Resurrecting this Blog

Well it has been nearly a year since I have posted on the blog and prior to not posting there have been many stops and starts.  The complete lack of posting was in part sorting out if posting here was more about me or about following God.  There was a particularly sharp comment posted somewhere that suggested that the posting and blog was about my ego.  This in turn led to silene as I had recognized plenty of comparisons going on in my mind.  However, there have been many thoughst and comments that posting thoughts and such would be appropriate.  At the beginning of the year I did feel God was telling me to return to blogging and posting thoughts, however, I did not immediately do so.  Part of the reason for the disengagement comes from a struggling with balancing sharing my thoughts and views with my profession. As a mental health professional there needs to be some restraint and refinement in focus.  For the purpose of this blog is to give voice about the things God puts on my heart and mind and to share it so that some may touched. The words are sewing seeds and using what God has given me versus sitting back in my own world and doing whatever feels best to me.  I think the problem is that I did get caught up in my world and the concerns there in and got distracted from writing the things God was stirring otherwise.  So, now the goal is to get back to writing and with the intent and focus to reflect back to God.   It is time to speak forth what God spurs in submission and fellowship.  It is time for this blog to be renewaled and hopefully people find a place of peace, depth, and reflection that is challenging of growth.

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Post-Christmas Musing: The Essentials of The Way-Faith, Hope & Love

My mind has been going back and forth over what to write in relation to the Christmas Holiday this year.  The celebration has come and gone.  Now I recognize that the Christmas season is definitely a mix. By tradition and works of Church we celebrate the Incarnation alongside the celebrations of the world.  Boundaries get blurred, things get mixed, and perspective can shift from God’s Holy work to that which is of self and our own desires.  In fact at times, the season can be about getting what we want. The reality is that the focus should be to grow more and more in alignment with walking in what God wants, living in surrender.

As previously stated, this Christmas season has been a strange one for me and my family. There is an ongoing mix of grief and hope.  My sister-in-law suffered the loss of her mother in the past year.  My step-mother is quickly slipping away while hope remains that God will bring restoration of her health.   My mother continues to cope with her loss of vision, which continues to fade. My wife hopes to receive word on Monday of being promoted to a Service Manager position at her employer but prepared for the potential disappointment. And for me, there is my ongoing care and love for all of the above as well as thoughts, plans, dreams to transition to a functioning private practice.  In all these circumstances God is bringing the three essential elements of the Way to mind: Faith, Hope, and Love. 

It is worth noting that these essential elements are NOT about having desires met. Rather, it is about growing in each aspect through God-centered surrender.  It is always all about God, yet we can easily make it all about self. In each of the essential elements there is a risk, much like this season, can be a mix. There can be self-focused or Christ-focused faith, hope, and love. The key difference is where is the attention drawn, the actions or acts or benefit to self or the ongoing pointing to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Now that being said, let us examine each element of The Way a little closer. 

Faith: It is a word quickly spoken and easy misused.  There are many who make proclamations that faith is some self-actuated behavior that if the right words or thoughts are engage in, then what want will happen.  However, such thoughts are more about self-assurance and gratification then about growing in dependence on God.  Rather, Godly faith is faith that remains when all seems darkest. Godly faith is such that  “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him:” Job 13:15a (KJV).  Faith is keeping focus on God and His ways knowing that “He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23b (ESV). Faith is always keeping focus on what God has laid forth at all costs and without any visible evidence. Recently on December 21st there was a solar eclipse on the longest night of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere.) Now we know that the darkness will fade and morning comes but if we did not know that fact when the darkness comes and light is blocked, there would be much fear.  The struggle here is always to be focused on what God says even when things look worst, or things are very difficult.  Walking in faith is having full assurance in God, that no matter what the appearance, He will remain faithful.  And His faithfulness are not about the appearance in certain results or turning things to our desires in our time or fashion. Rather, it is always about His way, His time, and His actions that bring glory to Him. 

Hope: We all have hopes and dreams. We have desires. However, these hopes, dreams and desires can be for much apart from God and His will.  The true hope is when our hope is focused on the things of God.  Such hope is not easily swayed by the vagaries of life. Rather, such hope rests on the knowledge and surety of who God is.  Yet, we are always torn between having the hope  “built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” and hope that all will fall in line with our desires while at the same time knowing we don’t always get what we want. Yet, when there is true hope, hope that is founded on Jesus blood and righteousness, hope that is based on the surety of God and his promises and plans, the hope always is right.  For God and his hope and faithfulness are not based on what is visible, what is seen as many have gone to their graves without seeing the fullness of God’s promise yet received and walked in it daily.  There is a great could of witnesses. So our hope, when in God never disappointments even if things to not appear to match how we think it will work out. As God does things His way which more often than not does not match what is expected, for what He does is far greater than any of our expectations for His ways are perfect.  So, the key is to have more and more our desires and our hopes to match what God is doing which is always about untangling the twists that come from a sinful world and being shaped and restored back to what God intends.  Ultimately, the true hope is to be fully restored and in line with God.  And, true hope is resting in knowing that God meet our desires and needs in his way. He knows us intimately so our hope can be sure that God will give from His abundance, in accordance with His will, as we walk His path.  And His ultimate gift, the ultimate hope, the ultimate gift is that which endures: His love.  In His love is all, and in His love is life everlasting. So whatever we hope for, whatever we want, whatever we desire the point of it all in God’s time and frame is drawing us closer to Him. For with God, all things are possible and He moves us ever toward that which is beneficial and draws us in alignment with Him.  And it is resting in the hope based on Him that can carry us through the dark times, knowing that God keeps His promises in His way and that His ways are not our ways.  True hope is hope in who God is and that regardless of circumstances for good or bad, God has the best in mind.

Love: Ultimately, we all long for pure love. We want to be valued, be safe, and secure. We want to know we matter.  Yet, in this life we can often focus on our lack of being loved. Fact is none of us live up to God’s standard of loving, and we all want to be loved as God loves us.  We all have hurts and pains that get us twisted up and in turn we act in ways that hurt others, in turn twisting them up. We lack being loved wholly, leaving us not only broken but resistant even to true love, for the pain results in fear.  So we grasp on to what we know. God’s love is beyond that which he grasp. God’s love is greater than the “something other than” love to which we cling.   God’s love always brings us to restoration and wholeness.  God’s love never changes.  God’s love endures forever. Yet, we often fail to grasp God’s love, twisted by the varied bits of harm that comes, concluding that love falters, but not grasping true love.  We exchange our limited love for limited love; self for self.  Yet, the love of God is shown in love for others.  The love of God is shown in giving up that which is adored and valued for the benefit of others.  True love comes with great cost.   True love is found in surrender to the point of surrendering our very lives.  Living in love is working to the good of others and pointing them to the truth, so the sins of self and others caused wounds and twists and distortions, can be made right.    Now it is important to note, that while our love is faulty and frail, every action we take that reflects God’s love results in lasting reverberations that have long lasting impact. However, that impact has it limits as our love in not ever enduring, but it lasts far beyond our scope or vision.  He action of moving beyond self, of considering others better than self points to the one True way which is Jesus.  He that set aside his divinity, became a servant and suffered in every way yet remained untwisted and whole, and set aside His life so that all who come may live.  Oh, what marvelous love that is beyond our perception in every way for we only really know limited, self-focused love that falters.  We can taste God’s love, know that it is good but our experienced is distorted and partial for God’s love is far greater than comprehension. 

Now taking these thoughts back to reality, back to life on this earth as currently know it.  Again pointing to surrender as watch those I love hope, struggle, heal, slip away, suffer, grow, and live whatever God has come their way.  There is one sure foundation in all, that no matter what happens and however what happens is perceived, that God is working to draw me into ever deeper understanding of Him and growing my ability to walk in true faith, hope, and love. And this is the essence of “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” Philippians 4:13 (ESV) which is that God the enables what we are unable, so in all these circumstance the possibilities and direction belong to God and God alone.  Whether blessing or sorrow; mourning or dancing, it is all in His hands and for His will for no matter what, He is faithful and His love endures forever, blessed be His name. All Glory to the King of Kings! Hallelujah! Amen

Musing on the Passing Storms of Life

The storm this writer has been under has passed. My lungs are free and clear. My energy level has returned. So now to get back to doing the things God has stirred within me to do. One of which is writing this blog on a regular basis. So with the task of getting back on track and getting back to writing, a good starting point here is to start with reflecting on the nature and aftermath of storms in our life. God does direct us that we will face varied “storms” in life. Storms just happen. They are in essence part of the times of trials and testing in our life. Storms come of varied types and sizes but they all have impact. Storms impact us both during the time we are enduring the storm and in the aftermath of the storm. Now the number one question that comes to a persons mind when the trials and testing come is why does God allow this to happen? Now the basic answer to the questions is God is God and we are not as found in Job. Yet, God has given us more than that fact to understand the storms and trials of life. There are three key passages in scripture that help us to understand:

1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV) In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

James 1:2-4 (ESV) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Romans 5:1 – 5 (NIV) Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

So the basic principle is that the storms and trials and testing periods of our lives help us to grow and develop. Rain and storms are part of the life cycle of fruitfulness, the same in our lives. The storms and testing in life lead us into the process of ongoing purification. There are examples God has given us of this process. The making of a diamond for example is a prime example. Carbon is turned into a precious gem known as a diamond by the being exposed to ongoing pressure and heat. The same it is for us, we are brought from common to a glory reflecting God in the process of the pressures of life. Another example is the process of refining metal from impure to pure. The refinement process is again some form of pressure and heat to bring impurities out of the metal. God uses the storms in our life to bring us into greater likeness to him. Note it is not our work, but God at work in us through the storms and trials.

God works in us through what the storms or trials he allows us to experience. We are all tested in many ways. One preacher, Tom Shepard, has a sermon from Job about seven ways we are tested in storms. In examining what God was worked in my life and heart during the recent storms, I have found that there is a distinct revealing of my own limits that occur. Often times, during storms we can rely on our own strength to endure or keep from seeking help. It is a matter of self and pride and own strength. God wants us to turn to him and rest in faith. There is the story of Jesus sleeping in the boat during the storm found in Mark 4:35-40. The disciples reached their limit. They could not understand how Jesus could be at rest on the boat in the storm. They woke him up and he calmed the storm, but Jesus was perfectly content to rest through the storm. He asked the disciples why they had such little faith. So the storms and trials really show us how much we trust and depend on God regardless of appearances. God wants our focus on him. Previously, written on this blog is the article: Seven Principles for Transcending Suffering that points to ways we can grow in the midst of storm. The testing a storm brings also reveals the ways we fall short in those principles and move us to draw from the deeper. And ultimately, at the core of it all, it is about growing up more and more in God and reaching deeper relationship and maturity.

Two Essential Worldwide Values: Cultural Musing

In attending to what people throughout the world establish as important the world over regardless of value system there are two noticeable threads. One thread pertains to what is of the greatest evil and one thread the highest good. Neither of these world cultural values are held by this writer and intend on sharing comments on both. First, will examine what people consider the greatest evil and then examine the value that seems to be the highest good.

Suffering is seen as the greatest evil in the world. We set up plans and goals to eliminate the various form of suffering. Something about seeing another human suffer and being aware of the suffering touches the core of humanity. When suffering is know, it even often allows for improved generosity. There are philosophical or religious symptoms built around the premise of reduction of suffering. In the world, the big, bad, evil things are things that create the most suffering. These big bads include poverty, disease, and disaster. Ultimately, we all suffer.

The existence of suffering is even a huge barrier for people understanding God has loving. Suffering has long been the world’s villain. The mindset is often if only the suffering could be reduced then everyone would be at peace. That concept is faulty. For lack of peace has nothing to do with suffering. A person can be whole and still suffer; rather it comes from selfishness and selfism. A lot of the suffering that occurs in the world is directly related to some ones self-directed choices.

The highest good is in stark contrast. The highest good essentially is in having and tending to children. Granted it is not the highest value for everybody, but having and raising children is the primary business of the world. One reason for the high value on raising children is that in a sense it is a way to pass on part of self. This is particularly true for those who believe this life is all there is. You live, die, eat, drink, be merry, and reproduce. The value to the world is found in your legacy which is most lived out by the children you bring into the world.

Recently have notice that people can be quick to comment or criticize others who they do not believe are focusing the proper attention on children. Argument have been made that people who help others and choosing temporary separation from their own children are neglecting or perhaps even traumatizing their children. Such an attitude really reflects the attitude that your children are to be the highest value, even over attending to the suffering of others.

Now producing and raising children are a blessing and certainly something that needs high priority. But the value is elevated way to high. Children should not be the most important aspect of living. People live and die by the success their children do or do not have sometimes. Rather, for this writer the things of greatest value are loving God and loving others. Now, granted raising children are part of that, but only a part of that dynamic.

Suffering is difficult, raising children is important but the balance in world cultural place on both are skewed. Do you agree or disagree with those thoughts? Where does suffering and raising children fight in your view of life? How does either influence your view of God?

Question of week 9-23-2009: Where do you find your identity?

In this day and age we are all about who am I and what do I want. We have books about finding purpose, finding self.  There is a lot of money made on developing self, identifying self, and observing self.  The world we live is really obsessed with self.  So my question is, where really do you find your identity? What is it that makes up your self?  For me my identity is found in Jesus. Sure there are other things I can focus on including the my given name as well as the name peacebringer.  Yet, everything that makes up my self, is insignificant compared that what Jesus gives me.  He gives me far more than anything I could want or need,  though at times I do not recognize it.  Each of us is only truly at peace with self when we surrender the whole of self.  When we surrender whatever aspect of identity to Jesus, only then are we truely able to be what God intended.  Each of us when living solely for self, walk in distortion of God’s intended identity for us.  When we twist what God has created we suffer and lack peace, because what God created is twisted.  The only way our true identities become untwisted is through surrender to Jesus.  We get involved in fully trying to straighten out self it still ends up a twisted mess.  So think for a moment and ask yourself the question: where do you find your identity.  Any answer that comes up different from in Jesus and you are simply walking a distorted version of who God created you to be.

Lessons from a blown car engine: Stop, listen, and surrender

Learning that the engine to your care is beyond repair and needs to be replaced is never news you want to hear. It is even worse when you learn that there was a lack of personal responsibility which in turn invalidated the warranty. This news is new that causes lots of stress and conflict.

Learning that something said or written was hurtful and offensive to a friend is never news you want to hear. It is even worse when you take on a felt responsibility to smooth out a conflict in views and have faulty expectations and hopes. This is something that ends up with lots of hurt and need for relationships to be reconciled.

Both instances certainly did happen and ultimately were a result of being too caught up in my own thoughts and attending to self. God most likely tried to give warnings, even suggesting alternate actions, but when it came down to it, self was listened to over anything else.

When it comes to the car, there were thoughts to get the oil changed. At some point, self-deception came in and convinced self that what had not been done actually had been done. The result was the damaged engine and invalidated warranty.

In writing to my friend, I had a sense that what I had written shouldn’t be sent and wasn’t really what needed to be said nor what I wanted to say. Yet, I wrote what I wrote and sent it anyway and damage was done.

The biggest lesson here is when we don’t take the time to listen, seek God, and listen mistakes can be made that lead to damage. In both these cases, what was best for self, or though best, is what was engaged. Ultimately I reacted out of my own self and not in surrender to Jesus with the result of damage. It is a lesson learned, no matter what felt responsibilities, priorities, or busyness that if you do not stop, pray, listen, and surrender but act out of self-will and selfishness damage will occur.

Granted, not every bad, self-involved choice or decision a person makes results in damage. A lot of bad choices can be made that do not result in bad consequences. This very fact is even what leads us often down the path of acting out of self and taking risks and not listening because we think we know the answer. What God would rather have us do is seek, listen, and surrender. I hope, next time I need to listen I do a better job of setting aside self and walk in steps the God sets before me rather than my own.

Lessons from a game called werewolf/mafia:

Lessons from a game called werewolf/mafia:

 

            Over the past three four years one of the ways I engaged in entertaining and distracting myself is a game called werewolf, also known as mafia.  It is a game about deception.  Basically there is a team of bad guys trying to deceive others and folks who are trying to figure out who the deceivers are.  This post isn’t about the dynamics of the game (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mafia_(game) but some important lessons that can be learned.

            One important lesson is that no one is beyond being deceived. The most skilled people at spotting varied ‘tells’ or spotting the deceivers can fail or falter. No one is beyond being deceived by someone else or even themselves.  In applying this lesson, we each need to be aware and acknowledge that no one is beyond deception.. Anyone that thinks they are beyond being deceived is fooling themselves.  We need to continually engage in prayerful self-examination and ask God to show us the ways we have been deceived and to show us truth. 

            Another important lesson is that people prefer to follow.  I have seen this play out on numerous occasions. As soon as someone displays proficiency at finding the deceivers, others tend to follow them.  It is much easier to follow then to examine facts and details and search for the truth on your own. If someone exhibits apparently greater skills it is much easier to follow rather then examine facts for yourself. It works out well when the person is right but when the person is wrong, the results are not satisfactory and often assist those looking to deceive.   

In applying this  lesson to life and exposing deception we need to be willing to examine and test things on our own. We need to not just simply trust the words or actions of others, no matter how often they have display accuracy.  Blindly following others is detrimental, particularly if a person relies on others for the word of God and not spending time spending time and studying the Word.  Also if we spend more time reading Christian authors and others interpretations of the word, we leave our self vulnerable to be deceived or follow error.

Another important lesson is that the greater the distractions, the easier it is to be deceived. Time and time again I witnessed where people couldn’t sort through multiple information even when there were clues to what is true and what is false. The simple application to this lesson is the greater amount of distractions; the harder it is to assess truth.

            A surprising but important lesson is that when looking for deception it is easy to become paranoid. This means we can easily see lies and deception in people that are being truthful.  Now while such paranoia can make for interesting game play, in life it makes  things confusing.  God doesn’t offer confusion but we can sure generate a lot of it on our own doing. Given how easy it is to become paranoid this stress the importance of depending on God and leaning not on our own understanding. We can easily find lies and deception where there is none, just as much as we can fall prey to lies and deception. The enemy loves when we do become paranoid and find lies in the truth.

            In watching multiple games played out another sure lesson is that deceivers have no problem ‘eating their own.’   In order to gain trust, exposing someone else engaging in deception can be a way to gain trust and greater deceive others.  The last game I actually played, it was done to perfection when one member of the team of deceivers was exposed after another with even easily sorted out lies being spoken ultimately resulting in trust for one person who ended up winning the game.  Such tactics breed pride and over-confidence as well as stimulating trust. So while “the house” may be “divided against itself” the goal is to lay ground work for other lies or deceptions to be accepted or a deceiver to be trusted. In our lives, we need constant evaluation and with the light of scripture. We need to test all things continually and be wary. 

            The last lesson I want to discuss is that any time someone discovers a tell or a pattern to sort out the deceptions in the game, once the deceivers are aware the deceptions and game play the strategies and lies adjust to take them into account.  If lies always followed the same pattern, they can be easy to spot, but eventually there comes a time when what you used to rely on is ineffective.  Of course, with God, His discernment is always accurate, and always ahead of the enemy.  For each of us though, of our own strength and power, it is easy to be deceived and trust others based on confidence in a “technique” or “test.”  The enemy is crafty, and will adjust!

            There are probably more lessons I can take from the game but the essential point is we are all easily deceived and of our own effort finding and exposing deceptions is ultimately impossible. Our enemy, Satan, is the master of deception. Each of these things I have observed about deception is but a drop in the bucket of Satan’s tools.  We need to live in surrender and dependence to God, we need to repent of relying on our own strength, we need to Holy Spirit to give us wisdom, we need constant exposure to the Word of God, and we need to the grace of Jesus the Messiah to cleanse us from our self-effort and failures.  May we all grow in truth and be sober and alert lest we become embroiled in deception.