Wednesday, January 31, 2007

When God Shows Up

Tonight I went to Husky's, the restaurant nearest to our church, to celebrate the baptism of a student. As I was leaving, I met a man in the parking lot. His name is Tony. I met Tony because he was asking me for some financial help to get his car fixed. I talked with him and we got a bit of cash to help get his car serviced. As we talked God showed up.

Tony began to tell me about his tough time over the past two years since finishing his prison sentence. He shared with me how people would tell him that he should go and be productive in society but he is finding that society doesn't want to take a risk on him. It is as if society no longer sees Tony as a person who needs help, it sees him just as a liability. Interestingly enough, in the midst of that tough setting, God showed up. God always picks the best times to come on the scene. Tonight, He chose to show up in Tony's desperation. This man who is just trying to make ends meet didn't see much hope for the ends getting together any time soon. As I looked into this desperate man's eyes, I saw God.

Tony needed hope for the future and since I didn't have a job in my back pocket, we sought hope together. We prayed. We asked God to provide and encourage. And when the amen was said I met a man who was broken and in need. You may think I am talking about Tony but I am not. I am talking about me. I once read that a man who was helping an ex-con said to him, " The only difference between you and me is that I didn't get caught." You see, like the man I just quoted, I was realizing I am no different than Tony. Tony was in need tonight and his neediness helped me to recall how frequently I am in need. This recollection was highlighted as I got back into my car that was just fixed today because God provided for me the payment I could not afford to pay for on my own. (Again, God knows how to show up.) I realized that, though the world doesn't see it, I am no less broken or in need of God's provision and encouragement than Tony.

Thank-you Lord for showing up and reminding me of my brokenness and my neediness. It keeps me grounded. May the abundance your grace cover Tony in all his areas of need. In the name of Jesus. My heart says, "Yes!" (Translation: of Jesus, Amen)

Note to the reader:
By the way, If you know of anyone willing to give Tony a chance just respond to this blog. Thanks. Being transformed daily.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Transformation Series: The Desire to Transcend

As far back as I can remember, I have aspired to do something that, at the time, I was unable to do. Before I knew you needed a license to drive I wanted to win races like 'Speed Racer'. When I got my first radio, I began to imagine singing before crowds of people. While in college I began to believe that I was supposed to be part of something great for God and I am still reaching for whatever he has is store. I don't know if you are one of those dreamers like me who sees something out there that seems beyond you, but you find that the only acceptable action for you is to reach it anyway. I wonder what brings us to dream beyond ourselves like this. Some may think that this is just youthful naivety, but I think it is something written into our DNA. I take that back. It is not just in our DNA. It is in something deeper. I believe it is written on our very souls.

I wonder if the caterpillar deals with this. Think about it for moment. If you could get into the mind of a caterpillar, what do you think would drive it to seek flight? I wonder if a caterpillar is born among its other caterpillar brothers and sisters and begins to go about its life finding leaves for food, crawling up trees and flowers, and trying to keep from being eaten by the early worm. It is an existence that probably seems like a good one, from his perspective. It seems manageable and not too bad of a life as long as you've got food on a branch near you.Okay there is the potential of some bird of prey, like the terrible pigeon, that could end your life in one swoop but that does keeps things interesting. What is it that takes the caterpillar beyond its ground level life and causes it to gaze to the heavens and picture being up there? I wonder if this dream doesn't begin to develop until it sees/imagines the possibility for it. Imagine what it might be like for the caterpillar to see a butterfly for the first time. Does its heart pound? Does it stop it munching away at the leaf and drop its jaw? I don't know. I don't know if they are oblivious to their metamorphic destiny or whether they were taught as little larvae that one day they would soar the skies above them. Either way I believe if they ever got to see a butterfly fluttering by then something would be stirred in their heart.

When I get to see dreams lived out, it inspires the dormant dreamer in me. I remember seeing Star Wars and desiring to be a noble hero like a Jedi. But more than the lives lived out on the silver screen, real life people have inspired me to dream. My father inspired me to be a leader, as I watched him lead men under him in rank. My youth minister inspired me to join God in transforming lives, by joining God in my life's transformation. I am inspired to hold on to the God, because I have seen my mother stubbornly (in a good way) hold on to God when despair was pound on her hearts door. There is something about the dreamers reaching for the stars that helps me to believe that the stars can be touched. These dream pioneers don't even need to successful they just need to keep reaching.

There where a band of ordinary men who became dreamers because they believed in the one who makes the deepest dreams of our hearts come true. Those followers of Jesus believed in him. Now listen to how Jesus sets them up to dream beyond themselves.

John 14:11-13
Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.

"...Greater things than these..." Wow! Talk about transcending yourself. Jesus did amazing things and so did his followers. They healed the sick, cast out demons and raised the dead and because they continued to be fishers of men and followed a dream that transcended them, they changed the world. Those men are butterflies to this caterpillar.

To all butterflies fly high and to all the caterpillars look up.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Raw Thoughts: Standing without a Platform

Note to the reader: This is not about wrong or right or about persuasion of any kind. This is about openness and the sharing of my journey with you. May you be blessed as you read.

Well, I have had a sabbatical and I am back at the office for about five more weeks until I reach my last day. I have been in the office for one week so far and it has probably been one of the hardest weeks of my career. When I left back in December I knew that the the youth ministry was in capable hands and I was absolutely right. When I got back things were moving very well. Events were happening, groups of people were getting involved and there was even an excitement at our youth staff meeting that I hadn't seen in a while. Things were moving right along...without me.

Have you ever been faced with watching the world move without you? It is a humbling experience (and I know I need a bit of humility). I excepted things to be going well without me. I even hoped for it, but experiencing it is an altogether different thing. I came back to a place that I at one time was an integral part of. Now I am trying to figure out how to fit in. The experience is like one of those cartoons (probably Road Runner fits best ) where the character is standing on a platform, limb or plank that is precariously hanging over a cliff. Then the plank that the character is standing on gets yanked from under his feet and he looks at the audience as if to say, 'This is going to hurt.' and plummets to the ground beneath him. You see what I am finding is that the thing that I was standing on, my job, calling, vocation, whatever you want to call it, is gone. And with it being yanked from under my feet I find myself plummeting through a myriad of emotions and thoughts in the whole process.

Doubt is one of the first things that I have been facing. Like a neon sign that flashes at your window at night while you are trying to sleep, doubt seems to annoyingly make himself glaringly apparent when you are trying to have some peace or get some rest. There are doubts about whether I have been useful or not. Doubts concerning if there is anything that I have to offer the world in the future. Doubts concerning convictions that stand on. Doubts seem to be springing up every where like weeds and they can be very unsettling.

Being alone is another thing that I am facing. I don't mean like 'I wish I had a love interest' alone. I mean like I am wearing a scarlet letter and I want to get away alone. My letter is 'L'. It stands for the guy who is leaving us. So, I find myself wanting to isolate myself to hide my letter. I want to dodge questions about the future, and wanting to get away and figure out the answers to those questions. I find myself wondering if I am the only one who has ever felt like this but I don't want to ask. And thereby as I try to hide my letter I end up fulfilling what the letter stands for. I end up leaving, even while physically being present.

Anger is another one of those emotions that I find myself experiencing. I find myself angry at those who don't agree with me. Wishing they would have done...(whatever I thought best) and thinking I'll show them them when I... ( and I come up with a marvelous scenario where I prove them all wrong in grand fashion). Then I get angry at myself for not being above these petty thoughts concerning those who think differently than me. Ye Ha! This ride gets better the further you drop, huh? (Can you smell the sarcasm emanating from your computer screen?)

There are probably more emotions that I am falling through but I am tired of writing and it is kind of late. So what happens when I get to the bottom? Will that be the end of me? What will I land on? Where will I find myself? The answers to these questions can't be found in a job or new location to pitch my tent. I am talking about something a bit more personal. I want to know where will I land. When the cartoon character previously mentioned finally finishes his descent, he tends to land on something solid. My hope is to land on something solid, as well. I am hoping the that solid thing I land on is my Lord. You see the neat thing about the cartoon character who goes through the fall is that, eventhough the fall is scary and sometimes very rough on the way down and the landing can sometimes be met with pain, he always gets up after he finds solid ground.

Lord, please be the solid ground where I can stand after my platform is gone and through the fall. In the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.