
both neighbor and stranger.
I love you Lord.
-Amen.

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