Update from the depths of silence

Hello strangers, at least that should be what it seems like.  I am not promising resurrection of this blog site by showing up and writing. I have been there and done that with the best of intentions. Rather, I just need to write given where I am in life.

When I stopped writing for this blog several years ago now, I felt my last articles were repeating things I said before, so I let this slide.  I am now graduating into a new place in life and it is scary.  I do have things to say, stories to tell, words to give voice. Yet, honestly, I have a major project to complete this year, a doctoral dissertation for a Doctor of Counseling degree program. So I will be writing, but not personal or reflective or any other such element.

This year I anticipate God will be moving to build upon what he established in me. I see the coming year ahead to be one of growth.  Yet, as I write this, I know my mother lies dying. I hate this fact.  I hate seeing the look of death, it is horrid. Much different than the look of life I have observed in women about to give birth, a look where life is brimming and expansive. No, the look of death is the withdrawal of life, and awful constriction and fading of the spirit. My mother is soon to shed the mortal coil. She will not get to witness, in this life, the growth that is to come, with the hopes and dreams and accomplishments yet to occur.  She will not be physically there. Yet, she played a large role in the man I am today and the people I reach out to help. But today, I grieve. In that grief, I have come speaking out of the nether regions of silence that this place has become. I have no idea who will read this, friends, families, strangers. Yet, know God has his perfect timing in all these things. I am facing a time of mourning. A time to weep as my mother faces her time to die. I have no words to ponder or reflect on as I face this pain.  I am essentially giving voice into the expanse pronouncing my pain and grief. My mom is dying and it hurts!

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Love is all we need

All_We_Need_Is_LoveLove. It is a simple word. It signifies something we all so desperately want but it is also so very lacking.  Love is the most talked about subject within our culture and everything point to a significant relationship and subsequent children as the apex of love.  Yet, ultimately none of us get it. We fail to grasp love.  We all wanted be care for and are hurt when we are not.  We all desperately want to be loved and to love. It is at the core of humanity. It is why we take on pets for example, to love and be loved.

 Yet, ultimately we fail to grasp love and are really far from it. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves provides a definition of love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Our experience of love falls far of that definition.  Here is the reason. The definition involves no focus on self. It is looking outward toward the welfare of others. The essence of love is found in Philippians 2:3 (ESV) Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.   When we love we are emptying of self. We are giving of self. We are focused on the welfare not of self, but of others.  However, we are ever self-focused.

We are wrapped up in our perception of being loved and are quick to voice when we are not engaged in behavior that is perceived as caring or loving. When we get upset, we do so when someone else has failed to engage in looking out for our welfare and did or said something we find lacking.   Such a response is even followed suit in understanding and rejecting God.  Many who reject God look at pain and suffering in the world and their own lives and conclude that a loving God could not allow such.  So they reject God. Some in that rejection will push simply engaging in looking out for the welfare of others.  The refrain is “all we need is love.” Simply look out for others and make the best world today.  Yet, lost in it all is the day to day agony when that desire of love falters.

 The fact is God does look out for our welfare. He never fails.  The rest of us fall far short.  So, yes we all need love, and love is what we all need, but if you separate that love from the author  and source of love it is but illusion. God is the only one who provides full care and love. Yes, the love does provide limits and structures, not out of cruelty, but in understanding what we need and what hurts us. We see that every day with parents and children, choices made and limits set for their welfare often in spite of great protest. Sure, any one of us can demonstrate love to others. We can do good too others apart from God. We can make the best out of life. Yet, it is making the best of what we can. But that falls far short of a life submitted to God, the source and author of love. And none of us have a grasp on God’s love. Our understanding is limited.  Yet, as you grow in understanding God, love grow. Love for God, self, and others. It comes as you grow and as you understand and grow the wounds and hurts from the damages of living life heal and allow true forward movement that in turn demonstrates the care for others found in demonstrating true love. We need love. We need God. You cannot separate the two for God is love.  So yes, all we need is love and that need is only found in God, who is love. So God is what we all need, for God is love.

Who Has a Target on Their Back

Last week this writer was involved in an accident where suddenly a semi-truck hit the rear end of his car on a highway sending the car spinning out of control.  No other vehicle was hit. A couple days after the accident this writer had a conversation was had with a friend and the thought was expressed that it felt like there was a target on my back.  Now granted the thought was a little dramatic but rooted in having been involved in a prior scary accident about five years earlier. There are also things that have happened in life while engaged in helping others grow and receive freedom.  The thought came to my mind that there is a concerted effort to do me harm.  Now before the reader begins to think this writer is developing paranoia or grandiosity or becoming too concerned with own scope in the grand scheme understand that there is a wider picture here. Sure, this writer may be targeted from harm by spiritual forces. It is a certain possibility. However, it is not isolated to this writer and it is not even isolated to believers in Jesus as Messiah and who surrender to Him as Lord.  The fact is everyone has a target on their backs.  Scripture tells us in 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”   Granted, the verse there is directed at believers. But it is just not believers that “the enemy” is seeking to destroy. It is all of humanity.  “The enemy” wants many harmed. In John 10:10 it states “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy” which indicates that all of us have a target on our backs.  And in other words, there is really nothing “special” about any of us and what we go through. It is part and parcel of living life and we are all targets for destruction.

Now that being said, yes, there are times when things happen in our lives where things go beyond coincidence.  And certainly engaging in the work of loving others and helping others overcome the pain, destruction, chains, and traps of the battle of life brings on difficulties the evidence an attack. But the attack has nothing to do with that person but more about who we serve, that we are servants of the most high God.  Now, given that the enemy seeks to destroy all God has given us directions.  We are to take every thought captive. He are to put on the “full amour of God.”  We are to be sober minded and alert. We are to be involved in tearing down strongholds by spiritual means.  We are to cast down imaginations. We are to stand firm and endure.   Our job is not to “defeat” an enemy but to bring people into God’s kingdom and save them from destruction.  Bad stuff happens. Periods of time where we catch the attention of the enemy do occur and has an impact, in other words stuff does happen. In all that we are to engage and endure and rescue others.  So, yes I have a target on my back, so do you, and so does everyone else.  Be about the business of loving and caring for others and point them to God’s kingdom.

Musings on the Tragic Life and Death of Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston died tragically on February 2nd, 2012. Much has been written and examined related to the life and death of Whitney Houston. Many thoughts and statements have been made regarding Whitney. Some have even commented on her standing with Jesus, easily concluding that she rejected Jesus. Barry McGuire made such statements in an opinion piece: http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2012/s12020066.htm suggesting that Whitney rejected the judgmental Jesus of the fundamental church. However, personally not really certain that Whitney rejected Jesus as she has given performances singing boldly of Jesus love including the snippet of her short duet with Kelly Price and the performance in Brazil in 1994 that are readily available on YouTube.

She knew of the love of Jesus. She grew up learning of the love of Jesus at New Hope Church pastored by Joe A. Carter. Her first solo performance was at age 11 when she sang “Guide me, O thou great Jehovah.” So she knew and was exposed to the love of Jesus and personally don’t think her story is one of rejecting Jesus, but rather getting lost and distracted by the things of this world and looking for love in places other than Jesus. She was hurt and turned to things that lead to death led by her own desires. While Whitney grew up in the church, she also group up in a family that valued music and entertainment. Her mother was Cissy Houston. Her cousins were Dionne Warwick, Dee Dee Warwick, and Darlene Love. Her honorary Aunt was Aretha Franklin. Music was central to her family and Whitney Houston was created and gifted with a beautiful voice. Her voice opened doors and brought her fame and fortune. However, all that she received did not fulfill her and she was lost and hurting. Yet, at the base level she knew of Jesus love. However, that knowledge appeared to be something that she knew intellectually but did not experience at the core of her being. She knew of the love of Jesus, but did not seem to experience it.

There is a reason that Whitney Houston gravitated toward the simple song, Jesus Loves Me. The words state “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” And that appears to be the level of Whitney’s knowledge of Jesus love. She was told it was true. She sang of the truth but her experience of it was limited. It is clear that Whitney craved deeply love. Her words deeply touched on the human perspectives of love and longing, yet ever missing the true love. Yet, at core she knew that Jesus was where there was true love, yet couldn’t break from the pain and loss and hurt coming from the wounds caused by others. She got hooked into the poison of alcohol and drugs that give momentary relief of those pains, yet she did not experience the healing of Jesus love in this life. She walked a path that lead to death and fully embraced the poison.

Whitney is really not any different than anyone else, other than being famous. She experienced hurt and pain. She wanted love, but what she experienced didn’t measure up. She lived a life that pursued her desires and she was able to have a lot of her desires fulfilled. However, one desire was not fulfilled, to be able to live free from pain and experience love deeply. She craved, it wanted it, sang beautifully about it, yet she did not let the words of her first solo be her path. She chose her own way and it came easy, for she had “THAT VOICE.” We also readily choose our own way and pursue the things that come easy. We go after our desires and do not surrender to God or look to Him for strength. We also at times only have knowledge that Jesus loves us because of what we are told. There is more. Jesus love is real and can be experienced. Jesus love is beyond measure. It can touch one beyond the deep levels of pain and hurt living in the fallen world brings. We all too often go ways that seem right to us, that give us all we think we want but in reality ensare us and trade the promise of love into pain as the promise turns to a cruel and abusive master.

So there is much to be learned from the life and death of Whitney Houston. We all have a story and paths to choose. We can follow God and surrender or we can walk the path of self. Each path has pain and joy. Each path has difficulties. One path leads to full life, one leads to death. Whitney is one of many who only grasp things at a superficial level and go looking for the answers in ways that seem right but are death. Our natural inclination is to choose paths that do seem right, yet are our own destruction. The choice to follow God is always difficult for it involves given up of what I think I want, for we fear giving of self will result in being denied goodness and pleasure. However, it is only truly in the giving of what we think we want that we can receive all that is of good. Whitney missed out in this life, for she walked the path of self. Walking the path of God brings more than can be imagined but it requires all, but in that is true goodness, pleasure, and life. So please, take time and lament the death of Whitney Houston, then examine own life. Open up to surrender to God and being able to truly experience the love of Jesus so it moves beyond knowing about it because one was told about it, but rather that love is experienced moment by moment.

#wcaacc Conference Day One: Re-establishing Focus

 

Today the start of the World Conference for the American Association of Christian Counselors was a day that served as a good start. God already has been at work showing me, reminding me, and teaching me what I need to know today. My story and journey here is unique as it will be for the 7000 other counselors and ministers of varying forms. Each situation and story is different and what God has to teach at some levels is the same but for each individual it is different, for he created us each unique. For me today, the day was about renewed focus.

 

My day started with Dr. E. John Kuhnley with a training related to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. So the conference started for me with examining those who at a core have a disorder in focus. It was interesting that in the course of the training the comparison was made to vision loss and the nature of “corrective measures.”

 

The journey of the day continued with a training sponsored by the Society of Christian Psychologists about the Problem of Evil and Suffering in Christian Counseling. It was a time focusing on the essence of dealing with the suffering around us and those we encounter. The lecture and conversation centered on who God is and how we impact others. An awareness of God being beyond our grasp and when interacting with others, we are not about the answers but the coming along side to encourage healing and growth. The thoughts that stuck with me are related to being okay with the “I do not know” followed by having a grasp of the function of suffering and what happens when we do face the suffering of this fallen world. So in other words, we may never understand the meaning of what happens to us related to the pain and suffering we encounter in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We don’t have to understand. Ultimately suffering serves a purpose in each of our lives. Each story is unique and different and of the course we learn what there is to learn and grow deeper from knowledge to understanding. As we walk the path in thing enduring faith, God brings to further clarity at times His calling and path. Something that path is different than expectations as dreams shatter. Yet, God works, as He wills and works, in each life, for each story.

 

 

 

The day wrapped up with the opening plenary session. Before either Dr. Tim Clinton or Lois Palau spoke worship was lead by Charles Billingsly. He made a statement “The world is all of us. The only thing that separates us is the blood of the lamb.” Dr. Tim Clinton then spoke on the growing importance of faith and spirituality in counseling. He touched on Colossians 1:27 with emphasis on the last portion of the first “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” He went on to state “It’s personal. It is all about you and what God wants to do through you.” He then challenged each of us to ask God to do something special which may be a renewed calling, a being strengthen to fight, to simply do what matters before God.

 

For me the night ended with Lois Palau talking about the mysteries of union with God, the human condition, and communion with God. The emphasis was about God being with us, within us. That each day we need to start with our focus on God and Jesus in surrender. We need to abide in Him. One profound statement was “That along as God is in us, we are the power of God wherever we go.”

 

 

 

So in summing up my thoughts on this day. For me it was renewed focus. We each can easily lose focus. We can lose sight of the basics. We live in a fallen world and have a fallen sin nature. We are no different than anyone else. We are all in the same boat. The difference that exists, exists because of what God did in suffering for us. He suffered and died so that we may be made free and lived. This freedom is not to do what ever we determine but to enter into God’s Kingdom and follow His way. It is only in being aligned with God that we are whole. God moves in each of our lives in ways beyond our limited understand. We all have a a unique story. It in involves joy and sorrow. Yet, in that each of us have a path and calling. We are enabled to walk the path God puts before us because of His strength, for He is with us. Whatever we do, whatever steps we take, whatever moving forward, comes becomes of God in us. And this is the focus. Whether in plenty or want that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

 

Well those are my thoughts and summation for this first day of the conference and what God is doing. Take time to ask God to help your focus and see what He wants you to see. Accepted what you do not know and trust in God alone. For only in Him is there any strength.

July 4th Musing: Comparing self-determined and God-determined living

Today, Monday July 4th, 2011 is Independence Day, a day of celebration of the birth of the United States of America. It was on this day in 1776 that the Declaration of Independence was sign. It is that document that sets forth the guiding principles of the United States.  The document set forth the principles of freedom that this country was built.  Yes, this country has freedom and self-determination. Today many folks talk about the cost of freedom, that it comes with a price. Certainly the signers of the Declaration of Independence gave their all in support of the concept of freedom proclaimed in that document. However, this article is not about extolling the virtues and cost of the founding principles of this country but rather examine the principles in comparison to God’s Kingdom principles.

The principles at the core of the Declaration was that  people have a choice and are free to set their course.  These principles are summed up with the words “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  In other words, people are free to determine there course including the government they are willing to submit. People are free to make there choice in all areas of life.  They are free to choose their path in life.

The Kingdom of God does not operate on principles of self-determining a path in life. Yes, we have choice but the key element of the Kingdom of God is this “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25 (ESV).  The Kingdom of God is about self-surrender which brings true life. There is much in this world that can be pursued but the only real life, is life in proper relationship with God. It is leaving the world of self-determined choices and surrendering to following God’s leading and God’s way. It is a move from self-determination to God-determination.

The Kingdom of God view of liberty is also different than that of the concept in the Declaration of Independence. The liberty referenced is that of freedom to do whatever one desires as long as it does not interfere with others.  It is freedom from not only oppression but restriction of own desires.  The Kingdom of God principle of liberty is quite different. The Kingdom of God liberty is about freedom from the bondage to sin and self.  It is freedom from the consequences of our selfishness.  Each of us makes choices each day. There are many choices that move away from God and give a momentary pay off that leave one bound and oppressed.  Yet, God offers freedom to all who will take it, but it means surrendering God’s authority. When you do so, freedom from all those choices of the moment is granted and relationship with the Creator is secured. 

The Declaration of Independence indicates that the ultimate goal of all is the “pursuit of happiness.” In  other words, we are to be free to take a path that makes us feel good. It is pursuit of overall well being. It is a pursuit of that which is pleasing.  In the Kingdom of God, the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12 which offers a different take than that which makes us feel good or pleases us.  Rather, it stands in contrast with brokenness, mercy, righteousness, purity, and persecution as elements valued in God’s Kingdom which is moving being the satisfaction of self known as happiness.

The world today bemoans the pain and suffering.  There are cries for tolerance and letting everyone select their own path toward creating their own good.  Now, self-determination has often resulted in people pursuing goals that bring success and benefit many, but it simply provides means to limit the pain.  Any government can become oppressive and certainly will not please all. There is a better way to live than by the concepts found in the Declaration of Independence when you live in submission to the creator and surrender self to God.  The surrender of self is what is required to join God’s Kingdom. It is His rule and following His determination or it is a self-determined course.  The path of self is filled with illusion and temporary gains, the path of God is that of faith, endurance, and promises of lasting life and happiness as we are transformed and brought in alignment with the Creator’s design and intent.  

Now, we do  have a choice. Each of us. We can choose our path and direction and go by our will, avoiding harm to others.  We can select those who govern us and see if they help or hinder our own and societies well being.  We can seek to live in an ever changing world, altering the social contract as necessary.  The other choice is that of looking beyond this world and entering the Kingdom of God.  It starts with being reconciled with the creator and then results with changes within as we grow and mature as members of God’s kingdom. In God’s Kingdom though all who enter are more than simply subjects, because we are adopted into God’s family. We are selected to a very intimate and select relationship with one who looks for our good always. Yes, even when it does not appear to be so.  It involves entering the eternal contract and surrendering to God’s determination and way.  It is only by doing so can one truly find life, liberty, and happiness for any other way is temporary and illusion leading to bondage.  For it is as stated in John 8:36 (ESV) So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Pentecost Sunday Musing: Holy Spirit Empowerment

Today, Sunday 6/12/2011 is Pentecost Sunday[i]. It is the day that focuses on our being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is also known as the Jewish festival Shavuot.[ii]  In terms of previous thoughts regarding Pentecost please read https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/shavoutpentecost-musings/ and https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/musings-on-pentecost-sunday-shavu%e2%80%99ot/ in addition to today’s article.  Also please take time to celebrate having God with us and being in-dwelt with the Holy Spirit.

God set aside this day for a reason and a purpose. God specifically directed the disciples to wait. They were not to go off on their own and start sharing the good news about Salvation, they needed what they did not yet have.  See, on this day something happened that had not occurred before. Sure, there were instances of people being empowered by the Holy Spirit including Moses, David, Elijah, Elisha, and others.  But there never had been the moment where God took up residence within the human spirit. It was the day that the following of God’s truth and God’s ways was given the empowerment through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit enabling God with us, every day. It was the day that God’s ways, God’s law started being written on the hearts of humanity and daily fellowship with the creator enabled. 

Granted, there is a lot of ways folks understand and misunderstand the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  But, God made it clear that there is no fruit and progress without the Holy  Spirit. He directed the disciples to wait, to not go off on their own power to spread the gospel. Something else was needed.  Even then, he directed them to start local and move outward.  There were specific steps for specific times.  Now we may not always grasp or understand. At times we may be waiting, but God does go before us. He provides us what we need, when we need it. The Holy Spirit within us is evidence of this. But God gives when He gives in accordance with His will with what is necessary.  It may not match our viewpoint or understanding at all; for we do not see things clearly, only in part.  Think for a moment to what it would be like to be a disciple and having seen Jesus ascended and being directed to wait without having any idea what was coming.  Then Pentecost comes and the Holy Spirit comes and indwells. What a glorious day but no one could have possibly known what it meant until it happened. 

 

Now note that God still gives what in accordance with His will with what is necessary. It does not always line up or look like we think it should. We are told to listen and follow. We are to wait when directed to wait and we are to move forward when God says move forward. Each step involves trust.  Each instance and circumstance and life is unique.  Too often, each of us can look toward a certain way God moved and apply it broader.  But each circumstance, each person, each life is unique. God works in us all, and those of us who have submitted to God’s way and follow the true path have God with us. It is not a special thing about any of us, it is not a ‘divine spark.’ It is God taking up residence within us, to give us the power and direction to respond to God’s truth and love God and others in accordance with God’s will.  We simply need to trust and obey and be about what God directs each day. We are given power to do so each day, but it requires a daily surrender to the Holy Spirit and a seeking out and following God’s direction but in God’s word and in the prompting of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Doing so makes each day a glorious day and leads us into the path of contentment recognizing that we can do all things through God’s empowerment which is enabled by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Thank God for this day, many years ago that allows me to walk, write, and do what God sets before me when I surrender daily.  It is this that enables us all to be conquerors and empowered to do whatever is ahead. For none of us can do what God directs on our own accord, just as the disciples needed the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, so to we need this empowerment. It starts with surrender and following God with trust and obedience.  He gives the power, we just need to stay in step. When we are obedient and not relying on self, we can know that God will see us through to where He wants us, for He is promised is always faithful and He has given us the means to be empowered for whatever He asks in whatever circumstance.