Seems like the Bad Boys of Wool still have a bunch of Christmas cheer to spread around. So, lets TUNE in and see what's going down in the pasture.
“Please sir…I want some more.” – Oliver
In my heart today is an urgency of unsettledness…a mixture of inquisitiveness and hunger. I want more of something…but what? Christmas does this to me. It upsets my routine, overturns my mundane meanderings and consistently causes me to look at the sky. I try to imagine what I would have done with a star announcing a messiah’s birth. Would I leave my land, my comfort to follow such a sign? What affect would a shepherd story and angel songs have on my life? Would the presence of soldiers threaten me away from belief?
What affect do all these questions (and signs) have on me today?
I realize that I am not content with…contentment…that I want more. Not more stuff, not more possessions or material things, no. This is not a greedy, selfish cry for all of that.
The importance of wanting more is all about a Messiah and the deep desire to be closer to Him. I look at the nighttime sky, at all the beacons pointing to Him and wonder how I lose my way sometimes. Those other “wants” gain volume and attempt to drown out my Master’s voice and I cringe that I allow it to be so. Thankfully, His song penetrates through that gunk and reverbs within my spirit.
I believe the Father draws the “want” from us and direct it towards His heart with that reverb. It synchronizes our heartbeat with His, uniting our songs as one. The hunger for more is a God implant on our soul and it leaves us restless until we find our way to His presence.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. (2) My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Psalm 42:1-2
Did I mention that Christmas does this me? It does so wonderfully. In a little village God reveals Himself in a powerfully humble and relational way. The Incarnation, the birth of Christ, the announcement of the Good News is both a historical marker and a cry to all time and space.
Including that hungry space in my heart.
Yes…please sir, I want some more…and that’s a good thing.
Are you hungry?
The title of my post is not referring to a group of musicians who regularly play at your local bar and grill…although there may be a connection. One ancient meaning for the word “husband” was "the house-band"; a wonderful picture of connecting and keeping together the family. The harmony of marriage plays distinctive tone within a family and I believe my role as “house-band” helps everyone learn their part. My home is the place I play my best music, the surround sound of the songs I sing should deepen the relationships of my wife and children. Night after night the refrain needs to be the same…reminding them of my love and commitment to them.
When I put my children’s needs first…I sing a song.
When I lay my life down for my wife…I sing a song
When I faithfully guard my marriage…I sing a song
The songs connect, the songs unite, and the songs encourage and lift. The singing is a melody of strength when each family member is given room to lift their voice. A strong house-band assures that their voice gets heard and valued. My words, actions, prayers and sacrifices help keep the tempo of family growth steady.
Brothers, you have the count the measures, you can’t forget the words of marriage (the vows), the music you make together with your wife. Here the house-band has to play the loudest, drowning out all other tunes. This is the beautiful part of our strength as men…the ability to hold it together, to hold that note of love as long as God gives us breath.
Father God is the conductor, the maestro of the songs inside us. He orchestrates a man and a woman in the stanzas of married life to produce future life…in and through them. The chords, the downbeats, the riffs, and the rhythm of marriage need a strong lead vocalist…thankfully, He gives us voice to be (and become) a strong house-band.
“GOD, not you, made marriage. His Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage. And what does he want from marriage? Children of God, that's what. So guard the spirit of marriage within you. Don't cheat on your spouse.” Mal 2:15 The Message
"Do not look for God to come in any particular way, but look for Him. That is the way to make room for Him. Expect Him to come, but do not expect Him only in a certain way." - Oswald Chambers
The Christmas season reminds me of many things, all of which requires room and the space for life to enter. Two thousand years ago, an unnamed innkeeper made room (unknown to him) for the Messiah to be born in the last space available…a stable. Perhaps it was compassion for the young pregnant woman and her distressed husband that moved the innkeeper to “make room”, perhaps it was simply a business deal. Whatever the innkeeper’s intent, this much is true…
When you make room for God, the miraculous happens.
And here is my challenge (and perhaps, yours as well) that despite the business of the holiday, the stress of my struggles and the difficulty of my journey…
I will make room for Him.
When I make room for God, miracles do happen, and things I may have not seen as miracles, shine with star power. When I make room for God, I have more space to dream, to love, to give, to follow and to be all I was created to be. When I clear out the soul clutter and open every room of my heart (not just the spare room) I’m ready to open myself to the people in my life (love-ones and otherwise). This is miracle time, when relationships strengthen, when lives are touched with the Good News, when prayers are lifted…all because I make room…for Him.
Let every heart prepare Him room…
“A distant enemy is always preferable to one at the gate.” Emile M. Cioran
My perspective on the recent Penn State revelations of abuse and moral failure is twofold. Being a father of seven and the history of abuse I suffered gives me a unique dual look into what is going on that Pennsylvanian campus and in the lives of the victims.
A national figure, a legend in college football lost his job and perhaps his place in college lore. Worse than losing his hold on college football immortality was the fact that people under his authority hurt innocent children and other authority figures tried to cover up those horrible actions…seeking to protect not the victims, but an image…a brand.
Joe Paterno (and others at the university) failed those children because he wasn’t doing his job as an elder at the gate. His power, his influence over the “city” of Penn State was legendary in its own right; yet, somewhere a decision was made in favor of a coach abusing children in his care…that is not administrating justice at the gate. And there lies the danger for all of us.
In the Old Testament, elders met at the city gates to decide civic matters and make sure justice (right relationship between people) was upheld in the community. During my reflection time this week I read the following:
“In that day the Lord of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people, (6) and a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.” Isaiah 28: 5-6
We all have a “city” (our family) to protect, a “Happy Valley” (our community) to defend. Our personal comfort, our position and our preferences are secondary to that role of gatekeeper. We have been given huge responsibility, tremendous influence and according to the passage in Isaiah…a spirit of justice to judge fairy and wisely. We have also been given strength to turn back the battle at the gate. We can’t let anything interfere with that duty that God has given us.
This time of meditation led me to some deep questioning…
What, who am I responsible to guard?
Who do I let in my “gates”?
What do I hear, ingest, see and experience that potentially causes harm to my “city”?
These are important questions to ask and allow the Holy Spirit to change our hearts in order to be wiser elders at the gate. This is why a company of men is God’s ideal for leadership in a community and to stand together in the defense of our families.
What battle are you turning back at your gate? How I can pray with you?
I was going to write a serious (seriously, I was) post tonight but I decided to re-post one of my famous Top Ten Lists...hopefully it will bring a chuckle or two to your face...which I pretty sure, needs one.
You know a long sermon is coming when...
1. You’re asked to bring a covered dish to share during the sermon.
2. There are coffee pots on the communion table.
3. All the clocks in the sanctuary are missing and you’re asked to surrender
watches at the door.
4. The ushers hand out snacks and cold drinks during the sermon.
5. The sermon notes are carried in by seven ushers.
6. An ambulance crew is standing by.
7. The pastor is hooked up to an intravenous coffee line.
8. The ushers ask if you’ll need overnight accommodations and a wake up call.
9. Your kids ask if it’s still Sunday.
10. The bulletin announces that the longer the sermon goes the more frequent
flier miles you’ll earn.
"And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach." Mark 3:14
This is a loud Scripture for me, it speaks to the core of who I am. In this passage Jesus speaks purpose (appointed) and identity (named), which only happens...with Him. The journey as a disciple has to be WITH the Master, there is no purpose or identity without Him.
There's more..."and he might send them out to preach."
He also promises a direction to go, a mission to help complete the disciple's journey. This relational transference of purpose, identity and direction gives us life...empowering us to walk the talk, and live a life that IS the Gospel, not just sharing but imparting.
That's the with-ness of Christ...a closeness, a tightness, a understanding that I am no longer my own. It's following Him with my entire life wrapped up in Him.
No man can follow Christ and go astray. - William H.P. Faunce
No, I haven’t dropped off the face of the planet or even run out of life stuff to write about…I have been busy with that life stuff. So in order to answer the request of my many fans (wink, wink…you know who you are) here is few reposts of randomness to satisfy the blog crave you’re experiencing (or not) right now. BTW…(sssshhhh) I’m supposed to be sermon prepping right now so lets keep this quiet OK?
A New Beckyism (My nine yr-old daughter) One Sunday not too long ago in church (http://www.bridgebuilderscc.com/HOME.html) our pastor was talking about discipline and he asked the kids a question.
Pastor Tim: “Kids, do your parents talk about discipline at home?
What words do they use?
Becky: (very loud) “Banishment”
Now we are are not talking about sending our children out in the wilderness to suffer but let’s say for example, that when they lose playing video game rights (because of poor behavior)…then they are “banished”. Of course my older kids starting yelling out things like floggings, mind control…I’ll get them later.
Every good movie has a chicken in it, mentions chickens or (in the case of Sci-Fi) has some creature that resembles a chicken. Really bad movies will try to fool you into believing that you’re watching a good movie by randomly throwing a chicken in. However, the attempt is usually lame and obvious.
Now that you know the secret, you’ll never look at films the same way again. Watch for the chicken…it’s worth it.
If I meet you in person and we become friends, I will probably call you bro’, dude or studhead…provided you’re a male that is. Actually, I’ve moved on…now I don’t even have to meet you in person for you to get that honor!
I once traveled in a Christian Band called Charismata…can you find me? Win a valuable prize…well, no prizes but you’ll feel really important if you do!
"It was beyond my wildest dreams to become a military pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps at the young age of 18, serving my country in 'The Greatest Generation' of WWII in North Africa."
- Don Volk
Over the summer I had the pleasure of reading “Tractors, Planes, Golf and Dames” a book about Don Volk a man with quite a story. The good folks over at Five Star Publications contacting me about reviewing Don’s book and I’m so glad they did.
Don’s journey through life is a wonderful story to visit through the pages of his book. From growing up on a farm in the countryside of Utah to serving his country through three wars (WWII, Korea and Vietnam), he has a great story to tell. Add a post military career with the Professional Golf Association and the story takes on another interesting twist.
However, it was the love story woven through both of those legs of his journey that captured my attention. He shares the passion and the compassion that developed through his marriage (and His wife’s illness) with openness and dignity.
Don’s autobiography captures his incredible journey through life and offers up a tale that can inspire and teach us all.
“Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Mark 1:17
This the greatest ongoing invitation ever given…nothing else compares. Entrance to the Kingdom of God is open; Trinity fellowship is ready to be enjoyed and a quest prepared to be shared.
By invitation only…
No pressure, no arm twisting, no gimmicks, no hard sell, no fine print, no strings attached…
Just…Come follow me…
Becoming a disciple requires a choice to follow, a buy in, a sold-out surrender to the call and to the quest to “become”. The invitation is engraved…on our hearts and our reply is to become part of the invitation. We are sent…royal invitations…wrapped in a message of love to share the Good News. The address is applied by the Master, not the disciple, where we follow and where we are sent is in His hands. Thankfully, this is a message “hand delivered” by the Master…we are sent by and in His hands.
Come follow me…what a journey!
“Christ did not appoint professors, but followers. If Christianity ... is not reduplicated in the life of the person expounding it, then he does not expound Christianity, for Christianity is a message about living and can only be expounded by being realized in men's lives.” - Soren Kierkegaard
“ You've been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you.” Clarence, from It’s a Wonderful Life
It takes two men to make one brother. ~ Israel Zangwill
This past Saturday I was given a wonderful gift. A few weeks ago, God moved on one of my close friends (Tom) to arrange a special time of affirmation and prayer…for me. So, five of my closest friends and myself gathered at Tom’s house for three hours of sharing, prayer and encouragement with yours truly being the center of attention. I was completely blown away at this “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment as friend after friend took the time to share how I have impacted their lives. It was a very humbling experience.
There were humorous stories, some manly tears, huge amounts of encouragement and lots of prayer. Did I mention it was a humbling experience? The gift was more than seeing the impact I have had but also seeing the power of brotherness (yes, I know I have invented two words in this blog post). Father God takes men and (if they’re willing) rolls them into a brother. What a powerful gift!
“When brothers agree, no fortress is so strong as their common life.”
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12
This experience has reinforced my belief in brotherness, a friendship that can be described as a God knot, a cord that combines the best qualities of men together. The life I share with my brothers is a testimony to the Father’s commitment to His sons. I am stronger because of my friendships; they “tie” me to path that makes me a better man.
One more thing about Saturday, not only was I blessed by what my brothers said about me, it was their willingness to share their hearts with me that totally blew me away. I was already committed to them…but now the cord is a little tighter between us.
So my challenge is this…
Let’s find ways to strengthen those cords…
Let’s find voices to encourage…
Let’s find hearts to express how grateful we are for each other…
Let’s spread brotherness around…
And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Ezekiel 47:9
I spent a few hours by myself today, down by the Hudson River (pictured above), just a brief drive from my house. I went there to mediate and enjoy the beauty of God's creation...I was surprise how God choose to speak to me there,
First, there was a lot of letting go...my mind had to de-tangle the knots of everydayness, my spirit needed to remove itself from the noise of the now. Yes...letting go...bunches of it.
You don't "try" to enjoy God's beauty...you respond to the music of it. Enjoyment comes from our response and participation to the song of God in nature...His music of creativity. Listening to the song of the river today I hear the Master's voice. In every gentle wave at my feet I heard these words.
Waves of mercy...waves of grace...
Overlapping your sorrow, washing your feet...
I'm bigger than all your hold...let go and flow with me
I came to the river, not feeling burdened or troubled, yet God spoke to those areas. Rather, He sung to those places through the beauty of His creation! The artist in me responded to the...ARTIST in me, the Father of all creation.
How did I respond?
With worship...with wonder...and a song of my own.
Do you hear the music? Do you hear God's song? Take a break and take a listen...
God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.
Soulfari will be on standby while I post a few reruns this week but I’m asking you to NOT standby. Most of this week is prep time for me...on Sunday I step into eldership (along with another brother) at my my church (Bridge Builders Community Church) and I could use your prayers. This is a step that I do not take lightly and already feel the weight of it...that is why I'm trying to take some time to reflect on all God is asking. So, would you please pray for Mike and I as we enter a new phase of our journey with Christ? I appreciate you all and thank you with all my heart.
If you want to drop me a note, a prayer request, advice, whatever…just send it to email@example.com
I'm re-posting a series on Band of Brothers that I hope will encourage you all. Blessings, Jay
It takes two men to make one brother. ~Israel Zangwill
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Proverbs 17:17 ESV
Recently I have been watching my DVD copy of the HBO series Band of Brothers, which tells the story of Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division in World War II. Their motto was…Currahee! We stand alone together! I love this series, and I love listening to the actual accounts of the men who went through extreme sacrifice for their country and for each other. Years have past and these men talk about their “brothers” like they were still in the foxholes with them…their bond was that intimate and deep.
I have been musing about this for days now and the Father led me through an interesting exercise. The outcome of that exercise was mind blowing and I found out this…I am 313 years old…in friend years. Let me explain the exercise and give you a gist of what I discovered.
I wrote down my own band of brothers, using 13 (of my closest friends) as a cutoff number (there are 13 soldiers in the above graphic) and tallied up the number of years we have been friends. Here’s the rough breakdown.
Friend 1 = 47 years
Friend 2 = 37 years
Friend 3 = 35 years
Friend 4 = 35 years
Friend 5 = 35 years
Friend 6 = 20 years
Friend 7 = 20 years
Friend 8 = 20 years
Friend 9 = 20 years
Friend 10 = 18 years
Friend 11 = 11 years
Friend 12 = 7 years
Friend 13 = 3 years
Of these 13 there are five men who I meet monthly with in a group called PointMen, in that group the friend years add to 76. Do you want to know my discovery?
I am rich with friendship years.
I do not compare the stuff my band of brothers has gone through with the sacrifice that members of Easy Company made but we have locked arms through some difficult times…and remained friends. There have been times we have stood alone…together.
We have sat with each in hospital rooms and ER’s, consoled each other when dreams died, encouraged each other when hope were fading and challenged each other when we needed a kick in the pants. We have been together at celebrations and funerals, parties and prayer meetings, vacations and retreats…the common bond of Christ has kept us. I believe in them and I trust they have my back, in deed and in prayer.
Do you have a Band of Brothers?
Do they have your back…and do you cover theirs?
“Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.”
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
Early in my life (grade school) I had a huge speech impediment. How bad was it? Well, let’s just say that I sounded like I was speaking in tongues long before I knew what that meant! I’m not sure how it happened (I suspect my worn out 4th grade teacher) but I found myself enrolled in a speech therapy class with a few other kids. We met once a week with a teacher-therapist person who had the unfortunate job of getting us all to speak clearly.
I don’t remember all the speaking issues represented in our sessions but one kid was a huge stutterer. Me…I was different, I slurred my way through the English language. When I got excited or nervous, I would slur all my words into one long word. Many, many consonants and vowels were injured along the way.
So, every week we would gather in a small room and try our best to repeat the words on the flash cards the speech expert would hold up…this was NOT a good plan. Between my slurring and the other kid’s stuttering I’m sure the other kids never had a change to try their hand (or their tongue) at this exercise. After weeks of slurring and stuttering flash card madness the sessions suddenly stopped. I’m guessing we drove that poor woman to leave and join a nunnery, taking (happily) a vow of silence.
Since those days of slurring sloppiness, God has helped me overcome most of my slippery diction. What remains is mostly unnoticeable and something I use to good-naturedly poke fun at myself. However, for many years I was afraid to raise my voice, to speak in front of people despite the call I felt on my life. I allowed my speech impediment dictate my boldness instead of trusting the Father to help form the words correctly as they rolled off my tongue. It took years, but finally I learned how to speak up and say what was on my heart. I have no problem standing in front of people and speaking and even if I mispronounce a word (or a few dozen) it doesn’t keep me from sharing.
What made the difference?
Believing that God gave me voice…that there was value in what I had to share and even in the way I share it. I’m not the greatest orator, the most compelling speaker or the best communicator you can listen to…but I have a God given voice with a message uniquely mine.
And so do you.
The message of what God has done in your life is huge. It needs to be heard, it needs to be told…by you. It’s too valuable to be stilled by imagined inadequacies, by the enemy’s reminders of what you lack. There is power in the voice the Father has given you…all you have to do is speak up…and trust.
“For I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you!” Luke 21:15 NLT
Grace, full and free...given to me
The cost of Messiah love...spent on me
A King who washes the filth of feet and my soul
Mercy, undeserved and poured out on me
Forgiveness, mine...because He died for me
I don't understand any of these but I rejoice in all of them. What about you...what don't you understand but rejoice in?
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” - 2 Chronicles 7:14
“There are thoughts which are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees.” - Victor Hugo
This is something I wrote ten years just days after the tragedy of 9/11. Like many Americans I struggled for meaning in the midst of overwhelming grief. I wrote and shared through the lens of fatherhood…that’s where it hit me the most. Today I pray for all the families that lost loved ones that horrible September day.
I’ve been struggling for words lately. As there is some distance (time wise) from the events of September 11th, I’m afraid for me (and many others) there isn’t much in the form of distance for my emotional response. My heart breaks when I read the stories of those who lost ones in the tragedies on the ground and in the air. I look in on the peaceful sleeping figures of my children at night and wonder what emotions are in the heart of parents who lost children that terrible day. I make vows to appreciate more, to worry less and yet fell guilty when “normal life” invades my space and I forget for the moment that evil took normal and shoved it down the throats of America. The stories of courage and sacrifice amaze me and make me realize that such stories have always been part of our country and of the Church.
We are a people awakened to a great evil; we find ourselves challenged to have courage and the spirit of sacrifice in all we do from this day forward. The father in me has been slapped awake with the great loss of fathers, and what fathers have lost in the measured madness that was sent our way. The desire to protect, shelter and nurture my children has strengthened in its urgency, but also growing is the sense to prepare them for a world completely different that I grew up in. There is great reason to hope, our Father God is sovereign and is committed to his sons. The guidance we need to be the strong fathers our families (and our nation) need is there for the asking. We will be challenged as providers, as leaders, as comforters, as men of action and as men of faith.
Our fatherhood will be shaped by trials and difficult times, we will need to believe fervently in what the Father says and then obey Him with the tenacity of committed men.
It’s what our families needs…it’s what our nation needs.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, (4) who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
I have been crazy busy lately...so much so that Soulfari has been quiet for a few days. So, what better way to break that silence then the Bad Boys of Wool! Seems like Chop is adding to his frequent flyer miles again...
I been thinking about passion and zeal…the full throttled excitement of following Christ and diving into all that He has for us. This musing and reflection led me to pray for passion to be released in my life…a good prayer don’t you think? Perhaps…but the Father spoke to me about a different approach.
“And endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Romans 5:4
The channel for our passions, for our zeal must be our character. This character, forged by trials, tests, difficult circumstances and even successes, is a hope producer. Character produces hope because it can be counted on. It’s dependable, it’s noticeable, it takes a stand and doesn’t back down. Character shows up and hangs in when times get tough…it is a hero waiting for release.
Character is the throttle on my passion…and I need one…it controls the flow, regulates the release and…makes it more fruitful. I believe with all my heart that we need passion on this journey with Christ but it must be channeled through the character He imparts into us. This way we can passionately produce hope…and share it with people who desperately need it.
“Strong feelings do not necessarily make a strong character. The strength of a man is to be measured by the power of the feelings he subdues not by the power of those which subdue him." - William Carleton
What do you think? Is character and passion a good mix?
As promised it is time to reveal the TWO winners of the God Makes Lemonade book. It took a highly scientific method to randomly pick the contest winners. Watch the exciting video below to see who the lucky winners are!
This is a fantastic collection of faith stories and I'm being blessed by the testimonies. So click on the book and find out how to order one...that is IF you are NOT one of the lucky winners mentioned below.
Lucky winners...please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing info and I'll get your book out ASAP!
"The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:24
Yesterday I came home to find two boxes waiting for me, these boxes contained 20 "God Makes Lemonade" books. Why is this so awesomely cool? Well, I was blessed to have had two of my stories published by these fine folks and now find myself (or rather, my stories) in nine different books (see here for the rest). "God Makes Lemonade" is a collection of inspirational stories that show God's power to change things around, even when they look bleak. I know you will be blessed to read the many accounts of God's faithfulness in the lives of His people.
While I wait on the word from a potential publisher of RETOOLED, these books showing up on my doorstep were a great encouragement to me. They speak to me of His faithfulness to make me a writer...nothing like a pile of books with your work inside to perk you up...if you know what I mean.
So, I would love to give away 2 copies of "God Makes Lemonade" and here's the way to win. Pick one or all…or make one up!
1. Leave a comment on this blog post by 12 p.m. ET on Friday, August 26th. Maybe leave a comment on how God made lemonade out of a sour time in your life.
2. Following me on Twitter. Click the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page. Maybe even Google friend this blog also on right!
3. Retweeting this contest, copy this tweet: Book giveaway! @strategicdad is giving away 2 copies of “God Makes Lemonade” to participants in this contest.
I'll pick the winners over the weekend and let everyone know on Monday the 29th!
This poem is submitted as part of the Warrior Poet Circle hosted by Jason Stasyszen of Connecting to Impact. Click here (or the logo) to read some mighty fine poetry!
My Way, His Way
I breathe a
I walk a
Line my way with
It is His way
to do so.
Jay Cookingham 8-15-11
The Gospel of John (Chapter 21) inspired this (very) short story…and the thoughts that followed.
The sea is calm this morning, the sun bright with early rays. It is a beautiful day for sailing, not so much for fishing. I scan the horizon, my hands covering my eyes against the glare from the water. I’m not sure what I’m hoping to see, we are floating on gentle swells but my thoughts are like a storm within me.
“Where did He go? I wonder, half mumbling under my breath. The others with me take notice but offer no questions of their own, at least out loud. I went fishing to clear my head but it seems all I’m doing is fishing for answers. He was with us…reassuring us, allowing Thomas to touch His wounds and then…gone again.
Where did He go? Why was He coming and going like the wind? Is He coming back? I hate doubting like this, but the questions rolling like an angry sea within me need the Master’s touch…need His peace.
Where is He?
My questions are interrupted by faint, familiar voice calling from the shore…
“Children…did you catch anything?”
Many of you reading are very familiar of this story in John (I still encourage you to read it) and the powerful stories contained in this chapter. However, as I read this I was struck with a thought. During those times of appearing and disappearing…I wonder…
Where did Jesus go?
I mean, it seems that Jesus is just randomly popping in and out of the disciple’s lives. He’s there one moment and then…He vanishes…where does He go? Did you ever wonder that? Am I the only strange one who thinks this is a bit particular? I’m thinking the disciples thought so…at least Peter seems to. Perhaps not knowing if he should wait around for the Master, he makes a decision…to go fishing.
He decides to go back to what was comfortable, he finds no comfort.
He decides to go back to what was profitable, he finds no profit
They have come full circle, this is where Jesus first met them and He is going to reaffirm their calling. He helps them finally understand that they can’t return to what was and find what they need. Following Him is the only way now: fishing at His command is the only true method for capturing the souls of a lost world. How does He do that? He starts with feeding them breakfast…He serves them again…showing the way they need to lead.
What does this mean to me? What is Jesus asking on the shores of my heart? I believe the same thing He asked of the disciples.
I don’t know where Jesus went in between visits to the disciples but I know there are times I ask the same question that I think Peter might have. Moments when I wonder where He is…or where did He go? The stormy circumstances sometimes make me seek out diversions, distractions or things I think will comfort me. I try the old “in my own strength” thing and find out that it just isn’t worth it.
“Jay…did you catch anything?”
My answer is always no (except for maybe trouble) …then He shows me how it works when I rely on Him…I catch more than I hoped for! The truth is that Jesus doesn’t go anywhere but we do try to sail away at times. I am grateful for a Master who knows where I am, where I need to go and is thrilled to lead me.
Where is He? Right by your side.
“Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22
So often we forget to laugh and I know there is so much of life that is simply NOT funny. You take the words relationships, finances, health and I bet each one of us can find a crisis mixed in there...that is the way life is sometimes. So, here is my humble attempt to make to laugh, giggle, smile or perhaps just grin for a moment and in that moment remember...the Father loves to see you laugh. Have a great weekend everyone and God bless you! - Jay
“On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.” Psalm 138:3
I wrote this passage in my journal at the beginning of July and I starting wondering about the word measure.
“… my strength of soul you increased.”
I wonder…how do you measure that? How did David know his soul was stronger? Did he feel it? Was it noticeable to others around him…his royal court…his family…the nation of Israel? How do you calculate that inner increase with certainty? Maybe, it’s as simple as this…
That when you feel like you can’t go on…you do, you stand up and move forward.
That when you feel like you can’t love that one person driving you nuts any more…you do, you love more.
That when you feel like quitting, giving up, throwing in the towel, and running away…you don’t…you stay.
The increase is measured not in “feeling” but in being…being His. I encourage you to find ways to be “His” today…it usually starts with surrender.
We call on you today knowing you will answer us. We declare that the strength of our souls is increased by being with you, we embrace that, we celebrate that and we trust you for that. Let it be measure out in our love and boldness for you! In Jesus name…amen.
“We all got pieces of crazy in us, some bigger pieces than others.” - Cowboy Proverb
Crazy (Slang)- an unpredictable, nonconforming person
“For he is rightly instructed; his God teaches him.” Isaiah 28:26
Do you think I’m crazy?
The verse above (it’s about God teaching a farmer to do farmer things, but I think it applies to me even though I’m not a farmer) and the word crazy have speaking to me the past few days. Add a small case of vertigo and my head is spinning both literally and figuratively…I wonder what God is after?
Am I crazy or am I not crazy enough? Sure it somewhat depends on the definition or perhaps who is doing the defining…maybe it only seems crazy. Maybe I’m crazy as a fox…maybe I’m so unpredictable that I seem unhinged. Or…am I rightly instructed and because of that I appear crazy to the world. This verse in 1st Corinthians 1:18 describes it this way.
“The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out.” 1 Corinthians 1:18 Message Bible
If I’m crazy then it’s “crazy” to…
Follow my God with everything I have
Continue to love my wife as Christ loved the Church
Love my kids as there were designed to be loved
Love the people that God brings in and out of my life
If that’s the definition of crazy…count me in.
What about you…are you crazy?
“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.” ~Sarah Ban Breathnac
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.”
I wrote recently about a dream breeze (you can read part 1 here) but I guess the Father wasn’t done with teaching me. These thoughts came from a conversion with a brother at a graduation party and I think they help complete the thoughts I shared earlier. My friend asked “So, what is God speaking to lately?” So I began to share my thoughts and feelings connected to this whole dream thing and after listening for a while he said this.
“You know, sometimes your dreams might be fulfilled by someone else…are you OK with that?
That question was right from God’s heart and over the course of a couple of days it worked on mine. I think it still is but here are some thoughts…
Your dream is not your possession but you have to own it.
This is the realization that the dream is really God’s but our buy in to it is important. Not just for obedience sake but for the relational aspect of it. The dream is given to draw us in closer and participate in a Holy work with the Father. The dream is His and we are part of it…our hold is not on the dream but on Him.
Your dream might be fulfilled by someone else
My friend’s question made me think of my children. I do believe that dreams are in our seed that we pass on in our children. It’s naturally part of the heritage we impart along the journey with them. It may look different…our children look like us, but not exactly. So the dream-vision thing will look similar but not exactly. God will now express it through their character, their personality and their own journey with Him.
BTW…I am more than OK with that.
So, what do you think about these thoughts? I would love your input!
The Father will often impress on me a single word for me to meditate on for the day…today that word was miracle.
It is a miracle Father God loves me…
It is a miracle my wife loves being married to me…
It is a miracle that my kids think I’m a great dad…
It is a miracle that I have totally awesome friends…
These are genuine miracles…things I contribute to, work on, but can not make happen. They are the result of a God who loves me and desires to rock my world with His presence. These miracles are God moments, holy reflections of His grace and purpose for my life. My participation is part wonder and worship…recognizing and acknowledging the personal touch of God.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~ Albert Einstein
I'm wondering...what miracles do you see?
What do you think of this statement?
"Often, it is so much easier to do something for God then to simply trust in God."
It’s a point that I once made in a sermon a few years ago and it stirred in my heart once again tonight. Walking with Jesus for 40 plus years I know how to do the “Christian Thing”. It’s like doing the hustle (sorry about the disco reference) but without the strange dance moves. But it is a hustle…it presents the “form” or religion thing and not the relational thing. To journey with God has nothing to do with our natural ability (or lack thereof), it doesn’t matter what we bring to the table or what gifts we possess.
What I need to realize is the fact that it isn’t the strength of my character, my experience or my wonderful grip of the scriptures that wins God over. It was simply my need…the need to have Him enter my life. We don’t obey rules and commandments to get us closer to the Father. Like Jesus, we obey and follow because we are already close to Him. Father God knows that on this journey, maturity comes, discipline comes and “right doing” will come. The journey with God imbeds us in a relationship that will change us and benefit the world around us.
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their afflictions, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27
“By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of god. Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness.” - Kingdom of Heaven
Rules are good (most of them) we need right action; (anyone with kids knows this!) Following the Ten Commandments is a very good thing. Sacraments are good life practices. They can be the bridge, the step, and the one thing that awakes us to our need for more of Him. But we need to remember… just following rules and commandments, observing sacraments, are no guarantee of intimacy with the Father.
As I move away from a work list mentality, (and funny dance moves) I realize that I am here for a purpose higher and that like Jesus…I can go around doing good…because I belong to the Father.
That’s what I need…I need to be with Him.
What about you? Do you feel you have to earn your way into His heart?
“You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it's headed next. That's the way it is with everyone 'born from above' by the wind of God, the Spirit of God." John 3:8 The Message
For a visionary guy like me; disappointments seem to be a close companion to the whole casting vision thing. You get a vision, you work on a dream and sometimes they don’t turn out the way you hoped they would…you get disillusioned…perhaps you think about giving up your dream…I know I have.
My spirit gets restless…I feel drained, spent. I look at promises through lenses of doubt and my hope seems blocked…stuck…dry.
What we need is a dream breeze…
We need a flow of God’s grace that awakens; refreshes and invigorates our sensitivity to His leading. We need to feel the cool against the skin of our dream, easing the sweat of our own effort to make it come true. Sometimes our dreams become stagnant because we try to define them instead of seeking vision refinement from the Father. By faith we open the windows of heaven with worship, acknowledging not the dream but the dream giver. At His feet, in His presence our dreams and visions are nourished and refined.
If you feel like your dream is dead, consider this (I had to)…perhaps it was never truly alive. Because apart from Him…they’re not! Many make dreams their life pursuit instead of a passionate following of the Father…no wonder many dreams die before they even take flight. Don’t get me wrong…I like dreams. I believe following dreams is important and to a certain degree, we need them. However, dreams are not reliable…but God is. Dreams are not forever…but God is. Dreams come to an end…God’s loves for us does not.
A dream breeze is a relational thing; it fans the connection between us and God. A breeze invites closeness; we’re drawn to it like a shade tree on a hot summer’s day. A dream breeze brings change…much more than just shaking the dust off or encouraging us. The Holy Spirit blows across ours and we become alive in ways that disappointments can’t touch. This breeze is a holy moment, bringing us closer to His heart.
Dreams are born there…
So...have your dreams disappointed you lately? How can I pray for you?
I’ve been so busy with finishing my book (done), writing up proposal packages (done), and rejecting a contract to said book (done)…that Soulfari has sat quietly for a little while. I decided to repost this because I think that in the middle of life’s pulls and pushes we need to know…really know….
The Father chose us!
“Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.” C.S. Lewis
“You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and ordained you that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you.” John 15:16
I like the word chosen, don’t you? It means handpicked, selected, preferred and claimed by someone. For us, that someone is God and chosen by God is a good thing. A chosen one can clearly see the relational status they have with God. It’s a humble position because we also see that we did not, could not make it happen on our own. We didn’t choose…He did! Fruit grows and remains (or endures) because of love we gain from understanding our Father’s heart. Walking closely with the Father will do that for a chosen person.
Do you KNOW that you’re a chosen one? You need to know…you’re chosen and you are loved. A divine romance indeed.
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” 1 John 4:16