Thursday, August 27, 2009

He chose wisely when given a choice of cups...

One of the privileges I have along my journey is walking alongside others at various stages in their own journeys. It allows me to reflect on this curious path Father seems to have me on and gives me the opportunity to conduct "fruit inspections" along the way. (checkups to verify if I am growing or stagnant in the journey)

Today, I read an interesting part of Galatians in my current singular focus reading of The Message:

The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him. Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you. Habakkuk had it right: "The person who believes God, is set right by God—and that's the real life." 12 Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith, but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping, a fact observed in Scripture: "The one who does these things [rule-keeping]continues to live by them." —Galatians 3:11b-12

Over the years I've seen so many people "living for God" in their weekly routines of going to church and striving to find other things they can do that will be blessed by God. Career, parenting, even giving... living for God means understanding some principles taught to them by some ecclesiastically endorsed person and then seeing how they can align their lives to apply those principles in order to find blessing or be blessed by God in their endeavors.

Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you.

This is important along the journey! If we take a step back from the popular teaching of the day and re-read the stories of Jesus' time here walking among us, it's pretty clear to see that this was how He lived 24/7 for almost 1,000 days. In the history of the world no one has had the "gifted-ness" and understanding of principles to live by like Jesus. And yet, He chose to enter into what God was doing around Him rather than doing His own thing based on the resources and teaching at His disposal. We even see Him tempted in the Wilderness to live the way we tend to try to live the "Christian life"... getting what is destined to be ours, quicker, by submitting to serve another master. It's right... we know we are supposed to "have" all this so we should pursue it, right?! Jesus resisted the temptation to have it all right now even though that which He was offered was in line with what He knew He was ultimately destined to enter into along the path Father had for Him... and more immediately than Father's way for Him. Given the choice between two cups... the cup of endulgence (which was mostly truth mixed with a little -or huge- error) or the cup of surrender, entering into what Father was doing in and around Him.

What will you chose?

Sunday, August 23, 2009


While traveling the other day I heard all sorts of people talking about all kinds of stuff that occupies their conscious thoughts. I don't remember the precise topic of the conversation that pulled it all together for me, but I do remember I was sitting on a plane overhearing the person behind me explaining how brilliant his business prowess was to the captive audience in his row. I pulled out my phone and wrote a reminder to myself of this simple thought:

Obsessed with controlling things you can't control.

It was a theme I overheard often in conversations on this trip - both conversations I had and had not participated in. In that one moment overhearing the conversation (which could hardly be called a conversation as it was very one sided, but nonetheless...) behind me on the plane Father spoke a quiet phrase that caused all the little subtle things He had been highlighting to me throughout the trip to come to rest on this one simple statement.

It's something we all struggle with at some level and in various ways. Father's been teaching me the lessons of manna from heaven and the feeding of the five thousand over the last year and I had not really put one plus one together to get this one yet (I know, one plus one equals two, but I'm learning this new math that doesn't always add up like all the math I grew up learning).

How amazing is it that we can become so obsessed, even as those who profess to follow Christ, with controlling things over which we truly have no control. Well, maybe some of you reading this may feel more comfortable if I tag on "no control except that which Father permits", but then is that really in our control at all?

Jesus walked the earth for three years totally out of control. (that should stir some head scratching) He was very careful to emphasize that:
John 5:19 (MSG)
19 So Jesus explained himself at length. "I'm telling you this straight. The Son can't independently do a thing, only what he sees the Father doing. What the Father does, the Son does.

John 5:30 (MSG)
30 "I can't do a solitary thing on my own: I listen, then I decide. You can trust my decision because I'm not out to get my own way but only to carry out orders.

John 5:36 (MSG)
36 But the witness that really confirms me far exceeds John's witness. It's the work the Father gave me to complete. These very tasks, as I go about completing them, confirm that the Father, in fact, sent me.

John 5:44 (MSG)
44 How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking your rivals and ignoring God?

And perhaps the most interesting snippet nestled in this explanation by Jesus is:

38 There is nothing left in your memory of his Message because you do not take his Messenger seriously.

39 "You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you'll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me!

A large majority of well meaning ministries across the world are geared to teaching "principles" from the Bible, that if you follow them precisely you will be in control of things in your life. I believe Jesus would say "poppycock!"

Friday, August 7, 2009

Out of the Game

I had an interesting experience this week along the journey. Actually, the intersection of several points along the journey this week which Father used as another point of helping me understand just how busy He is all around me (and on occasion my part in it).
I've been teaching at a community college for a couple of semesters. In my summer class I had a very interesting collection of people and since teaching there is part of my "as you are going" journey I am conscious to try to look at the students for what Father may be doing individually in each of their lives. One I've been particularly interested to watch has been in the life of a young lady I'll call Holly.
Rewind a little over a year. On Facebook I came across an old high school friend with whom I had lunch and we immediately realized he and I were on the same journey years and miles apart for the last 30 years. We've since been hanging out almost every week to talk about what Father is doing in our lives and spur each other on along the way. I'll call him Kevin.
Kevin has the unique opportunity of assisting a handful of young adults with their journeys in a nearby community. I've met the group and hung out with them several times. A great group of folks with varied backgrounds and stories. One of the young ladies in the group, like most of us, had lots of hurt and difficulty in her past with which, as most of us do, she had found ways to cope. In her case one of her ways to cope with the hurt involved being in deeper than friendship relationships with other women. I'll call her Mary here.
The other day at lunch with Kevin he began telling me a story about Mary and the young lady with whom she had broken off a relationship when she began to discover the grace of Jesus along her journey. I don't remember all the details, but suffice it to say that Mary's former girlfriend was angered by Mary's new direction and very resentful of Kevin, the group Mary had become a part of, and all that Father was doing in Mary's life. Kevin told me at lunch that day that in recent weeks Mary had seen a change in her former girlfriend's attitude about Mary's new direction. Even making the comment that Mary was happy all the time and asking what was it that made such a big change. Kevin, Mary, and their group have been praying for Mary's former girlfriend to see Jesus and experience the healing that Mary has found. I'm not 100% sure how the punchline in the story wound down, but it was something like "Father has been answering our prayers by allowing her to see Jesus every week for a couple of hours and none of us knew it. You see Craig, her name is Holly."
WHOA! It took it a couple of moments for it to sink in. Mary's Holly was the Holly from my class. The same Holly in whom I had seen an attitude change throughout the course. Holly and I had never really talked about religion, but I had just been myself with her and not been concerned with what Father was doing in areas of her life outside my reach. Always watching and often asking if it was my place to say something Father just said no... be yourself with Holly."
So, I was blown away with that. But equally cool was the realization that what had occurred in this set of relationships served two other purposes in my own life. One, it reinforces the teaching about things and people with which I consistently (whether back to back in time or over years of separation) come into contact not being by accident, but that as I am where I'm supposed to be, when I'm supposed to be there it only makes sense that I'd encounter these people and things again as we are each a part of what Father is doing in each other's lives. Second, for a couple of weeks, maybe even months I had been feeling a little like I was out of the game if you will. It was as if, because I had not been actively "doing" as I had been indoctrinated by religion I was not doing anything. Like I was on the bench if you will. Father showed me in that one brief moment and the intersection of several, up to that point, unconnected lives that when you are being where you are supposed to be, when you are supposed to be there, and doing/saying what you are supposed to be doing/saying when you are there that you are never out of the game. The game is not about me.