Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wait For It...There It Is...That Divine Moment!

What does one moment of the divine look and feel like?  While Joseph was waiting for the dream to manifest, what was he feeling?  While David waited for the throne and Peter waited for Gods hand to move in the prison, what was going on in their hearts at the time?  While Hannah was waiting for Samuel?  Were they hoping and believing and trusting or were they complaining?

I have to admit that as of late my heart has done a lot of complaining.  I try to be patient and I KNOW that the desires and the destiny that God has planted in my heart will come about in one divine moment.  I know that I will continue to take small steps closer and closer to the dream.  Yet I am tired and weary!  I see no light at the end of the tunnel and, as I've heard it said, I'm just afraid that the light is actually an oncoming train!

The problem is, we are not a patient creature.  Let’s be real, we can’t sit around and hope forever, right?  Romans 4:18 tells us straight out that when our hope is deferred, our heart gets sick.  But when the desire is fulfilled, it is like a tree of life!  

I like the way The Message Version of the Bible states it:  “unrelenting disappointment leaves your heart sick, but a sudden good break can turn life around.”  

When that one moment of the divine happens, that very moment you have been praying and hoping for, its as if your heart suddenly leaps forth in joy and motivation and excitement.  But what about the wait time?

There will be times when you feel you simply do not have the strength to hold on to faith.  But know this in your hearts and believe it is true:  when we cannot hold on to faith any longer, it is that time when faith holds on to us.  

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

So stay focused on the prize.  Stay committed to the desires in your heart and believe that God has put them there and that He will continue working to make them come to fruition.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel and no, it’s not that of an oncoming train!  

It is the same God,
just a different day.

It is the same process,
yet each day with increased intensity.

It is the same journey,
just a different stretch.

There is a moment, my friends, one divine moment, when you will realize that God has been working on your dreams and one day he will present them to you.

Do not abandon the desires that God has planted in your heart.  Ask the Holy Spirit to ignite a passion in you that brings old dreams and longings back to a thundering blaze once again!  And be ready for what that feels like WHILE you are waiting!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Authentic Ministry

I am now in day six of a “blog off” between myself and Pastor Vicki Gladding (  She is one of the clients in my company, ORCVirtual ( but is also someone whom I have come to consider a friend.  We agreed to challenge ourselves to coming up with a blog entry a day for one week.  The journey has been an interesting one so far.

I have never met Pastor Vicki in person.  We have spoken on the phone, we have Skype’d together, I know what she looks like through photos and we are friends on Facebook.  I have never had the opportunity (yet) to sit at a table and share a cup of tea and share conversation.  But there is one thing I can tell you of Pastor Vicki that I know without a doubt.  I have said this often to her and about her but today I want to focus on this one particular aspect of Christianity that I feel is truly key to walking-the-walk.  Authenticity.

What I absolutely adore about the stories of Christ in the New Testament is that Christ brought about not only realism but an authentic, tangible, and visual connection to the Holy.  He put flesh and bone to God and walked the earth.  When he left this physical realm, he left us with the responsibility of putting face, hands, feet, heart and voice to his Spirit.  When we become these things we enter in to authentic ministry.  When we try to embrace the aspects of the physical Christ in todays’ world, we enter in to authentic ministry. It is when we place the experiences of the Holy too high for many to reach that we begin to loose authenticity.

I had a roommate in college who used to say, frequently I might add, that although God created all of creation, at times he felt as if he was just a mere dirt worm in this world.  Not able to achieve even one rung on the ladder of higher order.  He felt that he was often not the master of his domain or anything for that matter.  He accepted the fact that he struggled and his life was slow and agonizing at times as he wiggled his way through this life, looking and searching for ways to bring the gospel to the people around him while he, himself, struggled to learn more about the God he preached about.   What I truly think he did not realize is how many people who truly touched.  Through his humility he touched hundreds if not thousands of hearts.  What we saw in this man, who was a great teacher of the gospel and one of the most faithful prayer partners I have ever encountered, was a man who knew that he was merely a man and that he felt he fell short every single day of totally, utterly and genuinely pleasing God with his every word, thought and deed.   He always knew that he wasn’t “done yet” and that God still had a lot of work to do in him.

Conversely I had a pastor of a church I served who always referred to himself as the Reverend Doctor.  Yes, he had his PhD and even in staff meetings we were not allowed to call him by his first name or even Pastor so-and-so.  It was always Reverent Doctor.  His sermons were always lofty and he chose words that many people would need to look up had the pews had a dictionary handy.  I know he made up several words as well and created them so that his mouth would seem that more intelligent.  When he was in the chancel area (the area that contains the pulpit, alter, choir, etc) he did not humble himself but took it upon himself to be the master of it.  When all people would kneel in the area, he would stand.  We never once saw him kneel.  This man lacked authenticity because he made the holy something that was unattainable and out of reach for everyone but him and maybe a select few he elected.  It was painfully obvious and after a few years he was asked to step down and the church was able to heal and grow after that. 

There is a very fine line that pastors have to walk. We must embrace humility and remain humble in our calling but we must also be prepared to be seen as an authority figure.  People expect us to have the answers.  Some people even fail to confide fully in their pastor because they do not believe for a moment that they would understand their earthly struggles.  After all, they are pastors and they only work on Sundays and then must spend the rest of the time studying the Bible and getting, well, holier than they are this week!  Pastors must be able to do what Christ did – meet every single person exactly where they are on this life journey and be able to relate to them.  THAT is authentic ministry.

To be truly authentic in the calling of ministry, to fully embrace what it means to be called Pastor, a person must be able to show the face of Christ to the blind.  They must be able to become the feet of Christ on earth, and they must become the hands of Christ with which to hold the hands of the dying and hurting.  One must become the ears of Christ to hear all things and the mouth of Christ to speak His truth.  One must become the body of Christ, walking and living and breathing and BEing in this space and time because Christ is no longer physically among us. 

We tend to forget that Paul was a man – he was no superhero, no Reverend Doctor.  His ministry was soaked in the Word of God, the Truth of God, the Teaching of God and the Good News of the gospel.  A pastor of authenticity will have a life whose outward appearance is but a reflection of an inward grace provided only by the Holy Spirit.

Authentic doesn’t mean perfection.  It means being genuine. It means having a life that is reliable and trustworthy.  It means being Christ to those that have not met Him and to those who continue to seek Him further.  The goal of humanity should be that all strive to be authentic believers of Christ and do-ers of God’s Word.  Faith in action – feet for the gospel – reality in a world that is full of the unreal.  That is authentic ministry.  Authentic leadership. Authentic worship.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Breath Deep and Smell the Manure

A family had twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks. If one felt it was too hot, the other thought it was too cold. If one said the TV was too loud, the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up. Opposite in every way, one was an eternal optimist, the other a doom and gloom pessimist.

Just to see what would happen, on Christmas day their father loaded the pessimist's room with every imaginable toy and game. The optimist's room he loaded with horse manure.
That night the father passed by the pessimist's room and found him sitting amid his new gifts crying bitterly.

"Why are you crying?" the father asked.

"Because my friends will be jealous, I'll have to read all these instructions before I can do anything with this stuff, I'll constantly need batteries, and my toys will eventually get broken." answered the pessimist twin.

Passing the optimist twin's room, the father found him dancing for joy in the pile of manure. "What are you so happy about?" he asked.

To which his optimist twin replied, "There's got to be a pony in here somewhere!"

Can you find the good even in the midst of the worse? Can you see the light when you are so deep in the valley that it’s hard to even look up?  Can you find a reason to smile when despair and agony seem to be ruling your every thought and move?  What about when you simply wake up on the wrong side of the bed and find yourself in a foul mood?  Are you able to find the pony in the midst of the manure?

Sometimes when we are down it helps just to tell our face that we’re not as down as we are feeling.  Proverbs 15:13 says that a happy heart makes the face cheerful. Proverbs 17:22 tells us that a cheerful heart is good medicine but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Is your spirit crushed?  How did you manage to allow that to happen?  YOU are the keeper of your heart and in the deepest part of your heart is where the spirit of God dwells.  Why did you give permission to someone to smother your hearts’ spirit?  Does your heart not know joy and cheer right now?  Find a reason to bring a smile to your heart.  You may have to start with your face but soon enough your heart will catch on.

For the most part I am a happy person.  I manage to smile a lot and try to engage all persons in conversation and I try to make everyone smile right along with me.  There are days that task is very difficult to do but I do it.  People close to me have asked me how I manage to remain so up and so positive.  My answer is simple.  I have two choices:  I chose the easiest one.  I choose to try and make the best out of it because the other option is to continue wallowing in the muck and the mire and after a while, that starts to smell like that young man’s room must have! 

You see, the point is that the young man was happy and optimistic that he would find a pony when in fact there would be no pony found.  But he had the choice and he chose one.  He chose to be happy and optimistic and to put a smile on his face and in his heart.  He refused to focus on the fact that the pony probably wasn’t in there – he made the decision to turn a pretty horrible and no doubt, stinky situation, in to a reason to smile and rejoice.

What choice are you making today?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Precious Stone

What are your special gifts and skills?  I’m not referring to your outward talents like singing, or drawing, and things that you can place on a resume.  I’m referring to intrinsic skills that make you someone special.  What is there about you that people who watch you moving through life say to themselves, “I want what he has”?  Do you wish you were more like someone else?  Whether a relative or a mentor or someone you never met – I’m willing to bet there are certain characteristics of some people that you would love to take on as your own.

A wise woman who was travelling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream.
The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation.

The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime.

But, a few days later, he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said. “I know how valuable this stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious.  Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me this stone."

This man recognized the gift this woman had within her and he wanted it for himself.  Look around you.  There are always opportunities to grow and perhaps the person right next to you has something they can teach you today to help you do it.  Even more important what do you have within you that you can teach others just through the simple act of being yourself? 

Friday, August 3, 2012

God Bless You

What do you think of when someone says, “God bless you?” or when you hear someone say that God has blessed them with a new job, or a great partner, or other gift?  The meaning of the word “barakah”, the Hebrew word translated as ‘blessing’ means ‘gift’.  The root word is ‘baruch’ which actually means to kneel.  This can create a powerful image if you think about it.  God kneels and gives you a gift.  The God of all creation humbles Himself and offers us gifts.

Numbers 6:24-26 is a wonderful benediction.  God gave Moses this specific blessing to give to Aaron to say over the children of Israel and it was spoken each day at the end of each tabernacle and temple service. 

When the priest would raise his arms over the people to bless them, he spreads his fingers and thumbs in the shape of the Hebrew letter ‘shin’.   The image below is an example.  Fans of the original Star Trek series and movies will recognize this as a two-handed version of the Vulcan greeting.  Not a coincidence that the man who portrays Spock is Jewish. He adapted the sign of the priestly blessing to use as this Vulcan greeting.  The shin is chosen because it is the first letter in the name of Shaddai, meaning Almighty One.

Take a few moments today and listen to this magnificent three lines of poetry in a musical setting below.  My prayer is simple for you today:

The Lord bless you and keep you

The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Stand Up and Embrace our Differences

Marcus Aurelius once said, “You always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can’t control.  These things are not asking to be judged by you.  Leave them alone.”

What a powerful insight this man had.  My favorite book, probably my top three favorites ever, is Marcus Aurelius - The Emperor’s Handbook by C. Scot Hicks and David V. Hicks.  It is a new translation of the Meditations which is a combination of the notes of the emperor intended for personal and private use.  I find many wonderful thoughts in these pages and often use it as a platform for writing some of my own meditations.

Recent cultural news events have led thousands of people to take a stand for what they believe in. For the things that they feel are important and just and holy.  Which side is wrong?  We all have our opinion and not everyone can be right.  At times I wonder if ANY of us are right.  Perhaps we have all missed the mark.  Perhaps we could heed some of the emperor’s advice and leave things alone. 

Humanity lacks the ability to do that.  You know the type of people who actually look for confrontation, right?  They seem to look and listen for an opportunity to voice their opinions and typically will do so in total disregard for the people on the other side.  And when pushed, most of us will take a side because our hearts tell us to.  That is part of the human experience – we all approach ideas and topics from a different place.  The challenge is that when our lines cross, do we clash and fight or do we embrace one another, celebrate the mere fact that we have differences, and strive to learn from one another. 

The real question our culture needs to answer is this:  how do we stand up for what we believe in without standing on top of those we oppose?  Is it possible for humanity to agree to disagree and do so in peacefulness, showing love towards one another in all things?  Colossians 3:14 tells us that love is the perfect binding agent for unity.

You recall I Corinthians 12:2-3 which, interestingly enough is a popular wedding scripture.  It tells us that even if we speak many languages and we seem to be able to transcend humanity and share the language of the angels with one another, if we do not have love, than we might as well be clanging a noisy cymbal.  In fact, we could have so much faith that we can, indeed, move mountains but if we have not love, we are absolutely nothing.

Here’s the point I’m trying make.  Enter all things that you do and say with an attitude of love for ALL people, regardless of their viewpoint.  Just because they don’t sound like you does not mean that they are asking to be judged by you.  By speaking in love and sharing with one another our convictions, as long as we continue to show and have love in our hearts, we will all find the truth.

We are different and we all have our strong opinions.  Some of us can be swayed from one side of the issue to another.  Some will never be swayed.  And that is what we need to accept and embrace about humanity.  We are not going to agree with one another but is it possible for all of us to recognize that ALL have fallen short of the grace of God?  Is it possible that we leave well enough alone those things that are out of our control and instead to simply reach across the table, the picket line, the street, the pew – and tell the person that looks different than we are that we love them?  Is it possible that love actually can be the bonding agent that brings unity to the human race?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Come to the Water and Drink

Water.  We bathe in it, we drink it, cook with it, clean with it, play in it, boat on, swim in it, dive in to it…water is so simple yet so versatile and powerful. 

Water is a polar molecule.  It is one of the strongest solvents on earth because it dissolves more than almost any other compound does.  It can stick to things and it can transport itself up small tubes such as plant and tree roots.  The surface tension is high so things float.   Water is so common that we often take it for granted like the air we breathe.

In John 4:1-14 we see an example of how God takes the common and turns them in to something special.  Jacob built a well for water that was used to help sustain life.  1800 years later Christ was seated at that well and used it to transform lives.  He broke barriers with this simple well.  As you may recall Jesus sat at the well where a Samaritan woman was drawing water and he asked her for a drink of it.  She recognized Christ as a Jew and she being a Samaritan woman knew it was not right for Jews to associate with Samaritans or even use the same dishes therefore it was not possible for her to be asked this. 

It wasn’t important to Christ from what community, what body of believers, or what class of people this woman came.  Jesus was merely trying to illustrate to the woman that God is the Living Water from where all our sustenance comes.   I’m pretty sure that Christ was thirsty.  As we all are – we thirst for water and we thirst for the taste of the Holy.  But Christ used it for a Holy opportunity.

She didn’t get it at first.  She wanted this water that Christ was talking about that gave life eternal.  She thought she was just talking to a man next to a well but it was just a hole in the ground and she was talking with the well that offers the water of life.

Christ was not only thirsty for water but he also took this opportunity to use water as a symbol of the life that He offers us.  You see – it is very possible for us to witness some very holy moments in the most common of places.  As we transcend boundaries of status, life, background, history, orientation, and even religious varieties – we then can truly taste the water that Christ offers us.  When we build up fences around the well and demand that only those who look and act like we do can take from it, we have missed the point.

The point of this story is that all people matter to Christ.  Why did he choose to go through Samaria on his journey?  As a result, the town of Sychar got to hear about Christ.  Christ went out of his way to meet just one person.  And he still makes those journeys today.

He came to give us living water and for it to be like a stream within us reaching out to others.  The world is full of people who need it but Christ could do nothing for people who did not know this.  Some people think they are good enough and will not confess their wrongdoings but the woman at the well did so – she admitted she was not worthy and in that simple act Christ said she would be made worthy through the living, healing waters that is Christ Jesus.

Come to the water – drink and be filled.