A Spark – Is Fire Imminent (Part 2)

Drought produces very little except … a fantastic supply of tinder.

Initially, the onset of drought is slow and almost imperceptible.  In humans, studies have shown that a person often mistakes signs of dehydration for hunger which even further confuses matters. As the dryness advances though, it is difficult to deny the overpowering thirst that inevitably comes when cut off from the source of life giving water.

As one might expect, I have gathered the following quote from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (via wikipedia)  “Controlled or prescribed burning, also known as hazard reduction burning or swailing is a technique sometimes used in forest management, farming, prairie restoration or greenhouse gas abatement. Fire is a natural part of both forest and grassland ecology and controlled fire can be a tool for foresters. Hazard reduction or controlled burning is conducted during the cooler months to reduce fuel buildup and decrease the likelihood of serious hotter fires.[1] Controlled burning stimulates the germination of some desirable forest trees, thus renewing the forest.”

Courtesy of quotesbuddy.com

My own spiritual dehydration so to speak was no different.  Idleness grew into discontentment; discontentment to doubt; and doubt to despair.  Actively participating  in the stagnation of God’s people has stacked a good supply of dry tinder for quick ignition.

For you shall be like an oak whose leaf withers, and like a garden without water. And the strong shall become tinder, and his work a spark, and both of them shall burn together, with none to quench them. (Isaiah 1:30,31)

Fortunately we have a Father in heaven Who has a controlled burn plan.  Despite our apparent failure in providing proper stewardship for His creation, He is faithful to consume us with His cleansing fire.  All that is required now is a spark to the tinder.

So we have established the fact that conditions are perfect for fire.  We are no longer bearing fruit, the wood is dry, and the leaves are turning brown. (Intermission – this is where I stopped writing in 2012)

It seems ridiculous that I am picking this up nearly 2 full years later … and it is still applicable.  I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking back then.  I know that I was fed up with my own stagnation.  I was disillusioned by what I was seeing in the world and in the church.  An overwhelming feeling of internal pressure was building within me and I just knew that I was about to lift a relief valve. (The fire was already burning)

Any who followed this blog or on Facebook  may have noticed that I stay away from controversial topics.  This is not because I don’t have strong opinions.  Amazingly, even the few friends I have don’t really know where I stand on many issues.  How could that be if these are really strongly held opinions?

Let me ‘splain. When I write procedures or directions I often like to “bullet” them out for clarity so let’s just do that with a passage of scripture, Romans 12:9-21.  I think this is well within the purpose and context of this passage.

  • Let love be genuine.
  • Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
  • Love one another with brotherly affection.
  • Outdo one another in showing honor.
  • Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
  • Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
  • Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
  • Live in harmony with one another.
  • Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
  • Never be wise in your own sight.
  • Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
  • If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Summary: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I am not the first to load my weapon with these bullets.  Although it is sometimes useful to identify points in this manner it can also be rather dangerous.  When reading a list I believe that we often infer the conjunction of our choice.  Is it and or is it or?  Let me make this clear, these are not meant to be bullets  to be loaded as we see fit, one at a time, to pick of the target of our choice.  If this was a multiple choice question, the answer would be all of the above.  It is and not or!

So what does that have to do with me keeping my mouth shut even though I supposedly have strong opinions?  “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”   I have used this to justify my idleness and compromise.  Ironically (I sure hope I am using that correctly), it is the use of the “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good”  bullet to justify actions, attitudes, and rants that are, in my opinion, not scripturally justifiable that had me ready to lose it.

So how do we find this balance? When and how do I speak truth and still live peaceably with all?  Well, I don’t know, but I am going to give it a shot over the next few weeks.  Fortunately, I have not done very good at developing my SEO so I will hopefully only offend a few people. (which could be everyone I know)

 

 

Drought Condition – Is Fire Imminent? (The Prequel)

As I reflect on my last article, Fire is Imminent Part I, I realize a few things:

  1.  My blog no longer has anything to do with its original intent (journaling my first marathon) and I really need to either start another blog or put some time into a revamping this one.
  2. That my running experience has brought out some of the initial signs of the drought condition in my life.
  3. Before I can discuss my world perspective and the path I believe that God is opening before us, I need to reconcile the last few years of drought that have brought me to this place.
  4. Attempting to paint pretty nature metaphors is not my forte.

Another Disclaimer:  Today’s entry is not for you. After observing this past season of agenda driven manipulation, I feel that it is important that I establish in my heart just where I stand, what agenda and motivation might be driving me, and whether I have any business moving forward with any thoughts that might be considered persuasive or argumentative. If I continue with this series, this journal may have no bearing whatsoever on discussions that are ahead.  Feel free to stop reading now and save yourself a boring read.

Good Bye Daddy:  In the fall 2007,  life revolved around our first experience of giving away a daughter in marriage   A wedding is obviously a very emotional time. For me it turned out to be an Alpha/Omega moment.  Obviously, it was the beginning of a new life for Sarah and Michael, but it signaled to me the beginning of the end for me (Daddy).   During Sarah’s wedding I removed a white linen scarf from my neck and placed it on Michael’s to signify the passing of my fatherly covering on to her new husband.  Though out my adult life, I was able to hide behind the noble pursuit of marriage and fatherhood; now I began to realize that I could no longer cower behind my role as Daddy.  God had an identity that He had established for me from the beginning; A purpose much bigger that I was willing to accept, but  I could no longer hide from it.  So what does one do when he is exposed? … obviously one runs!

Enter the Maraman:  After the wedding, Taylor, a friend at work handed me a book, “Ultra Marathon Man” by Dean Karnazes.  As the book was passed around the office, a group of us decided to sign up for the Louisville Derby Festival Marathon in April 2008.  I won’t go into the rest of that story since this site was created for that purpose. If you are still reading (God love you) and are interested in that journey you can start with, About – Just a Footman and 1st Marathon.  It was a fantastic experience that I would not trade for anything.  I thought during that training that maybe this was a direction that I might want to explore.  I made some attempts at gathering some people together to form a runners fellowship, but after the race the race that fire quickly died.  Unfortunately, although I can run pretty well, I have no passion for it.  As a matter of fact, if you read many of my blog entries you will find that I actually despise running.  Since that time I have completed a sprint triathlon and some long over night relay races, but nothing has ignited any new interest.

Who the Heck You are I think?  Late 2008 brought another wedding (My oldest son). Having not reconciled the first wedding, this one was more than I could handle. The fall and winter brought maybe the lowest point in my adult life.  I believe that depression is often brought on by a complete lack of purpose and I had abandoned my search for purpose for a season.  Suddenly I was questioning everything I had ever believed.  Although I felt like my life was spinning out of control, somehow, through God’s grace, steadiness began to take control again, but not after I had made many bad decisions and hurt many people.  Still confused, without a passion for much of anything, I sunk into a stagnant pool of muck.  Although many major life events would occur over the next couple of years that should have brought great joy, my shoulders remained bent and I could not lift my gaze above the horizon.

New Titles / New Realizations:  The Spring of 2010 brought the birth of our first grandchild and another wedding (My oldest Daughter) that brought a halt to the slide.  I bore a new title, Poopaw, but it did not take me long to surmise that this new role as grandfather and associated awesome title did not give me purpose or the passion that would be required to pull me out of this self-inflicted hell-hole.  Additionally, in the Spring of 2010 a glimmer of something began to grow deep down.  A talent and gift that had always been evident started to emerge again out of the shadows.

Pressing Toward the Goal:   Coaching had been a part of my life on and off as far back as 2005, but in 2006 I started as an assistant soccer coach.  My knowledge of kids and love of sport seemed to be a enough to help out despite my complete ignorance of soccer.  In 2007 I began head coaching and in the Fall of 2009 I obtained my first certification.  My youngest son had moved beyond my level of coaching, but the love of these young boys and girls compelled me to continue.  It became increasingly clear to me, that combining sport with character and relationship building was something that I could do that might make a difference.  The Fall of 2010 brought a group of young men into my life that altered my whole view of coaching and began to give me a glimpse of the purpose that God might have for me.  As I sought ways to instill character, leadership, and unity in these you men, God began to pull me out of the despair that had for so long enslaved me and set me on a path toward the goal.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

The Drought is Not Over:   “I do not consider that I have made it my own”  Roots are still anchored in hard and cracked ground, leaves are brown and brittle, and there is little or no fruit of any type hanging from the branches.  I do not know the anguish that God feels when He looks at His creation and I am not driven by a passion to share His love, compassion, mercy and grace with a world that so desperately needs Him.

Father, drop a spark into this weed of a man and burn up all that does not bare fruit. Make real to me your anguish for a world that knows despair far beyond anything that I have encountered over my short time on earth. Set me ablaze with a passion for your will and set a clear purpose before me.  If it is Your will use me to ignite a forest fire in those who are called by Your name.

Drought Condition – Is Fire Imminent? (Part I)

Winter rolls into spring ushering in the hope of new life.  Fresh green sprouts explode out of ground and branch, combining water and nutrients energy provided from above during the lengthening days, begin the annual process of replenishing the fruitfulness of the land.   Surrounded by new life, an abundance of sunshine, and rivers flowing with fresh stores of water do not foretell the season to come. Nature considers not the slow approach of summer.

Bathed in clear bright days of early summer, leaves and grasses rejoice in the light.  They reach up to absorb every bit of light and energize the reproduction of species.  Simultaneously, roots extend deep to draw in the cool life-giving water below.  Long gone are the sounds of swift creeks swollen by the melting snows.  Oblivious to the higher clouds and lower water tables, photosynthesis marches on. The once supple soil becomes a cracked and broken battleground  the moisture starved and wind whipped atmosphere battles thirsty roots for the last bits of surface water.  Finally, with no means of cooling and transport green begins to make its retreat.

I remember a newness of life.  God’s love was so real.  Everyday I was seeing new ways that he cared about me.  Well aware of the garbage that was inside of me, He saw fit to reach out to me and give me a new life.  Soaking in the compassion and grace that He afforded me I sought after more and more.  I loved the Spring and it seemed that so many around me were basking in His love as well.  Live was pretty awesome.

So what is the point?  Have we remembered the point? God made us for a reason and He is perfecting us for a purpose.   He planted us in a field to bring forth fruit.  Am I content with soaking in the warmth of His love and grace, soaking up rivers of His joy and peace, and consuming the nutrients of His Word and Holiness?  If this is the extent of my existence, then I am just a weed producing nothing but ground cover, squandering the resources intended to bring life to a sin and death stained world.

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?” He said to them, “An enemy has done this.” So the servants said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he said, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”” (Matt 13:24-30)

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matt 7:19-20)

I have spent most of my adult life sucking up moisture and producing very little.  Observing the life of the church, I see much of the same condition.  God created us for a purpose that is being strangled by weeds that we have sown. 

When the Mountains Come to You

 Mark 4:35-41:  Jesus Calms the Storm

Sea story … December 1992 on the USS LY Spear, crossing the Atlantic on our way home from the Persian Gulf. We were experiencing heavy seas for 5 days straight.  The Spear was a flat bottomed, 645 ft monster of a ship.  Being a flat bottomed vessel allowed her to give us an exciting ride with 6 to 10 ft swells.  Standing on the covered quarter deck beneath the helicopter pad made for an interesting ride.  While riding the mountains of ocean, one moment as we rolled to starboard looking down over the side, I could not see the ocean and then as the she rolled back to port I could no longer see the sky.  At first it was a bit novel for most of us who were submarine sailors.  Some of us who had stronger stomachs made fun of those who were sick, after a couple of days, the ship reeked of vomit and all of us where vying for a piece of floor near the waterline where the effects of the waves was the least.

rough-seas1

On day 5 our chaplain, a medal of honor recipient from Vietnam had had about enough.  During his 1700 (5pm for you civilian types) prayer he cried out to God on behalf of the crew. He quoted Mark 4:35-41 and then prayed, “Father, we have had about enough of these crazy seas and we would real appreciate it if you could give us some relief.”  Within the hour, the seas calmed down.  He was an even more beloved chaplain after that.

For 4 chapters, Jesus has been doing amazing miracles and telling stories about the power of this new kingdom.  He tried to explain how little is actually expect of us and that all we need to do is place our faith and confidence Him.  He’s got our back.  He is a little disappointed in their ability to get it.

I am looking forward to getting it.

“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains,  being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.” (Psalm 65:5-8)”

The Unseen Farmer and an Unexpected Harvest

 Mark 4:26-34:  More Seed Parables

Again I find myself reflecting on thoughts that I here expressed over and over again.  Thoughts that have flooded my mind at times. Thoughts something like this. “Is this all that there is?  I get up, do the daily routine, go to sleep and then start all over again.  I barely see myself moving much less a move of God!”  I remember thinking this when I had a young family and, although I do not really see the growth in my own life, from that “daily grind” God has produced seven young adults that love God and are beginning to make an impact on the world around them.  They have started their own invisible farming process.

So in goes the sickle and because the harvest is come!  I often do not recognize the harvest that God has already brought.  If I did, I might be more excited for the harvest yet to come.

“Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.

Go in, tread, for the winepress is full.

The vats overflow, for their evil is great.

Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision!

For the day of the Lord is nearing the valley of decision.” (Joel 3:13-14)

 

If in the years that I barely knew whether I was coming or going, God brought about such a great work from the unseen seeds in my own family.  What great things are on the horizon with the seeds that are being planted today.  I am actually getting excited about the harvest that He is preparing today.  Even the smallest word or deed sown today, God can use to bring about new and abundant life beyond anything I can imagine.

Every day seed is planted, everyday seed is growing and every day His Kingdom is spreading it’s branches to make a home for a world that needs Him so desperately.

So I every night I will go to bed with excitement and every day I will get up expecting the wondrous work of those unseen hands and the harvest that is sure to come.

Hand & Seedling

Get out of the Mud / Regaining a Grip

Yes, I have slipped on my commitment to sharing my journeys with Mark.  I will pick it up again tomorrow.

I loved mud.  Walking in it, playing in it, slinging it … the boy in me has always considered  mud to be an oozing, gushy, slimy delight.  Mud between the toes is an experience to be relished.  One of my greatest childhood memories is of the days John Coyner and I spent days jumping into a huge mud pit. the mud was so deep that it we sunk almost our arm pits.  It was an awesome bluish/black slimy that had been dredged from the bottom of the Tred Avon River and deposited within a berm just for our recreation. We would jump in, claw our way out and then go lay on the beach until it dried and our skin looked like it was cracking.  Then we would jump in the river to clean off and then go right back to the mud. In those carefree days of childhood when I was free of responsibilities mud like such an appealing distraction.

Pig in the mudOne of the things I think I love about mud is that it is so slippery and hard to handle.  It makes every action unpredictable.  I makes walking difficult, climbing nearly treacherous, and grasping objects nearly impossible.  In sports like football and horse racing, odds makers often have to change the odds completely when the event is held in the mud.  It often a great equalizer.

I have been reminded over the past couple of weeks that when I allow my priorities to be “muddied up”, my walk becomes more difficult, climbing up from a stumble becomes treacherous, and maintaining a grasp of situations become nearly impossible.  The harder I seem to try and get a good hold on my life, the more it tends to slip away.

A couple of weeks ago, I made some life changes.  Just some dietary changes and a re-commitment to improving my physical health.  As is often my habit, I did not really do this prayerfully and as a result, my priorities became quite muddy.  I tried hard to better “manage” my time to clarify things, but I kept falling farther behind.  The main thing I stopped doing was writing.  This may not seem like a big deal to most people.  It is not like a make a living writing or that people rely on my daily blog posts. Writing is my accountability.  It is a check point that is crucial to the race course that God has set before me.

So the question has been for me, “how do I get back on track?”

GRACE!

Until I realized that I was too slimy to get out of my predicament and that I would need to rely on Him to clean me up and pull me up, I was going to continue to slip back into the mud.  Grace says you don’t have to worry about catching up and making up for past failures.  I don’t have to do two weeks of blogs over the weekend to get back on track (which was my plan).  I just need to seek His face and His will for me today.  Yesterday is gone. (Also see Taking Advantage of a Mulligan)

I understand that in some cases, restitution for our sin is required, but God makes a way for us in those cases.  He does not leave us to deal with those on our own.  If we try to make everything right in our own power, timing, and ability, we may very well end up in a worse condition.  I have many examples of messing this up as well.  His grace is sufficient in every situation.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:6-10)

Sticks, Stones, & Stealing Satan’s Stuff

Mark 3:20-30:  Jesus & Beelzebub

I am not sure if this the origin of the term “demonizing”, but it would make a whole lot of sense if it came from this story.   Jesus, instead of returning venom with venom, kind of teases them with His response, but adds a stiff warning at the end.

bsgfan4evr.deviantart.com
bsgfan4evr.deviantart.com

Now it is not surprising I guess for the family to call Him crazy, I mean, He is the step-child. On the other hand, these other dudes from out of town coming in accusing Him of being a demon or the prince of demons even is quite uncalled for.  First, He breaks down their argument, but with very pointed change of words. He uses the Hebrew word, Satan (accuser) instead of the pagan demon Beelzebub (Lord of the Flies).  This is interesting since they came to him as accusers (and actually were pretty annoying like flies). His argument actually left them with a win-win situation either Satan was in a civil war which would weaken his kingdom or a stronger Man had come along that was going to bring down that kingdom anyway.  WINNING!  Jesus was sort of declaring Himself a thief in Satan’s house.  (A much better thief than Bilbo I think)  If you cannot tell, I find this whole interchange quite amusing.

Then, the hammer falls. Jesus gives a pretty harsh warning about calling God’s work demonic.  Generally, when we hear about the whole blaspheming the Holy Spirit, we isolate as the unforgivable sin and leave it out of the context of the story.  The ‘accusers’ have mocked the works of God and credited His work and His healing power to Beelzebub.  Most of us do not like someone taking credit for our work,but when the one taking the credit stands for the exact opposite of your whole being this is more than enough to send us over the edge.  Pretty serious stuff these experts of the law are doling out.

As the seriousness of the situation begins to sink in, I wonder how many times I attribute the greatness of God to other powers.  Maybe I don’t attribute His awesome works to Satan, I do think at times I may take credit myself for things that I had a hand in and withhold glory due to Him.  On the other hand, do I accuse God of being the bringer of evil or difficulty, hanging my head in self pity or shaking my first at Him.  I know that in some degree, I often lose sight of the giver all good gifts and confuse Him with that old liar.  I do not want to make a political statement, but I will tell you that I have to repent of some of the things I have said about people with different view points.  I do not believe that is no place demonizing or disparaging any person or group.  Jesus took the high (obviously) and set an example for us.  The Good News is that He left the door open for every one of us to recognize the great gift of life that He is offering us.  It is our job to keep that door open for those that have not seen it yet and avoid giving them reason to attribute our mean or hateful behavior to a God who knows none of that.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,

who put darkness for light and light for darkness,

who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,

and shrewd in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20,21)

Assembling the Posse – You do the Math

Mark 3:13-19:  The Twelve are Appointed

Twelve: We all know the biblical significance of the number 12. Obviously, to the people of Jesus time twelve was representative of twelve tribes of Israel and only added the excitement that God was doing a new thing.  From my limited study, apparently 10 tribes were still considered “lost” at this time and reconciling the twelve tribes would be very significant.

Bible history and Jewish significance aside, 12 is a really cool number.  A twelve sided shape is a dodecagon, but a three dimensional shape with three flat sides is a dodecahedron, now that is an awesome name for a shape.  As a matter of fact, some scientist believe that the universe is a dodecahedron.

Twelve ToesMathematically, Twelve can be divided by two, three, four and six, making it one of the easiest low numbers to work with and separate into groups, said Dr. Kristen L. Zacharias, a historian of science and philosophy assistant professor at Albright College.  The Romans loved 12 so much that they measured weight, length, and money in units of 12.  That is all great, but when I think of numbers I usually go the source of all mathematical wisdom … “Schoolhouse Rock”.  “Little Twelve Toes” is not one of my favorites, but it does make you think.  Actually, Some ancient cultures did use 12 as the basis of their numbering system. How could that be practical?

Glad you asked.  They counted the joints on their hands, three joints per finger.  Add a thumb, also made up of three joints and you have a very useful hand to perform just about any task imaginable.

So Jesus gathered HIs fingers together to begin the work.  Maybe no great insight here, but it is apparent that Jesus was setting a precedence early in His ministry that there was work to be done and that His people were going to be a part of it.

Work is not easy and it is especially hard on the fingers.  How many times has the wrench slipped you busted those knuckles.  From jammed fingers and scraped knuckles to losing a nail. Years ago, I ran my hand through an electric pizza roller.  It smashed all four fingers on my left hand to a point where the skin actually split. Our fingers are on the front line of everything we do.

Regardless, I am one of the fingers that Jesus has chosen to carry out the work and I am supposed to be on the front lines.  Often times, I am not that enthusiastic about the whole work thing.  As a matter of fact, I can down-right lazy.

“How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?” (Prov 6:9)

He created me with a purpose and laziness is not an option.  It is time to get to work.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10)

working-hands-

Want to start from the beginning of Mark?  Good News with Mark

Healing of the Man with the Withered Hand

Mark 3:1-6 Healing of the Man with the Withered Hand

Let me tell you about my best friend Charlie.

Charlie CroppedI was deep into one of the worst years of my life. Due to an injury, I had lost my long time dream of wrestling in college and had subsequently dropped out of school.  I had an on-going conflict with my parents and moved back to Kentucky were my fiancé was coming to school with the hopes that I would be able to rehab and get back into school and wrestle again.  I took a job at Steak and Egg Kitchen and enrolled in a couple of classes.  About two weeks into the semester, she dumped me to experience more fully, the college life.  This was the last straw. I plunged deep into depression and was contemplating taking my own life.

Charlie was a tall, drug dealing, long haired, long bearded, blue eyed (Some said he resembled Charlie Manson) janitor at the University of Kentucky Student Center.  Despite his many short comings, he waws highly intelligent, had an infectious smile and loved to laugh.

CaprisHe worked 3 to 11 and I worked 11-7, so about 11:30 he would wander in and sit at the end of the bar, drink coffee, and we talked.  He might leave for a while if we got busy, but he would be back.  On days that I got off early, he would throw my bike into the back his Mercury Capris and take me back to my apartment.  Sensing that I was unstable and never left until he thought I was going to make it through the day.  He would sit in a rocker and talk until I fell asleep and then he would quietly head out.

Wow has it changed!
Wow has it changed!

After a while, my depression began to lift. I started hanging around with him at the student center until I headed to work.  We pretty much became inseparable. While he did introduce me to some things that were not quite savory, together we both realized that we wanted more from our lives than just a day-to-day existence.  While I explored many different religions and philosophies, Charley never really showed any interest until one day we both stumbled across the Gospel of John.  Together, the two of us tore hungrily into the writings of “the one whom Jesus loved” wanting desperately to know this love.  On the evening of August 12th 1982, on a sidewalk of a busy commercial area in Lexington, that same Jesus came and made Himself real to us and we were forever changed.

Charlie and I walked through that first several months of new life together.  We learned to worship, pray and seek the face of the One who met us that day on the Euclid Avenue.  I was beginning a new life in more than one way.  Within six months, I would be a husband and a father and Charlie was there through that whole transition as well.  My best man and God father to our first child, one would think that would we were destined to be joined together for a long time.

Circumstances and direction can change quickly, but we know that God is sovereign and has a plan that we have no clue about at times.  Only 3 months after our wedding, we moved 600 miles away in hopes of some stability for our family.  Charlie heart would begin to break for a world that, like me , needed to know the love that John had described to us.  He gave and he loved and he told everyone that would listen and even some who would not that they did not have to go through life unloved.

We moved back to Lexington about 18 months later for a short period of time as I prepared to enter the Navy.  Charlie and I had some time to catch up and pray.  We spent one night just before I shipped out praying at his apartment and we both had visions. I saw Him speaking words of love to a crowd and as He turned to leave, fiery arrows  pierced his back.  He saw himself in a pit trapped with an ugly version of himself and he was scrambling to escape.  Needless to say, we were both pretty freaked out. I shipped out and he went back to touching lives.

He had taken in a young, homeless street-wise teenager who was struggling with some very evil influences.  Although the young man knew that he wanted his life to change, he was not ready to give up on his old life.  One moment he appreciated the guide lines that Charlie set for him, and then some outside influence drew him away.  It was frustrating for Charlie, but being patient, Charlie hung in there with him.

I was on hold in Great Lakes, IL awaiting the birth of our third daughter when I received the call.  This young man that Charlie had love and cared for and a middle aged lady had brutally killed my friend, stabling him dozens of times in the back him the closet of his apartment.

Charlie SmileWhy do I tell this story when I read Mark 3:1-6?  Yes, this passage address how the world often rejects the love, healing, and love that Jesus brings and responds with hatred, evil plots, and death.  You could draw the obvious analogies. Maybe, you think it the fact the Sabbath is for healing and rest and that Charlie has entered his rest and you would be absolutely correct.  But the truth is that I will always think of Charlie when I read about these verses because on that day back in 1985, Jesus said to my friend “stretch out yours hand“.   You see, my friend, the whom Jesus loved … had a withered hand.

 

What an Awesome Justice System

Mark 2:23-29 – Sabbath Snacks

Ancient Fast FoodAnother few verses and another “I never noticed” moment.  Like the whole fasting thing, Jesus was not be accused of doing anything wrong.  He was being questioned about the actions of His disciples.  It was His disciples that were feasting when everyone else was fasting … It was His followers that were plucking grain (reaping) on the Sabbath.  So right from the beginning, He was an advocate for others, answering accusations made against apparent sinners.

And who were these guys following them around looking for ways to discredit the new teacher anyway?  They were guys were just a bunch of intellectuals with no authority, akin to many of the talking heads of today. Masters of the art of influence and persuasion, they could sway public opinion.  Much like a prosecuting attorney without the authority. (Rather Satanic actually).  They were not out for justice, they were more interested in the status that comes from winning.

Jesus came to take on the accuser on our behalf. What an awesome way to begin defining His role as Messiah!   The Messiah is not an accuser. As a matter of fact, there is not an accuser in the Godhead.  Although God demands righteousness, He is not the prosecuting attorney, He is the judge.  He leaves the defense to Jesus.

God is not made at me and brings no accusation against me.  It is not that He does not care when I stumble, it is that His real goal is to restore me to His image so that I can take me rightful place in the society of His kingdom.  He wanted this so badly that He deployed His Son and Spirit to walk me through my rehab and to protect me from the Accuser.  Can’t beat that for a justice system!