Catching Up – Good News with Mark & Me

Mark for EveryoneI am going to start posting my daily reading and thoughts as a blog entry.  I have structured this like I would train for distance running, short hard sprints during the week with long runs on the weekend. I am taking it small bites so don’t be intimidated.  Anyone can handle 6 to 10 verses/day.  I have adapted the plan to match Tom Wright’s book “Mark for Everyone” which is a great companion for those of us who are a little rusty in our Greek. (By rusty I mean, “it is all Greek to me” kind of rusty).  I started 5 days ago so if you want to catch-up, here are the first 5 days of “my take”.  The weekends are open for catch-up, review, and/or additional study.   I welcome civil comments and reply’s.

Mark 1:1-8 – The Preaching of John the Baptist:

I  love the way Mark and John jump right into the Good News! They are not trying to give us blow-by-blow of the life and times of Jesus, but they want to immerse us in God’s desire to bring us into fellowship with Him through His son.

bed_head_cartoon_girl_ipad_covers-p176104248310747489bhar2_400Israel has been basically asleep for hundreds of years and they are only hanging on as a people through traditions and customs.  The idea of a living God that walks with His people is just distant memory and hope is has turned to despair in most of the nation. Along comes this crazy man with a super-soaker imploring them to shake off the sleep, get cleaned up,  and get ready to be set free!

Some days I get up and take a shower because my hair is sticking to my head and I feel just disgusting. There are also days when I took a shower the night before and yet I still jump in the shower just so I can wake up! (Don’t judge my waste of hot water, I am a work in progress). Likewise, many times I need to repent because I am dirty with sin, other times I need to wash off complacency and just wake-up to the promises and responsibilities that God has placed before me.

I am so glad that He comes new every day. I need to be prepared for the new work He is going to do today!

Mark 1:9-13 Jesus Baptism

Mark is continues the story of the Good News to us.

Jesus walks out His trust in His Father and His Father showers His love on Him. He shows Him the plan, affirms Him, empowers Him, and then deploys Him into the work. Even though Jesus is immediately challenged and opposed, the Father continues to provide help along the way.

Now … If this were just a historical account it would be great, but it is more. This is the Good News! This was not a one-time event meant for Jesus alone. God wants to do the same thing for me! When I place my faith in Him, it is His desire to open my eyes, affirm me, shower His love on me, empower me, and then deploy me into a world that needs to know Him. As opposition arises, He continues to provide the needed help.

Take Away:

1)    I need to live in the realization that Jesus set an example for me as a son and to walk with the assurance that God is pleased with who I am.

2)    My Father God has set the example for me as a Dad and that I need to affirm, love, empower and deploy my own children and then continue to lovingly support them.

I love Good News.

Mark 1:14-20 Getting Started and Getting Help

The Good News starts with a call to repentance and Jesus picked up where John left off.   His call to repentance was much more radical than John’s. More than a turning away from sin, Jesus was calling for turning to a new way of thinking and living. “Immediately” he goes and calls a bunch of fisherman away from the life and family they knew and set them on a completely new path. He did not grab a bunch of guys schooled in Jewish tradition and scripture and then try to redirect them; He grabbed people that would require a completely change in direction. The old life could not be in the peripheral vision to distract them from the kingdom life that He would present to them.

Some months back, I questioned a brother on a social ideology that is often held by Christians these days, that do not seem to line up with the character of Jesus. His response was that if he is wrong then everything he ever learned was wrong. That made me start wondering if many of my strong beliefs were founded in Christian culture and tradition, or are they actually kingdom principals.

So I am going through a process of “repenting” of my old life and the culture that formed the old me and continues to try and mold me in it’s image. I want to get out of the boat and follow Jesus without looking back. I pray that each day as I roll out of bed that I will fix my eyes on Him and leave yesterday’s Chuck behind.

Mark 1:21-34 – Authority

LY Spear imagesYes, another BOB story (Back-on-the-boat) … My second ship was a submarine tender, the USS L.Y. Spear. Our job was to support and repair submarines in port. After completing a long, complicated maintenance process on one submarine, we had turned the ship back over to ships force for testing. (as usual with submarine stories, I would give you more info, but then I would have to kill you). Years of training and experience prepare these sailors to be highly proficient in the operations of reactor and propulsion equipment and even to perform routine testing and maintenance. This testing evolution was far from routine. About 9:30 we received a cal that the ship had experienced a “significant problem” in their testing which required our assistance. As the department lead I reported to the Officer-in-Charge to get a report on the emergency. It was obvious that this problem was beyond their experience and training and they were in disarray. With his permission, my team took control of the situation and were able to quickly assess, stabilize and recover the situation.

It was not normal for us to assume authority aboard a vessel outside our command, but our training and experience prepared us for just these types of situation and the officer in charge immediately recognized this and surrendered his authority to us.

Jesus was fully prepared and empowered to deal with all of the problems of a sinful world. He healed and restored all who came to Him and surrendered their authority to Him. More than that, He has even offered to passed that authority on.

Take Away:

1)    There are many area of my life that are a mess only because I have not surrendered my own authority to Him. (Lordship)

2)       I lack authority in the lives of others because I have not been diligent in allowing Christ to lead, prepare, and train me for the task set before us. (Discipleship)

3)       I was able to easily take charge aboard the submarine because I was confident of my preparation and that of my team. I need to have that same confidence in my walk with Christ if I am ever going to be able to fully take on the authority that He has entrusted to me.

30 Years with My Bride – Pearl of Great Price

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,  who, on finding  one pearl of great value,  went and sold all that he had and  bought it.”    

Wedding Bride & Lynnie30 years ago, when Lynn’s father placed her hand in mine and we began a journey together I had no idea the treasure that he handed me.  20 and 21 years we had no idea what it meant to be a husband and wife team.  As fortune would have it, we were also blessed with the title of Mom and Dad for which we were equally unprepared.  So off we went, barreling into life to take on those responsibilities and burdens the best that we knew how.  Problem … our know-how was minuscule.

It did not take us long to realize that we were in over our heads.  Additionally, we began to realize that our childhood dreams and desires were going to as a minimum have to be put on hold.  I was not going to be the star athlete or the Pulitzer prize-winning author and she was not going to become studious accountant or powerful tax lawyer.  We were going to need to be parents first.  Oh and with little or no resources.

Rough Start

We became adept at digging ourselves a deeper hole to live.  We realized that our only real common dream was those children that we were pretty good and making and raising.  If it were not for that crazy money thing!  I thought I had found a career path in food management, but my inability to be responsible, my lack of discipline, and my first real dealings with greed, selfishness, and pride sort of nixed that direction.  In the midst of this … enter Sarah. God proved faithful though, Lynn despite all odds did not give up on me, and we survived the first two years somehow.

Anchors Away

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My First Command was the USS Albany in new construction.  Long hours but home almost everyday.  Lynn and I started to develop to actually get to know each other after 5 years of being married.  I learned of her tender heart for hurting and struggling people, her ability to listen and discern, and her ability to wisely intercede in difficult situation.  I began to notice that she was learning to be an advocate for young mother even though she was a young mother herself  (already more experienced than most).  She was a rock even when we things were not going well. Although we were more stable, we (I) continued to make poor financial decisions, avoided as much responsibility as possible … basically “I was tossed about by every wind”.  Despite this, Lynn and I began to become a pretty good team.  (Enter Sam)

My second command .. Detailer: “we are going to send you to the USS LY Spear.  They call it the L.Y. Pier because it never goes to sea.”  Orders: “Report to USS L.Y. Spear, deployed Bahrain (Persian Gulf).”  So our first real separation.  We survived those months apart and when I returned, hours were better, I was enjoying success at work, the kids were doing well and we were coasting. Then … we had to walk through sorrow together.  We lost our first child in a miscarriage and followed by the loss of our 3rd son Andrew Cory in a still birth.  This was more than my Lynnie could handle alone and for the first time we really had lean on each other and began to lean on the Lord.  God saw us through even that difficult time, but I felt that our time in Norfolk was coming to a close.  God showed His mercy and gave us Elizabeth and we began to feel like life might be able to move on.  Time for new orders.

In October of 1993, I climbed in my little blue Subaru, I left for Kingsbay, GA and left Lynn and the kids in GA while waiting for housing and hoping for the house VA to be sold.  Before I was even out of VA, I had cried out to God to give me new start. He met me heard me.  For the next few months, with the help of an awesome new church family and an open heart, God poured out His grace on me and I earnestly sought for God to bond Lynn and I in a new way.  For 10 years, although I was there, I had poured very little into my marriage.  I had never treated Lynn with the love and respect that I had pledged in 1983.

When she arrived in December, we began a new partnership.  We grew together and began to reach out to other families.  Don’t get me wrong, we still were and are a mess. We were just a mess together and we were actually enjoying each other for the first time.  We grew in the Lord, we grew as a couple, and we grew as a family. Lynn took on the herculean effort of homeschooling our brood. We saw God’s hand move in mighty ways through and too us. Life was as good as it had ever been.

Jumping Ship / A Parting Shot

After a couple of years, things started to change.  Another miscarriage, friends started to move away, our girls were becoming teens, and we were facing guaranteed extended sea time began to weigh us down. Lynn and I made the decision to start a new life apart from the Navy (unless they would send us to Hawaii … fat chance!), but we would have to make it through a couple of years of deployments.  They would not prove to be an easy couple of years.

My deployment in January of 1996 would prove to be an abbreviated and painful deployment.  I joyfully missed our shake down cruise with the arrival of Josiah and then we shoved off for patrol.  Mid patrol I was called to the CO’s stateroom.  A day later I was off the ship and on my way home to say good-bye to my Mom, loosing her battle with cancer.  Life was not going to be the same.

Two more times I had to leave my family before my end of active duty rolled around. So life was going to start over for us on the other side of the Navy.

Loss Upon Loss – The Cloud

DSC_0016Even though these are more recent memories, they are vague to me.  July 31st, 1997 I took off my uniform for the last time and headed to Kentucky with hopes of finding employment in the nuclear industry.  Bad timing and poor job hunting skills made this a difficult prospect.  Add to that severe depression that had begun to settle on me after the loss of my Mom, the loss of our house in VA and increasing debt.   I am only beginning to realized the effects that depression had on me for the next 12 years. We began to live life that I can only describe as a life of poverty.  I don’t mean that in a financial sense although we have struggled financially.  Poverty is a mindset of despair that allows us to reject the abundant life that is available to us despite our lack of worldly possessions.  Throw into this the final realization that I was getting older and that many of those dreams that I had hung onto were no longer within reach and you have a man that is on the precipice.   I am only beginning to realized the effects that depression had on me for the next 12 years. It is only through God’s grace and an amazing women that our marriage has survived.   As with any depression, there are highs and lows and we had many of both and we apparently hid it from most everyone outside our family (as far as I can tell).

She Abides

Recently, a group of guys have taken on a challenge of reading 1 John ever day for 30 days.  One of the questions that came out early is about abiding.   What does it love like when some one abides with someone else?

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:11,12 ESV)

Lynn has been an example of loving me for 30 years.  I did not earn that love and even rejected that love at times., but still she walked beside me through the worst, but with an expectation for the best. She has believed in me when I did not believe in myself.  My failures did not appear to dim her love light toward me.  I think that this what happens when He abides in us and His love is perfected.  For 3 decades she has abided with me even when I was blind to it.

How Beautiful is Your Love

“You have captivated my heart, my  sister, my bride;

you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,

with one  jewel of your necklace.

How beautiful is your love, my  sister, my bride!

How much  better is your love than wine,

and  the fragrance of your oils than any spice!”

(Song of Solomon 4:9,10)

I thank God everyday for the pearl that He placed in my hand 30 years ago.

Happy anniversary my love.

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Just a glimpse – Marriage of the Lamb

This is the first of several posts I will be posting today for my bride of 30 years.

LynnChuck&Dot

Fortunately, God likes those odds.  We had recently become Christians although we really did not know what that meant.  At times, we would actually do everything we could to shipwreck our faith and our marriage, but God had other plans for us. Over the past 30 years we have not always been faithful stewards of the gift that we were given as a couple, but there was One that has always been faithful and strengthened us when we were week, healed us when we were hurt, brought us home when we were lost, and brought knit our hearts together with His love.

LynnChuckGlassMany, many times through the years, God has quickened this song in my heart that was song at our wedding and it has encouraged me and strengthened me though the years.  It has never been recorded except for on a little cassette tape that is barely audible.  I contacted the writer and he graciously sent me the lyrics and music.  I hope to have someone someday record it.

I will share the lyrics here with you in honor of the One that is always faithful.

Marriage of the Lamb-page-0

My Eyes are Dry

The Holy Spirit empowers us to be effective witnesses. A witness is one who not only tells the truth, but also lives the truth. (Acts 1:8)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Act 1:8)

This is where the rubber meets the road. It is great that I repent and my conscience is clean and “my eternity becomes sure”, but that is just the beginning. We are vessels that were created to serve. We do not wash dishes to put on the shelf to gather dust. We wash dishes to serve food.

How worthless I am if I get up and spend time in the morning developing a relationship with God and then head off for my day and never interact with a world that needs Him? Yes, serving may sometimes get us dirty from time to time, but that is what we created to do. Father, may I get off the shelf today so you can pile a heaping portion of You on me for a starving world that desperately needs You.

Cry out to God?

I want to cry out, but some how my emotions become constipated. Life or circumstances harden my heart.

So I offer my dry, tear-less eyes to a Father full of compassion.

“My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to you and dead to me

But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is you, your spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of your blood”

“My Eyes are Fry” Keith Green

Eyes

Three Decades with God’s Gift

Dorothy Mommy & Daddy

Kneeling on the floor or labor room bathroom, I cried out to God.

Having never experienced the “Joy of Childbirth” as our birthing classes were called, I was terrified.  Lynn’s water had broken about 19 hours ago, Pitocin had been administered shortly after to “help” things along so we had been in hard labor for a long time, but things were not progressing.  The fetal monitors were beginning to indicate some distress.  Doctors having whispered discussions just out of earshot cannot be a good thing.

So on the floor I went, pleading that God would intervene and bring Lynn and our new baby through this safely.

The doctors came in to let us know that they were preparing for a C-section.  Lynn was not really paying attention because she suddenly entered into a stage of labor that I would become quite familiar with over the next 13 years … they label it simply, transition.  A quick check and then off to the delivery room.  20 minutes and 2 pushes later, I was holding my baby girl,  Dorothy – Gift of God.

“He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 18:2)

 

Through this little girl, I would learn about God’s heart.  Yes, there is the discovery of the tremendous amount of love that we as parents feel for our children and yes, I never knew that I could love like that.  We have all heard all of that before and I am not in anyway unique in that experience.  The lessons in love that I am talking about were and are poured out from God through this little girl.

From the beginning, she was sensitive to the feeling of others. Gifted to feel the pain and hurts of others, she strove to bring joy to others.  Always eager to please, she reached out to everyone often making friends quickly.  Unfortunately, sensitivity and an over-developed need to make others happy often makes people uncomfortable.  So close relationship did not always come easily.  It took me many years of witnessing her struggles and tears  to understand that God was allowing me to see a glimpse of His love through my precious

little girl.  Even now, I am just learning about how many times I have rejected His love just like so many turn us away when we reach out to them.

Dorothy & Daddy

What an honor it has been to watch that little girl grow into the beautiful, intelligent, witty (all be it nerdy), and sensitive young woman of God that she has become.  You were the perfect gift delivered at just the right time to a young Mom & Dad that needed to learn how to love.  Now that you are “coming of age” I look forward to watching you share this gift with a world that so needs to know that love.

Happy Birthday Baby Girl,

Daddy

Selfish and Annoying

A couple of years ago I developed a mantra for my U14 boys soccer team that might be disturbing to many, but I believe that it resulted in two league championships.  Yes, I encouraged my normally courteous and respectful young men to be selfish and annoying.

Before you judge my rebellion against basic Christian morals and societal norms, let me explain.  First, you must take the time to understand the middle school boy. Through God’s plan and a healthy dose of HGH, boys naturally begin to claim their heritage as men.  They are no longer content with the nest.  Not confident enough to make the jump on their own, they find ways, through word and action, to make us want to push them out.  If we understand this, we can use this to help them make that journey.  If I can disguise  character building as adolescent rebellion, I can help them to take those steps toward manhood.

children_sharing_toySelfish –  The team was rapidly developing skill during training sessions.  Although I could see it, they could not.  During games, it was apparent that they had little confidence in their own ability and they deferred to other players and even the other team at times causing us to take few shots and loose most of the 50-50 balls. So I told them to be selfish… “really coach?” Yep … I want you to believe that the ball is yours and the only place that it should be is on your foot, your team mates foot, or in the back of the other team’s net.  I want you to be like a preschooler in the nursery who gets mad when another kid takes their toy.  They loved this! It sounds crazy, but we began fighting for every 50-50 ball and driving the ball into the back of the net.

Do I allow the enemy to take away the ball that God purchased for me on Calvary?  Do I lack the confidence to wrestle with the enemy in prayer?  Do I understand that God has placed me here for a purpose and that I cannot always defer to someone else to accomplish that task? Am I selfish for my God?

polar1Annoying –  Every team I have ever coached has that one kid.  You and everyone  else knows who it is on the first day of practice. “Coach, what are we going to do next?” , “Coach, can I play goalie?” , “Coach, are we going play around the world today?” “Coach …Coach…Coach?” AAAAHHHHHHH! Yes he is annoying, but you always know where he is, what he wants, and you know his voice (even in your sleep).  On the field, every other player know his voice as well and they always know where he is.  This is not a bad thing.  When you are trying to develop communication on your team and their lack of confidence keeps them from talking what better example than “that guy”. Can you be louder than “that guy”?  Can you be more annoying than “that guy”?  If we can be loud and annoying, we will all know each other’s voices and we can effectively work together.  Suddenly, I have a team of guys that communicate, know where their teammates are, and can effectively share the ball and play team defense.  Annoying is better than silence when you need to communicate.

Have I made sure that God knows my voice?  Does He know how much I want to be a part of the game? Do others know that I am open and available for ministry?   Do I know that good would rather here my annoying voice than anything else in the world. Am I annoying for God?

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him”;and he will answer from within, “Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything”? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Like 11:5-13 ESV)

Drought Condition – Is Fire Imminent? (The Prequel)

As I reflect on my last article, I realize a few things:

  1.  My blog no longer has anything to do with it’s 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 own 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 own 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, http://crazyoldmaraman.wordpress.com/about/ and http://crazyoldmaraman.wordpress.com/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 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 it’s 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. Conditions are ripe for a weed consuming fire.  Will God provide the match?

Why Are We “Acting the Goat”?

Acting the goat.

Disclaimer:  This article has not been written with the intent to slander goats or offend goat lovers. The goat is a time honored metaphor used to indicate diverse attitudes of humans towards each other. Goats and sheep have attitudes that serve them well considering their physical attributes and place in nature.  I apologize if comparing people to goats is offensive to the goats or their advocates.

Initially, I thought it was the political season that was starting to irritate me with just about everyone around me.  The ramp up of attack adds, manipulative facebook promotions, and “fair & balanced” media coverage began to develop an environment began to bring out the worst of character in just about everyone I know.  Many who I thought to be loving and caring suddenly began to launch attacks those with differing views. Intelligent well intentioned individuals, attacking and countering their own friends with weapons supplied by groups trained and commissioned to develop well defined battle lines.  Observing this who process I came to realization that,it is not the process that is so vexing, it is the ease at which we allow ourselves to become transformed.

Some interesting characteristics about goats: (from http://fiascofarm.com/goats/behavior.htm#amf )

  • No matter how sweet and loving your goat may be with you, they will on occasion get violent with their herdmates. This is the natural ways of things, and no matter how you want them to always get along, there will be occasions where your goats fight and take “pot shots” at each other.
  • Goats do not push well.  If you push them to get them out of your way, they will lean into the push.  It you want them to move, pull them.
  • They will fight between themselves to establish dominance and they will take “pot-shots” at smaller goats to show them who is boss.  There is really nothing you can do to get them not to do this- it’s what goats do.

Understanding the nature of a goat makes it very easy manipulate them.  If I push … they push back. It is easy to get them to take pot shots. In the end “There is really nothing you can do to get them not to do this- it’s what goats do”

One of my best friends realized this the other day and acknowledged his political “goatiness” on Facebook Here is the excerpt from that FB conversation:

Friend:  I’ve decided something last night and this morning. We lost. It’s that simple. So now I am going to walk away from a hobby I’ve had for a long time. I’m a political junkie I guess. I watch it, read it, and talk about it. However I feel that it’s a waste of my time.
So with God’s help I will walk away from it and spend the time doing what is far more important than this. Digging into my word, praying, preaching, and teaching my Grandson about the Lord! May God bless President Obama with the wisdom to do what is right and the strength of will to know and do God’s will! May he bless congress with the same, and may He pour out His spirit on the USA!

Response Not me. I agree the part about spending more time in the word and such. But I will always keep my eye on politics. Remember, it is when Christians turned their backs that prayer was removed from school and Roe VS Wade was passed. Now so many years later, all religions except Christianity are PC. And instead of abortion being made legal, we now get to have our tax dollars help to pay for it even if we are morally opposed it it. No, I do not think completely stepping away from politics is the answer.

My Response:  It was not when we took our eyes off politics, it was when we took our eyes off the Lord, stopped doing His work, and started acting like goats instead of sheep that we lost His blessing. When we aligned ourselves with “the most of these” instead of “the least these” we surrendered them to the enemy. Who are the least of these?  They are those little blue spots in those big red states. They are the ones stained with pain and agony of sin who we scoff at, call names, and tell to go back to where they came from. They are the one’s that someone else offered a false hope and gladly accepted it when we kept the truth to ourselves seeking only our prosperity and comfort. It will not be a politician that answers for this tragedy before His throne, it will be those who neglected the power available to change their lives yet kept it for themselves!

This exchange was not included to make a political statement.  If you are offended and angry about any of the thoughts express in the above exchange … YOU are “Acting the Goat”.  If you push back and become angry when someone pushes your button or disagrees… goat.  If you are tempted to take a “pot shot” … goat.  Is it important to you to establish dominance … you guessed it …goat.

Maybe you think being a goat is OK.  You like goats and that is who you are.  Well, all I can say it have fun with that, but fortunately, we don’t have to be goats and we don’t have act like goats.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him,then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” Then he will answer them, saying, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matt 25:31-46 ESV)

I have been acting the goat way to much and I am pretty much fed up with it.  With God’s help, I am pressing forward into the plan that He has for me and no longer pushing back.  Pot shots are kind of fun, but not at the expense of relationships.     I urge any of you that truly desire to see our world changed, commit to learning the life of the sheep and following the Shepard that will always lead us into green pastures.  If you don’t know The Shepard, I would love to introduce you.

Good News – What It Is / What It Is Not

Over the last few days, people have been either reveling or reeling in light of the events of Tuesday night. Regardless of your political views, the widening divide among US citizens is alarming. A different outcome would not have changed the fact that we are a fractured people. That cannot be considered good news. There is however, Good News that is not being told nearly enough.  The power of that New if shared in the Spirit that it was given would span that great divide an bring us into a unity that we only dream of.

The Good News is not that abortion is sin and those that support it are evil.  The Good News is that a scared young girl, desperately seeking a loving relationship finds herself pregnant without love or hope, can find the both in the loving arms of a Savior.  But who will tell her?

The Good News is not that young men and women who find themselves in ungodly lifestyles and the society that condones it has drifted from it’s founding morals.  The Good News is that we are loved despite our weakness, ignorance, and brokenness by the One who took the consequences for our failures even before we knew that we had fallen. Who will show them this love and walk beside them until they can understand?

The Good News is not that we are enabling those who have been born into a culture of poverty, dependency,  and entitlement that seems to reward  idleness.   The Good News is a loving Father created them with a purpose and values them more than they value themselves, so much so that He sent his Son to redeem them with His life.  Are you willing to reach out and show them that they are worth much more than a life of desperation?

The Good New is not that the political manipulation of  individual weakness, greed, and selfishness has corrupted our wonderful government founded on “Christian Principals”. The Good News is that God is not daunted by our inability as a church to overcome our own sinful natures, arrogance,  and pride to call on Him continuously over the years.  He stands ready to work through us to touch the lives of those around us.  Can we let His Will become our will so that He can use us?

Isn’t it time we start living the Good News?  You may be the only glimpse of Jesus that someone may ever see.  Will they recognize Him in you?

“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. 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.” (Rom 12:21)

Father, forgive us for hiding you from a world that is desperately needs you.  Make me bold headline on the front page for you.