Check the Power Cords

How does God speak to us?

Someone might say, “Maybe the first question isn’t how, but does He.”

To answer that one, most folks would give examples illustrating their “yes” or “no.” I’m a “yes.”

My “yes” has had the usual answers through my spiritual journeying years. They include prayer, creation, spiritual texts, and other people. Oh, and one more, dreams.

In my early church history, dreams weren’t high on the list. What I mean is, teachers didn’t give them much attention. That was for various reasons. So as a young follower, I didn’t give it much thought. Then as an adult when others have mentioned visions or dreams as means of God speaking to them, it felt like a foreign language. It came across as very real and personal for them, so it left me feeling left out.

The first time I recall believing God had spoken to me through a dream was in 2005. I remember it very vividly. Both the dream and the message I received. I no longer felt like an outsider. Since that experience, I often wake from a dream with a notion to pause and listen. And when there’s a message, it’s pretty obvious. It happened two nights ago.

This post isn’t written to share the message (If you know me and want to know about it, reach out to me). I’m sharing these thoughts for one main reason. I believe the answer to “does God speak” and “how” are found in the heart of each created man and woman. Creators commune with their creations. The challenge we have is returning the favor. Sometimes from boredom, emotional hurt, doubt, discontent, impatience, expectations, or arrogance, we disconnect from all the communion avenues with our Creator. Which offers this counter question posed to the mirror: “Am I plugged in?” Like the first question about IT issues, “Did you check the power cord?”

My experience has led me to believe if I’m not hearing from God it’s not His fault. It’s on me to check all the power cords.

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

The Church Gathers To…

I’m now in the bonus episodes of The Rise & Fall of Mars Hill. The episode Everything is Still Falling Apart has this quote that had me saying, “Heard.”

The whole purpose of the gathering of the church is to prepare people for their encounters with death…Everything we do runs in the opposite direction. It’s all in the direction of triumphalism. It’s all in the direction of how great life can be if we get our act together or follow this leader.

Mike Cosper is referring to the writings of another leader. It richly resignates with me. It seems like another way to paint the picture of living for the kingdom of heaven, not building treasures here, etc.

In some odd way this thought validates what I’ve often told people. If I had a choice between participating in a wedding or a funeral, hands down I pick a funeral. Whatever you call it, life celebration/memorial service/funeral, everyone comes with a reality check in their minds and souls. So much room exists, so many impactful moments are possible in the days surrounding the passing of a loved one. If we are prepared, we don’t miss them, and they have the potential for even deeper joy in our sorrow than we experience in other expected, highly anticipated, and tremendously prepared for joyful life moments.

How’s your church preparing you for death? Probably not a question you’ve ever asked. Which probably indicates it’s worth answering.

Photo by Antoine J. on Unsplash

Running Blind

The other morning I woke up before the alarm and decided I might as well get up and run. Out the door before 6, it was still dark. Roughly 3/4 of a mile out, running in the bike lane through my neighborhood, I approached a clump of something in the lane. As I got closer and a passing car’s lights lit up the lane, I figured out it was a dead possum. Roughly 20 yards later I stepped over a dead armadillo. Then within just yards I had to maneuver around two huge palm branches crossing the lane. Within that same patch, cars timely passed so I could see and not do something stupid.

Thinking about it later, I remembered this verse I’d read and journaled about recently from I John 2:11.

“Those who hate a fellow believer are in the darkness and walk around in the darkness; they do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.”

Ever noticed how hate makes you do stupid things. Even while you’re doing them your mind is saying, “What is going on? I don’t want to do this. Where is this coming from?” Sometimes it’s not until much later, after you’ve totally blown it, that you figure it all out. Then you have to humble yourself, or at least you have the choice, and admit what was driving your outrageous actions.

Thank God for the light of love. It reveals the dead stuff, guides you to a better path, and helps you avoid roadkill and debris.

Choose it. Run in it. The alternative – running blind – can be quite costly.

(FB post from 8/27/2011)

Photo by Kouji Tsuru on Unsplash

Jack’s Purpose

Jack Dietrich passed away a couple of weeks ago. He was 92. His memorial service was held yesterday.

I didn’t know Jack (A friend asked me on behalf of the family to sing his favorite hymn, “How Great Thou Art.”) But the service was one of those that when you left you felt like you knew the person regardless of previous history.

Everyone who spoke weaved the story of Jack’s life which included his influence on their teaching careers, his love of family and really everyone, his witty humor, and his outspoken faith. Apparently, if you walked by his porch on the way to the beach, most likely you got an introduction to sit with Jack.

That was the neighbor’s story who gave the eulogy. His initial introductory conversation with Jack lasted three hours and started an unexpected, life-changing relationship. As he described it, the life change was for both of them.

Although Jack had lived a full and successful life, he asked his neighbor the same question I’m guessing all 92-year-olds do. “Why am I still here?” His neighbor unashamedly told him, “You’re here for me. God knew I needed you. That’s why you’re here.”

Truth is, we don’t have to live 92 years to ask Jack’s question. For a multitude of reasons at any given time, our minds and emotions look at our situation and wonder why we’re in it. We question what’s the point. And as is often the case, the point isn’t about us; it’s about someone else. Someone that needs to be noticed. Someone that needs to be heard. Someone that needs to be touched. Someone that needs something that we have-time on the porch.

We sell ourselves short. Okay, maybe you don’t, but I know I do. There’s plenty God has given me that doesn’t cost me much, if anything, to give away. Occasionally, I’m reminded that’s it’s not as hard to know the why as I make it. Occasionally, all it takes is saying yes to singing a song, to give someone something I can easily give, and the why is clear.

Photo by Ana Essentiels on Unsplash

Stop & Hold

The Day is coming When My

Heart will stop wandering

Peace will stop wavering

Faith will stop studdering

Joy will stop fleeting

On that Day I’ll Finally Stop

Looking in a mirror dimly

Asking needless questions

Forgetting You Are the King of the World

Trying to do what You’ve Already Done

‘Til that Day I Desire to Keep

Holding on to Hope

Holding on to Truth

Holding on to Life

Holding on to You

Photo by Thomas Chan on Unsplash

Don’t Quarrel With the Bus Driver

(From a FB note in 2009)

A few weeks ago while talking with a friend about some things going on in both our lives I made this comment:

“I’m not driving the bus. Just along for the ride.”

What did I mean by that? I’m in a season where I am completely thrilled to sit back and let God be in charge of what’s next. My analogy is that I’m just on the bus, he’s driving, and when it’s time for me to get off the bus at the next assignment stop I’m sure he’ll make it real clear.

Isaiah says a few phrases in chapters 43 and 45 that reminded the Jews about their relationship with their God:

  • Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me
  • No one can deliver out of my hand
  • Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker

About one of these phrases, the NLT Study Bible has this note:

If we could design our own god it would not be like the God spoken of in the Scriptures. Most would prefer a god that answers every prayer positively, or a god that goes along with our cultural values, or a god that will welcome us to heaven no matter what. God’s message to the ancient Israelites who struggled with this was in essence, ‘Go ahead! Find a new god! See where it gets you!’

So does this mean I can’t talk with God if I’m confused, frustrated, or having trouble staying content in my “passenger” life? Absolutely not. It just means that I should approach him in faith with a peaceful spirit; my words don’t need to come from a discontented place in my heart leading me to being quarrelsome or argumentative.

My best response to the ride is to sorta take on the Allstate motto: I know I’m in good hands. God knows the destination. When he parks and gives me further instruction, I hope to say, “Thanks for listening and being such a patient driver and getting me safely to my destination. I wouldn’t want to be traveling with anyone else.”

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

That time Jesus said, “None of your business.”

They could not have looked like promising revolutionary material. That they should see themselves as deliverers of Israel was ludicrous. Their grasp of the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection was still tenuous and their perception of their future confused.

What was going to happen on the political scene? What role would they play? Seated among the young olive trees they asked him: “Do you plan to restore Israel’s sovereignty?” Many eyes were turned on him.

“None of your business” was the effect of his retort. “That’s God the Father’s affair. He currently organizes the political scene. Your job will be to bear witness to me not only here, but in broadening circles throughout the earth” (see Acts 1:4-8).

Chapter 4, On Being a Signpost, of The Fight by John White

These three paragraphs start White’s chapter teaching on what it means to bear witness. This “none of your business” interpretation is of verse 7 where Jesus is quoted, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”

As I read this, I was reminded of Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Jeremiah 29. The receivers of his message were not unlike those hearing Jesus’ message in Acts 1. They had a lot of questions. In their confusion and reaction they were tempted to believe and pursue just about anything, including doing what made sense for self-preservation without yielding to the all-knowing and all-powerful work of God.

American Christians would do well to listen to Jeremiah and Jesus. Our actions and words too often sound like we’ve got it all figured out, like we haven’t really heard what was said. Too often, the voice of God is hushed by our demands and declarations, in essence telling him how to do his job. Too often, we ignore the truth that it’s none of our business.

Thank You, Tim Mackie!

Last June I shared a post about starting a monthly “remembering” practice. This morning in my remembering, I chose to listen to a podcast episode about the Passover.

The episode is from the Exploring My Strange Bible Podcast. Exploring My Strange Bible is Tim Mackie’s personal podcast, produced by BibleProject. It’s an anthology of Tim’s lectures, sermons, and classroom teachings collected over 10 years.

I’ve only listened to a few episodes. What I have found so far is worth sharing. Mackie accomplishes his mission of exploring the Bible for everyone-those who’ve explored it for years and those who’ve just started or aren’t sure why they should.

For this episode, I’m guessing 90% of listeners will learn something that will enhance their next “remembering” opportunity. I know I did.

Today I remembered through the lens of those closest to Jesus sharing Passover with him. Thank you, Tim Mackie, for enhancing and deepening my remembering.

Google Result 40,900,001

I just googled the word journaling and got 40,900,000 results. Guess another result can’t hurt.

These six journals contain my entries from Dec. ’99 to March ’12

In an effort to keep shrinking my library, I discarded six journals today. Hard to do? Not really, particularly since they are more than a decade old. And as tempting as it is for me to flip through the pages, instead I dwelt on the value of what was on the pages versus the exact words.

If you journal, you know the value. If you don’t journal, well there are 40 million web results to consider its value. As for my experience, here’s why I value journaling.

  1. Spiritual. This one is first for a reason. In those six journals, my guess is 95% of the content was from the discipline of journaling while engaging scripture reading. During that time frame, I mostly used the acronym SOAP, written about in The Divine Mentor by Wayne Cordeiro, to complete my journaling discipline. My engagement with God and the Bible took on new depth through the words penned on those pages. Pretty sure there’s not a price tag I could put on that.
  2. Emotional. A lot happened in those twelve years including working at three different churches in various roles, moving to a new city, completing a four-year masters degree, handing off a successful piano competition, becoming an intentional runner, and many other personal and family experiences. Allowing pen and paper to process the emotions of such events is beneficial to the one journaling and to those in their world. The value that is most surprising is how those emotions surface more quickly and more healthily due to the writing discipline.
  3. Mental. As one who believes our minds should be in constant growth, the discipline of journaling is a tool that aids that growth. When united with spiritual and emotional focuses, my mind is transformed. After twelve years of journaling, I know things I didn’t know before, I know things I didn’t know I needed to know, and I deepened my value of knowing both of those things.

How I journal, how often I journal, and how it impacts me continues to evolve. That’s reason enough to keep journaling.

“Listen, God” (Part 2)

The next day I was still thinking about the previous day’s all-day conversation and referenced it in a conversation with a former coworker.

While we discussed it, God shared a final word. Adding to his direction to get my eyes off myself, he pointed out, “John, you know how you don’t like to hear people talking over each other and are frustrated when you catch yourself doing it? How about you practice that with me, too?”

He had the final word. Graciously, it was a question. And my “Listen, God” posture was altered.

Left me wondering what a “Listen, God” posture sounds/feels/looks like. Not too hard to imagine, really. Probably sounds similar to a Christmas morning temper tantrum from a six-year-old who just finished opening more gifts than they know what to do with. Probably feels similar to the tightness in a hair stylist’s chest whose client berates them because their work doesn’t match the picture from the magazine. Probably looks like the adult child rolling their eyes at their aging parent whose short-term memory loss has them repeating the same question three times in five minutes.

How God manages to keep a “You’re my son in whom I’m well pleased” posture is beyond my comprehension. That posture transforms mine from “Listen and do what I say” to “I’m glad you’re here. What would you like to talk about?”

Photo by Heike Mintel on Unsplash