Personal Musing: 9-11-2001 to 9-11-2011: Thoughts on ten years of change and choices

Today, 9/11/2011 is the ten-year anniversary of the collapse of the twin towers after airplanes ran into them. Tributes, memories, and stories have been playing on television on varied stations. It is also a time where can reflect on where at on that day emotionally and where are today. God showed both the illusion of perceived peace of the world as well as His sovereignty. Each person in the United States had to face how he or she perceived safety and some took time to examine relationship with God. God also showed that pride does come before a fall. People thought nothing could ever happen; pride was strong. Then towers fell. Things have changed. Ten years have brought a world more insecurity. There have been wars, financial struggles, and everything shaken. There were cries for change and disillusionment. In addition, whether we like it or not, change happened. Ten years ago the world is not the same as it was, this country and the world is a far different place than it was ten years ago.

For me and my wife, we had been married for just over a year. There were lots of hopes and dreams as we were working on growing together and getting started. It was a strange thing waking up and then learning what happened on the internet. The action shattered the perception of “safety” and awareness of pervading darkness was strong, particularly for my wife. Fears were pervasive. In the midst of that, as we sought God, He gave us a lesson and a promise. The story is found at this previous article https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2009/09/13/reflections-8-years-after-9-11-2001/. Quickly the lesson was twofold. People are bound in darkness, listening to lies and need the truth. The second is that God is aware of the encroaching darkness and is always simply a request away. He will provide safety in the darkest times if one turns to Him in surrender and calls on Him. The promise was personal to the desires of me and my wife with the promise of two children.

Looking back ten years, the promise still stands awaiting fulfillment. In the past ten years, the calling on God in need at times missed; succumbing to the darkness happens easily. Yet, we have changed and grown. We live each day aware of the fragility of this life. The things that have transpired have worked in our lives to shape and change us. We both have areas of needed growth and moving toward overcoming the own things that bind us. We are free in Jesus but He has us work out the healing and growth. It is easy to lose focus and at times, we certainly have; yet God brings us reminders, draws us back, and urges forward on His path. We know that as we walk through life in this dark world there is joy and pain. We can choose to focus on self, and on pain, or walk the path God sets before us. When we follow God’s way, ultimately there is fruit. When we go our own way, we struggle. It is easy to fall into the path of pride. It is easy to embrace unbelief. It is easy to be selfish. Honestly, there have been moments of each. There also was been moments of great change and repentance. Today, we face a challenge to move forward on God’s path. A challenge to trust in God and move forward on the path with what God puts before us. A challenge to spend more time calling on him and be filled with the light of His love. Each day needs to be a day to move forward. He will renew and uplift but there needs to be responsible forward movement while depending on Him. The choice is ours as it has been each day since that fateful day. Either shrink back and be overwhelmed in the encroaching darkness, or to walk in faith taking the steps as God leads. And these choices are not just for me and my wife but for each us. For tomorrow everything can change in a moment.

Every day each of us need to remember the He who promised is faithful. We live in days of encroaching darkness. Things will continue to change. A time is coming when right is called wrong and wrong right, even more than what is in evidence today. People will lose sight of God’s path and walk their own. People will embrace promises of safety that will crash. Some people will embrace illusion and lies. Other will see and speak truth. As much as things have changed, more change is to come. People will either embrace the darkness of find God’s light. As for me and my household, we are seeking and serving the Lord and His way. Take time and reflect where you have been, where you are, and where going. Are you seeking God or seeking self. Walking in God’s light, or lost in the dark. So here is the challenge, seek, examine, and pray. Ask God to show you where may be bound and what you need to turn over to Him. Seek him and move forward in your relationship with God and touching those in the world around you. Each day is a new day and new choice. Move forward or shrink back. Faith or fear. God’s light or chains of darkness. Truth or lies. God’s love or despair. Resistance or surrender. Self-determined path or God’s way. What do you choose?

 

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.

News Commentary: St. Elmo’s Friedrich house doomed to destruction

In Today’s Pioneer Press there is an article about a house that seems doomed to destruction and the dreams of one Linda Hardy. The home is a historic farm home from Lake Elmo.  Linda and her husband David saved the home from destruction in 2006 with a promise of restoring the home.  Then David became sick and died and Linda is left with the home and the dream.  However, she is not able to deliver on the promise.  Restoring the home is beyond both her ability and means.  She would need someone else to intervene and the cost is beyond what she can pay.  She is holding on to the dream and stated, “”If they want to fine me or something, OK. But if I miss a deadline, I am going to lose my house and belongings?” and “I am 62. My husband is dead. I can’t get a job. There will be no comeback for me.”  The fact is her husband died, and what may once have been feasible is not. In order to keep her dream alive she needs the intervention of someone else to do the work and even at a reverse mortgage will have a debt far too large for a 62 year-old woman with limited income to maintain.  In this story, there are lessons for each of us.

Lesson One:  Dealing with the Past. 

            This lesson is about the farmhouse itself. A building holds memories to the town of Lake Elmo. There area has some emotional attachment to the building. Yet, it is just a building that has far outlived its usefulness.  It is admirable that the Hardy family wanted to take on the challenge of restoring the old house.  Turning something old and damage into something new is a challenge that takes a lot of commitment, time, and resources.  Perhaps if David had not gotten sick and lived they would have been able to accomplish it but now the house becomes a burden. It is now about something to which one person is holding. It is one really large burden that has become an object one person is holding onto in her grief.  If the community as a whole truly valued the building as an historic landmark, it would not depend on the limits of one family to restore. The community could work to bring it to restoration. Instead, it is a rather large piece of the past that needs to be let go of. Often in our own lives, we can old onto remnants of the past.  We can even take on the burdens of others, seeking to display some good.  Sometimes though the past is something that needs to be let go of and let be a memory to look back on.  Trying to hold on to something that is best let go will just bring a burden that is unbearable.

Lesson two: Own dreams often pursued at expense of others.

            Too often in this world we focus on self.  We identify a want, a need, a dream and it is our sole focus.  We fail to take into account others.  We hold on to what we value most.  This is seen in this story as well on multiple levels.  We have an individual holding onto a dream and not considering those around her. Her expectation is they should understand and points to her attempts to preserve something that is a reported landmark. The neighbors and Lake Elmo community on the other hand are exhibiting their self-focus as well. Complaints about how one persons dream and project interfere with their own lives, dreams, and desires. We have a widow; holding on to a dream and project beyond her own ability and no one has offered to help. Sure there are contractors who are willing to get paid, if allowed, all ultimately at the exploitation of this widow. Yet, no one has offered to set in to aid the widow. She will lose the dream, lose the house, and lose the little she did hold onto and will be destitute and alone. Not one soul has come to her aide.  ABC Extreme Makeover is not coming to help.  Neighbors are caught in their own world and dreams that the struggle of a widow and her dreams are simply a nuisance. Fact is no one in the community really cares and Linda Hardy is left holding onto something that for her is just simply beyond. Apparently, some people have thought it would helpful to provide items like a shower and just dump it their, basically getting rid of their own baggage and turning it over to someone already over-burdened.

Lesson Three: The cost of being saved from destruction is beyond own abilities.

            This story really points to me that saving anything from destruction comes at a great price. Here a home is in need of restoration and salvage.  However, it is beyond the scope and ability of one person to do it.  Linda Hardy can put in all she has and more and still she will fall short.  There is a need for someone to step in and do what is beyond her help.  Now perhaps it can be saved at a dept that Linda Hardy cannot repay.  It is rather a hopeless situation. The picture though is one that rings true for each of us.  Each of us ultimately are like the farmhouse.  We are in great disrepair due to our own sinfulness.  The best work we put into restoring self will fall short.  Any attempt to restore self by works is akin to Linda painting the house “as far as she can reach.”  Trouble is our reach will always come up short.  For each of us there is needed intervention for the cost of restoration and transformation is beyond our own limits. 

We need the help of others, but ultimately the damage done by self is so great that even those we know trying to help can only touch the surface.  For true change and true restoration their needs to be an ABC Extreme Makeover type event, only one far more lasting.  Extreme Makeover comes in, guts a home, and rebuilds a bigger and better home. Yet, the families are left to deal with cost, have greater expense, and can still lose their home.  The Extreme Makeover needed is far more intensive and far more reaching.
We all need a Savior, a redeemer. Someone that can change us wholly and take on all the debt associated with change.  There is an answer for each person, and the answer is Jesus. He paid the price and He alone can restore us and save us from destruction.  He alone can pay the debt we cannot pay.  He has paid the price, all each person needs to do is accept the price and remain in the submitted relationship.  The choice is up to each person but too many will try to take on the impossible task and depend on own efforts with like the house, ultimate destruction being the final destination.

Limited vs Unbound Love: Valentine’s day musing

Everyone desires love. The question is what level of love they will settle for. Today on Valentine’s day, love is the theme. Examining the theme of love there are two concepts to which this mind is drawn. The two concepts are of limited love and unbound love.

First let’s examine limited love. Limited love is self-generated. It is love that focuses on loving others in reflection of love received. It is loving others based on what they do for you, the needs met. There are types of love that fall into this category. Romantic love fall into a type of limited love. It is based on attraction and being built up and loved by another. It eventually fades as it has a limit. Another type of limited love is familial love. Now there is familial love that transcends limits, however, all too often family is elevated about all and becomes soul focus. The focus on family and can result in limiting love in other directions outside the family sphere. It really comes down to loving those in our lives. It is what meets the needs of self or is derived from self. Limited love is limited in many ways including duration, scope, and practice.

There is another type of love though, the unbound love. A more familiar way of phrasing this is unconditional love. Unbound love knows no limits as it is love not self-defined. Unbound love flows from the heart and touches others. It is the type of love by which one can bless their enemies. It is the type of love that gives without hesitation. It is love transcending the limits of self and giving fully of self. This type of love is love that transcends self. It is the type of love that can flow with a person who is right with the Creator of the Universe. It is the love that is found at the cross and death of Jesus. It is the love that is seen by people giving of themselves at great personal cost. It is love that often is not seen as people quietly work toward loving others.

Personally, unbound love is this writers preference, but all too often fall short. My behaviors and responses are often steeped in self and trapped by my limits. I love my wife and family in perfectly, and often react out of my own needs and desires while missing or ignoring theirs. My own limits are seen in struggling to continue to be intentional in writing in a daily basis. My limits of love are seen in times of struggling to follow-through with made commitments. We all truly need to taste the unbound love. God created us with the un-quenching desire for that real charity. The wounds of life we all experience are due to facing on form of limited love or another. Our expectations and desires are squashed.

So how do we walk in greater levels of unbound love. It has to start with walking each dad in surrender to Jesus and following the leading of the Holy Spirit. It starts with loving God with the whole self and as we do that love becomes evident in our treatment of others. The more aware of being truly loved in a way unbound and immeasurable, as God loves each of us, the more able we are even able to love those who despise us. Ultimately, each of us are growing more and more in being able to love in unbound ways, or we face greater and greater limits to love, which results in fewer and fewer ways of truly being connected and truly loved.

The victor over encroaching darkness: Jesus

The world is filled with darkness. The news is filled with stories of death and destruction.  We have holidays that even embrace and celebrate darkness such as Halloween. There is an ever-growing trend of what is good being called evil and what is evil called good, such as the non-dualist moral framework of that which impedes desire is evil.  Recently this writer visited Brazil and one of wife’s family commented how Brazil used to be a safe place, but it is not safe anymore. He even commented about Southern Brazil experiencing a cyclone (tornado), something unheard of in Brazil.  So darkness is ever encroaching.

No a reader may ask what is meant by darkness.  Darkness is that which is evil, that which shows no light. Now many philosophical and religious systems out there do talk about good and evil, light and dark.  Yet the definitions vary. Essentially it focuses on the battle of evil impulses with those of good impulses.  There is a focus on benefiting the world at large, building it up, or being destructive and tearing it down.

There is acknowledgement in the world at large at pretty significant issues and areas of darkness. The world at large focuses on crime, disease, poverty, climate change,  and intolerance as areas of primary darkness. There are plans and scopes made to find and arrange political solutions to these problems. There is a hope of a New Era Dawning and folks that work toward facilitating a New World order, all in the name to fighting what they consider to be things of darkness.

The Christian world view is quite contrary to the world’s approach to problems.  The Christian view is not about finding political solutions. It is not about finding ways to all work together.  The Christian worldview sees darkness as defeated.  The encroaching darkness is something that is but temporary.  The evil within each of us evidenced by our on-going selfishness has been dealt with, a person simply needs to choose to accept the solution and turn from self and surrender to God.  The answer to darkness if found in the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah. 

Now, there are many that distort the Gospel and change the message of Jesus. There are many who believe they embrace light, when they reality is they are exchanging one darkness for another.  The number of things that appear to be light when they are truly dark is numerous.  Even within those that profess following the Gospel there are many deceptions and ways of darkness that can take one-off the path.  There are many who think they have embraced truth when still lost.

The fact is the forces of darkness know that time is short. They are working hard to deceive many and bringing destruction. The forces of darkness celebrate each choice that leads to death.  The forces of darkness want to take all to the reality of hell and eternal separation from God. 

Yet, while darkness is growing stronger and many are deceived, darkness is defeated. There will be those that turn from light to darkness, there will be those that seek to aid darkness, thinking the darkness is good.  Yet, the end result is all darkness is already defeated.  A time is soon coming when Jesus will return and implement the victory of darkness and bring wrath and judgment.  The question for each of us, is what choice have you made. At death or upon Jesus return it will not be about how often you did good things over embracing your dark impulses, because one thing done selfishly is disqualifying.  Light and darkness do not coexist and are not interdependent.  So the question is what keeps the reader from embracing and walking in the light? What source of darkness have you embraced?  What is your response to God’s offer of redemption through Jesus the Messiah?  Jesus is the light, there exists no other. Jesus is the victory over all that is dark.

Musings on the illustration of physical pains and the body of Christ.

Recently been thinking about comparisons between our physical body and the body of Christ. The thinking started related to the ongoing pain my wife is going through with back and neck pain. She has some chronic misalignment stemming initially from past accidents. She had a severe car accident in 1996 impacting her neck. She had a work related fall in around 2001, where she fell on lower back. Lately she has been working on getting appropriate Chiropractic care and getting things back into alignment. She has been having chronic pain and now when trying to get things set right, her body is fighting it and getting increased pain. Thinking about such facts as well as general ways the body deals with pain can gives us spiritual lessons regarding the body of Christ. God had Paul use that imagery for meaning and purpose.

There are three key elements that came to mind in reflecting about in relations to my wife’s suffering and how it relates to the church. The first thought is that when any part of the body of Christ is out of proper alignment it brings pain. Some of the pain is inflicted by our own choices; sometimes the pain comes from circumstances, sometimes other people’s choices. Regardless of the reason for the misalignment, it is a source of great pain.

It is important to realize that the pain that is cause is not isolated and impacts the whole body. The lies, sins, and selfishness in one part of the body of Christ impacts the whole. What happens is not in isolation. When the body of Christ operates connected fully to the head in proper alignment, things go well. Yet, the assorted causes of misalignment always bring pain. Now just as in a physical body, the closer one is to the sources of pain, the more impact; the same in the body of Christ. What happens in related parts of the body impact first the parts that are more closely related.

Now it is important to note that turning from self, sin, and deception involves work that can bring greater pain initially while the work is done to get things right. The increase in pain simply shows how much misalignment existed. Sometimes the process for healing and correct alignment goes smoothly and quickly but other times it takes a lot of pain and work. It is because of the increased pain that resistance occurs. It can seem much easier to accept the pain that Is known and adjusted rather than do the work for proper realignment in accordance with God’s will and design. Also because of the increased pain, resistance from other parts of the body can occur. The resistant occurs because the body has trained to react in certain ways. It will occur. It is how the body operates. So when getting more aligned with God’s word, truth, and will there may be reactions from self or others resistant.

So what does this mean practically? Well, these thoughts encourage me to first turn to Jesus and ask for my areas of misalignment that bring pain to the body to come to my awareness. It is being aware that what I say and do does not happen in isolation and even that done in private and secret brings pain to the body. There is clear evidence of need to assess on an ongoing basis my alignment before God. Am I walking as He guides and directs and surrendering to His will, or have I deviated with failure to recognize that infliction of pain. The thoughts drive me to examine my own areas of resistance and examine what I need to turn away from and bring in surrender to God’s will. When not within the center of what God desires has in store it results in bringing pain, when walking in the center of what God desires, it enriches and builds up the body.

So in thinking through these images it brings into clear focus the need for ongoing evaluation of whether I am acting in God’s lead and love or living for my own ideas. One option builds up and enriches others. The other brings pain and tears down. Above all we have impact on others both in our words and actions. Our choices matter for good or bad. Each of us needs to continually examine if we demonstrate love for God with our entire self and if we are truly exhibiting love for one another. Failure to do so brings pain and returning to God’s way can meet resistance. Ultimately, we all stumble and falter and need get our alignment back. Waking up to misalignments brings temporary pain but ultimately walking in God’s peace and joy through being properly aligned results in God’s best. And ultimately in this world filled with suffering and ill choices, we all need the pain of transformative peace as we align within God’s will and desire over our own. It hurts for a little while but when things are aligned right, the pain will subside.

News Commentary: Jeff Dubay Update

Previously, I commented on the downfall for former Twin Cities sports radio personality Jeff Dubay. Since then he had entered a diversionary program with the hopes of avoiding legal consequences.  Well, I just recently learned of an update posted on June 16th in the Minneapolis Star Tribune where he is now due to face a year in jail because he failed the diversionary program.  He has continued to a slave to his addiction.  His story is a sad one. It is one where people who have not fallen to such an addiction can easily cast asperions and look down on Jeff Dubay, but he is really no different then the rest of us. 

KFAN sports personality Dan Barerrio today made a comment essentially suggesting that Jeff is just an adolscent who has not grown up.  Such a comment fails to grasp the elements of addiction that are common to us all.  We all have areas we turn to for satisfaction or to cope.  Our desires often lead to our being slaves to any number of things that become the focal point of life.  Some common things people reach the point of serving are food, entertainment, sex, and work.  For the likes of Dan Barerrio and others, Jeff’s behavior is one to castigate based on the fact that it led him to destruction.  The destructiveness of drug and alcohol addiction is readily apparent, the desctruction of other areas of self-focus on not quite as clear but the ultimate destructiveness is true.  

Again, the prayer for Jeff Dubay is that he finds the truth of the Gospel where there is true freedom and grace.  Jail time may well help him be at a point of re-evaluating and perhaps have a chance to turn to Jesus.  Jeff and Dan and others need to realize that ultimately we all fall short.  It is not about being “strong enough” nor “growing up.” It is a matter that when we seek to serve our self, depend on our own morality we will falter.  We all need a savior for there is no one righteous.  We all choose what we serve, the sins birthed through our own selfish desires, or surrender to Jesus and his gift of covering the consequences of our continual failing to do what is right and moral.

So, I ask the reader, where are you in life? What is there in your life that dominates and you live your life essentially serving?  A re you depending on your own will and ability to choose the moral path?  What is stopping you from turning to Jesus the Messiah?   Are you on the path to destruction?  It is real easy to be proud of self or not making choices that Jeff has made, but he is no different then any of us.  He is a man who was sure of self, built his kingdom and eventually faltered and made choices that led to his own destruction.  The paths of destruction are wide and many and most people do not want to hear that the are on such a path.  We can easily see the failures of others and ignore our own selfish evils.