Through a Glass Dimly

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

Month: July, 2013

Launching Cheerios

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Waiting before God, waiting for God, and waiting on God are the conditions of God showing His presence. – Andrew Murray from Waiting on God

How bold and brash am I to charge into God’s presence with an air of entitlement, demanding my rights like a child banging a spoon on my tray, launching Cheerios through the air. Learning to wait, to be still, and to know.

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

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E.G.R. (Extra Grace Required)

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Say what you want, be it noble, be it magnanimous, waiting on God is a difficult endeavor. Each morning when I awake, I pick up my phone or go to my computer, turn it on, and hope there is something in the way of a sign that doors are opening. There was a time when, as a young boy, I would run to the mailbox hoping that my order from the back of a Boy Scouts magazine had arrived. Nowadays, it’s the click of a button, and yet I have the same sense of anticipation and expectation.

We have many friends that are praying with us and, on occasion, send us words of encouragement and hope that mostly say, “Take this time to rest. Enjoy the downtime. Be still before God.” It is as though God continues to say over and over, “Rest. Relax. Restore. Let Me ‘re-Create’ you and prepare you for the next assignment.” Why do I fight it so? Is it that “man-thing” in me that needs to feel as though I’m doing something as opposed to simply “being” the person God has called me to be?

Being still before God, forced or not, can go two ways. It can be filled with the joy of His presence where the word of God comes alive and speaks through every turn of a page… or, it can be cluttered with voices of self-doubt, fear, insecurity, anxiety, sadness and anger at the circumstances that conspired to get me to this place. Every day I have to make a conscious choice to shut out the negative voices that vie for my attention and seek to turn my gaze away from the One who holds my future in His hands.

I am not noble. I am not a hero. I am not a spiritual giant. I am a man who realizes that I need Jesus, not just to get to heaven, but for the sustenance of life itself. I am dependent on Him at the core of my being. Apart from Christ, I am weak, selfish, ego-centered and prone to isolate and turn inward. I need Jesus to bring out His best in me so that in some small way I can be a blessing, an inspiration and an encouragement for others to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to keep breathing, to keep getting up each morning and engaging life head on.

I suspect that when the doors do open and we are driving a U-Haul to our next assignment, the tone and timbre of my writings will be filled with joy, faith and expectation. I’m just giving you fair warning. In the meantime, I have decided to be open, transparent and vulnerable. I’m not looking for pity, strokes or compassion, I’m simply being raw and authentic as you are watching our journey unfold like a cheesy reality TV show. So hang on until our next episode.

My next blog could be about an amazing development that creates excitement and momentum, or it could be another email that sends us deeper into the secret place, crying out to God for breakthrough. Either way, God is still God and we are counting on His promise to protect and provide, and for a future and a hope (Jer 29:11).

Jimmy
13:13

Hurry Up and Wait Update

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During our transitional season we are staying with dear friends, Rick and Cindy McClure, in central Arkansas near the Ouachita National Forest, the home of Sasquatch. It is 74 degrees and has been raining all day. The air smells like pine trees. That is about as near to a perfect day as you can get for a contemplative soul like myself. Here is an update on our current status.

We are now “free agents.” In other words, we are between churches and in the process of seeking God for our next assignment. It’s an awkward time and I have never been in this position before. In my 28 years of ministry, 14 of which I was a senior pastor, I have always moved from one setting to the next with little to no lag time, so this is a new experience.

It is a season of waiting on the Lord, a time to be still, to trust and to rest. Truthfully, it’s difficult to fully rest when you are uncertain of what is on the horizon. I enjoy preaching and teaching about faith, trust and belief much more than I do having to actually walk by faith, trust and belief. I’m learning much on this journey. Fear, insecurity, worry, anxiety, stress, emotional extremes, despair and depression are ongoing threats to “the peace that passes all understanding.”

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Friendship, relationship and connection mean more to me now than ever. At the close of this season I will be a better friend and a more compassionate person. Random gestures of kindness are as thrilling as finding a diamond in a field or rediscovering a long forgotten trinket. People matter more than production, accolades or recognition. Perspective is shaped and crafted in these defining moments… for the better.

“What can I do?” I am so glad you asked. Breathe a prayer on our behalf for peace, for rest and for the next door to open. I am anticipating a great season of fruitful ministry just up ahead. In the meantime, I will do what I can to quite the voices, calm my mind and be still and know that He is God.

Jimmy
13:13

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Let’s Get Honest

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I’m not overly impressed by much these days. I have seen so many things burst onto the scene with trumpets blaring only to watch them fade quietly away like a wisp of vapor in a breeze. It came. It went. Next. Every once in a while something, or someone, comes along that captures my attention. Enter Brene Brown. I know nothing about her personally, but in the combined total of 36 minutes that I have listened to her words and watched her TED Talk videos, a chord has been struck deep in my soul.

She speaks about the power of vulnerability and paralysis of shame. Not popular topics in a world that values initiative, power and the appearance of having it all together. Or is it? When Brene gave her first TED Talk titled The Power of Vulnerability she thought she blew it and was overcome with a numbing fear that she had missed the mark. Four million hits later, Brene Brown was being heralded as an expert on vulnerability. Her 18 minute talk resonated with millions of people as the video went viral.

Yesterday, my wife, Annette, posted a plea for prayer. It was simple, direct and to the point. It was not weakness, it was strength. The response was overwhelming as people verbalized their support and began to pray for our situation. Annette exhibited raw bravery and courage by asking for help. When I first saw the post, something inside of me thought, “Oh no, what will people think?” Just as quickly as that ugly thought appeared it was replaced with the highest admiration and gratitude for her transparency. You go girl.

I have longed to be more vulnerable in my writings, blogs and posts, but the fear that people might think I’m weak has given me pause. Add to that the influence of bad theology and misguided religious thinking that says if you have a bad confession you are no longer walking in faith and therefore your fear, transparency, honesty and vulnerability will cause God to “stop your blessing short.” How sick is that? And yet, that erroneous seed still lurks somewhere deep in my psyche.

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Dr. Brene Brown – TED Talk – The Power of Vulnerability (Click to Watch TED Talk)

My resolve? To be honest, transparent and vulnerable even if it makes you feel awkward or uncomfortable. Why? Because life is too short to be anything less than honest. Do not fret about my faith. It’s in tact. In fact, it’s stronger, bolder and more courageous than it’s ever been. Dr. Brown states, “Vulnerability is not weakness. Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” It’s time to step over fear, shame and regret to embrace and experience life to the fullest.

Jimmy
13:13

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” – Jesus (John 10:10)

Impatience

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While standing in a long slow moving line, I am reminded by that still small voice to check my heart, gauge my mind and die to my tendency toward impatience. As I look inside I realize I’m slipping into one of the things I dread and detest the most about our culture… entitlement. That self-centered ego-centric mentality that, in some strange way, is convinced it is the center of the universe. I shake it off with a new resolve to smile, surrender to the moment and breathe a prayer of gratitude.

Entitlement and impatience creep into our relationship with God as well. We pray and nothing happens. We worship and our senses are flat. We serve and we just feel tired. When there is little to no movement something in us rises up and says to God, “Really? After all I have done and am doing? Seriously? Nothing? No movement? No answer? Hello? Can you hear me now?” We behave as if the God of all creation is there to do our bidding according to our sense of timing and perceived need. Maybe it’s just me.

Waiting on God and dying to our sense of entitlement involves the one thing many struggle with the most… TRUST. Trust that He is not ignoring us. Trust that He is orchestrating events on our behalf. Trust that His timing is perfect and best. Strip everything away and answer this one question, “Do you really trust God?” Don’t answer too quickly, your impatience and entitlement might betray what your mouth is quick to speak. Andrew Murray writes, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. Yes, for HIM. Seek not only the help, the gift, thou needest seek: HIMSELF; wait for HIM.”

Jimmy
13:13

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret – it only causes harm. Psalm 37:7-8

Vulnerability

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When I meet a person who seems to have it all together, the right looks, the right posture, the right bank account, the right behavior, the right car, the right profession, the right… everything, my response is, in the words of an overplayed cliche, “Sir, step slowly away from the vehicle.” In other words, I want to avoid that person. Why? Because, in my experience, it’s just not real, authentic or genuine.

One of life’s greatest treasures is the connections we make with one another. If a person is disingenuous, then there cannot be an authentic and honest connection. The facade and veneer of “I have it all together” will not allow the necessary vulnerability that it takes to truly connect at the most personal level.

My desire is to be a “what you see is what you get” kind of person. I don’t always live this way. Sometimes, due to my own insecurities and unhealthy desire to be liked by everyone, I will put on the mask, slip on the facade and paint on the veneer hoping I will make a good impression. Ugh. I walk away from those weak moments disgusted with myself for not taking the risk of being vulnerable and missing an opportunity to connect at a deeper level.

As I read the Bible, I see rampant vulnerability throughout the text. This gives me great hope. To know that God used weak, frail and broken people to deliver the greatest message of faith, hope and love the world has known and will ever know inspires me to keep chiseling away at the stoney facade that hides and covers the real me.

Those who are prone to religious thinking bristle at the humanity and vulnerability of the characters recorded in scripture. It’s easier to ignore and neglect the passages that record raging doubts, fears, insecurities, questions, failures and sin. Not me. I need to know that I’m in good company among the ragtag cast of characters of the greatest story ever told. It gives me courage and resolve to keep walking through the valley of the shadow of death as opposed to pitching a tent in the darkest place of my own soul.

Many years ago, Annette and I made a commitment to each other and to God that whatever the cost we would live as authentically and transparently as possible, even knowing that in some church circles it is not always what is preferred. We have stayed true to that commitment and I can say that we have paid a price for that level of vulnerability. It would be more appreciated in a bar than most churches. I wouldn’t change a thing. After all, as I read my Bible we are in good company and the connections, relationships and friendships we have made are worth more than the purest gold.

Jimmy
13:13

My tears have been my food
day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
“Where is your God? Psalm 42:3

The Heart

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“Cultivate the greatest confidence that, though you cannot see into your heart, God is working there by His Holy Spirit.” – A Murray

I woke up early this morning thinking about my heart. Is it good? Is it “desperately wicked?” On occasion it is beneficial to stop and take stock of your heart. Apart from Christ’s finished work I can only surmise that my heart is incomplete, not yet finished, under construction, a work in progress.

As I opened Andrew Murray’s book, Waiting on God (Day 9), this morning, I read the aforementioned quote and I can only trust, by faith, that God is indeed working on my heart. It is beyond what I can wrap my intellect around, of which I tend to lean. Therefore, I will throw my heart open before the divine cardiac physician and say, “Do what you must!”

Quieting my mind and resting my heart, I trust in this truth, God is working both on and in my heart; shaping, strengthening, cleansing and renewing until it barely resembles it’s former state.

Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24

Hungering for Him

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Honored to be preaching today at LifePoint Church in Malvern, AR. I’m speaking on the topic of Hungering for God. Here are a few nuggets:

“We all have all of God we really want. Nothing moves the hand of God like spiritual hunger. When you are as hungry for God as you are desperate for your next breath, you will be postured to receive the outpouring of His presence, His grace, His mercy & His love.”

May I make much of Jesus.

As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God? Ps 42:1-2

Waiting

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In a microwave culture, the idea of waiting on the Lord seems foreign and far removed from any relevance or benefit for our lives, and yet it is the place from which we draw strength, courage, hope, communion and the grace to carry on.

As I read the “dead guys,” the ones that have gone before us, finished the race and communicated with great depth and eloquence, I observe that waiting upon the Lord was one of several basic spiritual disciplines that marked their walk with Christ.

We must learn from their example and implement these valuable and timeless disciplines into our overtly casual and overly familiar Christian lives. As we wait upon Him and draw near to Him, He in turn and with great love, draws near to us.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage. Wait for the Lord. Ps 27:14

He is Near

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Our response when faced with challenges, obstacles and opportunities should be a resounding, “For thou art with me.” His abiding presence is the treasure you seek, the answer you need and the substance of what you hope for. Say it often throughout the day, whispering it as you go until it becomes as natural as exhaling your next breath.

“…for thou art with me.” Ps 23:4