Just a Closer Walk with Thee

We begin the story with God walking with Adam in the cool of the day in the Garden of Eden.  We end the story with the New Jerusalem descending to the New Earth and God being with us for eternity.

In between we see pictures of God’s ultimate desire of sharing Creation with His Ultimate Creation – Humanity:

1. God speaking to such as Cain, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Joshua.

2. God’s pillar of cloud by day and fire by night to lead the nation of Israel from Egypt and through the Wilderness.

3. The Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant which “tabernacled” among the nation of Israel.

4. God’s naming of His Son as Immanuel – God With Us.

5. Jesus living among us, being tempted as we are tempted.  Knowing our weakness, yet not succumbing to them.

6. The Holy Spirit dwelling within the believer.

7. In the midst of where two or three are gathered.

8. In the carrying out of ministry to those who are in need of water, clothing or visitation being done “unto Him”.

Righteousness is not God’s desire for humanity.  It is a required means of God’s presence with us.

Living a holy life is not trying to please God.  It is rather our saying to Him, “I want you in my life more than these”.  When we sin we are not only disappointing God, we are saying, “I don’t want you around”.  Sin is the ultimate story of unrequited love, of the willing suitor and the spurning object of His love.  Sin is not ultimately disobedience, but relational distance.

If God is feeling far off, be sure that sin is nearby.  It is only when Christ took upon himself the sins of the world that he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!”

God desires to walk with you.  What do you desire?

Be sure of this if you choose sin, He will leave.  He finally left the mercy seat and his beloved, Israel after all.  This is Hell – the absence of God.  Choose to be holy, for without holiness “no one will see God.”

Sacred Moment

sacred momentI had the privelege and honor to pray for a woman just before she died yesterday.  It was a beautiful, sacred time!

We often think of sacred moments as birth, salvation, baptism, membership, wedding and births; but our culture chooses to not think about the fact of our imminent demise as something beautiful anymore.  In fact, most of our culture has almost no connection with it at all.  That’s what happens to people in hospitals and nursing homes with “professionals” around them.  No longer is it even considered something that children should witness, let alone have a visceral understanding of.  I am told that children aren’t able to deal with it, but what I have found is that if they don’t have to deal with it as a child, they don’t see it as normal, and are unable (or unwilling) to deal with it in a healthy manner as adults.  100% seems like normal to me.

Death happens.  Life’s breath slips slowly, yet suddenly away.

In the midst of reflecting on this (now normal for me) event, a saleswoman commented how sad that must have been.  My response was that death is never sad – a life lived well leads to a victorious death, a life lived poorly is sad – death is just the statement that you have finished the race.  How we run that race is what is happy or sad.

There is something sacred about a child’s birth.  Awe-inspiring, moving and meaningful.  The breath of life enters their nostrils, and we are introduced to this person that we love already – before we know them.

There is something sacred about a person’s death too.  Awe-inspiring, moving and meaningful.  The breath of life leaves their body, and we love the person that we have known.

Don’t rob yourself of the sacred moment of a loved one’s passing.  Embrace them through the entirety of life; as you have embraced the race, embrace the finish line!

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” – St. Paul  (2 Timothy 4:6-8, NIV)

Brokenness

brokennessA few years ago, my wife stood up to go turn the light in the hallway off.  Instead, her lights went out…she passed out.  In the process of passing out, she fell on her left forearm – and snapped both bones resulting in a hand that was an inch too high and an inch and a half too far to the left.  Needless to say, we went to the hospital.

In the hospital, x-rays were taken, pain medication was administered, and the doctor pulled on my wife’s broken hand – wrenching the bones back into place (not to mention my stomach getting wrenched while watching).  She had to have surgery, pins, plate and cast.  The cast eventually came off – the pins and plate remain.

Her arm will never be the same again.  No one else can tell just looking at her, or how she functions on a daily basis.  In fact, thanks to good medical care, there is very little difference in how she functions on a daily basis – including playing the piano on our worship team.  But every now and then, there’s a catch.  There’s a reminder.

Healing takes time, but it also takes a healer.

Same time, same effort, same person without the healer pulling, setting and pinning – no hand and no forearm.

Sin is brokenness.  Sin causes brokenness.

God wants to heal you…but it’s going to hurt, it’s going to take time and its going to take your cooperation.

Go to church, go to God, grit your teeth and let him set your broken heart in line with Him.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3, NIV)

The Disarming Power of Honesty

Reading glasses

Reading glasses (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Eph. 4:15 NIV)

In the arms race of far too many conversations nowadays, where each is vying for their due homage from the other, there is a better way to communicate, build unity and move forward (either as an organization or as individuals in life).  This will be mind-alteringly brilliant, but hang on:

Fall in love with the Creator of the other.

A couple of simple observations:

1. God made them.

2. God didn’t screw up.

3. God made you.

4. God didn’t screw up on you either.

Within this simple matrix of beliefs, the capacity for appreciation of the other is possible without lessening your own self worth.  This person is neither my enemy nor my competitor, they are my unique equal.  Using this newfound respect, begin to look at them with the eyes of He who made them.  Begin imagining His purposes in doing so.  Call forth their magnificent potential.  Speak life-giving truth into their day.

This works well in all situations, including the escalating types, but it works best like a sucker punch – out of the blue of normalcy comes an insightful compliment, a poetically placed truth that inspires the other to be who God created them to be.  They are changed.  They exist in an elevated state for a while as the reality of another’s belief in them saturates their soul.

Nina is graceful.  Her carriage, her conversations, her soul.  It is as though she walks in a beauty pageant her every day.  She exudes and gives grace to those around her as though sowing seeds without awareness.

Scott is caring.  He loads his own back to lighten yours.  He walks lightly while carrying great weight that his family, friends and village would not notice his burden.  He is simple in these guestures without fanfare or bombast.  He smiles as he picks up some of your load, and his joy is increased.

In truly beginning to see others, you will see yourself more clearly.

Change someone’s world today.  Speak the truth in love.

Life as Craftsmanship

Blacksmith 2

Blacksmith 2 (Photo credit: e_cathedra)

“Craftsmanship” is my one word definition of beauty.

Something that is beautiful has been well-crafted.  It serves its purpose efficiently, was made uniquely and lovingly by a Master Crafstman and it stands up to the test of time.

In view of this definition, I have some thoughts about how life is like a craft:

1. A craft is something that you learn by doing.

Life must be lived in order to learn how to live beautifully.  We learn as much or more from our mistakes as from our successes – and don’t repeat them in the life lived beautifully.

2. A craft is something that you learn from a master of the craft.

An apprentice learns from a Master, is skilled as a journeyman, but must be able to pass on their craft before they can be truly called a Master.

3. A craft is something that is designed to be shared.  

We are not the purpose of our life.  We are crafted to be shared with the world.  A craftsman does not create a museum to their own greatness, but meets the needs of others by their skill and care.

4. A craft is something that is designed to be useful.  

People need the items a craftsman creates.  The fulfillment of their function, and not their form alone, is what makes them cherished.

5. A craft is something that is designed to be beautiful.  

Our lives are to meet needs, not in a utilitarian way, but in an artful way, that not only is the immediate need addressed, but also the inner cry for substance and delight.

6. A craft is something that should produce objects that outlive the craftsman.  

What and how you make – makes and forms you.  Build to last, and your life will live on through your family, friends and neighbors.

7. A craft is something that makes unique creations.  

We are not designed to be automatons, but creative beings.  To take an object from inception to completion fulfills the human soul whereas a step on a factory line inhibits human flourishing.  We are not cogs in a wheel, but living parts of a family.  Our lives should be uniquely lived – as we have been uniquely made.

8. A craft is something that should be passed on.

Many falsely believe that the end of a craftsman is the craft they form – but a life lived beautifully engages with the next generation and coaches them to replace and outperform the current one.

9. A craft is something that earns a living.  

Lives exchanged.  Commerce is simply exchanging of lives.  The product of one to meet the need of another from the overflow of their product.  Life should be productive.  We were created to reproduce and create life, not simply to spend our lives…but to invest them.

10. A craft is something that needs other crafts to exist.

The woodworker needs the blacksmith to make the tools.  The blacksmith needs the miner to harvest the ore.  We all need the farmer to provide us with nutritive food.  The farmer needs the woodworker, the blacksmith and the miner to plow his field.  Lives lived in isolation miss the point of God creating us to need a mother and a father in order to live.  We are designed to be in relationship.

Life is beautiful when it is well-crafted.

A Handcrafted Life

father and son

 

My second son, Caleb, wanted to spend every moment I was in my woodshop with me.  He was constantly looking for something that he could bang with a hammer, cut with a saw or tighten with a screwdriver.  On the one hand – nothing is more gratifying to a dad than a son wanting to be like him.  On the other hand, nothing is more frustrating than constantly having to tell your four year old that he just isn’t big enough to hit, cut or screw whatever it is he was attempting.  

Solution: I got him a cut-off 2×6 and pounded a bunch of large-headed nails into it about 1/3 of the way in.  He then gleefully pounded away at the nails.  This was a short-lived success.  That’s when I decided that he needed a workbench of his own.  Under the guise of seeing how big he was getting, I measured the height of his hipbone, his reach and his spread.

I built him a workbench that was as deep as he could reach easily, as wide as his spread and as high as his hipbone.  We then outfitted the workbench with a pegboard back, some hanging baskets for tool storage, basic tools and his very own nail apron.  He was ecstatic!!  So was my wife…until he started banging away in the playroom  🙂

Caleb’s bench fits him.  It is a horrible workbench for me, but for him – it is exactly what he needed.

Life is a lot like that workbench.  When we try to make ours look like someone else’s, we are constantly frustrated, inefficient and ineffective.  When we build a life that fits us though…it fits, it just fits.  

God knows you and every little detail about you.  He knows how far you can reach and what kind of tools to put on your pegboard.  Stop fighting his handcrafted fit for your life, and let him – the Master Craftsman, build you a life that fits.  “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13, NIV)

 

Personal Best

English: Hexham Sports track

English: Hexham Sports track (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning I ran two miles in under 20 minutes.

For many of you that seems exceedingly underwhelming, for the rest of you, you are wondering who I was running from at such an early time in the morning – or what’s wrong with me that I was running with no one chasing me at all.

My freshmen year in college I was regularly running, striving to run three miles in under 20 minutes, and was getting achingly close.  I jumped out of my bed in the morning and crumpled on the floor in pain – my knees.  Excruciating pain.  You see I had been running a course on North Carolina State University’s campus (which is made entirely of brick, except of course the Psychology building which was oddly of stucco *shrug*), and I was always sprinting as fast as I could down the last quarter mile (which happened to be a brick sidewalk with a steep downhill grade).  I had ruined my knees.

Jump forward approximately 6 years.  I was in Seminary at Asbury, and I was running again.  This time four miles…on asphalt.  Sprinting the last quarter mile, uphill.  The pain in my knees got so bad I had planned my trips around campus so that I would never have to climb stairs – it hurt too much.  There was one elevator, and all the buildings were connected by breezeways. It was a ridiculous way to live.  I quit running… again.

Jump forward another 10 years.  I am running again.  This time on a padded track.  This time I am maintaining a steady pace.  This time the goal is running – not a set time.  The goal is to run…with no debilitating knee pain.  I take plenty of breaks, I listen to my body, and I enjoy the exhiliration of running.  My body is my compani0n, not my competitor.

I will never be an olympic athlete, a track star or even a fast runner, but I am again a runner.  There is a joy in running when you are running towards yourself rather than from yourself.  If you truly believe that the God who made who loves you enough to die for you, then you are set free from needing to earn affection or self-worth.  In the instant that you accept His judgment of you as worthy, you can embrace yourself and run for the joy that is set before you.

In order to be your personal best, you must embrace the person you are.  Then and only then can you be set free to run towards your future instead of away from your past.