Absolutely Abba

It’s only been five months and it’s pretty surreal. The absence of my father is so permanent that the pain of the permanence is the hurt that re-visits most often. It’s also the place where the mirage of the faint and passing thoughts that I am about to see him show up. Those brief and passing moments where I forget the unforgettable give way quickly to the realization of reality.

With that said, I am not an orphan. My father on earth has gone the way of all the earth, but my Father in Heaven is increasingly prominent in my consciousness. The infinity of God co-exists with the intimacy of God and He is Father in the connection of distant to personal.

No matter what the challenge or celebration is, the need for a Dad is real for all of us. We want and need the pivotal relationship with an earthly father and where there are fractures or voids, we hurt and want. The earthly father experience, however, is a flawed and temporal expression of the perfect and eternal identity of who God is for us and through us if we will simply come home to Him.

Coming home to the Father is a daily choice made first and foremost in our will. It’s not a theological debate nor is it complicated set of rules to follow. Our return to the Father through the grace and sacrifice of Jesus is a daily submission of our will and our lives to His goodness and sovereignty. It’s our will that has to die first.

When we will submit our wants, the return on that investment is freedom. When we die to our drivers and choose to depend wholly on the One who is Holy, the fruit of His life can come through us. We can exchange our anxiety and self-consciousness for His peace and love. He loves His kids and that love is the greatest satisfier of any of the wants, fears or forecasts we entertain when we are driving.

Trust is fostered in the silence. Time spent quietly considering and connecting to God as Abba, or Father, or Daddy is an investment into the satisfaction of things that otherwise unleash my will to have its way. These brief and passing moments where I realize the Absolute give way to temporary distractions of earthly temptations and I am in need of my Abba again. Thankfully, I am not an orphan and He shows up time and time again.

Destruction of Our Escape is an Act of Love

There is a persistent temptation to imagine things how they could be and a trap that is set for us as we move towards our imaginations. Our imaginations of tranquility projected into lake, mountain or beach homes, perfect jobs, abundant resources, etc. are illusions. The imaginations won’t include our vulnerabilities, insecurities or the totality of our humanity.

If only we could fix the conditions that agitate our peace, then we will have arrived. Time, relationships, money and jobs (or lack thereof) are common areas we would like to fortify within our preferences. Within the walls of our desired fortress, however, is us and outside the boundaries of our protections is a world full of trouble that won’t be held back.

Where does God reside in our efforts to build a perfect life? Who is sovereign in our imagination?

Where we limit and submit Him to us, then we assume the place and responsibility He holds. We sit on His throne and rule in sovereignty that is inferior yet temporarily primary. We idolize our ability to create an existence that exceeds a need for Him as our Lord. We idolize us.

It is His love that tears down our castles. He is the one that graciously destroys the efforts of our idolatry. There is a fine line between love and anger and, in this case, His anger is love. His pursuit of us despite us is merciful and loving without regard to our arrogance and isolationism.

“The Sovereign Lord has sworn by himself—the Lord God Almighty declares: “I abhor the pride of Jacob and detest his fortresses; I will deliver up the city and everything in it.” Amos 6:8.

God swears by Himself because He can, but when we attempt to do the same, we fall short. Ultimately, He will tear down our fortresses and pride for our good. He will leave us in a heap of ruins and when we look up to survey the aftermath, we may finally actually see Him for Who He is, not who we attempted to imagine Him into being.

Freedom is found in identity. Our identity as declared and decided by a Creator that loves us and wants a relationship with the real us. His identity, as well, in actuality and not in the imaginative attempts to create an oasis for ourselves in the middle of life’s realities.

I’ve Found an Enemy I Can Kill

One of my favorite television shows ever is “The West Wing.” In one episode of that series, Admiral Fitzwallace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is arguing with Leo McGarry, the President’s Chief of Staff. The argument is over a foreign leader that has planned a terrorist attack against the United States and what they are going to do about it. Fitzwallace tells Leo, “I’ve been a soldier for thirty-eight years, and I’ve found an enemy I can kill.”

Well, I’ve found an enemy that I can kill and I need to kill it. The enemy that I’ve identified is my love for the distraction I find in electronics. It has become an enemy to my soul.

Increasingly, I’ve preferred the satisfaction I’ve perceived in the busyness of typing, swiping, scrolling and posting. It’s cost me my solitude and that has cost me relationship.

Practically, it costs that depth of relationship the comes in the nuance. The opportunities that are available waiting for someone else to arrive. Even discomfort in those times is valuable as the tension requires effort.

Spiritually, it costs the depth of intimacy available with an invisible God waiting on me to draw near. Jesus simply won’t post, text, email or provide any competition to those that do. The choice is mine.

The times that I’ve set aside to meet with Him have all too often been compromised by my inattention and distraction. Lately, I’ve been intentional about changing that. I’ve been intentional about killing my enemy, which is within me.

I’ve started to leave my phone in my office or car when I am at meetings or lunches. I’ve started limiting the times that I’m interested in checking for and responding to emails, phone calls, texts, etc. Most importantly, I’ve started walking past my phone in the morning as I head into my office to spend time seeking the Lord. The return on the investment has been sweet. The life that I am finding in the wake of what I am killing is tangible.

There is discipline in this and there has been temptation. I’ve literally had to pray, “Lord, I want to go type something or check something right now; will You help me?” He has and He will because He is faithful. I’m saying it out loud because I’ve found a treasure that I want to share and also because I know that I am tempted to go back to the distraction. Declaring that helps to defeat that.

 

Thanksgiving Changes Everything

Tomorrow we celebrate and remember as we give thanks. The opportunity we seize is available every day. If we choose to extend our appreciation beyond a November day, we will enjoy the benefits of a posture prone to betterment.

Thanks is available as a remedy despite challenges; not submitting to them. Where there are difficulties in our circumstances, faith and hope may be required to accompany thanks. Hope does not disappoint.

Hope defeats despair and provides fuel for transforming. Moving from the present reality to the future promise requires agreement in the form of hope.

By contrast, where there is abundance and blessings, recognition of their Source affords us the humility to be entrusted. When we are thankful, there is a posture of dependency which defers glory. Glory properly attributed gives way to glory multiplied.

Either condition, difficulty or decadence, is a gift for the development of our soul. When we can submit our mind, will and emotions in thanksgiving to the One that changes everything, He will change us for the better.

Freedom is a Process

I was watching an old television show recently in which the bad guy got off on a technicality. He had committed a crime, but the police circumvented the legal process in the accumulation of evidence and the bad guy was set free to do more bad things.

In the practice of criminal law, the question usually isn’t whether they did it or not; it’s whether or not there is evidence to prove it. To some, this can be frustrating as the obvious guilt of an individual calls out for justice. Technicalities, procedure and process seem like a distraction from the point. In fact, respect for liberty requires the process. This is the design of our legal system.

Freedom requires a process. We can’t enjoy the fullness of freedom unless we are willing to go through the process. The uncovering of bondage, hurt and hang-ups is necessary for the realization of freedom, healing and release. This is God’s design.

To get to greater realizations of God’s love, grace and fellowship, we sometimes have to examine the void. We have to look into the areas of our lives where He is not manifest. In those inspections, we will find the opportunities for new glory.

This can be frustrating. Why would a mature follower of Jesus still have to examine their soul? Why would deacons, elders, pastors and other leaders need to go back to square one from time to time? To respect the process; that’s why.

The process is one of exchange. Redemption requires possession and the things that we want to change must be realized to be possessed. Once they are acknowledged and owned, they can be turned in for what is better.

We are all invited into new glory and the new glory is from an infinite Source. There is no end to the goodness and glory of God, so there is no end to the process for us. None of us are exempted from God’s goodness so none of us are afforded the disservice of opting out of the process. The process is the way to realize the freedom.

Order facilitates freedom and freedom facilitates glory. Consider where you are in the process today and ask God if there is more glory that He wants to unleash in your life. As He reveals things that He wants to make new, go there. Embrace the process.

The Lens of Grace (from Abundant and Free)

I was raised by an Army officer  and eventually became an Army officer myself. There are many good things about growing up or training in that environment. At the same time, there is a lens through which those so trained see people that can make life difficult. When the mission is critical, judgment of others can be, as well. There can be harsh, rigid assessment of people based on their performance and contribution to the mission.

After my time as an Army officer, I eventually went to law school, passed the bar, took the oath and for a season made a living standing in courtrooms arguing cases. As an advocate, I continually viewed people and their stories through my law knowledge filter. I applied that filter to things that led to the disposition of the question in the case as well as procedures compared to the rules of admission. If the opposing party tried to get inadmissible evidence into the record or question a witness in a way not allowed, I would object. It was part of my duty to my client.

Even though I no longer argue cases in a courtroom, I find myself sometimes thinking like an attorney. I don’t think the word “objection,” but often form a thought regarding something or someone I find “objectionable.”

In doing so, I make a case against another person in my mind. This is particularly true when I perceive the other person has a responsibility to behave a certain way.

The judgment I pronounce is a revelation of the lens through which I see people. I’ve discovered I turn that same lens on myself. I struggle to be satisfied with anything less than excellence, so I struggle to be satisfied. I compare my behaviors, performance, accomplishments and the evidence of my success to an external standard and make a case against myself.

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things” (Romans 12:2).

The judgment I form against others is the standard for the judgment I form against myself. Where I compare them to expectations, I hold myself to those same expectations. Where I give grace, I am able to receive grace. I see people through a lens, and like it or not, that lens is the same for me.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17)

Because of Jesus, we have a choice: We can labor under the yoke of the law or we can submit to the reins of the truth. Jesus replaced the law with the truth, because the law is a subsection of the truth. The truth is the broader reality. We no longer need the law because Jesus is the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Grace is the lens through which we are invited to view the truth. We either see through Moses or through Jesus; therefore, we see ourselves either as guilty or forgiven and will see others as we see ourselves. If you want to know what you think of yourself, consider how you think of others.

From Abundant and Free; Seeing Life Through the Lens of Grace, now available on Amazon.com.