Sunday, July 26, 2009

Loneliness vs. More than Enough

“My children I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’” John 13:33-34

How heartbroken must the disciples have been upon hearing this? How lonely must they have felt as they encountered the departure of their friend and teacher? These men had given up everything to follow him. Where in the world was he going that they wouldn’t be willing to follow? Peter responds, “Lord, why can’t I follow you? I will lay down my life for you.”

Peter has made it clear that he doesn’t want Jesus to go anywhere without him. Peter will not be left behind, and the thought of life without Jesus is unthinkable. Peter is the same disciple who, when asked if he would join others who were bailing out on Jesus, uttered the words, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” John 6:68

Peter doesn’t want to be alone.

I don’t think anybody wants to be alone, at least not for long. We’d like some alone time, but we don’t want to be lonely. I watched my mom deal with loneliness as a Navy wife. She, like thousands of others, endured months of being alone with the three of us while Dad was at sea. And all this before cell phones and the internet. I have watched friends experience the tragic loss of a spouse, a parent or a child. We have grieved together, but I can only imagine the loneliness that steals in behind closed doors. And I have spoken with others who, though surrounded by people and experience, have shared that they still feel very much alone .

I experience loneliness often as Brian travels. When he is away I feel like a part of me is missing. I feel incomplete. Most days I deal with our separation in an acceptable fashion, but other days are really depressing. On those days I don’t know if I want noise or silence. Sometimes I want noise to drown out the other noise in my head. Noise to drown out the ache I experience when he is gone and life is overwhelming.

And my heart aches as I hear Jesus say, “Where I am going you cannot come.” Like Peter I wonder Why? My heart longs to be where he is – for his peace and his presence. But Jesus is preparing us just as he did his disciples for our most difficult and rewarding challenge yet.

Jesus tells his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled...I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3),but meanwhile, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35.

Jesus is leaving, and he knows that his friends will grieve. He understands they will be lonely and persecuted because of their belief in him. So he says:
Take care of each other.
Meet each other’s needs.
Cry with one another.
Laugh together.
Don’t ignore one another.
Love with intent.
Love with purpose.
Love without your own agenda.
This is how Jesus loved them.
They cannot be separate from him if they are acting and responding to one another in love.

In all this Jesus knows the love that they attempt to give one another will not be enough. Have you ever tried to love someone with everything that you have in the best way that you can? It’s hard – really hard! I, for one, always screw up! I know I’m not alone in this.

Peter, when confronted with his association with Jesus, denies him three times before the rooster crows on the very day of Jesus’ crucifixion. Each denial creates distance between he and Jesus causing him to feel more and more alone. Only days earlier Peter had claimed he would follow Jesus and die for him. Why did he deny him? Because he is human, and like me, he is weak, selfish and often afraid. Thank God for the grace that Jesus’ bought when he died for Peter on the cross.

This same Peter, weeks later, filled with the Holy Spirit of God, preached the Good news of Jesus' death and resurrection with boldness to a crowd of thousands in Jerusalem - inviting them to receive the same grace that he had been given. What changed? Peter did! He was no longer alone. He was now armed with supernatural power, radical conviction and sacrificial love.

Sacrificial love which really became a sacrifice, as Peter went on to lay down his life in the name of Jesus.

Have I encountered Jesus in such a way? Have I relied on his supernatural presence that I might love selflessly, enough to lay down my own life? Can I do that without surrendering all that I am?

Today, while singing at church, I wondered, "Do I really believe what I'm singing about?"
Is it true Jesus?
Is...........All of you
Really......More than enough for all of me?
For (my) every thirst and (my) every need?
Do you really......Satisfy me with your love?
Is...........All I have in you more than enough?

Have I allowed you to be more than enough? Have I slowed down enough to listen and understand your voice? Oh God, empty me of the substitutes that I've filled my life with both physical and emotional, and fill me with more than enough.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In the Stillness

The constancy of the message of Christ lives in action. Sometimes that action means sitting still, but it is a productive stillness. A still life submitted to God is very productive indeed. For it is in the quiet and in the stillness that we are able to develop the discipline of listening for his voice. It is in the calm that we learn to recognize that He is speaking, and we may discern when he is telling us to move and when he is telling us to stop moving.

Stillness seems impossible to achieve these days with the constant demands we place on ourselves, not to mention the ones others place on us. I for one don’t want to be seen as lazy or irresponsible, so I keep busy with tasks both important and frivolous. But what is my busyness accomplishing? Honestly, sometimes I just busy myself because it’s really too hard to sit still and be patient. After all there is always something that needs to be done – even if it’s just changing my Facebook status.

The truth is I haven’t cultivated stillness, and therefore it is something akin to cajoling a 3-year-old into eating his vegetables. And what is the big deal anyway? Does every moment of my life need to be laced with purpose? Well, I think every moment does have purpose, but the real question is what purposes or whose purposes am I fulfilling. Sadly, too often I am a self-fulfilling prophecy and my designs reach no further than my own selfishness, but I’d like for that to change.

So again I look to Jesus. Jesus really is amazing! He had the most successful ministry on the planet. People were literally tearing his roof apart to see him, and He says crazy things like let’s leave this place and go on to the next town. And I do only what I see my Father doing. He steers clear of popularity and fame. When a crowd plans to come and make him king (by force) he eludes them and seeks solitude.

Solitude – not to get those things done that he’d been meaning to do, but solitude focused on stillness, listening to God and waiting for direction. How many evenings do I end wondering where my day went? How many mornings do I give more than a simple checkmark to my time with God – God the creator of the universe, God the Lover of my Soul – God the one who holds each life in the balance? Surely he has perfect direction for my day. What am I waiting for?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

War, Foreign Policy, Abortion, Cap and Trade, The Fairness Doctrine, stimulus after stimulus – there is a battle raging, and it’s not one fought across party lines. It can’t be. The parties are too similar, and I’m fed up. I don’t know where to turn my frustration – so I’m venting. The politically squeamish should beware.

On the way toward any proposal I have many questions and observations to share. I wonder. When did we sell our souls? How long have we believed that government, any government is our salvation or even has our best interests at heart? Is it because we’ve had it so good for so long? Is it because we really believe they are smarter than us or that they have examined the issues more deeply? If so, it is only because we have chosen our ignorance. We have incredible freedoms fought and paid for by countless Americans and drafted just outside a tyranny that our founding fathers experienced firsthand.

We appear to be freer than any country in the world, possibly freer than any people has ever been. Is that what makes it so easy to give our freedoms away? I wonder if we will recognize that we have no one to blame but ourselves when we finally realize those freedoms are gone.When will we wake up and think for ourselves instead of letting bureaucrats in Washington or our state capitols, Republican and Democrat alike, do it for us. Last time I checked we were a Republic where individuals matter not just the collective whole.

Shame on me for saying and doing nothing for so long. Shame on me for being afraid of what people will think if I speak up. Shame on me for thinking my voice doesn’t matter and that individuals can’t really make a difference. Shame on us for calling on government to do what it is our job to do – to feed the poor, clothe the homeless and take care of the orphan and the widow– to name a few. How long will we follow party lines and ignore our own responsibilities? Shame on us for feeling entitled to be served by the government – for it is in accepting that service that we sign away more and more of our personal freedoms.

What about freedom of speech and freedom of religion? How long before not just the cars we drive, or the businesses we run, or the light bulbs we use are a target of legislation. The truth is even those unalienable rights are already on the chopping block being carved up for limitation as I write, and it’s all done by “experts” for our own good.

The time to act is now. We have ignored the warning signs of a society that has turned its back on God. We have gone about business as usual and been lulled into apathy by our comfortable lives. But the battle is raging whether we join the fight or not. Many a nation has fallen into corruption because of the comfort and apathy of its citizens. Will we be footnotes in the pages of a tragic history?

I was hesitant to write on politics because I prefer to share my opinions one on one until I read these word by C.S. Lewis. They screamed out at me and begged to be shared.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good, will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” ~ C.S. Lewis

My call is for us to pray. I believe that God is calling us to repent as a nation for our sin against him. If you are reading this and you are not a Christian, then I would simply ask that you consider the claims of Christ. The revolution begins in our hearts, and we live out truth on a daily basis. We speak truth in our actions and by refusing to be silenced by those who would tell us not to speak.

For those who prefer to leave politics in a quiet corner, please understand that we are beings who cannot compartmentalize our spirituality from the rest of our lives. Jesus is either Lord of all or he is not Lord at all.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Invade album by JP

Invade album by JP

Shared via AddThis

Walking Through Wildflowers

Today we were walking waist-high through walls of weeds and wildflowers. My children wandering in wonderment pocketing worms and grasshoppers while I, warily, watched for the more nefarious snakes and spiders.
Wow! I love alliteration. Fifteen minutes into our adventure I loosened up and began to enjoy our jaunt into the wonderland that is our front yard. My five-year-old daughter took my hand and led me fearlessly through the grass that brushed against her face on the way into the unknown. What lie ahead? Need it matter if she held my hand? Every two minutes or so she paused, knelt down and chose a flower. She dutifully handed each to me as if it were what she was born to do. And could it be that she was born to do just that? The cup of water that I had brought along to quench my thirst quickly turned into a vase, filling with clover, dandelions, daisies and a wide assortment of weeds. C’est la vie, perhaps this glass was brought along for just this purpose.
As we continued to wander, I paused to consider why children pick flower after flower and run with smiles and excitement to their mothers and place them proudly in mom’s waiting arms. I’ve noticed that children rarely keep flowers for themselves. They seem compelled to share the beauty that they encounter. And with whom do they share this beauty? With the object of their affection of course! What do they receive for their efforts? A smile, maybe a hug and most often a look of love that penetrates their very being causing pure joy to pour out of them with more smiles, laughter and a race to find more flowers.
At every turn I see beautiful blooms, each gift more surprising than the next. I bask in the warmth of a brilliant sun and a generous God who is compelled to share beauty because it is his very nature. I laugh out loud at the simplicity of today and the measured task of unwinding to enjoy the treasures with which God is wooing me. Me...the object of His affection? Why, of course! My smile widens, and my sense of longing is rekindled as I accept the gifts that surround me some unopened and others in full view. My walk back has taken on a new sense of expectancy. What lie ahead? I’m not sure, but need it matter if He holds my hand?

Accountability, Hypocrisy & Fraud

I sat down, pen in hand, my paper a blank slate and was preparing to write something about Accountability, Hypocrisy and Fraud. My mind flew to the note I wrote a week ago, the fish dish and the challenge to let things go. I thought about the implications and the responsibility of continuing to let go...

No sooner had I placed my pen on the page there was a crash in my kitchen. The crash that only comes from a dish shattering as it comes in contact with the floor. The casualty? Another fish dish – this time it was a mug.

My initial reaction was Aggh – nobody move! My second thought was to catalogue the irony! My third called for integrity and accountability. In other words, “JP, what’s your next move? Who are you really when nobody’s looking?”

Now, I promise not to write a note every time a dish is broken at our home. But c’mon, what are the odds of this kind of timing? And just what are these little lessons we learn without testing and the accountability or our peers?

In my nice little semi-suburban home I am pleasantly isolated from the eyes of a watching world. You see only what I allow you to see. You trust me to be sincere and truthful about my life and experiences and I expect the same of you.

We have opened a door in our lives and have agreed to let one another in. We have allowed others to comment and critique our lives from a distance. We are reservedly letting down our guard and becoming vulnerable, looking for friendship and encouragement while hoping that our trust is well placed and well deserved. In some sense we are attempting to figure out life together.

So, I am compelled by our relationship though, tenuous, to act responsibly and with integrity. And, nothing puts our integrity to the test like the crashing elements of reality – whatever they may be. My response to the unfortunate fish mug and the offending child must line up with my lesson learned about letting go. But, who is to know, and I control, to some degree, what others know about me.

I have at times been a hypocrite, and I could very easily, though not in good conscience, live a fraudulent life without anyone’s immediate knowledge. But, hypocrisy always shows itself in the end. Jesus had strong words for hypocrites, particularly those in positions of power and influence. Read Matthew 23:13-33 for more details.

I believe it is because of our incredible tendency toward hypocrisy that Paul wrote in Hebrews 10:24-25

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.”

All of us are potential frauds. But, we have the fantastic opportunity to live life alongside one another. Call it good peer pressure. Life is too difficult for anyone of us to do it alone. No one has the corner market on wisdom. And, no one is perfect. I, for one, need the community of friends, family and the Word of God to motivate me to be honest, accountable for my actions and true to my word. If you are reading this, I want you to know that I am thankful for you.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” - King Solomon / Ecclesiastes 4:9-10