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.

“The Hat” – Remember the Sweat

Many athletes have crazy superstitions. Routines, clothing, food … ridiculous as it seems, these routines bring some sort of confidence to otherwise sane people.  Let’s not limit it to athletes; artists, performers, business professionals, fans, and even preachers often have routines to help get them into their “groove”.  Whatever it takes to make a person comfortable can actually help their performance.  Call it superstition or call it routine, if it helps do it.  OK, a fan’s routines really have no bearing on the outcome of a game or the performance of the athletes (except for during the NCAA Basketball Tournament when it is imperative that we never change our routine as long as UK is winning!)

marathon picThis actually has nothing to do with my subject in this post although it may at first glance seem that way.  I want to tell you about my hat. It is a simple Kentucky blue cotton ball cap with a white ‘UK’ embroidered on the front. Christmas of 2007, I received this ball cap.  If you have not been able to tell from any of my other post, we are a little bit fanatical about our C-A-T-S … CATS! CATS! CATS! so obviously this ball cap became a prized possession. In January of 2008, I began my training for the 2008 Derby Festival Marathon.  The hat became a mainstay in my running apparel.  Actually, I did not wear it for every run since I trained in some sub-freezing weather (UK Blue stocking cap), but any time I could, this hat was a part of the apparel.

This does not seem all that crazy does it?  Well how about the fact that I did not wash that hat … at all.  The closest it came to being cleaned was when I ran in the rain.  By the end of my training the hat was covered in salt. Starting to sound a bit crazy now?  As a matter of fact, I did not wash this hat until I started this new adventure!  Superstition you say?  Not exactly.

When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (Joshua 4:1-7)

One of the things that I discussed in my training journals was how much I hate to run. (Is This Fun?) It was hard, I was out of shape, and if not for the accountability of my teammates and some God given determination I would never have made it through the training.  The 26.2 miles that I ran in April was just the culmination of over 200 miles of training.  It was important when I started that race to remember all of those miles … the pain, freezing cold, the rain & snow, and all of the sweat that it was involved.  That training was my Jordan River that I crossed to escape some really tough years. “The Hat” was my memorial to the process that process that God brought me through.

A few year later, I pulled out “The Hat” for another purpose.  In the Fall of 2011 I began coaching  “The United”.  We had started together as a new team and it was my first experience coaching 11 v 11 soccer.  Few of my players had been coached in the fundamentals of soccer and were in pretty poor physical condition. We were starting from scratch.  We worked hard that Fall and made great strides, but fell short in the tournament loosing to the eventual champions.  In the Spring, we were determined to continue our progress.  We had a good season, but still had a few teams that we just could not handle.  At tournament time, I pulled out “The Hat” and explained the significance of the sweat stains and all that it represented to me.  The United took up the mantra “Remember the Sweat”.   Those guys fought hard and beat teams with superior talent to win the championship.  Not only that season, but the following Spring as well

2011 United

It is not superstition, karma, or Rafiki’s magic that brings about success.  It is the processes that we endure and the resulting character that develops us into the people we were created to be.  Unfortunately, even as we grow, it is easy to forget how far we have come and the storms we have weathered during the journey.  Forgetting often brings discouragement.  Remembering on the other hand brings hope!  What have you done to “Remember the Sweat?”

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (James 1:22-25)

Haystack Life – Live Undaunted

Warning: if you don’t like rock music … turn down your volume, but note the lyrics.  Then rock out in your own way! 

A few weeks back, I knocking out 9 miles late at night,  I was rocking to some Switchfoot and feeling pretty good about my progress.  As I jogged along, I reflected on some of the blogs I had read and people who have influenced my mini life-renaissance that is currently pushing me forward.  I have told you about a couple of these folks (Annie B and Bill).  I find myself in awe of their ability to utilize the gifts that God has placed within them to overcome adversity and still reach out to touch others. There are many others that I have watched impact lives on a consistent basis. I may not know their stories, but I think that it is safe to assume that they have had their share of adversity.  After all, bible even warns us that we will run into some bumps in the road.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation… ” (John 16:33a ESV)

FB whiningSo what sets these people apart from the rest of us, who are often just paralyzed by the storms of life? (or who bemoan our “tribulations” on Facebook) How is it that some people just seem to dwell on the positive, press on, and become a light instead of disappearing into the black hole of despair?  Admittedly, some people are not as susceptible to clouds of depression and a negative outlook.  Maybe it is genetic or possibly experiences in our past, or a result of negative upbringing.  Whatever it is, maybe we should just keep reading and see what the bible says about this dilemma.

“…But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b ESV)

Oh … take heart .. and you have overcome.  Nice …  What?  I don’t use words like “take heart”. My dark cloud of despair often throws a shadow over my faith so that I can’t see His overcoming power. I am just not getting this!

I am not usually a fan of using the Amplified Bible. (The same reason I don’t read much Charles Dickens … to many words for my tiny brain)  In this case, I like it. (I check it out whenever I run across phrases I don’t normally use)

“In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]”

Undaunted! I love that!  It is better than courageous; better than confident; and more than certain.  It speaks to moving forward despite the challenge. What about that challenge?  It has been deprived of power!  The only power it has over the purpose that God created me for is the power that I give it.  He created me to accomplish some things in this life and He has deprived the storms of life (pain, physical abilities, sadness, loneliness …) of the power to stop me from accomplishing all that He has for me.  I am the only one that can do that.

What am I doing with this abundant life of mine? Sure, I know I have raised 7 awesome children that are making a their own mark on the world.  Admittedly, I have a touched a life or two with my coaching and mentoring., but out of the 52 years of life that I have lived, how much of that time has progressed toward a goal that is worthy of Him whom I purportedly serve?

Have I been moving forward undaunted by adversity?  No, I have lived a “daunted” life.  I allow myself to become easily discouraged and stagnated by circumstances that do not go as planned.  Well … at least as I planned.  Are God’s plans daunted by troubles?  Of course not!  I think it is about time I realized that every moment of every day of this gift of life that He has given me is part of His plan if I choose to be a part of it.  It is about time that I start seizing every opportunity to be a part of that plan.

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  (James 4;13-17)

Haystack

Here am I … Sam I am

Sam & Sarah KissLynn and I stood on across town on Hampton Blvd in Norfolk after another post-due-date prenatal visit.  Since this was our fifth overdue pregnancy, we were not really surprised.  It was a nice day and we could not get hold of our ride, but we new her route so we decided to start walk toward the house.  5 miles later, we finally got that expected ride.  The following day, with Lynn exhausted and in pain from our little stroll, Sam decided to grace us with his presence.

9 days later we were back in the hospital.  Spinal taps, little baby IVs and sleepless nights, oxygen tents and quarantine.  (Maybe this is where he got his love for camping)  Sarah had had some health issues, but Sam was trying to catch up quick.  Turned out to be RSV (A relatively new diagnosis back in that day).  This began two years of non-stop ear infections, respiratory issues and camping at the clinic.  Good thing he was the only sick child … oh wait … there were four others, including the also plague ridden May baby Sarah.

Sick child equates to miserable pitiful bed ridden child …NOT!  Sam was everywhere and into everything. He was Ninja (mysteriously appeared on top of the refrigerator) and a miniature mechanic (Removed every nut and bolt from my wheel barrow without it falling apart … until I went to use it). He was a good natured little boy, but pretty non-verbal and hard headed.  He seemed to not listen to a word you said … unless he was looking at you. Wait could that be a symptom of something?

Sam i amSam – I – Am.  At two years old, it was finally decided that antibiotics were not the answer to these constant ear infections.  Let’s try tubes.  Did I say non-verbal. Overnight he went from non-verbal to very verbal.  Enter Green, Eggs & Ham.  If you would like … I can quote the whole book to you right now.  If you asked Sam his name, was Sam-I-Am.   Am would talk non-stop for hours.  He did not really care if you listened or not.  I am not sure if liked to talk or just liked to here himself since for so long he could not.

Silence of the Sam: As much as one might think that the constant noise would be a problem, it probably saved his life on occasion, because when the noise stopped, we knew that there was a problem… the silent alarm.  Silence in the back yard – the shed is on fire.  Silence in the living room – crayons in the VCR.  Silence on the stairs – beautiful pictures on the wall.  You get the picture.  We loved Sam’s voice.

The ears were better, but the lungs were not quite right.  After another hospital stay, the doctors finally concluded at age 4 that Sam was asthmatic.  So this non-stop little boy was forced to succumb to the nebulizer several times a day. Five or ten minutes might seem like a short period of time, but to Sam it was an eternity.  He had had about enough.

Faith of a child: In 1994, shortly after moving to Georgia, we were attending a Sunday evening service at church.  Pastor Jim asked if anyone wanted to be prayed to be healed.  Before we knew it, Sam had jumped out of his seat and run up to the alter.  He told Pastor Jim that he was tired of having asthma and wanted it gone.  Prayer was given, prayer was received, asthma … gone.  Coincidence … change of climate … or the faith of a small boy believing in a big God.  All I can say is that we have a nebulizer in the attic that has not been used since that day.

“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt 23:11,12)

Sam & MalakaiServant: Born with a servants heart, same has always wanted to be a helper.  From the nursery (when he was in it), to JBQ, to youth group and missions trips to Nicaragua and Mexico, and now to the friends, Sam will often work for others and neglect even his own needs at times.  I have often been angered by those that have taken advantage of him and hurt him at times.  People have stretched him beyond his ability to give at times.  Obviously, saying ‘no’ is an option, but it is really not in his nature.  He is happiest when he is helping and feels a part of success.

If struggle makes us stronger, than my boy is strong beyond measure.  He has been fighting and overcoming from the day he was born.   I often envy his determination and drive to learn despite the many difficulties he has had to overcome.  His optimism, although often dampened by circumstances always shines through.  I look forward with great excitement to great things that are in store for this young man of God.

Sam & DadSam, you have been an encouragement to me for years.  God has used you to change me.  Your faith and enthusiasm have bolstered my own faith on many occasions.

I love you Bud and look forward to pressing on with you.

“Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge,and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken,but the feeble bind on strength.” (1 Sam 2:3,4)

“And the Lordcame and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”( 1 Sam 3:10)

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)

Jesus and His Rocky Family – Life Making Good Soil

If you are following along in Mark I am a bit behind on my posts, I have not talked about Mark 3:31-35 and Mark 4:1-20. So here is a couple of quick thoughts.

Mark 3:31-35: The Family

I What in the world? Jesus seems to blow off His family.  Actually, if you look back at verse 21, His family had actually tried to restrain Him thinking He was crazy, so obviously, they were missing something. In light of this Jesus’ inference that “Here is my mother, and “Here are my brothers” makes perfect sense. These were the ones who were beginning to receive the gospel and were getting the idea that He might be “The One”. His family just thought He was “special“.

As a dad, I know that at times, I have neglected to recognize the full potential of my children. My own prejudice based on past experience has blinded me to the purposes and plans that God has prepared for them. I may say the right words of encouragement, but they see right through that. Imagine if God’s plan for a family member was to be the Messiah … How do you encourage a purpose and a plan that is higher than anything you can fathom.

I pray that I will not only get out of the way, but will learn to encourage my family, friends and others to strive for all that God has for them and not limit my vision to my own sight.

Mark 4:1-20 The Parable of the Sower

This sort of carries on from this previous thought. Jesus’ family thought the problem might be Jesus, His actions and His words (The Seed), so they tried to restrain Him. The challenge actually rested on the receivers/hearers (The Soil). The Seed is perfect and will grow and bear fruit according to the medium that it is sown. Knowing the rest of the story, it is encouraging that His family, who rejected Him in the beginning (rocky soil), in the end fully excepted the Good News and bore much fruit.

Have you ever been discouraged about the prospects of someone receiving the Gospel? I am even discouraged by my own ability to receive all that God offers me, so of course I have difficulty seeing how God is going to get a seed into some of the rocks I have been praying for. I think we can say with assurance that the Holy Spirit can break up even the hardest ground and turn it into good soil

(He can even take our own waste and turn it into fantastic compost!)

compost-toilet-life-cycle

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.