Musing on the Tragic Death of Amy Winehouse

Well yesterday, 7/23/2011, the pop music artist Amy Winehouse died. Sadly, not one person is truly surprised at her death for she was living on borrowed time, long ensnared by addictions to drugs and alcohol. It was simply a matter of time. She continued to use and ultimately she died. Sadly, her one hit was the song “Rehab” which she essentially wrote and sang about her rejecting a plea for her to go to drug rehabilitation. Her is a fact, while Amy’s life and death was tragic and while many can easily sit in judgment over how sick she was and proclaim if only she would get clean, each of us are really no different. When it comes to making changes, we too often protest “No, no, no.” There are things we like, we enjoy that we really just do not want to give up. We resist calls to repentance with the reply “No, no, no.” It takes brokenness and a realization of the truth to move toward change. We all have choices to make. There are many paths to death and destruction beyond the likes of alcohol and drugs. We are selfish and walk paths even with full knowledge that it is not good. We all have trouble embracing changes and turning from the paths of death. Ultimately there is one choice each person needs to make and sadly the refrain there is too often “no, no, no.” And that choice is surrender to the Creator, to Jesus the King of Kings. All to readily the response is “They told me to submit to Jesus” and “I said no, no, no.” See, for the appeal of self-direction and choosing own life, even if well aware of the pain and emptiness with lack of true peace, is alluring. Any life that dies apart from surrender is tragic. It is the path of many, not just Amy Winehouse. It is a sad day that such a hurt and broken soul reached the death point. It is too late for Amy, it is not too late for you. Please do not cry out “No, no, no” any further. This is true even for those who have submitted to Jesus yet God is stirring you to change and let go of areas of sin in your life. Stop saying “no, no, no” and repent, for the rejection only brings more pain. Surrender, say yes, it is worthwhile!

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Holy Week Musing: The Dark Sabbath: Resting When All Seems Shattered

The day after Good Friday is a day not much attention is paid. Not many sermons are given on the day in between the cross and resurrection. When we do not spend some time focusing on this day of deep, dark despair we miss part of the picture. See the disciples; those who left all to follow Jesus had nowhere to turn. Jesus was just crucified, now what were they to do? They really didn’t have a clue. The choices basically were less than inspiring. All their hope was nailed to the cross, depression and despair took hold. Fear was great. Peter was so afraid he denied knowing Jesus three times. There has never been a period in time darker. Hope was gone. Some gather together and waited; some went back to what they knew best. Simply put, they were devastated and were just surviving.
Each of us do have moments of time where dreams are shattered, hope seems lost, things do not go according to our expectations, and often to the contrary. We can pull back, shut down, sleep or go back to what we knew. Of course each moment when we engage in those actions in the times of dark despair, we know that our response doesn’t suffice, but we know not what else to do. We do not know what God is actually doing or saying. All we know is we need to follow, hold on to God in spite of all appearances. For none of us knows what tomorrow brings, all we know is what God set before us, even when we cannot see any sign of hope.
But this we can know for certainty. God is at work. God is faithful. He will accomplish all He has set forth. He always keeps His promises and His word. Any period of dark despair is but temporary. Morning will come but does not last, the mourning is turned to dancing as God reveals His will and intent which is always better than anything we devise of our own accord. So in those dark times, God calls us to trust in him, rest in Him. The darkest time, a time where rest truly was needed, happened on a Sabbath, with the focus to be off self and on God. And on the darkest Sabbath, God was acting to secure the Eternal Rest, found in Jesus. Thus a call when times see dark, no where to turn, no where to go, no idea what God is going to go, remember to rest in God, for He is at work and will show the way, you can rest. Morning is coming and soon you will dance. Soon!

Now given these thoughts and musings, take some time to meditate on Psalms 30

A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple. I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.
To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!”
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Musing from 2nd day at #AACC National Conference: A matter of refocusing perspectives

Today at the AACC National Conference was a day that broadened perspectives. The workshops attended today were more focused on facilitating change toward particular problem areas.   Skills and knowledge were built upon. Yet, there a was a theme to the day for me.  It started from the first speaker of the day and moved on to the last.  The theme of the day was reviewing perspective.  The perspectives view are about our perspective with God, others, and self.

The thoughts on my perspective with God was a reminder of standing on the rock of God’s truth.  Abiding in His word. It is His word that contains the truth that sets us free.  His word is the foundation upon which we are to act.  It is knowing and acting on His word that gives us the only true and secure base.  Anything else will falter.  No matter what each of us is going through, God and His word are always secure.  So a question for each of us, is how is our attachment to God.  Or as Dr. Tim Clinton would put it, how is our “God Attachment.”  There is not one of us that is does not need to examine our perspective toward God. How is our vision and how can we grow deeper in the limits to our perspective of God. 

As to perspectives of others, the thought in my mind is about we need to at time refocus how we perceive those in our lives both in terms of our family, our community, and those brought to our lives. There are people like myself whose vocation is to help those hurting and needing help.  The starting point is to continually evaluate my own perceptions of those who come to me for help. It is easy to develop perspectives on clients that create negative mindsets. There are particular diagnoses that bring negative reactions and actual resistance to providing sound counsel.  So there has to be a perspective that no client is hopeless and all are capable of help and change.  Now there are ways to restrict clients to assure working with a particular class the generates a sense of productive help. It does take work and changing perspectives and finding solutions to help facilitate change.  And the goal is to facilitate change, which an also be related to helping people see things in their life differently. Finding different options other than doing things they have always done. This can involve building skills and helping them make changes to their perspectives.  In essence, changing perspectives is all about helping them find their way. What is there view of what life stressors and how to get them to view broader in ways not examined.  It is broadening and focusing perspectives ultimately that help generate change, as a person is ready.

Lastly, the thoughts went to focusing on my perspectives of myself.  What are the lies I hold to?  What are the distortions of God I hold?  How is my perspective limited? What do I oppose? What do I fear? Where is my faith? Is my perspective on this world or on eternal matters?  This challenging of the perspective of self comes during an interesting time. The Jewish calender has already started a several day celebration of Sukkot, “The Feast of the Lord.”  It is a day focusing on the ultimate victory and a move from the temporary to the permanent.  Is my walking in this temporary tabernacle one that is continuing on the path set before me or is the things that draw my attention and attract me to places dark. 

So today was about building up skill in part, but it really was a day of perception checks.  Where is the focus.  Tomorrow is the last day of the conference.  The progression as a flow to it so it will be interesting to see where my thoughts go tomorrow.  Yesterday it was about reviewing foundations and ultimately going deeper. Today it is about refocusing perspectives, tomorrow has yet to play out.  Praise God for the works he is doing, not just in the life of this man, but all who are here.

The best way to end this article is a quote from Dr. Ken Nichols of www.aliveministries.net “God’s word influences my perspective.  My perspective influences how I respond. My response influences the outcome of the situation. 100% of the time.”

On Responses to Jesus Resurrection

Thoughts over the past week have centered on the varied reactions to the Resurrection of Jesus.  There were distinct reactions from those who followed Jesus and there was a distinct reaction of those who rejected to the point of overseeing his crucifixion. Now for his followers there are the women, the eleven disciples, and others.  Regardless, the reactions generally were the same with variation based on individuals.  Each account involves some initial shock and disbelief. The women asked the angel where he took the body.  The disciples did not quickly believe the reports of the women. Peter and John who met the women on the road went to check it out for themselves.  Of course we all know Thomas’s famous doubt even when face to face with our risen Lord. But the fact is the resurrection was so wondrous, so contrary to the grief that the first response was that of shock, doubt, and denial. 

After the initial shock and wonder, soon came wonder, joy, and astonishment as well as confusion.  All they knew is Jesus who was dead was alive. He ate with them. He talked with them. They were able to touch wounds even so far as to place hands in his side.  They all went through a major mood swing; loss of hope, depression, uncertainly followed by pure joy, excitement, and wonder.  Jesus who was just killed was alive. Jesus was alive, fully alive.  His body did not show signs of the tremendous abuse he went through other than the wonders.  When you understand just how incredible the resurrection was, the doubt of Thomas is a bit clearer.  How could it really be Jesus, fully alive, fully functional after all he went through, yet this was the true fact.  Jesus was alive.  It is really hard to fully grasp the depth of response.  Think of your worst possible moment, the darkest time in your life.  Now imagine after that darkest moment you find out that it is reversed in an incredible way beyond expectation or understanding.  Such a reaction is but a taste of what Jesus followers experienced.

Now there are others who had a completely different response. Essentially they are those who conspired to see Jesus crucified.  They didn’t struggle with the feelings of the disciples, rather they went to self-protection and keeping their image their reality in place.  They protected their power and position.  They had to have a plausible story, for it would be hard to deny the resurrection testimonies without a plausible story. So what did they do?  They conspired further. They bribed the guards to put their lives at risk and say the body was stolen.  It is a lie still believed by many today.  The lie and the conspiracy was all about keeping power, for what they feared is if Jesus was truly from God and the story was true, they lose all power.  Everything they worked for and made decisions over was but nothing.  They wanted their power.  So they continued to protect themselves and paid for lies to be spread.  Over time the lies would grow as the supernatural events of the day pass from memory. The dead leaving graves became just a story quickly brushed off. 

So thinking this over, the question really is how does Jesus resurrection impact you?  Are there things you seek to maintain control and cannot surrender.  Do you believe God is capable of redeeming any who would come?  Because it is the power of the resurrection that bears witness to redemption, the empty tomb speaks.  Will you listen to the truth and let it touch your life and change you from the darkness surrounding to glorious and joyful unimagined change?  This is the resurrection.  This is God’s love.  This is what is true peace on earth, Jesus died and rose again so that all may live. Jesus is the only way, there is no other path.  There is nothing anywhere that truly has the demonstrated power of resurrection.

Passion Week Musings: The Darkest Sabbath

Today in my mind and heart is best referred to as the dark Sabbath.  During this Passion Week, it is the day Jesus was in the grave.  He breathed Has last breath, declared it is finished, and was taken to the grave. Since he was in the grave on the Sabbath his body was not even properly addressed, that was too be finished on Sunday. The day of Jesus laying in the grave is a dark day with the emotions of those who followed and placed their faith in Jesus as Messiah in a dark, dark storm.

During the arrest and crucifixion the disciples responded their ways in similar vein, they just did it differently.  Some just ran. One ran so hard and so fast in fear that he left his clothing behind.  Some followed and watched it all, shocked. Some followed but defended self to the point of denial.   Fear, shock, and self-protecting denial occurred on the day of crucifixion.  Then Jesus died.

Imagine if you will your own storm of emotions that would occur as the one you left all to follow. The one you placed all hope and faith died the most horrendous death possible. He did not fight back. He did not defend himself to lies.  He just died.  Before he died he said confusing things like “My God, My God, why has though forsaken me.” and “It is finished.”  He even took time to assure His mother was cared for and attended to.  It would be absolutely devastating.  Then you take this man, this one you loved and put all trust, and see his dead, bloody, lifeless body placed in the grave. All your hopes, dreams, and faith seemed for naught, empty, and shattered.

We at some point each have tasted some measure of grief, but no grief ever experienced matches the grief of the disciples on that day.  They had to feel immense shock. They had thoughts such as:  How could this have happened?  Why didn’t he save or defend himself?  What does this mean? How could this happen if he is the Messiah?  Those questions and emotions would likely quickly turn to anger, even anger at the father.  Thoughts such as: God how could you let this happen? How could you give us the Messiah only to have him die?  How dare Jesus not defend himself, didn’t he know we all depended on him, gave up everything for him?  The emotions would quickly move toward despondency. There would be thoughts like: Now what? There is no place left to turn?  There is no hope for anyone? This doomed us all?  God cannot be real, so what is the point?  There also had to be lots of confusion and aimlessness. Thoughts would arise such as: What now?  What do I do tomorrow?  Where do I go from hear? Do I return to my old life?  I cannot go back, where do I go?    There are probably many more thoughts and emotions experienced on the darkest of Sabbaths.  For there is no other day in time where there seemed to be less reason for hope, more confusion about what lies ahead, more reason to question God.  The darkest Sabbath had it all.  For the disciples were shocked, grieved, and wounded. 

Now there are times even know in this life that what God is doing is hard to understand. We have expectations that are shattered. We have expectations of ways God will act, but what God does makes no sense.  We are often left wondering, grieved, confused, and questioning.  But know this; God’s plan is always for His glory. His plan is far better than our expectations, hopes and dreams.  We are not going to always understand or have answers.  Yet, we can always trust God to be faithful.  The darkest Sabbath was but a short moment in time.  Darkness grew and celebrated but that dark day did not last because God’s plan and power is soon to be revealed. The tomb is soon to be found empty.  God’s love and power is made manifest for all.  And the darkest levels of human emotions for those that spent every day following and walking in surrender to Jesus would turn to greatest Joy as the clarity and understanding of confusing words spoken occurs as the tomb will be empty.  If you are currently in a dark day or dark Sabbath, know full well, that when tomorrow does come, it comes with full hope and joy and the period of darkness was but a moment.  For while the day is dark, know that Sunday is coming!

Addict lost in addiction and the pathway to death. (1-12-10 Update on Jeff Dubay)

Well the tragic story of Jeff Dubay continues to unfold.  The Star Tribune provided a new update as to his progress and it is not encouraging. Apparently he had been released from the workhouse to do sentence to serve work, and ended up at inpatient residential treatment at the Prodigal House treatment center.   According to the article, the facility gave Jeff  a view ‘second chances’ but he failed to engage and take part in the treatment program. The article reports that he  was just going through the motions and making no real effort to change.

The story really highlights the difficulty at reaching a point of recognition and motivation to change.  The addictions and desire for them are stronger than a  will to live.  Jeff was unable to reach the point of having a will to change.  He is a slave to his addictions.  Of course, it is easy to look down on Jeff Dubay or other addicts.   Dr. Drew Pinsky’s Celebrity Rehab shows other people in similar states with varying levels of treatment engagement.  All equally lost.   Yet, Jeff Dubay and the varied celebrities are no different from the condition of us all.  It is easy to look down on these folks and the paths of death and destruction they are walking.   However, anyone walking  a path of self is on a path of destruction. Some are not as obvious but it is all to real.  The level of denial that exists is   the same as it is with these lost souls. 

There is only really one path that is not a path of destruction, and that is the pathway of Jesus.  It is surrender of self to Him which results in reaching a state of true peace and wholeness.  Now, such surrender does not involve instant change.  There is a process of cleansing and changing.  No one has to have things right to surrender.  It does involve surrender of self.  It is not something that is of lip service and words easily said.  Rather, it is a complete turning of the will.  As Bob Dylan once penned, We all gotta serve somebody.  The choice is who, masters that lead to destruction or one that brings life, wholeness, and true peace?  Jeff Dubay and various other celebrity drug addicts have sad stories.  They once had achieved something but are destroying themselves for the false peace of one for of temporary stimulation or another.  Their pathway to death is obvious. Their prison is readily apparent.  Yet, take a look at your own life, ask  for open eyes to see where the path you are treading leads.  There are only two  options.  Pathways leading to death and destruction, and the pathway of life.   

 As for Jeff Dubay, the man needs prayer that he  can   have his eyes opened to what he is doing to himself and the cost.  Pray that His eyes and ears become opened to spiritual truth and he sees  his need for a Savior and the true peace found in Jesus.  Yet, whether he does or not, his ability to change only comes at a point of brokenness and recognition of need for change.  It is the same for each of us.  Until we reach that point, the steps on the pathway of death but continue.  The pathway to death is always easy to take, it takes recognition and work to move off that path.

Swineflu Health Alert: Responses to health concerns

     Most everyone should be aware by know of the ongoing concern regarding the H1N1 virus being described as a swine-flu. Anytime there is a prospect of a pandemic it is scary.  We all have choices when we hear these kinds of news reports and world news events. 

     We can ignore concerns and engage in no preparation or precaution.  This is not a wise course of action, for there will be times coming when varied plagues and illness become more rampant.  There will be plagues about the earth, it is just a matter of when. 

     We can become panicked and fearful.  Often when news of disaster, world health concerns, or other potential disasters fear easily takes hold.  Fear is a natural response to such news events.  The question is what do you do with the fear.  You can become obsessed and withdraw or you can use it to draw you to take steps for your safety. Our feelings of fear are always a signal of a need for action, the question is always about whether the fear is real or perceived. 

   Another natural response is that of becoming obsessed over the concern.  When there is concerns of significant magnitude it is real easy, especially in this day and age to get caught up in attending to every piece of news on these items.

   The best course of action is to simply take the steps ready to prepare for the eventuality and take reasonable precautions.  The biggest thing any person can do to avoid infection is to engage in frequent hand washing.  When in public, it is also important to avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.   There are also vitamins you can take that can help prevent or minimize viral infection. This can include use of Vitamin D, heavy doses of Vitamin C, or other supplements.  There is information on the Internet that gives extensive directions for natural preventive supplements such as here: http://standeyo.com/NEWS/09_Health/09027.prep.4flu.

     Times like this are also a good time to re-evaluate your spiritual status.  It is a perfect time to reflect on areas of your life to make changes. It is a perfect time to consider whether or not you have turned your life to Jesus the Messiah and accepted the gift of salvation. For those that have, it is a good time to pray and seek and follow any prompting God may be stirring in your life.  This is true whether this health concern turns into a global plague/pandemic or just is simply another wake up call. 

    As a believer in Jesus as Messiah and one who seeks to walk in surrender to the Kingdom of God, it is not easy.  At times like these, thoughts become focused on how personal plans can be undone by such concerns. Yet, not my will but God’s be done.  God is and remains in control.  Sickness, illness, plague, and death all are in the course of the human experience, yet ultimately God has greater in store.  Only in God through the work of Jesus as messiah is there any true peace and joy.  And this is a perfect time for the body of Jesus, those of us serving the Kingdom of God to reach out to others and point them to the truth of God’s grace.  It is a time to pray and a time to call others to turn from their selfishness and recognize that no one is capable of self-redemption. Redemption is only possible through Jesus.

     So in closing, this is a time of concern.  There is a real threat to health that may impact the globe.  This is a great time to see to taking precautions for this life and to evaluate your spritual health and status.  It is also a great time to find ways to reach out to those around you and it may be as simple as praying for the safety and well being of those you know and who are around you.  Above all seek what God would have you do in time like this, at whatever the cost to self.