Talk. (a poem)

There are days that I can’t be lone.
Alone with my own thoughts.
Thoughts that bind.
blind.
rewind my mind
until I find that I am helplessly
reliving regrets from my past.

Like a chain around my throat
the thoughts haunt me.
Thoughts that chill.
See to kill.
Fulfill all my darkest fears
of “i’m not good enough”
and
“I’ll never measure up.”

Talk.


It’s like I’m lost in the darkest cave
no lights to light my way.
I can feel it breathing deep
creeping.
Sleep is a lost cause
until I find rest
But, empty and cold
I am attempting to deafen
its voice.

My choice?
I can’t divorce this
escape this
I confess
I don’t want to be alone
with my thoughts.
So…
Come talk to me.

A Pastoral Pondering on Life, Death and Hope…

End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.” —J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

The telephone rang in my office. It was a darkening, rainy afternoon. The billowing clouds hung ominously outside, and in my heart there was also a tempest that was threatening to spill out into my life. It had been a hard couple of years in the ministry, and I had been contemplating my resignation as a pastor. I was frustrated, hurt, and very ready to pack it all in and call it quits. It was with a heavy heart that I picked up that ringing telephone and answered.

Little did I know that the prayer that I had been repeating in my mind and on my lips was about to be answered. – A local pastor was calling to donate some food to our corps because we had a large soup kitchen and we could always use the extra meals. I politely told the pastor that I would drive over to his church right away and collect the food. Isn’t it interesting how God knows just what we need even before we recognize it?

I made my way to his church and pulled into the driveway. The church was an older gray stone building with a traditional cross at the top, and the customary blue and red stained glass window that faced the busy street. I parked at the adjacent gymnasium structure and knocked on the front door. The pastor ambled to the door and upon seeing the uniform, welcomed me in. He led me to the kitchen where the food was all nicely wrapped and ready…but something truly remarkable happened. I had come for food to feed others, but the Lord had other ideas in mind. I needed nourishment of the heart – for I was worn, weary and at the end of my rope.

I am not sure if you have ever experienced the moving of the Holy Spirit, but I am certain that the Lord had given me a divine appointment that day in order to help heal my wounded heart. The pastor began to talk to me about his ministry, and gave me a brief tour of the building. He described the basketball program and the youth ministry. We chatted for a few more minutes and then it all spilled out…It felt like I was in a safe place, far away from judgment and ridicule…and so I shared with him my hurt. It was like unloading a burden I had been carrying around for far too long. I told him about my heartache I had experienced in the ministry, and the wounds that had been inflicted while on the pastoral battlefield. He understood. He didn’t say, “well you just need to try harder“, or “perhaps you just aren’t walking with the Lord enough“; or even “maybe you’re just not cut out for ministry.

No, rather, he just listened.

He let me expose the festering wound of my heart that refused to heal. I had not been able to articulate it, let alone face it before. But here in a gym kitchen, I felt led to bear the wound and let the infection be seen.

Finally after I had finished talking, the pastor told me about his own hurt. How years ago he had moved to this town. He had left another ministry that had been difficult and it too had wounded him. Leaning on a stainless steel island in a small kitchen, he then prayed for me, and the power of the Holy Spirit began working in my heart. I can’t tell you that I was miraculously healed in a single instant, but the pain, bitterness and hurt started to be addressed by the Lord. I was a broken vessel in need of repair, and the hands of God were more than willing to remold me again. Dare I say that the Pastor was only being faithful to the Lord, while the Lord applied the much needed salve to a wounded life. Isn’t it funny how God has a tendency to do that – use the faithful at the most unlikely of places, and just the right moment?!

After the Pastor prayed with me, he asked me if it would be alright if he contacted a couple of other pastors that he knew, and if we could all meet over breakfast sometime soon. I accepted the invitation and promptly left with the food in my hands. Again, I had come to receive food for people in need, when I was also in need myself – in need of spiritual nourishment and hope. I walked away from that encounter a little lighter.
I told my wife about my time with Pastor Steve, and explained that I felt the Lord had placed him in my path.

A little while later I received a phone call from Pastor Steve, and true to his word, he was inviting me to a breakfast with his group of pastors. I had been in other pastor groups before, and sometimes it felt like it was a forced fellowship. I went to the first breakfast with that thought in mind, but I was extremely surprised to find a group of guys who loved being with each other. The laughed together over coffee and toast. I felt as if I was being welcomed into a fellowship I didn’t deserve…and yet here they were warming my heart.

Over the course of the next few months I met with this pastor group. We met every couple of weeks, and there wasn’t any agenda except to encourage one another, to pray for one another and share the in the journey. I came to pick up food only to be fed…

Pastor Steve helped to pick me up, a wounded pastor, on the way while traveling on the same journey…and I am forever grateful for that divine appointment. It was just before Thanksgiving last year that Pastor Steve went in for a routine gall bladder surgery only to discover that it wasn’t gall bladder at all, but rather terminal cancer.
I recall the sheer shock of that horrific news. Yet, through it all Pastor Steve remained a faithful servant of God.

Just today, mere weeks before Thanksgiving – almost one year to the day – Pastor Steve went to be with the Lord. I mourn the loss of such a man of God. This world is better because he walked it. My life is better because he journeyed for a time along with me. He shared in my hurt, and helped to heal the deep wounds of my heart. I know that I will always be thankful for his ministry in my life…even though it was for but the briefest of times. Just like markers in life – where we remember the turning points and milestones – Pastor Steve stands there on one of those points in mine.

I came to pick up food for others only to be fed…and that was a divine appointment designed by the Lord and enacted upon by a faithful servant…thank you Steve! And now while I continue to travel this path, may I too faithful recognize those divine appointments that must enter and help those who walk behind me.

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” -C.S. Lewis.

International Day of the Girl…So Far To Go…

Today is an important day!!
Perhaps you didn’t know it was today…perhaps you didn’t really even care.

But…
There is a movement out there that I believe we should all be a part of…it is the movement to ensure all girls around the world have access to education and employment!  That girls from whatever corner of the earth is treated with the same equality that boys her age receive.  This movement must grow and enter every corner of the world.  We must push this movement and ensure that regardless of race, ideology and culture  ALL girls & women are treated with equality, freedom and fairness.

This is not the case in many places of our world.  girl2
Almost all religions are guilty of suppressing female – some are still in the ideological dark ages where women are treated as property.  This cannot continue!  We must fight against such ideologies with education and compassion!  We must stand up for those girls in our world who still have no voice in their culture.   If we truly believe that all people matter, and all are equal – we cannot rest until all girls have the freedom to grow up to be whatever they want to be and are not restrained by archaic religious practices and teachings bent of controlling those they teach.

I have a daughter, she is the light of my life, and she has access to education – and I hope, with her parent’s help, we will give her every opportunity to succeed in life and she can aspire to be whoever she wants to be…but I also know that there are millions of girls like my daughter out there in the world today who will never have these same opportunities that she has.  And these girls will have these amazing dreams to be and do something, but the society that they live in will prohibit their dreams and limit their access to the resources they will need to succeed.

girl3I am just one father, one parent – but I stand with this International Day of Girls because I know that we can make a difference for ALL.  It may take years, but we mustn’t give up.  We mustn’t quit on those who are currently voiceless and without choices in life.

I believe in a God who created both Male and Females to live equally together in this world.  I believe we must empower this generation of girls to dream big and live it out until those dreams become a reality.  I also believe that if we work together, and if we persevere, we will better the lives of girls all around the world!

Let’s turn dreams into realities!
Something more to ponder today!

More reading on this topic check out these links:
How are you making a difference?
Day of the Girl – US
International Day of the Girl – U.N.
Fighting Human Trafficking -SA

Dear Salvation Army, Stories About Humanity And How We Make A Difference!

Today I have been challenged…and I hope this challenges you too.

We’ve been challenged to love.
love is pure.
love is true.
The greatest form of love for God comes through how we love and serve humanity.
It is a calling to participate in practical holiness…
It is this kind of love that should be a fragrant offering.
This kind of love is (not always an immediate response, mind you)a response to being unlovable, hopelessly lost in our own sins, and yet receiving this unmerited grace, this undeserved love.  We respond in the practical.  We respond to this love in how we love others.  We attempt to reciprocate this love to God, and we are consumed by this desire to serve a mighty God here where He has placed us.

God has placed a very special man in our corps building recently…
His name is Bill.
He came to us first to volunteer, and we kept him.
He has this sort of passionate fire in his heart to serve people around him.
Strangers will come to our corps for help with food and find a friend where they might least expect it.
They find Bill.
He usually wears a red Salvation Army Emergency Disaster cap on his head and with a big smile he begins to engage the down and out in our foodshelf…but this isn’t the end of the story…

foodRecently, our foodshelf coordinator Linda was contacted by a non-profit organization that helps special needs adults find places to work, contribute and volunteer.   They were looking for locations that they could send about two or three special needs young adults to work.  Linda recognized an opportunity and agreed to be a host site here at The Salvation Army’s foodshelf.  Most of these special needs adults are slightly withdrawn and they can take quite a while to warm up to new environments.   Change is extremely difficult for most of them.   One such young adult was Anthony.  Anthony is naturally shy, and because of his disability, he doesn’t welcome change easily.  He is uncomfortable with meeting new people and his anxiety sometimes is too much to bear.

food1Anthony’s first day at The Salvation Army just so happened to be Bill’s regular volunteer day in the foodshelf.  Imagine this shy, quiet adult meeting this big gregarious red capped man…you’d think Anthony would have run away…but he didn’t.   Within that first day of volunteering in our foodshelf, Anthony became Bill’s good friend.  Bill took him under his wing, showed him how to pack food boxes, how to clean the floors, how to meet and greet clients coming to us for help.  Bill became Anthony’s mentor as they worked side by side each week filling boxes with food, sharing much needed breaks, taking out the trash, laughing together in the hallways, and engaging families and individuals in need who came to the door for food.

Bill is a servant of Christ, and to see him and Anthony together meeting human need in a very practical way here in the foodshelf is heart warming!
When Anthony comes in now to volunteer, he always looks for Bill.
He wants to work right there beside Bill, to emulate him.
Anthony feels comfortable there.  He feels safe.  He feels accepted.

Perhaps we need more Bills in our corps.
People who aren’t afraid to engage. food3
People who have this passion to serve Christ in any aspect both big and small.
People who make a difference in lives without even having to preach a sermon because their lives are that sermon.

We do make a difference in people’s lives, dear Salvation Army.
I hope that we never ever forget this.
We sing these wonderful battle songs of “fill the world with glory”, and these are great, but sometimes I think we lose the tree for the forest around us.  We lose the little things that make differences in people right in front of us.  We are so busy looking “out there” when all along we can make a difference, we can make an impact right here.  It is a practical holiness that transforms lives.  It is a practical holiness that preaches sermons that touches lives without even having to stand in a pulpit.  We need more practical holiness in our corps.  We need more people willing to do both the big tasks as well as the small mundane duties…both matter!

To Anthony, Bill became the representation of Christ in his life.
Bill became the very reflection of Christ that Anthony needed.
There are many more stories just like this waiting to be told in your corps.
There are many more lives that can be impacted for the better because of what you do next.
We do make a difference…and it starts with the execution of practical holiness in our lives.

Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

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