Don’t Run Ahead; Enjoy the Walk

When my children were young, I made them hold my hand as we walked through parking lots. We would talk along the way, and I would tell them where we were going. I didn’t tell them so they could let go of my hand and run ahead. That would be dangerous. I told them so we could walk together toward the destination because I enjoyed them and wanted relationship to raise them into maturity. I don’t hold their hands in the parking lot as I used to, but I still don’t want them to run ahead. The enjoyment in walking toward the destination is in the companionship.

God created each of us for great and glorious things. Those things are for His glory and the advancement and fulfillment of His purposes. Our part is to agree with Him in His purposes and be conduits of His glory. As such, God does not use us; God includes us. We don’t do things for God; we do things with God. Those are big differences.

Once we gain vision and purpose, the biggest challenge for many is the pace with which we approach that vision. Deciding we will be “used” by God to work “for” Him, we likely will run ahead and be about our purpose rather than His purpose for us. There’s more than a little irony in this arrangement. When we embrace purpose so tightly that we think it’s ours, we are actually choosing to exclude the One that created us for that purpose.

“When you have eaten your ll in this land, be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 6:11–12).

God warned the Israelites—and you and me—what happens when we look around and think we’ve actually done something. If we run ahead to do things for God instead of walking with Him, we will almost certainly get to the place of some accomplishment and think we did it. In truth, we may have not depended on Him at all. Any accomplishment limited to us is always less than what He wants to accomplish with us. He’ll show us where we are going, but not so we can run ahead. He wants us to enjoy the walk.

Once we taste and know the greatness of the glorious, we’ll never again be satis ed with the mediocrity of the mundane. By His grace, and in our obedience to His invitation(s), He walks with us toward the fulfillment of our grand design.

We pursue a purpose that requires our effort in agreement with the One whose purpose it is. Just like the defense attorney, we are called to be zealous about the tasks of our day; we are not, however, called to own the outcome. When the world sees us owning the outcome, the only God they see in our lives is ourselves.

The whisper of God to our spirit to race toward a destiny of significance is not a prompt toward behavior. It’s a reminder from our Father that by His grace we have access. We have a race to run, but we don’t have a result to control. We run with disciplined passion and commitment, and then trust the results to the promises.

From “Abundant and Free” available on Amazon by clicking here.

Writing in the Dirt

When practicing law, I routinely defended people who had broken the law.  In those days, people – mostly Christian people – often asked how I could morally support my decision to be an advocate for the immoral.  The answer was easy.  Jesus is our advocate, even though we did “it” in some form or fashion.  The case is airtight against us, but He doesn’t turn from us.  The chance to be an advocate for guilty people was the chance to stand beside them, just as Jesus stands beside us.

In the case of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus’ method of defense was peculiar.  As her accusers loudly proclaimed the woman’s guilt, Jesus silently stooped down and wrote in the dirt with His finger.  The Pharisees would not relent; they continued to batter Jesus with the question of what they should do to the woman in light of the Law.  After a short time, Jesus stood and invited anyone without sin to begin the prescribed punishment of stoning by throwing the first rock.  Then, He stooped down and continued writing in the dirt.

No one could throw the first stone.  One by one, the crowd dispersed until only Jesus and the woman remained.  Interestingly, verse 9 of John 8 says it was the older men who left first.  The older men left first because they had sinned the most, if for no other reason than they had lived the longest so they had the most practice.

Writing in the dirt was the primary tactic Jesus used in defense of the woman.  As odd as it seems, Jesus’ act of using His finger to write on the earth was a foreshadowing of the exchange He was here to make.  God had written in the earth with His finger previously, and here He was doing it again.

The first time God’s finger wrote on the earth was when He wrote the Ten Commandments on stone tablets, some of the very writings the Pharisees hoped to use to condemn the woman.  God wrote the Law twice, as Moses broke the first set of tablets.  Now, here He is, in the form of Jesus, again writing in the earth, again twice.  What He wrote was “grace upon grace” (John 1:16), just as He had written the Law, and then wrote it again.  Perfect satisfaction; it is finished.

The first time God wrote in the earth, He wrote the Law; the second time, He wrote grace.  Jesus came to satisfy the Law for us, since we can’t just as the old men of John 8:9 couldn’t.  Our perspectives of God and people (starting with ourselves) are evident in what we “write” with our words and attitudes.  We are either writing law or grace, and we can only write what we first receive.  Realizing that we are not unlike the woman Jesus refused to condemn allows us to receive grace just as it allowed me to defend those who did “it,” too.

From “Abundant and Free,” available at Amazon by clicking here.

 

 

The Never Ending Salute

Seven months later, we ebb and flow in the adjustment to my father’s absence. Following weeks of apparent resolution to the deep, tangible grief, there is a relapse of pain that can be momentary or persistent. Triggers can range from pictures to places to experiences to nothing at all.

I’ve said recently, “I think Dad underestimated the impact of his departure.” It’s because he did. He didn’t understand the power of his presence. He was deferential and humble, especially with family as he served us without any apparent expectations of a quid pro quo return. His investment was into the legacy that his humility wouldn’t allow him to entertain credit for.

His life had changed the last 15 years or so. I didn’t see him cry until he was in his 60’s. You could guarantee his tears in the past decade every time he went to talk about us with any spotlight at all, including something as private as a prayer before a family dinner. My father was transformed.

Increasingly over the past several years, my dad had some health challenges. Sometimes they would limit his ability to do things but mostly they would cause him to feel bad. I didn’t realize the extent of it until after his death as my mother has shared some of the details. He never put it on display or drew attention to himself, and at times he walked further or smiled more than his body would have made easy for him.

The gradual yet evident demise of his capacity wore on his soul, too. He didn’t want to be a burden or burdened; he lived with purpose and with passion. He was mentally sharp and his ideas were weighted with wisdom and vision. That wisdom and vision combined with his selflessness to serve had always put him in motion but as his motion was increasingly limited the frustration would set in.

The value, however, of his place in the room was likely not something he ever completely embraced. As such, he was not overly impressed with the possibility of death. He wasn’t reckless by any means, but he was not afraid either. If he had known with greater certainty, I suspect, that he was a mountain of comfort and confidence in our lives then he might have been a little more hesitant to embrace the glory of eternity.

At his memorial service, the picture above was taken during the playing of taps. He received my first salute when I became a Second Lieutenant and I offered him his final salute (and possibly the final salute I offer) as a gesture which had meant something to both he and I. The gesture, however, is a temporary effort to convey eternal gratitude, honor and love.

Even the Nuance of Freedom is Valuable

I just returned from a week in Israel, which I visited for the fist time. The experience was rich and informative, even if that information was sometimes found in the nuance of the culture. There is a diversity of feelings that accompany the tension of religions, cultures and epochs colliding. It is the epicenter of history and prophecy with contrasting beliefs sprouting up from the same historical realities. There were times that I was moved to tears even while observing practices or traditions that I don’t even agree with.

At the Western wall, I was moved to tears as orthodox jews prayed to the same God I believe in while vehemently rejecting His Son, Jesus, who was a Jew. The story that they embrace is continued in the Testament that I receive yet there is a disconnect after Malachi and before Matthew. Despite the common heritage, there is a chasm in the legacy of 2000 years. Despite our significant differences, I perceived the presence of our common God.

On the other side of that wall is a golden dome on top of a mosque where an entirely different people group reject the beliefs and the people of the original covenant as well as the Newer Testament. The Western Wall is small compared to the enormous separation.

While there is a relatively peaceful coexistence in this country compared to what we perceive by way of the news, there is tension that leads to violence routinely, as well. Jewish waiters with Gentile girlfriends work at Arab restaurants but Israeli armies fight Palestinian forces so routinely that it is expected as “when,” not “if.” One Jewish man I met said, “There is going to be a war here” when referring to Jerusalem and Biblically that is accurate.

We live in an entirely different world, with practically no appreciation for or realization of the centuries old intricacies of that region. Our lens is one of freedom where we don’t think twice about the lack of limitations that are placed on our religious beliefs, practices or preferences. The societal conflicts we have in this country which are rooted in religion pale in comparison to the environment of contention which is managed in the land from which our primary practices of faith were born.

Tonight and tomorrow, we celebrate freedom. The cost of freedom was lives and compromises that not only keep us from oppression but even from the tension of the nuance. Christians and others are free to worship in a way that is not automatic, even though our freedom threatens our appreciation for the scarcity of its existence globally. Celebrate the fact that freedom is not only afforded, but that the realities that are just under the surface don’t threaten our enjoyment and feelings surrounding the freedom itself.

“And” Keeps “Or” from Being Weird or Rigid

All too often, we hear that things need to be “balanced” and what is meant is that they need to be under control. Control is an illusion and pursuit of control is typically dysfunctional. Balance isn’t control and it isn’t compromise; it’s order. Balance should agree with the order of things and often it presents a tension. Tension is good as it presents opportunities for stretching without breaking.

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” – Ephesians 1:17

The prayer in Ephesians is for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation; not the Spirit of wisdom or revelation. Holy Spirit is wisdom with revelation. Revelation and wisdom; both together at the same time.

All too often, we can orient towards one or the other, preferring either wisdom or revelation. Where we prefer wisdom, knowledge and experience will trump the mystery. The ability to control, manage and maneuver will supersede any awe and wonder of the power of God.

Where revelation is preferred, the idea that God is speaking will trump the need to ensure Biblical accuracy. Potential revelation, left to its own merits, is potentially fallible. It has to be subject to the infallible Word and allowed context that comes with counsel from a diverse gift mix in a community. There can be no rogue prophets.

It seems reasonable to consider revelation, or the realization of eternal truth by hearing, seeing or knowing to be the “what” that God is making clear. If it lines up with the Word and proves trustworthy from the test of wise counsel, it leaves open the “when” and “how” of wisdom. Just because you know something, it doesn’t mean it’s time to do anything.

Often times, God will let us in on His plans, but it isn’t for us to get things done for Him. It’s simply to be relational and invites us to pray. We get to pray in accordance with the revelation and watch as we agree with heaven on earth. It builds our faith and includes us in the advancement of an eternal Kingdom.

Hold it loosely and walk with the humility required of submission. Pray first, act sometimes. Listen closely and pay attention; we are all invited into the eternal perspective. Eternal perspective is orderly; not controlled or compromised.

The Target of Greater Peace

Don’t you hate it when you have them right where you want them but there’s nothing you can do? Well, you can, but you know better and you want more. They are wrong, you are right and you can win the argument but the opportunity is for peace. Peace externally and peace internally.

I’ve been asking God to change me on the inside. I have disciplined myself to react in a mature and controlled manner most of the time. Not all of the time, as I am a work in progress, but generally I can stay the course even when inside I am churning. I’m asking God to exchange that churn for His peace. I don’t want to just act right; I want to be right.

The shift from problem solving and process working to relational connection and graceful submission is challenging. Being OK to let the other person be right even when they are wrong is challenging. Preserving the possibility of relationship even when you’d prefer to walk away is transformative.

God is doing what I’ve asked Him to do, slowly but surely, at the cost of me. I am finding the shift is through pain, frustration, justice denied and other realities that reveal stuff to be redeemed within me. Every time that I am wrong and don’t have to be, or not right when I could be, my soul grows in its capacity for peace. That peace is born internally from discomfort externally to then be played out and offered externally.

Discomfort for the benefit of transformation is a good idea but difficult reality. Our transformation will cost us our preferences but the exchange is that our preferences are ultimately matured and developed. We move from immature us to increasingly reflect Him through us. That’s simple but not easy and worth it but not cheap.