As A Man Thinketh…

I recently noticed a graphic on a social media platform that was a picture of a mannequin in a clothing store that captured the slumped shoulder look of a person that just appeared beaten and in despair. The caption was something along the lines of, “They have finally come out with a teen mannequin.” Sure enough… someone has! I thought it was funny because I recognized the posture immediately, but even beyond that, I felt the despair and hopelessness that I had felt along my way years ago.

We do seem to wear our “innards” on our “outtards” at times. Probably more than we think we do. Have you ever had someone approach and ask how you were? They might even follow with, “You just do not look like you feel well,” That “look” might be because we are physically ill, but as often as not, we may have let our minds run to the “hopelessness, disappointment, despair” programming that has been known to take over when we forget that God is in control and He loves us more than we can imagine.

As mentioned in an earlier post feelings of discouragement, disappointment and frustration are indications that I am really about “me” instead of God, His purposes, and the best interests of others. The mannequin is funny, but it isn’t funny when you or I look that way. It means that we are struggling. We may be struggling with pain, sorrow, or lack of focus… but we are struggling.

Being “All In” doesn’t mean that life becomes a cake walk. It does mean that Jesus will give us rest. If your shoulders are bent and your spirit is crushed, look beyond yourself and take the challenge Jesus offered: “Come unto me and I will give you rest.” Throw your shoulders back, not because you have been empowered… but because the “Source of all Power” has your best interests at heart.

Photo: unknown source

Defining Myself

I read a social media post by a young man trying to make a difference in the lives of others, but also (apparently) trying to use his own strategies and directions. His frustration with yet another failed project is captured in his following statement: “…Especially when it’s just one more thing in an astronomically long list of things I’ve used to define myself that has also wound up in a huge time investment with no return.”

Did you see it, his perspective on using this project to define himself? Perhaps I recognized it because the same trap often catches me. I have come up with some strategy to “serve” God and have asked Him to get on board with my idea, assuming He would be inclined to do so, especially since that is the way I wanted to serve Him. When it does not seem to work out, I feel defeated and discouraged. There it is folks. My disappointment and discouragement are the “tell tale” indications that I was doing it for me all along.

God’s ways being higher than my ways, often make a strategy that I see as less desirable, actually being the strategy God prefers. God sees around the corners and is never limited to the linear approach to goals and the singlular target approaches I use. He accomplishes much with every decision and I just can not do that kind of planning.

I smiled when I saw the young man’s statement because I see both a good heart, and the old familiar trap of “it is really about me.” I know what it looks like when I do that. What does it look like in your life?

Photo: Heartlight.org

Distracted From My Agenda

Our bank has been sold/bought again. I’m not sure how all of that happens, but I have an idea how it impacts the banks depositors/customers. I’m not even sure if customer is the right word or not. I guess it is.

The litle inconveniences like new checks, new debit/credit cards, new transit and routing numbers to change on automatic drafts and automatic deposits are really not all that difficult to deal with, but they require my time and I initially thought of just changing banks. Why did I think of doing that kind of thing? Was it because I do not like to be inconvenienced or distracted from my own agenda? I thinks so.

That is unfortunate. I have been well treated and served. Yet my first thought was to jump and run from this small commitment of time and energy, when I have received so much time and energy from those bank employees. I am not proud of this admission, but there it is.

Jesus had some followers who decided to “turn back” because they just didn’t trust Him (John 6:66). They were not willing to take their eyes off of their ideas and trust them fully to Jesus. While my “bank issues” do not nearly approach this example of turning away from Jesus, they are rooted in the same thing: I do not want to be distracted from my agenda.

It is a common thought process, even among those who try to be “All In” disciples.

photo credit: Denison State Bank – Teller Line via photopin (license)

Deliverance

We are so easily distracted. We “plan” to do something, but run out of time (or energy) and it doesn’t get done. We decide we will not do something, but lo and behold (a colloquialism from my past) we do it anyway. We are a mess.

The Apostle Paul expressed the same frustration in Romans 7. His frustration produced the exclamation: “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” His answer to his own questions was, of course, Jesus Christ!

No indication that Paul wallowed around in self-pity or self-abuse as a result of his “bad” choices and actions. He ran to Jesus and trusted Him. It’s not that Paul wasn’t sorry that he had been a disappointment and had personally failed to live up to God’s standards. The thing is that Paul trusted the blood of Jesus and God’s promise that He loved Paul anyway!

Being an “All In” disciple of Jesus isn’t about performance. It is about trusting and, therefore, obeying. We aren’t just to trust Him in salvation and living. We are trust His promises and relax into His love.

Where Can I Get One and How Much Does It Cost?

Due to vision surgeries and other health issues that have arisen over the past few years I have begun cycling anew. No longer able to successfully deal with balance and energy levels required to ride a typical bicycle, I have taken the plunge into the world of recumbent trikes.

When I purchased this trike I was warned to plan extra time into my travels to allow for conversation, because people will want to talk about it, and they have. They ask about comfort, because it looks comfortable… and it really is comfortable. They ask about the steering because it does not have conventional handlebars like most people expect. They ask about climbing the many changes in elevation because we have those in Eastern Middle Tennessee. It climbs well. It’s not fast, but it climbs. If I get tired I just set the parking brake and sit there on the slope and catch my breath, starting again (even uphill) without difficulty most of the time. The point is that it is wonderful for me at this time along my journey.

They usually announce that they want one of these, asking:

  1. Where did I purchase it?
  2. How much does it cost?

They receive the first answer easily, the second… not so much. These cost significantly more than traditional cycles. When they hear the price point, they lose their interest, shrug their shoulders, and walk away.

I have seen the same response from people when they see the peace that comes from being an “All In” disciple. Calmness in the middle of life’s thunderstorms is attention grabbing because few people have experienced that in their own lives. They ask about it, say that they would like to experience it, then walk away when they hear the price.

“Denying self” in the process of “coming unto Jesus” for the “rest” He promises is a much higher price than most are willing to pay. I suppose that they just do not believe it can be that peaceful.  Perhaps they are just not “broken” enough to seriously consider it. They still think they can get where they want to go on their own. I did not consider the trike a good alternative until I became convinced I could not “do it” with a conventional bike. Now I wish I had upgraded to a trike years ago.

Upgrading to Jesus is well worth the price of total surrender of self. If you are interested, I can help point you in the right direction. My friend David has the trikes, but Jesus is the one with the “peace.”

 

My Inconvenience May Be God’s Plan

While playing a recorded interview scheduled to air a couple of weeks later, I encountered a “glitch.” Evidently the entire 35 minute interview did not “upload” to my Podcast host. If that description sounds confusing to you, don’t worry. It is not important, forge ahead.

I was playing it in the car so that another person could hear it. I felt they could benefit, so I had no qualms about playing it for them. The recording abruptly stopped after the person being interviewed told about being brought to her spiritual and emotional knees and how she responded. I was frustrated and really wanted the young woman to hear the entire interview.

I started the interview again in the hope that it was just an internet problem and that it would work the second time. We listened and it stopped again! When I arrived home I discovered that only half of the recording had, in fact, uploaded. I re-loaded the interview so that it would play in full when the time came.

Upon reflection, my passenger seemed to be touched by the “testimony” of the young woman in the interview… and she was able to hear it twice! It was no mistake. It was orchestrated by the Master. My inconvenience… His plan… so often the same event.

“All In” disciples of Jesus should never get in a “twist” over inconveniences. God is directing the traffic.

photo credit: Day 256/365 – Who needs a remote? via photopin (license)

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.

photo credit: Unpredictable collaboration (detail) via photopin (license)

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.”

 

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.”

photo credit: Calafell (5) via photopin (license)

I Am Weary, But Forever Changed

There are difficult times and difficult circumstances for each of us, whether pagan or “All In” disciple. It doesn’t matter if we believe God exists and just ignore Him, or if we are marginal in our lip-service to God. Difficult times are ordained to be a part of human life as Job astutely observed: “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).

There are theoretical discussions and explanations for this reality that make perfect sense and are Biblically sound. I have been involved in that type of discussion and believe that pain and difficulties are tools to sharpen us and draw us to God, but it is not always the right time to speak about that.

I sat with a family who had just lost their child, a child I had learned to love as well. When I arrived at the hospital and we had settled for a few minutes, it became obvious that it was time for me, the preacher, to say something. The mother looked at me and said: “I do not want to hear that everything happens for a reason.”

I told her that saying that right now wouldn’t help, as a matter of fact, nothing helps much but time. I shared that I had lost some grandchildren several years back and it did not help then either.

Being able to articulate the theory does not take the place of living through and growing through the event and associated pain. Analyzing the process is not the same thing as participating in the process.

“Be Still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Sometimes we just need to be still and let God do with it what He will.

photo credit: The Massacre of the Innocents via photopin (license)