The Unpredictable

I read recently that when something unusual happens, pay attention. God is doing something. I don’t know where I read it. If it was your blog, email or post please accept my apology for the lack of credits. I just do not remember.

Paying attention to what is happening, especially when it is out of the ordinary can present a huge challenge. We easily get transferred to our own agendas when life becomes predictable. We forget the encouragement James gave the refuges to say (actually say) if God wills I will do this or that. We just make our plans because, after all, things are predictable.

When the predictability fails we are likely caught with the “deer in the headlights” look wondering what just did (or did not) happen. If the whole “deer in the headlights” thing confuses any of my readers, just think of the expression on someone’s face at a paralyzing moment when facing the unexpected.

When the unexpected happens… Actually nothing unexpected can happen if we are walking through life assuming God is working and guiding events. We just deal with whatever He sends our way without getting anxious , flustered, or irritated. Having no expectations other than absolute confidence in God’s involvement is critical to experiencing the “Peace that passes understanding.” It has nothing to do with circumstances or results, only confidence in God’s involvement.

Be “All In” and pay attention when the unpredictable happens. God is doing something special.

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The Impact of a Life Well Lived

We can not measure the impact we have upon others. Parents teach their children to care for others above themselves by modeling that very attitude in the everyday mundane-ness of life. Teachers impact their students far beyond the curriculum by their personal carriage and deportment. So it is in the really important matters of life as well.

There have been many whose impact on my life can be measured by my own reckoning. Others have made their mark in ways I can not distinguish or remember. Some have come into my life and passed through in what seemed to be a few insignificant encounters. Others have been a presence for a much longer period.We can never know the long-term impact. So it is with my impact upon others.

The death graduation of one man has prompted this reflection. I heard of him from others and did not quite know what to do with their accounts of his faith, especially given his past. Then I met him. I still did not know what to do with him, but I could no longer discount him.

His faith was simple yet overwhelming in its simplicity. Even in his parting word to his son as he slipped out of his physical body and into eternity, I am bewildered and led. “Its been a blast!” were the whispered words of another Stephen, willing to go wherever and do whatever God’s Spirit directed, always displaying the excitement of the adventure and the trust in his Parent like a child going through Disneyland.

God knows how many were led, not just pointed toward, but led to Jesus by Bob. I have been forever changed, and he probably had no idea the impact God had on me through him. May I be the “All In” servant used by God to impact others so profoundly. May you be as well.

Photo: Bob Hughey

Surrounded by Children

I have taken a week off from writing, you may have noticed… but I suspect few have. It is both understandable and alright if you have not. Sometimes I need to be quiet and listen. Probably more often than I actually do. That is, however, a subject for another day.

During my time of “quietness,” I was touched by an expression I have heard so many times in my life when someone else was leading a group in prayer: “We are gathered as your children in your presence…”

As Cindy and I have passed into our sixth decade of life, our children and grandchildren are busily engaged in their own lives, as they should be. But sometimes we long for them to come… just to be with us… without schedule… without agenda… without electronic devices… without wishing their “detention” in our presence would quickly come to an end… just because they want to be with us. Since we live some distance from all of them there are actually very few times that can happen.

With God it is different. We can “live” in His presence all of the time. We can “go there” in all of the odd moments that inhabit the spaces in our lives. We can program times to “be still” and sit at His feet, marinating in the splendor of His presence. We can be unhurried, unforced, uninhibited in our praise and meditation, “relaxing and rejoicing as His child in His presence.”

Being “All In” is not “all work.” Being “All In” is being “all His.”

 

The Garbage Does Not Take Itself Out

A friend reported that her little girls had learned to say “b*#ch” in a foreign language. While that seems to be a rite of passage for children, it clearly demonstrates the aggressive proactive posture parents need to take in their children’s lives. Whether it is with their electronic devices, television shows, music preferences or “new words” they pick up, the garbage doesn’t take itself out now does it?

Adults must stay on the offensive to keep themselves pure as well. The great deceiver, Satan, takes every opportunity to chip away at our holiness and make us comfortable with that which we would not have tolerated in our own lives in the past. It happens so slowly that we find ourselves making justifying arguments based upon technicalities instead of godly principles.

Being God’s “All In” disciple has its foundations well before associated behaviors become apparent. We respond to life and situations from the depths of who we are.

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV).

Being “All In” is not a religious hobby, it is a godly obsession.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:3-11 ESV).

photo credit: 2016 – Mexico – Pachuca – Keeping it Clean via photopin (license)

The Great Disconnect

There has always been, I suppose, a disconnect between theory and reality. We hear it in political conversations when candidates (or supporters) announce how something should be “fixed” and compare their “fix” to the reality when the “fixer” is elected to office.

We hear people declare that “Islam is a religion of peace,” but hear too often of murders and bombings taking place “in the name of Allah.” True, there are religious zealots roaming around claiming connection to most all religious groups, but so many claiming that their “god” allows/commands/demands such seems pretty widespread on this one.

But then we come to those claiming Jesus as their Lord. Claiming a “lord” requires focused obedience. It requires a “speak lord, thy servant heareth” approach to everything. When I claim His Lordship, yet think and behave according to my own thinking, I become the poster child for the great disconnect.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46 ESV)

Photo taken by Wayne Wells

The “Last” Ride

A retired truck driver/rodeo cowboy spent 18 years preparing for his funeral. Sounds a bit odd, wouldn’t you say?

The story goes that after his retirement, he began riding a motorcycle, trying to recapture the excitement of the rodeo. He liked it so much that he planned, negotiated, and accomplished a funeral complete with:

  1. his embalmed body,
  2. on his ’67 Harley,
  3. in a custom, see thru plexiglass casket,
  4. placed inside a custom, concrete vault,
  5. in a three plot burial site.

Billie Standley obviously wanted to impress his friends on his “last ride” to the cemetery. I wonder if he was equally concerned with pleasing the Creator of the Universe in the last few years of his life.

How easily we are distracted by our own goals when we should be focusing on God’s wants and purposes. It looks really foolish when I see this kind of distraction driving someone else’s life. The nagging question I need to constantly answer is: What does it look like when I do that?

As an “All In” disciple I don’t have to live like a monk, never smile, and never be light-hearted. What I do have to do is be ever vigilant and listening for the Master’s voice.

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God’s “Oh-By-The-Way” Assignment

It was unexpected, but aren’t the really moving encounters always like that?  For example, when we were in Green Bay with our son, a newly drafted Packer lineman, while were getting a tour of the facilities, Brett Favre walked by and had a brief casual conversation. Later, I commended Cindy (my Red-Headed Irish Princess) on her great restraint. She could have reached out and touched him… but she didn’t.

Back to the story: I recently had that rare unscheduled day, so I took off after breakfast with the Misses, not knowing where I was going or what I was going to do. I considered a day-long road trip to see some old friends who lived a few hours away, but along the way was nudged into a brief side trip to see how low the water was in the lake. I think the Corps of Engineers was getting ready for the heavy rains predicted the next couple of days.

As I pulled up to a boat launch ramp that I have used, I noticed a man standing nearby. I shouted a greeting out the car window and asked about the low water. As you might expect with two older men, we could not really hear each other, so he walked nearer and I got out of the car. That was the unremarkable beginning to a remarkable encounter that was, although unannounced by God, clearly ordained by Him.

The subjects and the length of our conversation was broader and more in-depth than either of us could have anticipated. For this article they aren’t even worth mentioning. What is worth mentioning… and even worth stressing, is that God moves in our lives when we think that we are the ones doing the moving.

As an “All In” disciple I easily forget that He leads me into the paths of others, and others into my path to accomplish His will, not my own. I must keep my eyes, ears and (most importantly) my heart open for the “oh-by-the-way” tasks He assigns along the way.

“He [God] creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work He does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” (Ephesians 2:10 The Message)

photo credit: friends via photopin (license)

…Not As Those With No Hope

Grieving is a process. It is a painful and ongoing process. We grieve over many things: job loss, missed promotions, poor performance reviews, missed opportunities, lost loves, degrading friendships, etc. The list can seem endless. What usually comes to mind is the anticipation of death or the reality itself.

The process is painful, but after a time it can morph into a dull ache. Energy is stolen and motivation is hiding away from view in some dark corner. Life goes on and needs are still met, but the darkness seems to be there… just behind that last corner.

People who have studied such things mention predictable stages of grief that we float thru, back and forth, until some resolution and healing is achieved. That all sounds about right to me based upon my personal experience.

In it all, though, there is a foundational limit in grief. Those who have no “hope” rooted in God and His love and care seem to have a much deeper darkness to swim about in while grieving. It doesn’t have to be that way.

For believers, the grave is not the last word. The resurrection of Jesus is! He overcame death, so “death’s” claim to victory is no longer valid. There is a final homecoming and reunion scheduled. Don’t miss out. Be an “All In” follower of Jesus.

And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.

And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 The Message)

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Trust But Verify

We are prone to accept the conventional wisdom of the day, and resist ideas that conflict with what “everybody just knows.” After all, it is expensive to challenge the norms of culture. There is laughing, teasing, ridicule, and sometimes even being ostracized. Nobody wants to have that happen.

There have been uncountable hoards who have “smoked like chimneys” and, concerning alcohol, “drank like fish.”  Thinking about that expression, it really does not make sense does it?

I digress, so back to the subject: many people throughout history have smoked and drank a lot for a variety of reasons, but Enrico Caruso, the great operatic tenor did both for the expressed purpose of “protecting his voice!” By the way… he died at the age of 48.

I wonder sometimes how many of the “truths” and “conclusions” of my culture I accept, just because I have always been told they are true. It is easy for me to expect others to challenge their beliefs and verify them with Scripture. It is more difficult for me to employ that same objectivity test to my beliefs.

As an “All In” follower, I must be willing and be involved in doing just that. My comfort should be found in God’s truth that sets me free (John 8:32). All to often I find my comfort in familiarity instead. I must change. It is wonderful that God loves me anyway as I grow.

Join me in the ongoing challenge to be “All In.”

Photo: Enrico Caruso postcard circa 1910

By The Way, You Have Cancer

I talk to people who describe themselves as cancer survivors. Like many others I am in a category that is a little different: Still surviving with cancer. When told I had cancer in 2004, there were many thoughts and emotions to be processed… some over and over. It is interesting how a “sniff” of your own mortality gets one’s attention.

I recently visited with a man who had that day learned that he, like me has a cancer that, barring God’s intervention, he will have until he graduates into eternity. I recognized the ongoing turmoil as we spoke of many things.

The main thought I wanted to share, one that has been central in my walk, is that we are God’s servant in all circumstances. That includes health challenges. He and I, as well as many others, are walking a health challenged path God has placed us on to accomplish His will. That will may be to change us, or to impact others. It is likely a blend of both.

I told the gentleman that I do not know everything that God has as a goal in my circumstances, but that it has granted me the honor of showing my family how a man desperately trying to be “All In” faces death. What an honor! Who else would I rather teach my sons and grandchildren this walk?

Being an “All In” disciple even permeates the shadows of life. After all, it only makes sense that my trusting God with the big picture of eternity will make trusting God with something as temporary as my health, a no-brainer.

Looking In from the outside, being “All In” seems like it would be very stressful. The exact opposite is true however. As promised, it ushers in the peace that just can’t be explained.

Take the plunge. Be “All In.”

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