Through a Glass Dimly

Not All is Clearly Defined Therefore We See Through a Glass Dimly

Month: June, 2013

Two Ears One Mouth

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Jesus was a master at asking questions. Don’t get me wrong, he could bring solutions, wisdom and answers. Read the Gospels, he did plenty of that. However, in the rabbinic tradition of his culture he asked a lot questions.

It’s a great skill that I am working on. A salesman once told me, “Everyone has two ears and one mouth. You should listen twice as much as you talk.” Brilliant. It’s probably a basic principle in salesmanship 101. I never took that class.

I met with a pastor who wanted to bring me on his team. I thought he was going to interview me. You know, ask questions about my beliefs, strengths, vision, personality and skills. Instead, he talked about himself for two excruciating hours. When he finished his speech I politely declined the position.

In the past when I would start to run on about myself, Annette would take the liberty to kick me under the table. Like one of Pavlovs’ dogs, with bruised and battered shins, I finally began to ask questions and simply listen instead of planning the next section of my wisdom laden speech in my head.

Are you a talker or a listener? Do you go on and on like the Energizer Bunny? Do you dominate conversations and turn them into speeches? Are you guilty of highjacking dialogues and turning them into monologues? If so, give the salesman 101 principle a try. Listen twice as much as you talk.

Everyone has a story and each person’s story needs to be heard and valued. Jesus asked one man, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus knew what he needed, but he took time to listen to one who had a great need. Be intentional, stop talking and start listening.

But who do you say I am? – Jesus (Mark 8:29)

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Lessons from the Wilderness

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I love the scene from the epic movie Nacho Libre (yes, I said epic), where he leaves the monastery in order to go into the wilderness to meet his end. The camera angles lead you to believe that Nacho has traveled miles into the desert with no hope for survival. Then the camera pans to a group of children from the village waving at Nacho. When this happens it reveals that he has only traveled just outside the village. Not as dramatic as it first appeared to be.

Sometimes when an event occurs our minds will tend to blow it up to ridiculous proportions with all of the accompanying fanfare and drama. Our imagination runs wild and we play out our top three worst case scenarios. A little time passes, the dust settles and life moves on. It doesn’t look quite as bad as it did at first. As our family continues to navigate our own wilderness experience and as I add more resumes into the proverbial pipeline here are few observations or lessons from the wilderness.

  1. You Are Stronger Than You Think – When you first get the bad news, whatever it might be, it feels like you took a hit in the chest, you can’t breathe, you’re mind runs off into frightening places, fear rushes in like a tsunami and you think you can’t take another piece of bad news. But you can. You find that you are stronger than you thought you were. You will manage. You will make it. Life is not over. You find that you have reserves deep down that you didn’t know you had. You land on your feet because Jesus is there holding you up, even carrying you at times. He not only is in the storm, he walks on storms.
  2. The World Doesn’t Stop Turning – Life goes on. Friends and family will come to your side to support you, pray for you and just be with you. Brace yourself, just because your crisis is the center of your world, it is not the center of theirs and they will move on, some will even forget. Don’t bemoan this, you have done it to others in the past. You may just do it again. Have grace for them as they move on with life seemingly leaving you to continue in your struggle. It’s okay. Be grateful for whatever love and life they gave in your darkest moment.
  3. You Are Surprised at Who Sticks By You – Crisis has a way of scattering folks like a drop of mercury falling from a middle school biology lab table to the floor. Don’t be shocked. I shouldn’t say that because you will be shocked at who stays and who avoids. It will feel deeply personal, but most of the time it is not you, it’s their inability to navigate their own fears, insecurities or lack of knowledge on how to help. Some of those people will come back around when the crisis goes away. Love them anyway and extend unconditional love their way. Their reaction to your situation reveals more about them than it does you.
  4. You Realize God Never Really Left the Scene – When the bottom drops out we think God is like an icon of the past, “Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.” Trust me on this, God has not left the building. However, he may be silent for a season. I could do some theological acrobatics to give you a rationale as to why heaven goes into stealth mode during these times, but I just don’t know. How’s that for a pastor of 28 years with two degrees? I. Don’t. Know. Yet I trust that he has reasons that are just beyond my ability to comprehend. Trust. Just because he is silent doesn’t mean that he’s not present. In fact, he promises to “never leave you or forsake you.” I tend to stand on that when I’m hearing nothing but white noise from heaven.
  5. You Become Aware This is Basic Training that Positions You to Help Others – Yes it feels like it’s all about me when I’m in a crash and burn time. I think about me, how I’m going to manage, what I’m going to do, who I’m going to speak to about it, what my next move is. Did you notice the common denominator here? Yes, it’s me, myself and I. However, God has a way of turning our worst nightmares into another’s solution. As we navigate, grow, develop, learn and overcome we become the very person that is qualified to help others through their own crises. God is a great Commanding Officer. When it’s all over and you’re back on track, and you will be, you will see how this now becomes the equipment, tools, implements and ammunition that you will use to be a blessing for others. Now you’re the expert in overcoming that others will look to like a beacon in the darkness of night.

As I was thinking through these few points it occurred to me this could become a series before it’s all over with. You see, our family is not quite on the backside of our own crisis… but we will be. Perhaps more will lessons will come out of our wilderness season. In the midst of our dramatic meltdowns I have the image of the children from Nacho’s village calling out to him, “Hola Nacho!” He wasn’t as far away as he thought. Neither are we. Neither are you.

Hold On

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Have you ever watched a parent helping a child ice skate for the first time? Holding, guiding, supporting and protecting them from falling on the hard ice. That’s what Jesus is doing for you in the things that matter for eternity. No doubt while on this planet we will encounter the effects of a fallen world, but in that which is eternal He is keeping us upright on the ice. Trust Him and don’t let go.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. Jude 24

Not the Same

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Condemnation and conviction are not one in the same. It’s debilitating to not realize the difference. One levies judgment that leads to death, the other creates awareness that leads to life. Because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross you can reject condemnation, embrace conviction and thrive. 

There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. Rm 8:1

Nothing or Something?

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Nothing. That’s what we are without love. It is the very thing that motivated God to create you and I so that we could experience love and it’s many facets. Just as it was and still is the motive for all that God does, it must be our motive for all we do as well. I often pray this prayer for help with this, “Jesus, would you love people through me today? Helper, would you help me to love well today?” Simple. Direct. Effective. Love well today and be “Something.”

What if I have the gift of prophecy, am blessed with knowledge and insight to all the mysteries, or what if my faith is strong enough to scoop a mountain from its bedrock, yet I live without love? If so, I am nothing. 1 Cor 13:2

Let’s Not Make a Deal

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If our love for others is relative to the return then it’s not love, it’s a transaction. God never said, “Let’s make a deal.” He said, “Love one another.” Check your relationships today.

Are you disappointed when your gestures of kindness are not returned? Do you feel spurned or let down when you extend a helping hand and receive nothing back, not even a courteous, “Thank you?”

Check your heart. Check your motive. Love lavishly without condition or expectation.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16

Bleeding Out

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I am grateful for the account of the woman with the bleeding issue. Jesus didn’t touch her, she touched him. That’s epic in it’s scope because we tend to cry out in our “free bleeding” moments and ask Jesus to touch us when, in fact, we have the potential to touch him. It’s easy when we are bleeding out to become passive and wait for Jesus to come on the scene and fix us, yet James tells us to “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” One more hint that lets us know we can initiate movement.

Whether you have a finger cut or feel like you just lost an arm, take a cue from the woman who’s only hope was to touch Jesus’ hem. Break through the crowd of voices that surround Jesus, that distract you from beholding him and press through until you get a fist full of his mantel and don’t let go. Perhaps there, close to him, you will find that you have ceased to bleed. Like the Switchfoot song says, “I dare you to move.”

And He said, “Who touched Me?” Luke 8:45

Was Jesus an Introvert?

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I think Jesus was by nature an introvert. The signs are there; his need to withdraw to desolate places, time away from people to recharge, a keen ability to ask questions as much as dominate a conversation, his aversion to crowds and attention, his oft repeated line, “Tell no one.”

It doesn’t mean that he didn’t love people (he died for people), but only that he understood he needed time alone to recharge and be with his Father for strength, restoration and encouragement. Never underestimate the potential of solitude for renewal, re-creation and restoration.

It’s a gift and a blessing. Embrace the desert season for what it can produce for your life and those whom you will touch. Also enjoy this amazing TED Talks video with Susan Cain. It will be well worth 19 minutes of your time. Enjoy!

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16

Simplicity, A Journey of Contradictions

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I am a bundle of contradictions. Yes, I said it. It’s honest and it’s absolutely true. While speaking of the benefits and virtues of simplicity and an uncluttered life, I’m surrounded by a technological set up that would make Steve Jobs proud… and richer. I bounce back and forth in my journaling from writing by hand to my iPad. I feel sorry for my wife if I go to meet Jesus if she has to try to piece my ramblings together from my various mediums.

K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Saint. That’s what I have said for years and have slowly worked toward a more unhurried gait, albeit not always successfully. Even if I feel like I have not been “successful” in my efforts to de-clutter and de-accumulate I can take solace in this… I am trying, however slow it is. I’m celebrating movement whether it be a millimeter or a mile.

What have you done to de-clutter and simplify in the little things? How is your journey going at this point? Tips, pointers, resources, etc. will be appreciated.