I was listening to K-LOVE Christian radio this AM, as always, and a caller spoke to the morning DJ Amy to Thank her for her generosity. He had asked her some time ago to play a song that would help him and his family deal with the passing of his brother. She played Tauren Wells’ “When We Pray”. What he mostly heard was the word “Pray”. Everyone has pain. Everyone laments. Not everyone finds a way out from pain and grief. It calls to mind 2 things I read yesterday in a book my friend Rick M gifted me recently about lament. ( At the time, Rick had been undergoing multiple leg surgeries for what was ultimately a condition requiring a totally unanticipated bilateral amputation of both legs above the knee) : The first thing I read was a personal note enclosed with the book which read: “Hi Jim,- The pain is intractable as I write this. Thought you might like a copy as one who has known great grief. Rick.” So sensitive and mindful. He was referring to the loss of our daughter 8 years ago. The second a quote from the book: “….. lament is humbly turning to God through the pain. It takes faith to lay our painful questions before the Lord. Anyone can cry, but it takes faith to turn to God in lament.”

“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings while the dawn of still dark.”- Unknown

(Book quote from “Dark Cloud, Deep Mercy. Discovering the Grace of Lament by Mark Vroegop”).

What does Easter and Father’s Day share in common in my mind?

I decided about 15 years ago that I don’t really need a Father’s Day to celebrate my Fatherhood. I distinctly remember the discussion with my son Michael: ” Mike, I want you to know that EVERY day is Father’s day to me. It’s a 365 day celebration in my mind, in my heart.” Fatherhood does things to you. You appreciate so much more than you did prior to your first day of Fatherhood. And along with the celebrations come the realizations of what comes with it; constant love, commitment, responsibilities, life lessons, teaching, forgiveness … the list goes on. And these are daily connections to Fatherhood; they’re not separable. They’re tightly intertwined. Like a luggage set, except we travel around with them ALL. We cannot decide “I’ll go along in life with the little travel bag from now on.” It’s the whole kit and caboodle. And yet knowing that , we take it all on with GREAT joy ! There is NOTHING like Fatherhood. It’s something I celebrate daily, including one day every year in the month of June. I would never imagine living things differently having become a Father.

But it was only yesterday I realized I don’t really need Easter to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. I realized that EVERY day I celebrate the Resurrection. It’s a 365 day celebration in my heart. Fervent Faith and Prayer does things to us. We Believe in Jesus, we Believe Jesus. And with that belief comes the realizations of what comes with it: constant love, commitment, sharing, servitude, constant learnings, forgiveness…. and the list goes on. And like Fatherhood, they are inseparable. For sure, our imperfections sometimes reveal the worst in us; we wish, we pray that we could walk exactly as Jesus did but we’re only human. Thankfully, His lovingkindness is everlasting AND our sin debt has already been paid in full. Our Father loves us as no other parent can love his child. And He will never leave us nor forsake us; He has never left the side of a broken person. And all this made me realize that I’ve been celebrating the Resurrection EVERY day since attending a Sunrise Service on an April Easter Morning in 2012. I am filled with near complete peace and joy with every Lenten Season that passes and every Easter Sunday. And I celebrate EVERY day as an Easter / Resurrection Day because I wouldn’t have the today I have without all that Jesus did for us almost 2 thousand years ago. And Jesus did this so that this kind of peace, joy and daily commitment would be available to all of us. We only need to believe in Him. We only need to Believe Him. HAPPY EASTER / RESURRECTION DAY ! THE LORD HAS RISEN

” One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” Romans 14:5 (ESV)

HALLELUJAH, Our Almighty Living Heavenly Gracious God, HALLELUJAH! Thank you for the promise to never leave us nor forsake us as evidenced by your son Jesus’ life and death and all He does for us still.  Because of Him we have been provided an array of  currencies; loving, sharing, forgiveness, supporting, teaching, servitude, all which, when spent here through our faith, glorify your name and make us spiritually wealthier by it. A wealth far beyond our own means would allow. Only by your Grace and the forgiveness of all sins through the sacrifice of your Son can we the undeserving look forward to a full life here on earth and an everlasting life with you in heaven. Hallelujah ! Halleluja

“Whoever Is Not Against You is With You”

Today I was reminded of the story of a visiting teacher who came into town to educate some of his students on how they might best communicate the tenets of their discipline. There were perhaps 12-15 invited to the lecture and they gathered together in eager anticipation. Over several hours they were instructed by their mentor on a variety of techniques and pieces of advice on educating others why it was important that they hear about their own studies and what it meant to them.

A short time later a few of the attendees observed two invitees who chose not to attend conversing with members of their township. And they were speaking on the topic the visiting teacher originally came to lecture on earlier that week. Since the visiting teacher was still in town, a few of those newly educated approached the teacher and said “Teacher, we’ve observed two men in the town who are going about speaking of your tenets yet they did not attend your lectures !”. The teacher listened to what the non-attendees had to say about what they observed. He heard only that while they did not attend the lecture, they also were not contradicting the teacher’s training. To that the teacher replied “Do not stop them, for if they are not against us then they are with us” The teacher here is Jesus. The two ‘outsiders’ were followers but weren’t seen attending the teachers earlier lectures. They were noticed to be driving out demons from the afflicted. (Luke 9:49:50)

I think these are important concepts for todays times. We see this story played out in our daily lives, in the media, in the experiences we share amongst ourselves. We’ve all done this: Where we find (ourselves or see) others observing a given activity, find their commentaries unpalatable, make a determination on same, and then , given that dissonance between what we believe and what they said (or did), arrive at the conclusion that “if they’re not with us then they are altogether, in every other aspect, against us.” We over-extend our estimation, our judgements from a single instance and apply it over a person’s lifetime (of which we may know very little about). We” throw the baby out with the bath water”.

If we do find ourselves doing this in the future, and we all will, at a minimum it will deserve self-reflection, introspection; try to answer the questions “Why do I feel this way?” Is it about something in our past which still hurts that this person has touched on? Maybe it doesn’t exactly fit with how we feel about the situation? Maybe it bothers us because it speaks about someone we love? If it is not specifically about you as an individual then why object to it? What might have made it more palatable to listen to ? Why was it personal to you or are we just part of the rabble? If we step far enough away from the singular is the “whole” really different from His message? A specific criticism about the situation is one thing, and freedom of speech is the law of our land, so by all means have at it. But is the contested action/message worth throwing the baby out with the bathwater? This all reminds me of another favorite quote: “Scripture is Sacred, but the methods are flexible.”. As we approach Easter Sunday, let us pray that we have His eyes and see our situations as He would see them and have His wisdom on how we view it.

” Give a warm welcome to any brother who wants to join you, even though his faith is weak. Don’t criticize him for having different ideas from yours about what is right and wrong.” Romans 14:1 (TLB)

“We often look at life thinking ‘ Life is the dance and we are the dancer ‘ when in actuality He is the dancer and we are His dance”

Recently I shared a post in which a women was seeking wisdom to help her get through the recent hardship of a loved ones passing. The wise man told her that there are times when God gives us bread, but we want more and we ask for toast. But maybe the bread is enough for what we need now.

My wife often needs to tell me “It’s not all about you, Jim”. How true, how true. Reflecting on a devotional I read today I’m reminded that He knows every part of what is happening in our lives. So in a different way, we can also look at this such that WE are the bread and He is the baker. And we are being prepared and perfected. “When we have gone into the furnace of affliction, His hand is on the thermostat and His eye is on the clock.” (Anon). All hardships happen for a reason. And in the process of enduring our trials , benefiting from the Holy Spirit given to us and our fellow believers’ comforting and wisdom which came through similar experiences, we find ourselves becoming the toast we thought we needed to have at a different time in our life.
Too often we try to produce a solution out of a sternly exacting environment and never get what we wanted; the “toast”, only to find out later that we become the toast, His toast, if we’re willing to wait and trust in Him and all the plans He has for us and those around us. He has bigger plans. And that It’s not only about us

” Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight” -Proverbs 3:5-6

The Peace Available to Us.

A lifelong dear friend left me a VM yesterday asking me to call her. Though she’s in a very difficult time in her life, she shared a wonderful and gentle story which might leave some of us wanting. Her Mom is slowly dying. And the beauty of it is that both of them are anything but sorrowful over it. I’ve met her Mom. A beautiful soul who exudes kindness in every word. I hear she feels she’s “lived a good life” and I think they both feel the same way . In a separate conversation, a mutual friend talked with her Mom and spent time with her prayerfully. The friend reminded her Mom of all she would experience in afterlife including seeing her brother again. (He passed several years ago. ) And her Mom’s face lit up like a christmas tree!!! “OH, YES!” she exclaimed with a great smile on her face. And my friend too expressed a similar peace; peace having enjoyed the loving togetherness only a mother and daughter can understand. At Peace with her Mother’s upcoming end of days here;. that what had to be done for her Mom up to today she provided lovingly and willingly. And she’s in the same place as her Mom about what their tomorrow’s will look like.

Here’s what I think is the most important part of this story: Both my friend and her Mom’s faith provides them the peace which that same faith offers every believer when we’re “all in”. And that peace is not only available on our deathbed.

But we DO have to be “all in” for that Peace to be durable moving forward. As we approach Easter we are reminded through this real life blessing what’s needed here: we need to die away from this world and know where our real home is with God, and we must believe that Jesus died and rose again for our salvation, removing all sin and affording the freedom to focus entirely on Him. When we believe that, then His Grace IS sufficient and we can live TODAY in the peace he left us, the peace he gave us, long before our the end of days here become our own personal reality.

” But now I come to You and these things I speak in the world so that they may have my joy made full in themselves”

– John 7:13 NASB

“I finally learned to stop lighting myself on fire to keep other people warm”

It saddens me to see, hear or feel someone’s (or my own) sufferings. It saddens me to see, hear or feel someone’s (or my own) sufferings which then hurts another. Sometimes I’m sad when I think I see someone who suffers but I feel shouldn’t have to but instead they feel dutiful to carrying a large burden for another. There are so many variations to suffering. And healing. In all these instances, when I recognize I am suffering, I refocus and “Let Go, Let God.” It can be very hard at times. There’s a direct curating with the degree of suffering and reaching the freedom from It. It sometimes challenges my faith, impassioning a need for an increase. Its easy when things are going easily in our lives. When things aren’t, not so much. We should be glad that God has put that onus on us, and for others in all these ways and more. Once I refocus on Him most of the time I find myself again glad for my trials. Glad for your trials . Glad for my difficult discussions. Glad for your difficult discussions. Glad for our difficult discussions. God has a plan that is far beyond our comprehension. This is how the potter is shaping us. He is patient as well we should be. We have the choice to take his help and lean less on our mortal understandings. To cease striving, know that He is God.

(Title quote from The Laws of Attraction FB page)

Watching and waiting…..

The last two weeks I’ve listened to sermons on Waiting on the Lord, the importance of it, the why’s and why nots. Out of curiosity, i searched the bible for that phrase and 33 citations came up. What i found both interesting and uplifting included the fact yes we are often waiting, sometimes impatiently, obediently or by His instruction , ….. AND God is often waiting too. He is waiting on us to gain the wisdom he desires of us, he is waiting for the right time to bless us with the best things we need to move forward from a situation, to be gracious, to be merciful to us. To answer our fervent and faithful prayers. While we are never deserving of His favour, we need only to acknowledge His son died for us so that we could enjoy eternal salvation and the lives we live today, knowing that through our faith and patience, we will constantly see the goodness of the Lord. Here, now, today! He is more patient and loving than we can ever imagine. We must be patient about His patience; not try to get ahead of His plans for us. When we’re able to do that, our desires and this world’s perspectives and peculiar behaviors will appear childlike in comparison. And we will enjoy His peace.