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!

This Day Ain’t Big Enough for the Two of Us!

Mark 2:18-22 – Questions About Fasting

Do you notice that these guys keeping asking Jesus why?  They are obviously not getting the message that He is ushering in a whole knew way of thinking and living.  Apparently, the Jews still had periods of fasting over calamities in the past like the destruction of the Temple hundreds of years before.  They seemed to be living a life of mourning.  I have just uncovered a YouTube video of some Pharisees discussing their difficult lives.

In the Sermon on the mount, Jesus warned us to not be anxious for tomorrow. I think here he is sort of saying, forget all garbage in the past.  Not only that, He is saying let go of all the garbage from today because today is a day full of hope because He has brought us a whole new day.  The Kingdom is here and you cannot process this new day with old ways of thinking.

http://sardonicsalad.com/
http://sardonicsalad.com/

Last week, I noticed that the gallon of milk in the fridge was about empty so I picked up a new one.  When I was getting it out of the car, I dropped it.  I did not notice that the bottle had broken until I got inside and it was dripping all over my leg (The same leg I had just poured my coffee on, I was now officially a latte).  I did not want to lose that gallon of milk, so I poured out the old milk and poured in the new.  Who would figure that just the residual old milk would cause the new milk to go bad 10 days before the new expiration date?  So not only did I lose the new milk, I lost the rest of the old milk and a bowl of cereal.

Most days, I am pretty sure that I have some residual milk inside of me that has past expiration date. Regret hangs on to spoil any new joy that God pours into me and pretty much wrecks a day full of hope.  On other days, I rest on the laurels of yesterdays actions and leave no room for the blessings of today.

Jesus has a perfectly sized, newly resurrected day with new manna waiting for me each and every morning.  There is no room for yesterday’s expired blessings and problems nor tomorrows worries.

Father thank you for this new day with all of it’s hope and opportunity.  Fill me up with a batch of You and let me empty it all out on a world that needs you so that I am ready for a new batch tomorrow.

Chillin’ in His Crib

Mark 2:13-17  – Jesus Calls Levi

Capernaum Israel

I have to admit that it is still blowing me away that I never noticed this.  I have no idea how many times I have read the gospels and if you count the sermons and discussions about them, one would have thought I would have picked up on such an important fact.  Second time in two days …

And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. (Mark 2:15)

He was in His house!  He invited these cats into His house!   I always thought of Him going into other peoples houses.  I actually kind of thought of Him as sort of homeless. It might actually be Peter’s house, but He was at least at home in this place.

So who cares?  Why is this a big deal? Maybe to some of you it is not.  Many of you may go out, make friends with questionable characters and then bring them home with you? It is one thing to go hang out at the rescue mission, it is entirely different to bring those fellows back to your crib. (I don’t really talk like this, I am just trying to expand my vocabulary).

Of course, Jesus probably did not have much in the way of material possessions, to worry about (which is kind of a point in itself), and no wife or children to protect so this might have been no big deal to Him.  We already know that He was not too worried about what people thought, so His reputation was not a concern. So maybe there is not much of a comparison between Jesus and me.  After all I have a family, electronics, and standing in my church to be concerned with. (Sarcasm is a virtue … I keep telling myself that)

Seriously, when I think of the heart of Jesus, I think of someone that goes out brings people in just as they are.  He does not go out, heal and restore them and then bring them in.   At this point, Jesus has called 5 people, 3 fisherman and a tax collector.  He took the fishermen from their boats and a tax collector from his toll booth, right where the were living.  No probationary period, no qualification … He just took them in, wrapped His arms around them and loved them.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (Matt 23:37)

I am not really talking about opening my house up to anyone that I might run across in my life. As a man with a family, I do have to be discerning when exposing my family to outside influences.  I do however have to open my heart to those around me.  Jesus did not pre-qualify people before building relationships and neither should I.

GoldilocksI hate that my mind is continually sizing up (judging) those around me.  Some are too high and lofty and others are to low and disgusting for me.  I am looking for the ones that are “just right”.  Ones I can handle and are not going to drag me down.

Good News … Jesus set a table for me and anyone I want to bring.  He has already sent the invitations.  Until I overcome my own insecurities, I can just bring everyone to His house.

Seriously Man? You Gonna’ Cut My Roof?

Mark 2:1-12 Jesus Heals the Paralytic

Let’s set the stage here:

paparazzi imagesJesus has gone home for the first time since starting his public ministry.  As we saw yesterday, despite trying to keep it under wraps for a little while, the cleansed leper has leaked it to the press and now everybody has heard that Jesus is doing some really amazing things. Hordes of people want to see what all the fuss is out.  The house is full of people wanting a piece of the action. It is not just people wanting a touch from God.  The paparazzi as well as the main stream media (scribes) are hanging around as well trying to get the scoop or bring the hammer down. We can see a little more why Jesus wanted to put this off a little while … can’t a guy get a little privacy!  But that is not the point today.

Through the roofThe house is backed up out the door.  You know there is always going to be “that guy”!  The desperate dude that just can’t wait his turn. (I know the traffic is backed up and the left lane is ending … I will zoom up to the front and force my way in) So these guys take their buddy up to the roof, cut a hole and lower him down to Jesus.  Seriously?  How long has this guy been paralyzed?  He couldn’t wait until Jesus came out?  Catch him on the way to the outhouse or something.  And another thing … whose house is this?  I don’t know this for sure, but the text says Jesus was at home … this was His house.  Dudes, you just cut a hole in the Son of God’s house, really?  You are doing demolition over His head and He don’t even have a hard hat. Give me break!

Most of the time I have heard someone preach about this story, it has been centered around the faith of these guys and their persistence.  Actually, I think the guys were rude, impatient, and inconsiderate!  I think instead of healing the one guy, I might have considered sending out 5 paralytics.  Jesus did not just decide , “hmmm, I think I will push the limits here and say your sins are forgiven instead of be healed”.  These guys had just committed sin right there in front of everyone. Forgiveness of sin was definitely in order.

What a new concept!  We do not have to be bound by sin … our own sin or the sins of others.  If Jesus had allowed justice to be served, not only would this guy not have been healed, but he and his friends would have been carted off to jail.  By releasing them (forgiving them) He was free to bring healing and restoration.

How often do I find myself withholding love from others because of some offense that I have held onto?  Something as simple as a tone of voice or an eye roll can set me off.  Just this week, I withheld blessing from my son for a petty little attitude that he did not even know about.  I am not saying that we should ignore sin. Sin has consequences and that can not be ignored.  (It would not surprise me in the least to find that Jesus immediately sent those guys up to repair the roof.)  The Good News is that sin does not have to bind us from pouring love, compassion and blessing into the lives of others.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 8:5)

Father, show me how to see through sin like Jesus so that I can bring the amazing love and grace of Your Good News to everyone I can.

Ready or Not

Mark 1:35-45  Healing of the Leper  (Not really the point) Image from: http://souljournaler.blogspot.com/ I mostly read the English Standard Version. Why? Because I like it. I am beginning to appreciate different translations more and more.  Many will debate the accuracy of this one, the readability of that one, and the intent of another … blah, blah, blah. It all makes me realize  the  sovereignty God and how amazing His Word really is.  His amazing love and grace is not limited by our ability to read or hear, much less our ability to write or properly interpret dead languages. No offense to those who have dedicated their life to reading, interpreting, translating and teaching classical biblical languages.  My son-in-law and many others in my family have made this their life’s work and have touched many lives through their pursuit.   God uses them to provide us with new insights and perspectives from an unchanging God to an ever changing people.  My point?  If God wants to speak to me and my need out of a translation or paraphrase translated and written by an ass, well, it would not be the first time.

All of this to say that a word in verse 35 jumped out at me … ­’desolate’.

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

This word is not used in any other translation that I could find. It is usually translated with ‘lonely’ or ‘deserted’ or a close synonym.  ‘Desolate’ may very well be a “bad” translation, but it said something to me.

des•o•late [adj. des-uh-lit; v. des-uh-leyt] Show IPA adjective, verb, des•o•lat•ed,des•o•lat•ing. adjective

  1. barren or laid waste; devastated: a treeless, desolate landscape
  2. deprived or destitute of inhabitants; deserted; uninhabited.
  3. solitary; lonely: a desolate place.
  4. having the feeling of being abandoned by friends or by hope; forlorn.
  5. dreary; dismal; gloomy: desolate prospects.     (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/desolate)

droughtJesus had just made the decision to take the show on the road, so to speak. Knowing that a small town ministry was about to explode may have added to the reality of the task at hand. He needed to be ready and these fisherman he had gathered were not going to be much help. so He had to go to the only One that could give Him comfort and assurance.  When I see the word ‘desolate’ I see Jesus’s humanity.  He knew what was coming and like in the garden later on, He was not relishing this next step.  If you were Him and could see into the future for the next 3 years, how would you picture the landscape?  #5 dreary; dismal; gloomy: desolate prospects. or perhaps #1 barren or laid waste; devastated: a treeless, desolate landscape.  How would you feel? #4 having the feeling of being abandoned by friends or by hope; forlorn.

The place that he went to pray may not have been any of these things, but seeing the path laid before Him, I can imagine that when He fell on the ground before His Father, the landscape of prayer that He found himself in may have pretty desolate.  Did He really expect that leper He healed in verses 41 & 42 to keep quiet?  Maybe, He was hoping that He could buy a little more time before things kicked into high gear.  Maybe not, but I know that I would be scrambling for a little more time!

I am sort of a morning person. The peace and beauty of the morning, with the gentle sounds of birds or rain or wind, allow me to feel God’s presence in a special way.  Unless …

‘Then lead on!’ said Boromir. “But it is perilous.’ 
      ‘Perilous indeed,’ said Aragorn, ‘fair and perilous; but only evil need fear it, or those who bring some evil with them.’ (JRR Tolkien: Fellowship of the Ring)

Although it may not be evil that I bring with me to the Lord, (obviously it was not evil that Jesus brought) but the landscape of prayer that I enter is often dark and dismal because of the fear, doubt, and burdens that I bring.  Sometimes those quiet mornings become pretty creepy and that place of peace seems pretty desolate.  When I feel unprepared or unqualified for a task before, I often catch myself doing a little prayer dance around the issue.

I think God understands that I bring these things with me to the prayer closet and He rejoices that I am there.  I don’t always get off my knees fired up to enter the fray, but I get up knowing that He is with me.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,

that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! (Psalm 30:11,12)

Ready or Not – Facing the Future

Mark 1:35-45  Healing of the Leper  (Not really the point) Image from: http://souljournaler.blogspot.com/ I mostly read the English Standard Version. Why? Because I like it. I am beginning to appreciate different translations more and more.  Many will debate the accuracy of this one, the readability of that one, and the intent of another … blah, blah, blah. It all makes me realize  the  sovereignty of God and how amazing His Word really is.  His amazing love and grace is not limited by our ability to read or hear, much less our ability to write or properly interpret dead languages. No offense to those who have dedicated their lives to reading, interpreting, translating and teaching classical biblical languages.  My son-in-law and many others in my family have made this their live’s work and have touched many lives through their pursuit.   God uses them to provide us with new insights and perspectives from an unchanging God to an ever-changing people.  My point?  If God wants to speak to me and my need out through a translation or paraphrase translated and written by an ass, well, it would not be the first time. (maybe it is written in my language)

All of this to say that a word in verse 35 jumped out at me … ­’desolate’. (New American Standard)

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 New American Standard Version)

This word is not used in any other translation that I could find. It is usually translated with ‘lonely’ or ‘deserted’ or a close synonym.  ‘Desolate’ may very well be a “bad” translation, but it said something to me.

des•o•late [adj. des-uh-lit; v. des-uh-leyt] Show IPA adjective, verb, des•o•lat•ed,des•o•lat•ing. adjective

  1. barren or laid waste; devastated: a treeless, desolate landscape
  2. deprived or destitute of inhabitants; deserted; uninhabited.
  3. solitary; lonely: a desolate place.
  4. having the feeling of being abandoned by friends or by hope; forlorn.
  5. dreary; dismal; gloomy: desolate prospects.     (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/desolate)

droughtJesus had just made the decision to take the show on the road, so to speak. Knowing that a small town ministry was about to explode may have added to the reality of the task at hand. He needed to be ready and these fisherman he had gathered were not going to be much help, so He had to go to the only One that could give Him comfort and assurance.  When I see the word ‘desolate’ I see Jesus’s humanity.  He knew what was coming and, like in the garden later on, He was not relishing this next step.  If you were Him and could see into the future for the next 3 years, how would you picture the landscape?  #5 dreary; dismal; gloomy: desolate prospects. or perhaps #1 barren or laid waste; devastated: a treeless, desolate landscape.  How would you feel? #4 having the feeling of being abandoned by friends or by hope; forlorn.

The place that he went to pray may not have been any of these things, but seeing the path laid before Him, I can imagine that when He fell on the ground before His Father, the landscape of prayer that He found himself in may have been pretty desolate.  Did He really expect that leper He healed in verses 41 & 42 to keep quiet?  Maybe He hoped the He could buy a little more time before things kicked into high gear. Maybe not … but I know that I would be scrambling for a little more time if I were Him!

I am sort of a morning person. The peace and beauty of the morning, with the gentle sounds of birds or rain or wind, allow me to feel God’s presence in a special way.  Unless …

‘Then lead on!’ said Boromir. “But it is perilous.’ 
      ‘Perilous indeed,’ said Aragorn, ‘fair and perilous; but only evil need fear it, or those who bring some evil with them.’ (JRR Tolkien: Fellowship of the Ring)

Although it may not be evil that I bring with me to the Lord, (obviously it was not evil that Jesus brought) but the landscape of prayer that I enter is often dark and dismal because of the fear, doubt, and burdens that I bring.  Sometimes those quiet mornings become pretty creepy and that place of peace seems pretty desolate.  When I feel unprepared or unqualified for a task before, I often catch myself doing a little prayer dance around the issue.

I think God understands that I bring these things with me to the prayer closet and He rejoices that I am there.  I don’t always get off my knees fired up to enter the fray, but I get up knowing that He is with me.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,

that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! (Psalm 30:11,12)

Random Post – Defining a Blog

Facebook-Fac
Random Image for a Random Post

For the past few months I have been doing most of my writing in a facebook with a group of men. I have diligently written nearly every day based on my morning devotional time.  My blog entries have been mostly confined to blogs written in honor of family members.

Yesterday I noticed that even those family blogs have gained some internet interest.  At this point, I look at every blogger who comments, follows, or likes post. So who is interested in my family blogs? … mostly people who want me to use their methods to make money with my blog. Another thing I have noticed is that if I make multiple posts in one day most people only read the last post I make.  I realized that I regrettably tend to do the same thing with blogs I subscribe to and follow on a daily basis. (Sorry Annie B at http://ambirkelo.wordpress.com) (I love her blog, but I have a difficult time keeping up sometimes)

I mention all of this because of something I read on a post from a blogger with no interest in my content. A couple of his points made me consider my blog.  He indicated the importance of defining the purpose of your blog and finding an interest group.  When I started my blog, it was just my running journal and devotional and I did not care about an interest group other than my running buddies.  I was just an exercise in accountability.

So here is my mission:

1)    Determine what I want to accomplish with my writing

2)    Determine who I want to reach

3)    Post regularly but value the time of those who choose to follow.

4)    Improve my quality and content.

Until I figure out 1 & 2, I am going to move on with 3 & 4 and to post my FB group devotionals so that anyone can follow along and add their two cents.

I have posted my reading calendar as a page at the top for anyone who is interested.  I am currently going through the book “Mark for Everyone” by N.T. (Tom) Wright and my reading follows a the book.

I am already 5 days in to Mark so I have posted those 5 days as one post (so as not to wear you out).

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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