You used to be there in my life a shadow of dread a threat of consequence for missed deadlines or poor performance appraisals or because I didn’t look or talk like the rest of them. the robots the others abused the broken and beaten down…
You used to be there in my life uniform pressed and starched puffed up with self-importance standing on the necks of your inferiors.
You used to be there in my life like a dark lumpy bruise Just under the surface isn’t it funny how much like a wound you were to me?
You used to be… past tense. in my rearview like an abusive relationship unhealthy, and jealous I kept coming back to you… but not anymore out of my cage sprung back to life bruises all healing and you are no longer in my present and future.
You asked me to officiate your son’s wedding. You, my lifelong friend a medical survivor still fighting each day as antirejection drugs slowly killed you.
On the drive over I reminisced about my childhood how you always seemed to be at the center of it How I looked up to you like the big brother I never had.
You spoke so freely of love and affection. Me – so guarded and jaded surprised by your emotional generosity
You rode with me to the wedding site shotgun and honest. You told me not asked me that I would perform your funeral. I responded in outrage and told you to linger on and fight the good fight. Yet I could it in your eyes…
After the wedding with my family in tow We said our goodbyes and you hugged me and told me how much you loved me My heart was warmed my brother my first best friend…
and that was the last time I saw you in the land of the living and true to my word I did your funeral making my way in the cold winter to shiver at your graveside Your quick words of kindness still swirling in my mind I whispered the amens a benediction for the end of death Yet, as I stepped back into my car I could imagine you there a year removed when flesh and blood you sat there with me.
This is not the end Just a “see you later” my big brother, I love you.
You once asked me if I felt accomplished to think on it now greying beard crows feet growing each passing year I am not wiser because of time I have not become more or found the secrets to this life I am still its student and I have much to learn. The drive for accomplishment is a loud clanging band of one beckoning others to look on and clap… full of hubris sprinkled with an unhealthy dose of narcissism. I would like to think that I have left a mark on the side of the universe as it ever expands. But I am reminded of its infinite glory and this insignificance of breathing how small am I? Still, I long to measure this existence with thoughts to pass onto my descendants the things to invest in and the things to run from. Life, fragile and limited can break the finite confines and carry on beyond the course of one’s skin and bones. Thus, it would be an honor to tarry here after I have long past my due date… through the fluttering of words on a page and on into the hearts of my children’s children a ripple in a pond moving hearts, ebbing courses and nudging lives for good now, this is interesting…
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.
“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!
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.
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.
“…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.
I keep my foot on the accelerator peddle. I am impatient. I am anxious. I am agitated.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.