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.

Day 7: Which God Do You Serve?

Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”  James 2:5

When asked this question, most of us would say “I serve God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son…this is the God I serve!”  But I would like to challenge you on this today, and in this challenge I hope we might recognize a very real and present danger in our lives right now.  What is that danger you ask?  Money – riches, fame, glorification of lifestyles that are not acceptable to God.
look2
This pursuit of recognition on the world’s stage is wrought with sacrifices that will hollow us out and leave us mere shells of who God knows us to be.  It is interesting that longing for wealth and recognition isn’t just the pursuit of money, but it is the pursuit of acceptance and accolades from the world itself.  The trap can be – “What does the world tell me I should be” or, “How can I impress the world with my Instagram, Twitter, Facebook accounts?”   We have a lot of people who have become internet famous in our world today, it seems easy to do…and so an entire generation is growing up longing to have that fame and fortune as well.

In Jesus’ day, Pharisees were sort of Ancient world “internet famous” – they performed good deeds in the street so that people might see how good they were.  People looked up to them, and they lived an elevated lifestyle amongst the common folk.  Jesus said of their public activities: “Be careful not to perform your righteous acts before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2So when you give to the needy, do not sound a trumpet before you, asthe hypocrites do in the synagogues and on thestreets, to be praised by men. Truly I tell you, they already have their reward.” (Matthew 6:1-2)
Listen to Me Sign Person Tries to Get Attention in Crowd
Serving those around us so that others might see our good deeds in not serving God…it is idol worship and we have built self-serving gods in our name.  Be aware of this trap.  Recognize it for what it is, and reject the notion that in order to be a Christian we have to publicly show our goodness and prove our worth.  This isn’t true worship of God, this is showmanship and does not bring honor to God.  Instead, serve God even if no one sees you.  Love others even if it is not reciprocated.  Allow those silent, unobserved spaces to become your sanctuary to the Most High…may it be only for Him!  When we shift our focus from self to God, we realign what worship is, and in Whom we worship.

Prayer:
Lord forgive me when I have not worshiped you, but elevated my  status and ego.
I recognize that I must decrease and you must increase in my life.  Help me to serve you regardless if I ever receive credit for it on this earth.  May the words of my mouth and the actions of my heart be acceptable to You, Oh Lord my strength and my Redeemer.  -Amen.
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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, 3 Things Corps Officers Should Know About Their Soldiers!

Last week I wrote part 1 of this “two sided coin” so to speak – 3 Things Soldiers Should Know About Their Corps Officer(s)

Today I would like to conclude the second side of the coin on the topic of “things the Corps Officer should know about their Soldiers!”  Understandably without Soldiers in our corps doing the amazing work that they do, we are hopelessly lost!  We need strong soldiers to lead.  We need strong leaders to help the Corps Officers.  I understand that sometimes these two dynamics in the corps does not “gel” the way it should.  Both sides of this coin ought to recognize that we are all on the same team…but sometimes, unfortunately, it doesn’t feel that way.  I believe Satan thrives upon our disunity and polarizing leadership directions.  He wants us to fail.  We, often times, will fail in our corps, not because we lack the appropriate resources to complete the mission, but because we can’t see eye to eye, or we all think that we know what is best for the corps and we take opposing directions.

The Corps is the forefront of The Salvation Army mission – make no mistake about that!
Yes, vital lifesaving missions are also located in the Harbor Light, and ARC’s and Schools and Shelters, and in a way they are a corps unto themselves.  At the Corps level we engage the enemy and we see the hopelessness of those who come to us for help!  This fight isn’t just about who the Corps Officer is (it was never about that in the first place) but about who will lead and who will serve Christ in every aspect of this mission to the lost.
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3 Things Corps Officers Should Know About Their Soldiers:

1.  They Are The Long-term Investors
Local Officers and Soldiers have been there long before you came to that appointment, and they will be there a long time after you are gone.  They have invested in that the local Corps’ mission.  They understand that community probably much better than you ever will, no matter what education you might have and what your grade point average was at Training College.  I do not mean to sound snarky here by any means, I simply wish to convey how invested most soldiers are to that current Corps.  They are the backbone of the corps…or at least they should be.  Sometimes (and I know this is true) Corps Officers have run over Soldiers and Local Officers to accomplish what they believe the direction of the corps should be.  Sometimes this has happened the other way around as well.  Every Corps is different, this much is true, but when Corps Officers and Soldiers work together side-by-side, we work for the same purpose, the same cause.  Understand, Corps Officers, that your Soldiers and Local Officers are the Long-term investors of your corps!

2.  They Want To Be Led By Godly, Consistent Officers! uniform
Corps Officers, it is imperative that we lead our corps and its constituents in a godly manner.
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” 1 Peter 5:2-4
Yes, hold your local officers and soldiers accountable, but be accountable to these same standards as well!
Don’t ask something of others that you yourself aren’t willing to do either.  Be the kind of leader that leads by example and does the hard work right along with your soldiers!  God honors holy leaders who are consistent in word and deed!  Be consistent leaders!  Lead by humility and love, not by power and might!  Don’t lord over others with your authority, after all, you can and will be replaced one day.  Invest in your soldiers, but also give fully of yourself where possible.

flags3.  Delegate, Lean And Learn!
There is a HUGE difference between a seasoned Officer and a salty one.  Don’t be a salty one!  There will be difficult days as officers in this Army.  There will be times when you will want to take out your frustrations upon soldiers.  Choose your battles wisely.  Confront when you need to confront, but do so in love and by first praying about every situation that you face!
If you think of yourself as Super-Officer that wears a navy blue and red cape and one who doesn’t need any help from soldiers and local officers, then you need to kill Super-Officer.  There, I’ve said it for all soldiers everywhere.  YOU. CAN’T. DO. EVERYTHING. YOURSELF.  So stop trying to be Super-Officer, because Super-Officer will ultimately burn out, fade away and become discontent.

Corps Officers, you need to understand the vital usage of delegation.  Moses couldn’t do everything and so, thankfully he began to delegate responsibilities.  Don’t hold the reins of everything so tightly that you begin to slowly strangle your corps to death.  Let others lead when you have individuals willing and able to lead.  It may not meet your standards at first, but trust them, teach them…don’t enable your soldiers to always rely on the Officer to do everything!  You shortchange and stunt the growth of your soldiers and leaders when you become Super-Officer who leads and does everything!  So get rid of Super Officer, and delegate, teach and lean on your Soldiers!

Lastly, do not think for a minute that you have learned all there is to know about leadership, and that your soldiers and local officers can’t teach you something new!  Always be pliable and teachable yourself!  Recognize that book-learning sometimes isn’t enough and that life-learning can aid you to become a better, more godly Officer.   Your Corps, your present appointment can and will teach you something wonderful if you are available to be taught.  Do not become so prideful in your abilities that you become arrogant and incapable of the kind of change that you yourself preach about from the pulpit to others.

These are just three things Corps Officers should know about their Soldiers.
There are many more…but it begins by listening.
It begins by listening to the Holy Spirit, to your Soldiers and to the community that you serve!
So listen, lead your flock that are long-term investors, and lead them well!  Allow them to teach you something.  Allow them to learn with you.  Help them develop into the best leaders that they can be as well!  Together we can accomplish this great mission.  Together we are a stronger army!  What say you?

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

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