So I Wait

“Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief.”  Proverbs 14:13

When life meets crisis there’s rarely a warm welcome.  My crises, converging on many fronts has launched into a journey of soul-making I can hardly describe.  The torch of significance that flickered what seemed an eternal flame has been snuffed by the breathe from the whispers of God within my core.  The beacon that shone brightly throughout each of my identities has been extinguished — the night air is cold, the stars do not twinkle — so I wait.

Life as I knew it was pretty simple — coasting through the harbors the journeys of each day would set sail on new adventures, great discoveries — empty of purpose, laced with secrecy and ultimately hollow and void of meaning.  A voluntary departure was hardly considered.  But when God calls, it’s a good idea to answer!  And so it began . . . a journey of transformation or a journey of continued disobedience.  It was time to weave my cocoon — so I wait.

In waiting, the soul-making experience takes on a new form.  The change is slow, yet painful.  The change encounters loss, yet gain.  The change requires surrender, yet control.  The change swells with pathos, yet joy — so I wait.

The paradox in waiting is like many of those Christ spoke of during His ministry.  Like His call to drink of living water and never thirst again.  Like His call to die is to gain.  And no different too, is His call to find joy in the midst of sorrow.

Will I ever laugh again?  Will I ever see and live the joy He speaks of in the midst of such loss?  I suppose I will — so I wait.

Paul worried for the Galatians.  He visited and preached the love of Christ and the power of His resurrection and was welcomed as though he were Christ himself — despite his past.  Yet, upon return to them, he noticed a considerable change — they lost their joy.  They lost the joy in the hope of Christ Jesus!

Lord Jesus, I struggle with what words to say, but I know your joy in me exists!  I know that stripped of every mask, every persona, every identity, the only thing that remains is the essence of my being — I am.  I am only because You ARE!  This is who I am!  Living through my loss, my grief and my unfortunate circumstances breeds pathos within me.  While I may experience pathos though, help me laugh again through the joy only you bring.  May I not laugh for others — but instead live joy — so I wait!

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
-T.S. Eliott

Life Is Liquid

“But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.”  Hosea 12:6

They say patience is a virtue, but at times it feels more like torture than anything virtuous.  Waiting is not something we are just wired to do — or at least do easily.  In fact, we are forced into moments where waiting is necessary and since we are aware of our own discomfort with waiting, environments are created around us to distract us or deceive our senses into thinking we aren’t really waiting at all.  Amusement parks are good at this where long lines form to ride a spectacular ride, they will snake everyone in line back and forth in order to give the appearance of a shorter line and to create the effect of a line that is always moving.  A line that seems to be moving is the line I’ll jump in at the grocery store!

Life is very similar to this — it is fluid — always moving.  This reminds me of the crazy waters dumped on New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.  For the first time since they were engineered by the Army Corp of Engineers the levees were challenged that protected the city from rising waters.  It was said they would never break, but the water became too great a challenge for the banks of the levee.   Slowly they weakened against the subtle force of rising waters and the water spilled into the city bringing unimaginable destruction.

Water flows to the path of least resistance.  My life has always somehow found it’s way following paths of least resistance. It feels easier that way doesn’t it?  But, before long it’s flooded.  God said (I didn’t listen), “Mark, the water is going to get deep, be patient I’m building the levee!”  But life seemed to pour it on and pour it on in volumes I was unable to manage and I wasn’t going to allow anyone else to take control.  So, I constructed my own walls to hold back the turbulent liquid of life — I did it my way. [Big mistake!]

Hindsight is always 20/20 — we look back and see the mistakes, usually coupled with more knowledge today than then.  It’s a measure of growth and includes an experience where life has been sharpened and more thoroughly engaged.  But there is something that comes with a spiritual hindsight that sharpens the focus of our vision and pierces the soul.  It allows and readies us  to wait.

The scripture is filled with patience!  I think of Simeon in the courtyard waiting on the coming Christ child.  I think of Noah waiting for the waters to subside.  I think of Elijah waiting on the ravens.  I think of Joseph left in a pit to die then sold to slavery.  I think of the blind man.  I think of the father of the prodigal son.  I think of Nicodemus.  I think of Jonah in the belly of a great fish. I think of Moses, then Jacob for Rebecca.  I think of the people of Israel and their journey to the Promised Land.  I think of Paul in prison. I think of Mary and Joseph.  I think of Daniel in the den.  I think of Sarah to bear children.  I think of our Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives, on the shore, in a boat with stormy seas, with Mary and Martha, and I think of Him around the table with twelve He had chosen knowing their faith would be challenged.

It’s a time of waiting He calls us to.  This is because our time of waiting on Him is a picture — a reflection — of Him imprinted upon our spirit.  Nothing exemplifies this better than the story of the father waiting upon his prodigal son.  It is a story of waiting, a story of redemption and unconditional love.  It’s the best picture we have of our own Heavenly Father awaiting His children — you and me – to return to Him.  But He waits.  So also, I wait on Him.  It is a period of time, while the world flows by, for me to embrace, to fellowship, to awaken to life flowing not the path of least resistance, but flowing straight up!  Sue Monk Kidd says it best in her book, When The Heart Waits, “Crisis, change, all the myriad upheavals that blister the spirit and leave us groping–they aren’t voices simply of pain but also of creativity.  And if we would only listen, we might hear such times becoming us to a season of waiting, to the place of fertile emptiness.”

“But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”  Romans 8:25

Rejection And Sorrows . . . He Understands

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.  Isaiah 53:3

I’d like to think it was a silent night on the night of our Savior’s birth, but I believe Bethlehem was far from quiet that night.  When people travel from all over the world for the Olympics, is the Village quiet?  When thousands descend upon a stadium for a game, are the roads, hallways or arenas quiet?  During the days of Mardis Gras, are the streets of New Orleans silent?  The answer to each of these is a resounding, “No!”  It was the busiest night in Bethlehem.  The census was underway and people had traveled from miles around.  So many had flooded the streets, overnight accommodations were slim to none.  Everyone was busy, so busy they missed the arrival of God himself in their own backyard.

Unnoticed by many, Christ was born to be noticed only by a few.  Those who listened, those who trusted, those who believed in something bigger and more hopeful than themselves — they came, bringing gifts, proclaiming the arrival of the King, welcoming the One they had been waiting in the courts to arrive.  A subtle entrance, a grand reception — but only by a few . . . the rest would reject Him, hurt Him, fill Him with sorrow.

It’s difficult to believe He understands the pain of rejection.  It’s not easy trusting the human sorrow He experienced to know the deepness of my own sorrow.  The truth is however, He does understand.  He understands and promises to heal the brokenhearted.  But, like those in Bethlehem that night, I all too often forget to listen, forget to notice, forget to see, forget “to taste and see that the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!”

Lord Jesus, rejection sucks — that’s me being brutally honest!  You have promised to be my Comforter, my Healer, and NEVER reject me!  Your love for me is not conditional and never weakens!  You are seated upon the throne and I am seated with you!  I know you understand every ache in my heart!  Continue to refine me — burn off that which is unrighteous as I strive to be holy as You are holy! I’m so glad you understand!!!!

 

Glory Carrier

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Colossians 1:27

Immanuel, God is with us — with me!

Those same words, spoken of the prophet Isaiah of the virgin Mary declared the glory of the Lord on . . . and in . . . Mary!  She would become the chosen, the favored one from most High, to carry our Lord, her Lord and bring Him, the glory of God in the Highest to earth.  God Himself, through Christ would place His feet upon the ground and walk as we walk, talk as we talk, eat as we eat, hurt as we hurt, grieve as we grieve, thirst as we thirst, become hungry as we are hungry, grow tired as we tire, pray as we pray, plead with the Father as we plead with the Father and surrender His will to the will of the Father as the Father desires us to surrender to Him.

The glory of God Himself was growing, cell by cell, the same as is written in Psalm 139 — Mary had become a Glory Carrier!  Special?  YES!  Unique?  YES!  Exclusive? NO!

I too, am a Glory Carrier!  You, too can be a Glory Carrier!  It is the most unique, most special, non-exclusive gift EVER — FOREVER!

Glory to God!

“‘Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you!”‘  Isaiah 60:1-2

When The Bottom Falls Out

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Hebrews 13:8

Last night I received some horrible news . . . it’s related to the crisis for which I write this blog.

Ever had one of those moments when it seemed like the world was caving in around you and the bottom was falling out beneath you?  Ever been in a place where everything you know with vibrant colors suddenly turns black and white.  Ever reflected on the things that used to make you laugh and smile and instead feel sadness?  And in the middle of those moments we plead and all but beg for God to comfort, to hold, to carry the immense burden.  But the mere act of asking for those things reveals the lack of trust in my own heart I have in believing in His promises.

Yesterday He was here, right by my side — better, He was living inside me!  Today is no different!  He is right beside me, comforting me and living inside me!  Oh sure, the circumstances have changed, the scenery is a little scorched, but He’s the same today as He was yesterday.  So, while my crisis continues, my relationship with Christ is strengthened.

One thing I’m learning in the midst of crisis is the difficulty that comes in seeing the hope there is in a future.  But remember, yesterday . . . same — today . . . same — tomorrow and forever . . . SAME!  He cares for us — He cares for me!

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”  Ephesians 1:4

The One Big Mistake

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

Yesterday, my son forgot his lunch for school.  Oops!  That didn’t turn out so well for him.  A costly mistake!  Luckily his older brother felt some compassion and shared a portion of his with him.

How many times have we made the trip into town for an errand, only to realize we left the bag of stuff to return to the store just next door was left at home.  Oops!  That’s gonna require another trip.  A costly mistake!

When was the last time you decided not to lean over your bowl while enjoying some nice hot soup?  Oops!  That’s gonna need a stain-stick!  A costly mistake!

It’s not so unusual for at least one adult member of the family to push the indicator light on the gas gauge.  Oops!  That’s not gonna end well.  A costly mistake!

Those are examples of the many mistakes we commonly make throughout not only our day, but life.  The consequences are expected and not that drastic.  We kick ourselves with words like, “Are you kidding me?” and “How could you have been so dumb!” and “What in the world was I thinking?”  We even recreate an alternative ending in our minds by recusing our actions by saying things like, “I should have . . .”  or “I could have . . .”  or “I would have if only . . . ”

My life, like yours, is filled with a bunch of these “little” mistakes.  In most cases, turning around, making another trip or learning a lesson and changing are simple solutions to these daily misfortunes.  But life dishes out some game changers too.  You may know what I’m talking about — those mistakes that alter the course of your life, bring disaster to you and others, they hurt, rob and destroy.  They bring regret to a whole new level.

However, regardless of my many minor mistakes or major mistakes, my God is with me.  Today this is true: I know not what God will do, but God will do!  His presence is with me always and I must not forget that God is in control of my life.  Whatever experiences I have today, He has them with me!  He will restore through my mistakes!  It is true that my decisions can bring disaster into my life — and others — but God is the only one who can keep the disaster from destroying me!  “Lord Jesus, do not allow me to try and take control because I will make a mess of it.  I cannot meet life today without you!”

The ONE big mistake I can make today is forgetting you in the struggle around me.  I must not . . . MUST NOT . . . make that mistake today!  I must rest in you today!

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him for God is our refuge.”  Psalm 62:5-8

Do You Do What I Do?

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.”  James 1:22-25

I remember listening to a pastor years ago that openly admitted he did not counsel people.  He said he always gets calls from people wanting to meet to talk about their “issues” and “struggles” in hopes that by doing so they would feel better about themselves.  This particular pastor was tired of listening to the excuses and explanations, perhaps even rationalizations, to the sin that had so easily entangled them.  He said from the pulpit, “If you think you may want to come speak with me about such matters, let me save you a trip by saying now what I would tell you then.  STOP IT!”

This is exactly what James is telling those of us who have heard, studied and know the word.  We know what the answer is before we even state the problem.  James says it plain and clear . . . “Do what it says!”  If you’re anything like me, you’re probably saying to yourself . . . “yeah, easier said than done!”  It would have been nice for James to have added a verse or two to follow that statement that addressed that very thing wouldn’t it?

It wasn’t so much that James was wanting to give us the tools — he knew that Christ was the answer plain and simple.  Nothing more and definitely nothing less.  Christ is more than enough!  James was merely stating the ardent truth about the difference in knowing and doing.

Doing takes faith and faith is hoping in that which we can’t see.  This is why doing what we know doesn’t always match our feelings or our will.

Knowing + Faith + Doing = Blessed   (John 13:17)

Peter picks up where James never went.  Before becoming blessed is doing, through faith from knowing.  Therefore, Peter instructs for us to prepare our minds for action.  In other words, we’ve got to invest into our minds the essence and knowledge of God through His word so that we can be doers of the word.  He outlines in I Peter 1:13-16 to be self-controlled, to set my hope on His grace, to be obedient, to not conform . . . to be holy!

My God, might I keep my eyes fixed upon you!  Thank you for the richness of your written word — may my faith grow, through obedience to you!

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written:  ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'”  I Peter 1:15-16

The Crux Of Captivity


“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
”  II Corinthians 10:4-5

It is commonly suggested that a person has between 12,000 and 50,000 thoughts each and every day.  Sometimes this seems a bit low — for the thoughtful, while at other times it seems a bit high — for the “worker bees.”  Either way, it is apparent that our minds are running a mile a minute . . . contemplating, refreshing, renewing, deciding, calculating, analyzing, predicting and dwelling.  But to what end is it captivating?

Some of my fondest memories include my days on the slopes as a casual skier.  I was the guy on the slopes everyone despised.  Just enough ability to get to the bottom of the hill, but lacking the grace and finesse to make it there without taking someone out on the way.  If you know anything about snow skiing, they rate the slopes according to the degree of difficulty.  Green slopes are generally easier and more groomed for the beginner.  This was me all the way.  But, occasionally there would be a Blue slope (intended for the slightly more experienced skiier) that I was tempted to try when my confidence had grown.  This false sense of security led me to picking up my skis, poles, hat, gloves and anything else that came disconnected from me on my way down the Blue hill.  My loud squeals and expressive doubts were merely attempts to warn anyone in my path.  It was for their safety . . . and my dignity.  Starting at the top, it was easy to maintain control, but the further into the slope, the faster the skis would go.  It wasn’t sudden, more gradual, until all of a sudden, my mind agreed with my will — I was out of control — and my body paid the price!

Thoughts, left unattended, will lead the will and the body down a slippery slope!  To avoid disaster, Paul teaches us how to live in the freedom of obedience to Christ by taking each thought captive.  But how in the world is one to do this when a single day brings tens of thousands of thoughts.  That sounds like effort!

It is!!  Satan’s plan is to seek and destroy — and he’ll just as well get in my head to do it!  Discerning the Truth, studying the Truth, praying the Truth, living the Truth all lead to a safe journey!  It’s taking the thoughts captive in order to MAKE them obedient to Christ.  It doesn’t say I will have good thoughts, or that I should only have good thoughts.  It means that WHEN my thoughts are good — take them captive and give Him the glory!  It also means that WHEN my thoughts are less than good — take them captive so that I may be obedient and give Him the glory.

Pointing the tips of my skis straight down hill was never a good idea — it always led to disaster.  In order to arrive disaster-free, I had to work at it, concentrate, think!

“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way:  bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  Colossians 1:10-14

In The Face Of Impossibility

“Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God.'”  Luke 18:27

Certainly reading the scripture invokes the thoughts of the impossible becoming possible.  Story after story, from Noah to Jonah, from Adam to Moses, from Esther to Sarah, from David to the blind man.  But no story captivates the trust, the belief in the impossible more than Mary, the mother of Jesus.  It is a riveting moment of wonder, curiosity and faith.  Mary had no clue how the impossible would become possible. Why might that be?  Because all things impossible by man is beyond possible by God.  Mary simply had to trust that despite what appeared unlikely, through He who promised would become a reality.

“‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’  The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most high will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Even Elizabeth you relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.  For no word from God will ever fail.’ ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’  Then the angel left her.”  Luke 1:34-38

I find myself asking as did Mary . . . “How will this be?”  I doubt and question the nature of things, events and circumstances in my own life where and when it appears impossible.  But I know you are seated on the throne today and I know that you have made promises.  Promises to keep me and sustain me, to give me strength when I am no longer able to keep my step, to give me wisdom when I don’t know the answers, to provide when all is gone, to love when love is unrecognized, to embrace me when a heart is long unheld.

Lord Jesus, remind me of these promises.  It is your will I seek and your sustaining grace that I consume.  Remind me often that despite my flaws, I am free, so very free and whole!

Broad Shoulders

As a part of my study yesterday I read a post from one of the blogs I follow from Scotty Smith out of Nashville, TN.  It was though this prayer was written for me.  I wanted to share it with all who read my blog in that you may learn too of the broad shoulders and loving heart of Lord Jesus.

I am posting it below, but if you would like to learn more about the original author, I have placed a link to his blog here.

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A Prayer about Jesus’ Broad Shoulders and Loving Heart

     For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Isa. 9:6-7

Dear Lord Jesus, knowing the government of the whole world already rests on your shoulders profoundly humbles me and gladdens me. It fills me with a joy second only to knowing your shoulders fully bore the sin of the world, including mine. As this day begins, I raise my shoulders and face to bask in the radiance of your glory and the wonder of your grace.

Lord Jesus, in you are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. You are Wonderful Counselor. I look to you for knowledge of great mysteries and insight into things eternal; but you’re also the one to whom I look for counsel on handling fresh disappointments, dealing with old hurts, and stewarding unfulfilled longings. You care about everything.

Lord Jesus, you uphold all things by the power of your Word. You are Mighty God—the one who created and sustains the entire universe by the power of your word; the one in whom all things are being summed up. You’re also the one who gives me power to humble myself when I’d rather stay proud, and strength to boast in my weaknesses when I’d rather be self-sufficient. You are Lord of all things.

Lord Jesus, to see you is to see the Father. To know you is to know the Father. In this sense you are Everlasting Father. You care so tenderly for the needs of the world—even the flowers of every field and the birds in every sky; but you also care about me. You didn’t leave me as an orphan. Through your work, I’m not only declared to be righteous in God’s sight, I’m able to declare God as my Abba, Father. You bear all my burdens.

Lord Jesus, no one else can pretend to be the Prince of Peace, for you alone paid the price of peace on the cross. Even as you are presently “shaloming”—bringing the increase of your government and peace to all things, so you are advancing the reign of your grace in my life. Forgive me when I look for wholeness, contentment, and healing somewhere else, for it cannot be found except in you. You don’t just give me peace, you are my Peace.

For your broad shoulders, big heart, and coming kingdom, be glorified, O blessed Messiah and Redeemer. So very Amen I pray, Lord Jesus, in your matchless and merciful name.