Saturday, June 25, 2011

Happy Birthday!

   Had a birthday, not too long ago. Not the kind of birthday where folks sing to you, and there's cake and all. Rather, the birthday where you remember that Jesus came into your life, and saved you. The kind where you remember God--a spiritual birthday. I was born again twenty-two years ago, in a church in Santa Fe. A church where the Word was taught, and folks were getting saved, and God's spirit was moving. It was a good church, and it was a good time, and I knew Jesus....and I rejoiced!
   As luck (Providence?) would have it, I was going to be in Santa Fe on that day. I thought: What a hoot to drive by the old church, and look, and remember. So  I drove by the old place. The church has moved on, and the building has changed hands several times now. There was lettering on the front of the place, the kind that is cut out into individual letters, and screwed onto the facade. Underneath it could be seen the faded outline of where the old lettering had been. But that wasn't the name of the church, that had been buried under stucco and paint, and lettering that had come and gone. No trace left at all.
   That church had hit on hard times, as churches sometimes do. There had been a change of pastor's, a church split, a falling out among the members of the congregation. At a certain time, they moved into a new building. I thought: Why not drive by the new building and have a look? So I drove by the new place.
   Wasn't a place that I knew well. I'd only been in a couple of times. No emotional, commemorative bells ringing.The sign told me that they were down to one service on Sunday mornings. Used to have three, and a Saturday night service, as well. Things had changed, and God wasn't working there the way He had in the past. Seems like the Lord will do that....choose a time, a place, and a man, and begin to do amazing things. And then the time will move on, the man may move on, and it seems that God has moved on as well. Nothing much now to remember, or celebrate.
   I drove away. Funny, but it didn't seem as sad as it could have seemed. The old place gone, the new place unfamiliar. It could have been a bit of a bummer, on a day when you're remembering what God has done for you. Didn't seem to be, though. Thought about that for a spell.  After a bit, it came to me, slowly-and then more clearly.
   Even though the old place was gone, and the old work was over, nothing had changed, not really. The Jesus that was in the old church...He was never really in a building. How could you build something that would contain an infinite God? And even though one building was gone, and a new one had taken it's place, there was something about that Jesus that had never changed. He was in my heart then--that's why I rejoiced!
And He was in my heart now. That had not changed over the course of the last twenty-two years.  Maybe that's why I felt that nothing had really changed. Same Jesus, same heart, same rejoicing. No matter what men or buildings may come or go, that was something that God assured me would never change. Jesus would always be with me, never leaving, never forsaking.  Things had changed on the outside, but the inward reality remained the same. Jesus in my heart, my King in my life.
   The reason why it wasn't the bummer it could have been, the reason I still rejoice? The King lives within. No matter the year, no matter what changes come, the King lives within, and I take Him with me wherever I go. It can always be 1989 in Santa Fe, it can always be a time when God is working, people are coming to know the Lord, and there's excitement in the air. It can always be a time when Jesus is about His Father's work, and me about my Lord's! No bummer, no worries, mate!  Just my God living in me, and me in Him.
   So I drove home. Happy birthday, Jesus, it's been twenty-two years. And you're more welcome here than ever.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The Australian aborigines call it "walkabout". It refers to their practice of going for a walk with no destination or return time...they just "go walkabout". Back later, sometimes much later. I like it, as I go walking like that quite frequently. I like to go out, and just open my mind to God, talking with Him, listening for His reply. Went out for one of those walks recently and found myself thinking about time. Time that has passed, and time that remains.Time to minister and time to serve God.
   I'm sixty this year so there's a lot more time behind me, than before me. Cancer brings a further perspective. With God's healing or a complete medical remission, I suppose it would be reasonable to expect another fifteen years or so. Not much really, considering how fast the years pass now. If the cancer returns again, then the time line would more likely be on the order of five years or less...really not much there. If everything went as bad as it possibly could, then I'd be lookmg at something more like six months. Sobering.
   My heart is at peace, my trust is in God, and my prayers are in His keeping, so none of this moves me at all. The question for me now is: what to do with the time? When time becomes a precious commodity, when events conspire to force you to confront the ephemeral quality of our lives here, how does one determine that they will best spend that remaining time? Make a "bucket list"? Plan the vacation you've always wanted? Throw a midlife crisis? These are questions that belong not just to the latter years of our lives, but are questions with which we should all be concerned, questions that can help us to lead the fullest, most satisfying and productive lives possible. As I walked with God that day, I believe I heard His voice, supplying the answer I needed.
   We just plain move too fast. Our schedules are tyrants, driving us, impelling us, ruling over our hours and minutes. We race from one appointment to another, from one urgency to the next. We have no time to enjoy many times, and God has given us ALL THINGS RICHLY TO ENJOY. We need to find ways to slow down, even for a moment, and enjoy the lives that God has given us before they vanish.Think of how easy it could be. Instead of turning on the water for the grass, and running to get the next thing done, I can stop and spend a moment watching the water spray above the lawn. That's why I go to all the bother, isn't it? To enjoy the green? Five minutes out of my schedule won't make terrible lot of difference in the long run, but it sure will make my day nicer, and me a little easier to live with. If I come home from work, can't I spend ten or fifteen minutes on the couch with Diane, just enjoy8ng her company and catching upon each others days before we plan our evening together. Didn't we marry for precisely that reason, because we wanted to actually live together, and not simply pass on our way to separate events?  Couldn't we all learn to spend a moment watching the play of light and shadow in the trees on a beautiful day, clearing our minds for a time of the busyness, and maybe creating a time when God could speak into our consciousness, dropping some rare jewel of peace into our mind?
   I think, if we could learn to do that, not only would we enjoy our days much more-no matter how many we have-but we might even find those days become more productive and satisfying to us. We might find that God is more able to direct us, and use us, and bless our time. We might just find that we really like it much more than the way we've been living.

Walkin' in Him,

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Swimming With The Tide

These last two or three weeks I've been dealing with the radiation sickness following some heavy duty radiation for cancer. Fortunately, just about the only side effect I experience is fatigue. Unfortunately that means sleeping anywhere from twelve to eighteen hours a day. That's been hard, because my normal schedule is to be in at least two places at one, often doing three or four things simultaneously. Alright, a bit of an exaggeration there, but you get the idea. It's been hard for me to gear down, to step back, not be as much a part of things as I have been, let other people step in and take over. In His graciousness to me, God has even used this a teaching experience. He's shown me that you work when you have the strength, not putting off what you may not be able to do later; and that you rest when you need to, harboring your strength for another time when you will need it again. It's a lesson in patience, and priorities,  and timing, one that I thought that I knew well, one that I find myself learning all over again.
   It's learning to swim with the tide working with the energy and time you've got, rather than fighting the natural ebb and flow of the thing. And it's something, I can see, that carries over into every area of life. For we are all less than sufficient for these things, the ministries that God has called us all into. We're less smart and capable and able than we think we are, and we're all working with less energy and time and talent than the job requires. Everyone one of us is learning to swim with flow of God in our lives, to work and rest at His move, and to rely on Him for the strength we do not naturally have.
   Witness Elijah, a man of God on the run after a mighty victory in his life. The angel came to him and fed him, and allowed him to sleep, then fed him and gave him rest again. Elijah was told that he would need his strength, and at the right time, God began to move him again. It's a lot like that for the rest of us too. Learning to rest when God calls us apart, learning to feed our bodies as well as our hearts and minds, strengthening ourselves off of the life of God that is in us. Learning to move in response to God's Spirit as he calls and directs us. The intriguing thing for me in this is that it feels so natural, i wonder why I haven't thought to follow this very natural path with Him more faithfully before this.
   I still find myself impatient with my own limitations now, and desiring to more fully engage with the ministry again, as well as life at home and service to my wife and friends. But I find this more natural rhythm, this dependency on His timing and strength, to be the greatest aid to whatever I possess in Him, the greatest aid in ministry and life, the most indispensable aid in accomplishing all He's calling me to do. I find myself learning all over again the very basic lessons of timing and priorities, and patience. I find , to my joy, that I'm learning to swim with the flow of God.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Pressing In

The last time Diane and I were in Israel, our guide took us down the Rabbinical Tunnel, an excavation that follows the Temple Mount below ground. We followed the massive foundation stones that had been laid until we came to the place where they were laid on bedrock. As our guide explained what we were seeing, Diane and I leaned up against the Jerusalem limestone to listen. Rather shortly Diane leaned over and picked something up, and began making furtive movements on the wall. When I asked what she was doing, she showed me a piece of the foundation stone that had broken off when she leaned against it.  Since it WAS already broken and certainly destined to be swept up, I told her: "Give that to ME!" A couple of weeks back I was sharing with our folks how Jesus had responded to the Pharisees that if He were to restrain His disciples, the rocks would cry out! Thought I'd show them one of the rocks, you know.
   It had been a long time since I had touched that rock, and it brought back a flood of memories. Earlier that same day, we had visited the Western Wall. I remember thinking how these very rocks, holding up the Temple, had experienced the Shekina glory of God when He would meet with the High Priest in the Holy of Holies. I remember pressing my face up against those rocks, thinking about God's glory playing over this place, just allowing that thought to draw me closer to Him. Just then a young Hebrew tried to make conversation with me. I held up a hand to wave him off, but the moment had passed. He wanted a donation for some group or other, and I regretted that he had interrupted what was for me a very holy moment, but it had been done.
   I've often wished that young fellow hadn't interrupted what God was doing right then. Upon further thought, though, I've had plenty of intimate times with God in the intervening time. I know there's nothing special about the side of my face pressed into a rock. But there is something VERY special about pressing into God.  That can be done at any place, at any time, under any circumstances. No special scene is required, the setting is the human heart. We all have a capacity to seek after God, to make Him our goal, and to press into His reality, pushing every other thought aside.
   God calls out to us, to hunger and thirst after Him alone, and He gives us the ability to draw near. There's no reason to live without the closeness of our God, All that it requires is that we press in to God, seek His holiness, swim in His love.  He's more than willing to receive us, and in Jesus He has made the Way Press In!