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Archive for the ‘prayer’ Category

“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.  Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation,  and make me willing to obey you (Psalm 51:10-12).”

There is a trail that runs between  my town and the other major city in my area that I have been wanting to hike. As the weather this week is unseasonably cool and overcast, I thought that today would be as good a time as any.

I was even more convinced I needed to go on this walk last night. I read of a man who felt very cold in his spirit and walked back and forth for three hours dealing with it.

I did not have a very good day yesterday. It didn’t get any better  this morning.

I had not been out of bed long when our power went out. I was cranky and irritable, and it spilled out in how I treated my family. Come hell or high water, I knew I needed to get out on that trail and look under the hood.

The Hucklberry Trail  begins at a shopping mall and ends six miles later at the public library in my town.  It meanders along railroad tracks, rural roads and streams.

The trail runs through a forest. As the hiker gets closer to my  town, it runs by cornfields and pasture land. The vista becomes quite wide and the Blue Ridge Mountains come into view.

Eventually, the trail curves and goes under the bypass and onto the campus of the local university. It continues by the football stadium, which houses the local idol worshipped here on Saturday afternoons. I am only half joking : ).

As I began my walk, I begin to search my spirit for muck. I asked God to reveal it.

I have been particularly frustrated by my current unemployment. I can’t seem to find a job good enough to fit my skill set and support my family.

I recently turned down a job offer in Asia and other opportunities elsewere in the States because I felt like God had led me to return from my overseas post and stay put where my family lives.

I determined before I left this overseas assignment that I am needed at home, and my own walk with Him would benefit from the fellowship at my church. The Lord seemed to back this up in speaking to me from the Scriptures.

In returning home, I believed I would best be “seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33)”. The “bargain” with God (if you will) is that  He would meet our financial needs. Yesterday I was wondering down deep in my heart where God’s end of  this deal was.

I told my wife this morning that I felt like the Lord was sqaushing me. Indeed, I had read a verse earlier in the week which pretty much told me that. He is mashing me like a piece of clay these days (Isaiah 45:9).

I am hopeful that God is actually answering my prayers in this process. While my situation is not easy, I am trusting that perhaps He is remaking me for new purposes that will glorify Him.

There is Scriptural precedent for God doing this. He once  remade the whole nation of Israel. He led Jeremiah down to a potter’s house to give him the object lesson:

The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said,“Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.”  So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel.  But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.  Then the Lord gave me this message:  “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. (Jeremiah 18:1-6).

Hiking down the Huckleberry Trail, I was taken by scenery that reminded me of the legacy from which I came. The railroad track reminded me that my father once earned his living working on trains.

The small park which memorializes the coal mine that used to be there also made me look at my bloodlines. My grandfather was a coal miner a a  good part of his life.

Thus, God affirmed the goodness of work to me by noting how my grandfather and father worked to provide for their loved ones. A good man leaves behind a legacy to his kids of industrious labor. My patriarchs surely did that for me.

The Scriputes  also illustrate through  Jesus’s Jewish ancestors what it means to give our children a legacy.  Abraham and Rahab left behind a godly heritage for the Son of Man. They were models of faith combined with action (James 2:21-25). 

The trail not only gave me teaching from my heritage. It also put into my mind that there are dangers out  there which can destroy me.

A man walked by with a dog. From afar, it seemed to be loose and perhaps menacing. Then, as man and pet came closer, I noticed the leash.

God brought to mind that Satan is out there ready to devour me. However, God will rein him in if I do what He tells me to do, which is to resist that beast (James 4:7).

However, the Lord had more than the externala for me out there this morning. He got down to business by having me look at my own heart. One mess in  there is my battle to be bold in sharing the gospel.

I saw a man about a hundred yardd ahead of me. I thought I should try to catch up to him and share about Jesus, but it was inconvenient. I didn’t want to be bothered.

In addition, I wondered why I was motivated to share with this man out of guilt. Where was the joy of knowing Christ that made me overflow with excitement at the prospect of telling this man about Him. “Oh, wretched man that I am”, was the message in my soul at that point. 

The trail was also prone to temptations. A scantily clad woman jogged by. I thankfully only glanced her way, but I was reminded of  a dependency that I know I have which can wreck my soul if I let it: lust.

I was aggravated at that woman. “Why, doesn’t that woman know that she tempts me and subjects herself to predators on lonely stretches like  this!”

I also was teed off by the bikers who kept coming by from behind and warning me of their presence. (“On your left!).

I jump out of my skin when that happens and have had a pet peeve toward bikers all summer. I was humbled when I saw that along the way a billboard revealing the park rules which REQUIRE bikers to warn pedestrians as they come upon them.

Thus, the Lord  gave me a new item in my messy heart to deal with out on the path: a critical spirit. As with my other known sins, I confessed them and obtained God’s forgiveness and cleansing (I John 1:9).

Yes, the walk today was a “flush and fill” operation. I am hoping that a lot of the trash heap in my life was swept away by bringing it before God to clean up.

I’m also desirous that the garbage in my heart was replaced with the blessed Holy Spirit. I surely need His presence and leading in the days ahead.

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The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do (Psalm 12:5 New Living Translation).”

“If this were another time, they would’ve had pitchforks and lanterns in their hands.  They were out for vengeance.”

The reporter on a recent news feature is talking about a crowd in a small town in Ohio gathered around the courthouse. They are after one Chris Coleman.

“Chris Coleman: Loving Family Man or Killer”  reads a headline flashed on the screen. Coleman, the security head for a major televangelist, is accused of strangling his wife and two beautiful young boys in their sleep.

Various parties with an interest in the case are interviewed: the police, attorneys, Coleman’s parents, his wife Sherri’s family, and neighbors. They all  contribute their thinking as to what happened and how they feel.

The crime Coleman is accused of is particularly heinous.  One person interviewed commented,”This crime was about greed, sex, selfishness and narcsissism.”.

Coleman is accused in the program of creating a scenario in which he has been threatened with hate mail because the author wants to get at his  popular televangelist, boss. The writer of the Emails says they will destroy Coleman’s family if his boss doesn’t keep quiet.

As the show progesses, evidence is shown that reveals Coleman is having an affair with one of his wife’s high school friends.  A reporter says, “Investigators believe all this pain was caused by Chris Coleman’s obsession.”

It also presents other evidence which points at Coleman doing the crime.  For example, hate messages created on the walls of his house during the muder, purportedly created by the person sending the threatening Emails, were apparently in fact written in his handwriting. Indeed, after further investigation, viewers learn that the Emails themselves have come from Coleman’s laptop.

Once it is clear Coleman is the main suspect, the already grieving community is torn asunder. For example, one woman tells the interviewer,”I’ve talked to some of the other Moms in the community and their children are wondering if their Dad could do the same thing.”

Coleman’s parents remain adamant that their son could not have possibly done such a thing. The father is a Christian minister. It seems from the facts presented that they are in denial.

The “Christian” aspect of the case gets large play. Highlighted are the fact that Coleman’s employer would definitely not have tolerated his adultery had they known about it.

One close friend of Sherri says,”As a Christian I feel like it is imperative that I forgive because Jesus forgave me. And I want to forgive with my whole heart.”

The interviewer asks,”What makes it so hard to do that?”

The woman replies,”“Because they were so innocent.”

Coleman is found guilty. When the verdict is reach, the large throng outside the courtroom erupts in cheers as if they were at a major sporting event. He still denys his role two years later.

The fallout Sherri’s family is suing  Coleman’s televangelism ministry employer. They claim that the ministry should have investigated him because they had clues to his conduct.

One hundrend and fourteen comments currently are posted on the news shows website. In them viewers express their opinions and attack each other and the people portayed on the show.

Our society abounds with such cases. As one friend of mine has lamented,”Why do I watch the news! There are some sick hombres out there.”

Cases like Colemans not only attract sensational media attention. They also garner sociologists who try to come to some understanding of what is happening. 

“Church Ethics and Its Organizational Context” is a series of essays aimed at learning from the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church which has come to light of late. One of these reports is called “The Sexual Abuse Scandal as Social Drama”, written by Jean M. Bartunek.

In this piece Bartunek lays forth the idea that extraordinary events cause the stakeholders to try to make sense out of them. She says their perceptions of what they thought was reality have been thrown out of balance. 

Bartunek notes that all the “players” in this scandal have different needs and motivations, They also come to different conclusions in an attempt to make sense of the issue and take a variety of actions.

These stakeholders include the victims’ families, the clergy, parents in the community, lay Catholics, attorneys, the Church hierarchy and even perpetrators. She indicates that these different viewpoints create what she calls a “social drama”, which Bartunek  credits  Victor Turner with defining as “an event that revolves around a breach of group or societal norms or rules in some important public matter.”

Further, Bartunek notes that this kind of event is “a volatile episode that interrupts the otherwise smooth surface of routine life in a social setting and reveals underlying tensions there.”  She indicates that these tensions among the stakeholders  need to be resolved in order for the crisis to really completely go away.

Just as it is difficult to come to grips with the idea that Coleman could murder his beautiful family, it is also a tall order to get all the parties involved in something like the sexual abuse of children to come to a meeting of the minds and get at the truth. Frankly, I believe it is well nigh impossible.

Injustice is a given in this life. It will never ever go away until Jesus returns and justice may not really be served until then, even though it apparently has been done in Coleman’s case.

I think God was thinking of this lack of closure when he included the imprecatory Psalms in the Bible.  These are prayers in which the Psalmist asks  God to curse his enemies.

In fact, these “enemies” were in some cases trustworthy companions at one time. Here is an example of this kind of prayer:

 My God, whom I praise,
    do not remain silent,
for people who are wicked and deceitful
    have opened their mouths against me;
    they have spoken against me with lying tongues. 
 With words of hatred they surround me;
    they attack me without cause.
In return for my friendship they accuse me,
    but I am a man of prayer.
They repay me evil for good,
    and hatred for my friendship (Psalm 109:1-5).

The Psalmist goes on to wish all kinds of woe on their opponents. Their desires include that God would cause the antagonist to die, to make their kids into beggars, and for Him to make that their families suffer financial ruin. The Psalmist goes so far as to ask God to NOT forgive their sins.

As the close friend of Sherri Coleman learned, it is a difficult thing to forgive others, especially those who have betrayed our love. The imprecatory Psalms show that God understands that and I believe they are in the Bible so that we can give full vent to our feelings.

These Psalms reveal that it is God who ultimately will judge and get vengeance on wrongdoers. In fact, this principle keeps me from taking my own revenge because I have determined that whatever God dishes out has to be far worse than anything I can do.

My thinking is that if I DO get my own vengeance, then God will say,”Well, you got justice your own way so I am doing no more with this case.” So I stay out of it as best I can and let God take care of things in His time and in His way!

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“The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe, but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit (Proverbs 28:18).”

On January 30, 1972 a large number of people in Northern Ireland decided to thwart the British government’s ban on public protests in their area and took  to the streets.  By the end of the day, 26 people were dead.

The event, known as “Bloody Sunday”, shook Ireland. Meant to be a nonviolent protest against discrimination along the lines of those held by Martin Luther King, Jr. in America,  the protest was just the opposite.

British soldiers stormed through the predominantly Catholic crowd shooting protestors. Official accounts immediately following the massacre cleared the British troops of wrongdoing.

According to the soldiers involved, the killings were justified because the protestors were armed and using their weapons against them. Most eyewitnesses disputed these claims, but to not avail, at least at the time.

As depicted in the movie, “Bloody Sunday”, the truth was that the British troops went crazy. They basically murdered many unarmed civilians without cause.

The film reveals wounded people in the  crowd being targeted by the soldiers. In one instance, one of them shoots a protestor lying on the ground at point blank range.

The movie’s portrayal of events are true. Later government investigations determined that the killings were out-and-out murder.

One cannot help but become angry watching “Bloody Sunday”.  How could the government allow such a thing to happen?

Surely, the protest was illegal. In addition, there had been violence between radical IRA elements and British troops. However, nothing justified the murders which occurred on “Bloody Sunday”.

Most of my life I have witnessed such protests as this one on television and generally thought the government was in the right. After all, they are there to protect us and ensure the common good.

In fact, I have always been something of a “good soldier”. I am not one to rock the boat or hold contests with authorities.

However, in the last year something has changed in my attitude.  This is because I have begun to be personally affected by what is nothing more than corruption in high places.

For the first time in my life, I have experienced moral rot in high places that has impacted me. I haven’t dealt with the experience very well. In fact, I have at times squealed like a pig.

I think part of this sense of injustice comes from my having originally been one who trusts established institutions and authorities. As  a Christian, I have subscribed to biblical teachings that tell me to submit to these powers (I Peter 2:13-21; Romans 13:1-7).  

I have understood that those in authority arent’t perfect. I understand that they are human.

However, what I have found is that they are in fact not always worthy of my trust, which to me is something needed for respect to happen. I have seen in my own deaslings what I interpret as either chosen ignorance, or perhaps worse, cowardice by people entrusted with power over me.

It has been very disheartening. People who I thought had my back did not.

We humans are created in God’s image.  Yet, I should not be surprised that we don’t carry it very well. God has told us that in His Word:

God presides in the great assembly;
   he renders judgment among the “gods”:

 “How long will you defend the unjust
   and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
   uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
   deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

 “The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
   They walk about in darkness;
   all the foundations of the earth are shaken. (Psalm 82:1-5)

When the corrupt are in power over you, your world gets rocked. No wonder the Bible tells us that people in such a condition lay low, hoping to avoid trouble (Proverbs 28:12,28).

Oh, how wonderful it would be to be surrounded by people like David’s mighty men. These fellas had his back.

They looked out for him and kept his enemies at bay. When most people deserted David, they hung tough. These guys are described in II Samuel 23.

For example, Eleazar killed Philistines alone with David until he was too tired to hold his weapon anymore. Of course, the rest of the army only showed up to collect the benefts (v 9,10).

Then there was Shammah. He stood alone in a field when once again the Israelite army had fled. Shammah, however, held his ground and the Lord gave him a great victory (11,12).

When David wistfully longed for a drink of water from the well of his hometown, a troika of  these boys snuck by the Philistine garrison there and brought some back to him. David was so awestruck by this action that he refused to drink the water.

He gave it in worship to the Lord in thankfulness for men who would risk their lives for him on a minor whim (v. 13-17). David knew these men were rare, and a gift from God. 

My favorite “Mighty Man” was Benaiah.  He is described as having done “many mighty deeds”.

My favorite of these  is when he chased a lion down into a pit with only a club. Benaiah scrambled down this muddy hole and killed the beast (v 20). How many people do you know that actually run TOWARD a dangerous animal?

The Scriptures indicate that corrupt authorities who have power over you are similar to a menacing predator. The wise man of Proverbs describes them as “like a roaring lion or charging bear” (Proverbs 28:15).

It is difficult to know what to do when you are faced with people like this. My own prayer of late has been the Serenity Prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Behind all this tainted behavior in high places is a menace the Scriptures describe as a lion: the Devil himself (I Peter 5:8). He is mad as hell because he knows the jig is up, so he is out there ready to take it out on believers like me (Revelation 12:12).

I am willing to follow the biblical admonitions to stay alert and resist him when he attacks . However, I don’t think I have the wherewithal or the courage to actually chase him down into his hole as Benaiah did.

This would mean I’d have to go on the offensive against Satan and his power grab around me. That’s asking a lot from one person.

However, there is a Mighty Man willing to take on the task I can’t. It is the almighty and all powerful king of kings and lord of lord: namely, Jesus Christ.

As I walk the unclean halls of power in my life, which for me are unmanageable, I can trust Him to keep the devil down in his hole there. There is no doubt He will give me the insight to do business that will glorify Him, help me keep my footing on those slippery paths, and protect me along the way.

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“As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me.  Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.  He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me (Psalm 55:16-18).”

Sometimes you watch a movie which, right after you have finished, you realize you will have to watch again. Either the flick was just plain enjoyable, or it was so complicated you will need another viewing just to understand it.

The hit movie “Inception” is one of those productions which needs to be seen another time. It is fun and full of action.

In addition, the plot is difficult to analyze in one sitting. Fantasy flicks like this one sometimes are. As writer Ben Bova says, in a science fiction or fantasy you are asking someone to believe and comprehend the unknown.

In “Inception”, a team of thieves led by a man named Cobb enter the mind of a  corporate executive’s mind through his dreams to plant an idea which will benefit one of his business opponents.  This planting the seed of an idea is what is termed “inception” in the movie.

It is an additional and seemingly impossible step for the crooks. Usually, they are just asked to extract valuable information for their clients.

What makes “Inception” complex is that there are numerous people entering each others’ dreams. Furthermore, in the attempt to suggest an idea to the businessman, a man named Fischer, the thieves must convince him he is participating in his own dream and not someone else’s.

Where “Inception” really gets sticky is when the wife of the team leader enters the dreams.  She is a projection of Cobb’s mind, and appropriately named Mal.

She seeks to get rid of anyone in dreams in which Cobb participates. This is because she wants him to remain with her in an eternal dream state.

The truth is that Mal is dead. She is a projection of Cobb’s mind.

Mal killed herself when she could not seperate reality from her dream world. She became confused as to which world was which.

When she came out of a long dream with Cobb (one which in dream time lasted a lifetime) to the real world, she still thought she was dreaming. What is worse, it is Cobb who planted the idea during the dream that her world wasn’t real.

He did this so he could get her to wake up from the dream, which was so pleasant. As a result, Cobb is riddled with guilt and carries her around in the dream states he enters.

In “Inception”, the team probes so deeply into the corporate executive’s subconscious that they need to be deeply sedated. In such a case, if one dies in the dream, he or she enters a state called “limbo” and are unable to awake. They stay in the dream and grow old, with their minds becoming increasingly addled.

At the end of the movie, the man that hired the team in the first place ends up in such a conditon. He meets up with Cobb, however, who has come to “limbo” to rescue him, and the thief convinces him of the truth. They both awake and come back to reality.

In the confusing world we live in today, I sometimes have a difficult time seperating truth from untruth. I know others do as well.

Indeed, this week I have been dealing with a person who, when I talk with them, it seems as if they exist in another world. When I say something is black ,they say it is white.

An associate of mine met up with this person as well. My friend told me that the person is either not behaving normally, or is playing some kind of very intelligent game.

I would have never noticed. I tend to be very obtuse when it comes to reading people.

In the Scriptures, there is a story of a relationship similar to the one I have with this either deluded of game-playing person. It is the account of David and his wife Michal.

Michal is the daughter of King Saul. She was given to David as his wife by Saul after one of the young man’s successful military exploits.

However, David and Saul had a falling out and Michal’s father gave her to another man. As the Life Recovery Bible notes, this led to years of separation and pain.

Eventually Saul was killed, David became King of Israel and Michal was returned to him. The Life Recovery Bible mentions that Michal and David never really addressed the problems in their relationship.

This led to a well-known incident recorded in II Samuel 6.  Right before this encounter between David and Michal, David had just brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, a major spiritual achievement and one with profound meaning for Israel.

Michal wasn’t so excited. In fact, the Bible says she looked out and David dancing and celebrating and “was filled with contempt for him (II Samuel 6:16b)”.

It didn’t matter one iota that David was successful outside his home. He was a bust to her as a husband, and that’s all that matters.

Here is the conversation that transpired shortly afterwards:

 When David returned home to bless his own family, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!”

 David retorted to Michal, “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord.  Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes! But those servant girls you mentioned will indeed think I am distinguished!” So Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her entire life. (II Samuel 6:20-23)

I don’t know whether the failure to produce any children was due to her break in her relationship with David or whether it was a judgment from God over her abuse of David’s pursuit of God’s work. In any case, she had quite a different view of reality than David.

As the Life Recovery Bible indicates, David was at fault as well.  The commentary on this incident says that it was representative of David’s failure in relationships in general.

When I think of this story, I struggle to make a right judgment. It makes me even more uncomfortable when I think of my own life and how difficult it is to unravel some of the complicated messes I have made.

What is true in my case? What is reality?

I understand that Satan can enter into my head just as Cobb and his team moved into people’s dreams in “Inception”. He can plant ideas in my brain and even make me believe they are mine.

It is scary, frankly. How am I to ever fix my relationships if I can’t get at reality in them?

There is something that does give me at least a glimmer of hope, however. It is the Scriptures.

They act similarly to an object used regularly in the movie “Inception”. In the flick, each person entering a dream had what they called a “totem”.

A definition of the object as used in the flick is provided by Inception’s Wiki:

A Totem is an object that is used to test if oneself is in one’s own reality (dream or non-dream) and not in another person’s dream. A Totem has a specially modified weight, balance, or feel in the real world but in a dream of someone who does not know it well, the characteristics of the totem will very likely be off. In order to protect its integrity, only the totem’s owner should ever handle it. That way, the owner is able to tell whether or not they are in someone else’s dream. In the owner’s own dream world, the totem will feel correct. Any ordinary object which has been in some way modified to affect its balance, weight, or feel will work as a totem.

For example, Cobb has a spinning top as a totem. One of it characteristics is that if it acts normally and stops spinning, he is awake. If it continues to spin, he knows he is dreaming.

The Bible is my focal point of reality. It is the truth as written by God, whose Son Jesus is the “way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). When things are too convoluted and tangled for me to grasp truth, I can look to it to establish my sanity.

In “Inception”, a lot of the action comes from Fischer’s dream projections of armed men who seek to protect him. He has been trained to prevent incursions into his mind by such people as Cobb and the projections are part of his defense. Cobb and his teams are constantly under attack from these defenders in Fischer’s mind.

If I want to keep my own mind sound, I need to simultaneously concentrate on God’s truth from His Word, cry out to Him, and listen to His Holy Spirit within me  (John 17:17). And I need to do it all the time.

It’s the only way I can defend against mental invasions from the Evil One or anyone else who wants to warp reality addle my brain.

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“Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water (Psalm 114:7,8).”

“My head is stuck in the clouds
She begs me to come down
Says “Boy quit foolin’ around”
I told her “I love the view from up here
Warm sun and wind in my ear
We’ll watch the world from above
As it turns to the rhythm of love” (Plain White T)

I’ve been told I live between my ears. On the negative side, one could accuse me of being too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. I hope I am not worthy of the criticism.

It just seems sometimes that all I have are my wits and my brain. Is that so wrong?

Since I was a young man I have been told I could write. I am now not too far from old age, and I have never used that gift to its fullest.

My mind just seems to be able to connect the dots on some things. Then I can produce them on paper.

Not always, though. I can write as much junk as anyone else.

“A penny for my thoughts, oh no, I’ll sell them for a dollar
They’re worth so much more after I’m a goner
And maybe then you’ll hear the words I been singin’
Funny when you’re dead how people start listenin.” (Kimberly Perry)

The song these lyrics come from concerns the tragedy of dying young. In my case, the tragedy in dying would be to leave nothing behind.

When you get to be my age, you begin thinking about your legacy. I know.  I know. The real legacy for a husband and father like me should be what I leave to my family. In that regard, I know I have a long way to go.

For the sake of this piece, let’s just stick to the outside world. Although I think I can think and I have written that I can write, I have very little in print at the moment to leave to anybody.

I think I might be a little what Richard Ford, the Pulitzer Prize winning author, portrayed his character Frank Bascombe to be: dreamy. Dreamy is when you go into a trance and forget the real world.

But is that so bad? Maybe being dreamy is what makes someone like me happy.

One of my friends just posted an article on Facebook which discusses the “10 happiest jobs”. The happiest people tend to be like me.

(Why are we Americans so into lists of 10? Is it David Letterman’s fault?)

The number one job on the list is clergy. The author of the piece, Steve Denning, says of them: “the least worldly are reported to be the happiest of all”. I am not a preacher, but I have studied a lot of theology, have been writing this devotional for two years and over the years have spent a lot of time with God. fellow Christians and in the ministry.

Also on Denning’s list is  author, which is my dream job.  “For most authors, the pay is ridiculously low or non-existent, but the autonomy of writing down the contents of your own mind apparently leads to happiness”, Denning writes.

Finally, number six is my current job: teacher. Denning notes:

” Teachers in general report being happy with their jobs, despite the current issues with education funding and classroom conditions. The profession continues to attract young idealists, although 50 per cent of new teachers are gone within five years.”

Count me as an old idealist. I guess I may have burned out on teaching 10 years ago, but at my age it is the only thing I can do to make a regular living.

I still enjoy it somewhat, too. Some of the same skills I would use as a full-time writer are employed in the position.

I read one article in one of those magazines for writers in which the author wrote that he preferred working other types of jobs. He was a paralegal at the time of publication and writing on the side. I kind of agree with him, although I am still drawn to sitting and pondering in a home office all day with a great cup of coffee on my desk.

Denning speaks of how our jobs provide meaning:

Why were these jobs with better pay and higher social status less likely to produce happiness? Todd May writing in the New York Times argues, “A meaningful life must, in some sense then, feel worthwhile. The person living the life must be engaged by it. A life of commitment to causes that are generally defined as worthy — like feeding and clothing the poor or ministering to the ill — but that do not move the person participating in them will lack meaningfulness in this sense. However, for a life to be meaningful, it must also be worthwhile. Engagement in a life of tiddlywinks does not rise to the level of a meaningful life, no matter how gripped one might be by the game.”

This is what underlies the difference between the happiest jobs and the most hated jobs. One set of jobs feels worthwhile, while in the other jobs, people can’t see the point.

When I do other things besides having my head in the stratosphere and writing what I think, I just don’t see the point. I am not happy and I make others miserable in my unhappiness.

I wonder if that’s what was troubling Fool. That is the translation of the name Nabal, who had to be one of the unhappiest creatures portrayed in the Bible.

The Scriptures describe Nabal as a curmudgeon of the first order. They say he was surly and mean (I Samuel 25:3).

Ole Nabal was described by his own wife as wicked and a person who was living up to his name. She gave that description to David after Nabal refused to help out the future king’s entourage with provisions, although even Nabal’s own workers lauded them for them.

It took Abigail his wife to calm David down and provide for his men.  The Scriptures say that when  Nabal learned of the plans David had for him,  “his heart failed him and he became like a stone (I Samuel 25:37).”

While it is clear that Nabal’s trauma was mainly mental and emotional, it seems that perhaps he also suffered some kind of stroke. He died 10 days after his wife told him of her meeting with David over their morning tea.

Ole Nabal was really not a happy man. He had no real purpose in life except to make money and get drunk.

Connecting the dots about my own purpose is what brought me to the Lord when I was 17 years old. I figured I was soon going off to school, which would only lead to a meaningless cyclical cause and effect.

“Why go to school?” I asked. Answer: to get a job.

“Why get a job”? I thought. Answer: to make money.

“Why make money?” I queried. Answer: so I can get married, have kids, who will grow up, go to school, get a job, get married, have kids.

It all seemed so empty.

I came to Christ looking for a purpose to life. It is the fool who says there is no God (Psalm 141), and I knew there was one. If there was a purpose to life, I determined in high school that He had it.

In the movie “Chariots of Fire”, missionary Eric Liddel is late for a meeting related to ministry because he has been training. His sister is quite unhappy, thinking his  attempt to be an Olympic champion is without meanng:

Liddel tells his sister, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure”. Lest the pragmatist think he was too dreamy, Eric went on to China to do missions and died in the midst of World War II.

When I think and write, I feel God’s pleasure.  Writing these devotionals is one way I connect to God.

The trick for someone like me is to not to be overly dreamy.  Brett McKay of the website Art of Manliness writes of the dreamer:

“He spends too much time dreaming, and not enough time learning how to have relationships with other people, and thus developing the social skills needed to make his dreams comes true. He is stunted and unconnected.”

McKay says the “uber dreamer” (my term, not his) is like an immature boy. To move into manhood, the boy has to learn to be a gentleman. Says McKay of the gentleman:

“He can be warm, even “sweet” with others, and he can be introspective and spiritual while still keeping his feet on the ground”.

One minister told me he thought writing a blog was self centered. Given what was going on in my life at the time, he may have been correct and I at least understand his perspective.

In any case, in my heart of hearts I believe I think and write hoping that one day I will leave a legacy to others. My problem is that in my personal relationships I have a bit of the Nabal in me.

I believe God is with me when I think and express my thoughts online. It believe it’s a good thing for me and others, even if some critics don’t.

Writing engages me. Yet, I have a suspicion that the down-to earthers are correct in respect to being engaged by more than your own head.

Perhaps I can depend on God  to get through my thick, boulder-like skull that meaningful personal relationships with flesh and blood people are both meaningful and worthwhile.

In addition to the Facebook and blog posts, I can ask Him to, on a moment-by-moment basis, help me express love practically to other people when I am dealing with them in person also.

My mama didn’t raise no fools. There’s a balance here somewhere.

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“Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD, you his servants; praise the name of the LORD.  Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore.  From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised (Psalm 113:1-3).”

Eight hours of oral history will be aired this week.: the reflections of Jackie Kennedy in the 1960s.

She discusses the stress her husband John F. Kennedy endured in the crises he faced. She told her interviewer:

“Once I asked him — I think this is rather touching — if he could have one wish, what would it be? In other words, you know, looking back on his life, and he said, ‘I wish I had more good times.’ ”

Life does seem to go from one crisis to another. When a new day begins, we are hoping it is a better day.

Sometimes our days are good, but life tends to be more struggle than not, at least for most I think. It is for me at least.

If you are not facing difficult circumstances or people, you still have to deal with yourself. You have to wrestle with your thoughts.

These thoughts can produce emotions such as fear, anxiety, worry,  and anger. When you feel like this, it’s not nice to be you. Life is just full of stress.

When I got up this morning, I asked myself what I had to look forward to except work.  I really didn’t have an answer to that question.

I am watching a series about my hometown, the city of Baltimore, at the moment. It depicts the daily lives of African Americans in the tough neighborhoods of that town.

Their lives are filled with poverty, drugs, crime and murder. The gangsters run things.

School is like a combat zone. In once scene, on the first day of school the white female principal does the sign of the cross as the doors are about to be open to all the kids on the first day of school.  She is like a soldier going into combat.

One teacher tells an ex-policeman, who is in the school to assist with some research on juvenile offenders, what the week is like for the kids.

She says that Wednesday is the best day in the school. This is when the children are farthest away from what is happening at home.

Mondays and Fridays they are angry. Tuesdays and Thursdays are just avenues to the other days. It seems that the situation for these young people is hopeless.

In the midst of the chaos, one ex-gangbanger who spent 14 years in prison is trying to help. He has against all odds begun a boxing club for the boys. His contribution, while admirable, is a drop in the bucket in alleviating the daily pain of these children.

As I thought about my own day ahead, I did the smart thing and turned to the Scriptures. God had an answer to my question about what I had to look forward to.

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me (Psalm 13:1-6).

After reading this, I followed the Psalmist. I went to You Tube and found some songs of praise to lighten my heart.

Here are the lyrics of the  most meaningful song I heard:

Father in heaven, how we love You
We lift Your name in all the earth
May Your kingdom be established in our praises
As Your people declare Your mighty works
Bless be the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
Bless be the Lord God Almighty
Who reigns forever more

It occurred to me that what I had to look forward to this day was God. He is to come. He’s my future.

My future isn’t the difficult people or circumstances I might deal with today. The future is God.

It is the chance to go through the rest of the day singing His praises. When I am walking down the hall at work, I might not do it audibly, but I can still do it in my heart.

What impresses me about David, the shepherd king, is that he always factored God into the equation in his life. He did it constantly when he was being chased by his nemesis King Saul.

In one situation, David had the chance to kill Saul. The current king has walked into a cave where David and his men were hiding.

David’s men told him, “Here’s your chance” and even invoked God and his provision into their urgings. David did slice off part of Saul’s robe, but then he was struck with guilt.

David saw he had taken matters into his own hands. When he took a minute to think, he reminded himself and his men that Saul was still the king who had been anointed by God.

David relented and let Saul go. When he confronted Saul out in the open, David told the king that he would leave judgment to God:

“Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Who are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea?  May the LORD be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.” (I Samuel 24:14,15).

To David, his life and his future was in God’s hands, not Saul’s. More than that, God was his future.

Whatever kingdom David was going inherit was to be God’s kingdom. David saw himself as a flea on the Big Dog.

As I stride off to the office, it’s a good thing to remember: What I have to look forward to this day is God.

Let the good times roll!

 

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Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever.  They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.  Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes (Psalm 112:6-8).”

Monday is rough. It is a good day to be afraid.

You don’t know what the week holds. Plus, you are just coming off the weekend, where rest, relaxation and recreation are the expectation.

It is culture shock pure and simple. Yet, we know what’s coming.

On Sunday night we get a little squirrelly in anticipation of the week ahead. What new challenges will we face.

Then Monday comes, as it has for me this morning.  As is usually the case, I am having a difficult time getting going.

This morning it is because I really don’t have anything on the schedule, at least exactly. I have enough to do, and expect a meeting to occur some time about some personal business, but generally I can flex a little in terms of when I do the needed activities.

So hear I sit at 10:41 Monday morning, writing this entry. I am a 10 o’clock scholar, and hopefully I will show up at my office about noon.

Now, Tuesday is a different day. Usually by that time the barnacles from the weekend have been scraped off and we are in the midst of whatever battle we are facing for the week.  We are usually too busy to be anxious or afraid on a Tuesday.

Tuesday morning on September 11, 2001 in New York by all accounts was gorgeous to behold. The temperature was mild, the sky blue and the sun bright.

It was one of those days I suppose when the weather brightens your mood. Furthermore, Monday is gone, so hopefully you feel better about things.

By 9 am on this Tuesday morning, any good feelings had gone. They were replaced by emotions like fear and anger.

When the planes hit the World Trade Center, our feelings and our world changed in an instant. We were at war with an unknown and unseen enemy.

Now, ten years after the event, a lot has happened. The enemy has been identified and put on the run.

There have been a lot of courageous acts in that time, many of them occurring on September 11 itself. The bravery of a lot of people has helped a lot of us get through this monumental period in history.

America’s president spoke of the last 10 years and the effects of this courage on Sunday. The headline accompanying the text of this speech read AMERICA DOES NOT GIVE IN TO FEAR.

The Bible tells us, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Ten years ago, America confronted one of our darkest nights. Mighty towers crumbled. Black smoke billowed up from the Pentagon. Airplane wreckage smoldered on a Pennsylvania field. Friends and neighbors, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters—they were taken from us with heartbreaking swiftness and cruelty. On September 12, 2001, we awoke to a world in which evil was closer at hand, and uncertainty clouded our future.

In the decade since, much has changed for Americans. We’ve known war and recession, passionate debates and political divides. We can never get back the lives we lost on that day, or the Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in the wars that followed.

Yet today, it is worth remembering what has not changed. Our character as a nation has not changed. Our faith—in God and each other—that has not changed. Our belief in America, born of a timeless ideal that men and women should govern themselves; that all people are created equal, and deserve the same freedom to determine their own destiny—that belief, through test and trials, has only been strengthened.

These past 10 years have shown that America does not give in to fear. The rescue workers who rushed to the scene; the firefighters who charged up the stairs; the passengers who stormed the cockpit—these patriots defined the very nature of courage. Over the years we have also seen a more quiet form of heroism—in the ladder company that lost so many men and still suits up to save lives every day; the businesses that have rebuilt; the burn victim who has bounced back; the families that press on.

America did not give into fear because it had leadership that helped the country rebound from that terrible day 10 years ago. The Bible also speaks of a man who did not surrender to his own fright or the anxieties of others.

In I Samuel 23 it tells of a time when David was told of a September 11 type event in a city called Keilah. The people were under attack from Israel’s enemy the Philistines.

The first thing David did was ask God if he should fight. After all, he was on the run from the king of Israel, who was trying to kill him and his supporters.

God told him to fight. However, this didn’t set well with David’s men, who told him that they were afraid enough running from the king. Why take on a battle that really belonged to him.

David again did not respond to their fears or his own. He went back to the Lord to add this piece of information and find out what to do.

God once more told David to go to war. Thus, he and his men went and defeated the Philistines.

You would think that Saul, the king of Israel, would be grateful. Instead, he saw the coming out of David into the open as his opportunity to kill him.

David did what he had done before. He went to God to determine if he was in danger.

When David found out from the Lord that he would indeed be turned over to Saul by the people he had just saved, he and his men escaped.

God not only responded to David’s faith in coming to Him for aid when he was afraid, but he sent his beloved friend Jonathan to encourage him and help him “find his strength in God (I Samuel 23:16)”.

David is the role model of how to respond when fear strikes. In summary, even when he himself was afraid and the people around him also showed fear, he repeatedly went to God for instructions about what to do.

David did not get stuck in his fright or that of others, or suffer from the “paralysis of analysis”. He turned his thinking over to God, who had much greater wisdom.

What is more, this story of David tells us how gracious God is when we are afraid. We can go to Him and ask for flesh and blood human beings to give us the encouragement we need to continue to trust God, even when the chips are down.

It’s almost noon on my Monday. The examples of those who showed  heroism on and after September 11, and David’s actions at Keilah, when he ran to God instead of ran away,  have given me the small spark I need in my spirit.

I am ready to go to work.

 

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