We Can’t Fix Everything, But We Can Hope

When I was practicing law, there was a time when I was struggling after I was not able to help a client that I really thought I could help more than I did. To be truthful, I got a little cocky and ran head first into situation that I shouldn’t have. In the wake of a relative failure, I was feeling bad about me. Still in the courthouse following the embarrassing setback, I was still engaged in beating myself up a little bit when I got jerked out of my self-pity by a crying mother and a little girl.

The mom was facing traffic and drivers license charges that, if convicted, would result in a mandatory ten days in jail. When I met with her before court, she had her young daughter with her and we talked about the possibilities. She was completely worn out from her effort and cascading failures. Her tears flowed generously and her sweet, angelic little daughter reached up assuredly with comfort and compassion.

Her despair and her daughter’s compassion drew tears from me, as well. Then, we re-grouped, said a prayer together and went into court. Hope rose following our prayer and the mood started to shift. When the smoke cleared, the most serious of her charges was reduced and she walked out of the courtroom with some fines but no jail time.

This was a victory. A victory against despair and against hopelessness. A victory against the scars that might have come in the heart and soul of that little girl if there had been the difficult conversation of where mommy will be for the next 10 days. A victory against doubt of the very existence of or interest from a God she had been crying out to.

For me, the victory was over the lies regarding my ability to make a difference for and with people. I’m not saying that I did anything legally significant for this little family, but I am saying that I was there to walk through something with them. I was an advocate for the hurting when they needed one and that is an honor.

We are invited every day to extend our efforts beyond our failures. There are hurting mommas and sweet daughters all around us to invite us into the hope and honor of standing with others. We can’t fix everything, but we can hope with everyone.

 

Wisdom Requires Lower Gears

I love driving in the mountains as it requires different techniques than what become routine in the city. Routine driving amounts to gas, brake and steering. Going up and down mountains requires consideration of the brakes or they will get burned up. When ascending and descending, the gas is required to get up the inclines but the brakes will smoke and turn red if you ride them to slow down on the declines too much.

The solution is changing gears. You have to drop down to a lower gear to allow the engine to do the work. The lower gear cause the engine to turn faster and, in effect, lose some of its efficiency. When going down hill in low gear, the higher revolving engine slows the car without using the brake. Then, a shift back into high gear puts you in position to go up the next incline.

I was going up and down a mountain yesterday and thinking about the dynamics of what it takes. It seemed like a good picture for where I am in the broader context. I feel like I’m traversing windy roads that go up and down and the same old habits of brake and gas are not sufficient for navigating the course. I have to be skilled and dropping into a different gear.

As I turn fifty, I’m finding that less is more. As I hit challenges and circumstances, I’m learning not to just apply the gas and press the brakes. I’m learning to throttle back. Otherwise, my brakes start smoking and you can smell the friction.

Working with people requires emotional coasting. While they are working their stuff, I can’t make it my stuff. When their perspective and intentions don’t align with mine, I need to allow for lower gears to get me down the hill as things are worked out. Lower gears, in this case, means security in my identity that affords me the calm that comes with confidence. My emotions can’t take the ride that the road suggests; they have to be governed or I’ll burn up.

Less is more and God is a better driver than me. I’m learning how to trust Him with me and others differently. I don’t always get it right and I can tell when that is the case by smelling the friction of my emotions. When I am able to trust God with my circumstances and know that He is good and for me, I can release the need to speed up and slow down where I should be coasting and letting the engine do the work.

Concession is Not Belief

Our culture and traditions can lead us to believe things that aren’t true. We are conditioned by our surroundings and our surroundings can suggest we are entitled. We can believe, from our culture, traditions and surroundings, that we believe when we actually don’t.

Belief is more than acclimation. Belief is transformation. Belief will be evident in our exclamation.

1 John 4:15 tells us, “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.” Honestly, that seems pretty easy; just acknowledge and you are good to go. That bar seems so low that heaven will most certainly be overcrowded.

The idea that shows up as “acknowledges” in that verse may mean more than we think, however. That word can mean, “to agree with” and it can even mean “to concede.” Wow . . . is it possible that John was writing that if we’ll simply concede that Jesus is the Son of God, we are then God carriers? We are born again by concession? Concession is about the same as, “I give up; you win,” so the conceder can move on to another subject. I don’t think so.

Other meanings for that word include “to profess,” as in to profess yourself as a worshipper. Finally, that word by definition, can mean “to praise, celebrate.” Now we are on to something.

When our acknowledgement is more than a concussion, but a profession as a worshipper who praises and celebrates Jesus as the Son of God, then there is evidence that God lives in us and us in Him. That is evidence of new birth by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus.

Cultural Christianity where church attendance and polite concession is not evidence of our belief. Sold out, all in, life changing celebration, praise and worship of Jesus as Son of God is.

We can get fooled into thinking that we are Jesus followers by our suburban insulation and Sunday morning habits. In some ways, those that are in the depths of depravity are better off in that they cannot be fooled into believing they believe. Maybe that’s why God loves us so much that He tells us in Revelation 3:16 that we should either be hot or cold, but lukewarm will get us spit out. Hot is praising, worshipping and celebrating Jesus as the Son of God, cold isn’t self-deceived into thinking they might concede and lukewarm is an aberrant alternative that is deadly in its compromise.

Getting Out of Jail

When I was serving as a mentor in the youth prison system, one of the things that those teenage boys shared in common was that they had been (or were) members of gangs. We were in a small group discussion and there was a revelation for one of those young men when he said something like, “you know, I think I joined a gang because I wanted to feel loved. ”  What led him to that realization was that we were able to connect the dots of dysfunction he had experienced in his own family.

His family was a mess so he went to the gang to fulfill the voids left by a broken family. Being a member of a gang was a perverted fulfillment of a legitimate need.

On a different occasion, another young man shared about a time when he and his fellow gang members were preparing for a retaliatory drive by shooting against another gang. I stopped him and asked, “what does the preparation look like; sitting around with drugs and alcohol, talking about who would drive, who would sit where, who would carry which weapons, etc.?” He said that was about right.

I pressed in on this and tried for figure out why a 15 or 16-year-old would be driven to put themselves into harm’s way such as that. What was the motivator?

We went back and forth and ended up at purpose. They did it because they saw it as an extension of the purposes of the gang. They didn’t care about school or work, just gang business along with street credibility and reputation. When a gang threatened them, it threatened the community which facilitated their purpose. Purpose is a legitimate need and this was a perverted fulfillment of that need.

They are no different from the rest of us, really. The contrast of their perverted attempts to fulfill legitimate needs is more glaring than many of us experience. At the core, however, we are the same. There are things we need and if we buy into lies that lead to illegitimate attempts to fulfill legitimate needs, we end up in some form of trouble.

We will enjoy the consequences or benefits of whichever path we pursue. Where we pursue legitimate fulfillment through the One that designed us with the legitimate needs, we will know the benefits of satisfaction. Where we take shortcuts or detours, we will have to deal with the consequences.

Those young men were not serving life sentences and neither are we. Where we miss, we can change our minds. We don’t have to stay in the incarceration of our poor choices forever, but getting out of those internal prisons comes with the discipline of one day at a time. One day at a time, seeking Jesus where we have depended on our own form of gang to replace Him and His family.

God is Present Among Us

Like everyone, I have been working through various challenges that are practical in nature. There are real and present circumstances that require attention and that attention is tangible. The actions and reactions are manifest in and around people.

At the same time, I have been intently and purposefully drawing near to God. I went through a season where I felt a bit disconnected and lacking any intimacy with Him. The times of connection which I have been finding with Him as I pursue depth are rich and refreshing.

Recently, I noticed a collision of the practical and the private. The refreshment of intimate connection to the love of the Father played out in the practical decision-making process. Was I saw was the multiplication of His presence as the manifestation of His wisdom was displayed through community.

As I discussed a thought process and developing strategy with two people who serve as wise counsel and co-laborers, one of them offered, “when you first started talking about this, I believe God stirred in me, ‘not this week.'”

The second person confirmed that they were stirred to wait in similar fashion as there was an upcoming event that they believed needed to unfold first. Same counsel, different yet consistent reasoning.

The counsel and the rationale, in both instances, resonated with me as right and true. The wisdom of the Lord was manifesting in the counsel of those that know Him. In this case, there were three of us.

We draw into the love of the Father by the grace of Jesus. We seek the filling and refreshing of the Holy Spirit as we draw near to Him. We need to be refreshed and connected through times of individual worship, study and prayer. Then the walking out of our purpose in agreement with Him is with others.

The fellowship of the Holy Spirit, as referenced in 2 Corinthians 13:14, is played out in the fellowship of others. He manifests, as often as not, through others that are intimately connected with Him. There is agreement and grace when we are submitted in humility, one to another, to allow for His wisdom to be manifest through His carriers. His carriers are us.

There are no rogue prophets. We seek his voice and insight submitted one to the other (1 Corinthians 14:32). The natural application of the supernatural begs for agreement between imperfect vessels of the Perfect. If and when we will allow Him to speak through us and among us, then He will be displayed through us. All of us as the corporate body will put Him on display, not a single one of us elevated to His place as the Head.

The First Thing Fuels the Other Things

I was running on empty lately because I was running from my own ability. I have been invited into good things, eternal things, but I was applying temporary efforts to an eternal equation. The cost of the disconnection was my own relationship with the One that extended the invitation in the first place.

Our ability is fueled by our source. If we are the source of all that we seek to do, the well is perpetually running dry. We can get things done for as long as the weekends, whiskey, vacations, television, computer, exercise or other indulgences afford us the chance to escape. Those escapes, however, provide a stop-gap re-charge to a reservoir that is destined for empty.

The only way to realize the fullness of life in the living of life is by connection to the Source of life. Connection to the Source is intimacy, not knowledge. In fact, the intimacy is what fuels the understanding that is required for interpretation of knowledge.

He’s a Father. He birthed us from the design that He had for us. The plans for our lives are connected to eternity. As my friends David Terry and Marc Owings say, we are hardwired straight from the factory. Our hard wiring is for connection to the One that put the wires there in the first place.

Eternal purpose requires eternal supply. Temporal supply to an eternal purpose yields a diminishing return. In other words, even ministry and the stuff that we do “for God” requires God to fuel it. His fuel is relational connection. It’s intimacy.

Intimacy with the Father fuels everything. It fuels friendships and marriage. It fuels family and work. It fuels purpose and destiny. Intimacy with the Father is the point. The rest of the stuff is secondary.

C.S. Lewis said, “Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lose both first and second things.”

The first thing is Him. He is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We when are routinely engaged in an intimate relationship with Him, that stuff comes out of us. When that stuff isn’t there, we are probably our own source. Even when we are trying to do His stuff. Doing His stuff without Him was never the plan.