Raw Reflections from the Journey

Friday, May 29, 2009

When I think of ME!

It happens time and again. I take off on my bike, hungry for the open road, speed, freedom, the wonderful scents of nature, a physical challenge and emotional cleansing. About half an hour into the ride I ask myself, "What have I been thinking about?" The answer is usually the same, "I don't know" or "Nothing". "Well", the conversation with myself continues, "Why don't you think about something that matters?" That's when the dilemma arises; what to think about.

I could think about me; my life, my feelings, my thoughts, my desires. Or, I could think about God and others.

Yesterday I chose God and others, and it was life-giving.

Jill and I have been involved with several couples and individuals recently who are engaged in struggles for faith, for marriage and for understanding clear purpose and meaning in their lives. The enemy has been harassing them, and they need help to continue standing through the onslaught.

"I need to invest as much time and energy as possible in intercession for them" my spirit told me. Thus, I went through the list, one by one, praying over their circumstances, asking Father's protection and provision, and pushing back the demonic forces attempting to choke them.

As I strained physically to turn the cranks up steep hills, and focused my adrenaline to steer down exhilarating descents I invested spiritual, mental and emotional energy in prayer for others.

When I think about me I'm not thinking about God or others because it is impossible to dwell on two things at the same time.

When I think about God, Jesus and Holy Spirit I get lost in a peaceful joy that makes everything well with my soul, no matter my circumstances.

When I think about others I am walking in the footsteps of Jesus who put the needs of others ahead of His own.

God doesn't need our attention, but we do need to attend to Him. We were made to need Him.

Others are vulnerable to the enemy's schemes when they aren't in intimate fellowship with other believers and protected by our intercessory prayers.

What are you thinking about? Who are you thinking about?

Would you think about and pray for me? Know that I'm thinking about and praying for you.

Pedaling forward,


Monday, May 25, 2009

Reconciling Relationships

Papa brought her to mind. We'd been connected in a divine appointment three years ago to help each other to grow in Christ...and, we'd butted heads a number of times that led to periods of silence and separation.

Strong people are made by God for specific purposes, and the bane of our existence is conflict and relational brokenness. Why? I think it is incumbent on us more than other temperaments to learn love as the medium to convey our heart.

God's prompt to my spirit was to ask for a conversation during which I might apologize for words and actions that had offended and injured. With courage Father provided I texted my sister, "Would you be willing for a meeting that I might apologize and ask forgiveness?" She responded graciously. "Yes, I've missed you."

We met today. My sister gave me a warm hug and said she'd really missed me. I was stunned by the warmth of her reception. Her grace made it all the easier to say that I was sorry for all of the ways I've offended and hurt her.

It is rather remarkable how relationships can be repaired and rejoined when we submit to God's pruning of our hearts, and we act in humility to take 100% responsibility for our part of the problems.

Today's reunion with my sister was a miraculous resurrection of a God-given, mutually beneficial relationship that is continuing only because we have both submitted to God's way.

Who has Father brought to mind recently? Have you heard a whisper of longing to be reunited with a brother or sister with whom you were once very close? What happened? Was it a misunderstanding, or words spoken out of pain or immature passion? Take heart. Father knows how to heal these things. Ask Him for grace and courage to apologize from the heart and watch what He does.

God bless, Jeff

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fame and The Famous One

"I want to make you famous."

I've heard this twice from capable people in the past 12 months. The first time my heart leapt at the prospect. We were in need of finances, and were longing for more people to know about what we do. GTRE (our ministry) evaluated the proposition for several weeks, but in the end said no because "fame" and the fortunes the promoter was willing to invest came with a price; bastardization of the message and method by which couples are strengthened and healed from hopeless places. It is God Himself who has shown up through us as surrendered instruments of His Grace to heal hopeless couples. No way could we sanitize our minstry of His name and His power in order to "advance" ourselves and "to do more good". We said no, and it was a significant moral victory. It wasn't easy, but it was a no-brainer, and it was an important lesson on the journey: God has control of provisions and influence, and will provide it if and when He wants us to have it. And, He won't require compromise.

The second time we were approached about fame was just this past week. I think this person has their heart in the right place. Their motives seem pure, but still the invitation feels dangerous. My spirit reacted immediately. "I don't want to be famous. It's a dangerous narcotic, and I don't want anything that could threaten my pleasure in You, Lord." I was surprised but pleased by the vehemence of my internal response. "Maybe I'm really getting it regarding the fact that He is the pearl of great price, worth more than anything this world can supply!"

My response to our friend was kind, but clear that fame is not an objective. "Certainly we want to share lifegiving truth and opportunity to grow and heal with as many people as possible. If the Lord wants to make His ministry to marriages known through our names, then I'm confident He will do that, but it is not something we will pursue. It could be something He would use, but I can't give myself over to it as a goal."

What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose intimacy with God?

I know this isn't an either/or proposition, but I do know from experience and testimony of others that money, possessions, and position are all legitimate threats to experiencing the reality of a loving relationship with God.

I'm thankful for the "disassembly" as one friend puts it. He chuckled the other day as I testified to the ongoing dissembling of my SELF in a way that leaves me with no option but to find solace in His love for me regardless of what I'm doing or how much I'm doing. For this reason, I celebrate a divinely orchestrated sabbatical from a rabid pace of doing in His name.

Bruce Wilkinson testified to the insidious nature of "doing" for God (Secrets of the Vine). He became depressed at the time his ministry became very successful. Puzzled, he traveled to visit his mentor. Immediately the correct diagnosis was made. The wise older man pronounced that Bruce had allowed his satisfaction in doing for God to surpass the joy of his relationship with Him. The lesson: Better men than me have succumbed to the seduction of doing for God.

Tom Wymore(1) talks about doing ministry absent adrenaline. I understand this to mean that he is as much at peace in his spirit on his back porch watching birds as he is while serving troubled souls during prolonged periods of healing prayer. That probably helps him to avoid "crashing" after "mountain-top" ministry experiences. It sounds like a worthy aspiration.

Fame? Only One deserves fame: The Famous One - Jesus. May all praise, glory and honor be unto Him, forever and ever. Amen.

1. www.tomwymore.blogspot.com

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Making Space to Hear Him

"I like hearing myself talk", my friend said. "But, I've been working at being more succinct to make space for others. I have good things to say. Others affirm that, but I don't get to understand what is in someone else's heart if I don't listen."

So goes the average prayer life, eh? We speak, He listens. We ask, He responds. We tell Him what we want, and He delivers; like placing an order to be delivered by FedEx the next day. Is this the kind of 'conversation' He wants to have with us? What about us asking and then listening. Or what about just simply listening. "Dad, I'm just going to hang out with You because I enjoy you and want to hear anything You want to say to me." If there is one worthy of dominating a conversation, it would be Him. Is my prayer life making space to hear him?

Today, a pastor asked me to recommend a marriage coaching couple for a marriage in crisis. I had two choices: 1. Flip through the rolodex of my mind to locate the most suitable couple, or 2. Ask God to give me the names of the couple(s) He has in mind for the marriage that needs help. I chose the latter. Why? I want to make space to hear Him before I hear myself. Sure, He gave me a good mind and common sense to be able to evaluate the pros and cons of referring to specific couples. But the point I'm driving at is a matter of the order of the cart and the horse. I want to ask God before I ask myself. Since I want to live in constant conversation with the One who made me and loves me, I'm choosing to put His thoughts above mine.

Jesus explained to His disciples that part of the work of His Holy Spirit is to, "...remind you of everything I have taught you" (John 14:26). He also assured the disciples that as they went out and had opportunity to speak to others that they would be carried along by His Spirit who would provide words needed at those times.

In other words, I think Jesus was saying something like this, "Guys, you don't have to do this Great Commission thing on your own. I'm going to my Father but you're not going to be alone. It's going to be like I'm with you. All you have to do is pray to hear my voice through my Spirit and I'll be right there. In fact, it's going to be better than if I was physically present with you because there are no limitations to the presence of my Spirit to be in many places with many people at the same time. I'm still going to be with you. Don't fret. Just keep the conversation going as if I'm beside you just as I have been the past few years."

The point? He is available and He wants to be involved. All we have to do is make it a point to converse with Him. Thus, my conversation about a marriage coaching referral went like this, "Lord, you know what the pastor said. Who would you like to bring to mind that might be able to help them?" It wasn't long before two couples came to mind. So, I wrote a note to both, and copied the pastor. It wasn't long before I got a call from one couple. "Would you be able to share more about the referral?" I called back, "First, I want you to know that I prayed, and He brought you to mind." "Well", he said, "I guess I'll thank God instead of you for the referral." Good.

Just last night I read a brief interview with Mother Theresa. "What do you do when you pray?" she was asked. "I listen." "What does God do?" the reporter asked. "He listens" she said. I'm still puzzling over that one a bit. Conversations in which we do more listening than talking puts the horse in the proper order, don't you think?

Well, I'm off to listen a little bit now.

God bless, Jeff

Monday, May 11, 2009

Living Loved and Living Loving

I've puzzled over this phrase since Tom(1) first said it. "Live loved to live loving and love living."(2) It has been as difficult to memorize as nursery rhymes like, "How much wood could a wood-chuck chuck if a wood-chuck could chuck wood." But I think I've got it down now, at least saying it. Living it is going to be the adventure of a lifetime.

What does one do to "Live Loved" and why is it so important? Is there a formula to make it happen? Perhaps a 40-day venture of some sort? Maybe a Bible-study or a fast? Or stand on one leg and chant a mantra about Jesus? Maybe, hopefully, its a bit easier. (Would God really make something so important so simple?).

The men advocating this living loved thing have a few years on me, and a similar history to mine of making things happen by their will, work ethic and manipulation (it's what we resort to when our insatiable egos demand to be fed). But, they've abandoned the planned and controlled life in favor of God's plan to for them to experience His unconditional love and joy through real relationship and surrender to His daily nudges to give love to others. They have my attention. I'm all ears.

I told God today that I appreciate all that He has orchestrated to give me an opportunity to come to the end of myself. Tastes of success early on threatened to addict me to activity in His name, but knowing that, He took it away as any good parent would do when they see their child inordinately impressed with a toy, activity or a friend. The opportunity in the wilderness of silence and inactivity is to simply enjoy relationship with Him in a way that isn't adulterated by concern or desire about what He can do or what He can give. With that in mind, I want the desert to last as long and be as uncomfortable as it needs to be. I really do want to learn to be content in all circumstances, and no longer subject to the undulations of happiness and pain that are mediated by "success" and "failure".

What is success, after all? Micah 6:8 comes to mind, "To give mercy, do justly and walk humbly with my God." To walk humbly with my God. Back to the garden; walking humbly with our God.

Lord, please continue to orchestrate our lives in way that we can get You. What might it profit us to gain the whole world and lose our souls? Nothing. You are the pearl of great price. You are everything, and I simply want to know you.

Continuing down the road, Jeff

1. Tom Wymore, one of my spiritual dads, www.tomwymore.blogspot.com
2. Wayne Jacobsen, www.lifestream.org, www.thegodjourney.com.

Forrest Feels Like Writing Again!

I feel like writing again. It's been four months of hiatus, and there are things I need to pen. Why? not necessarily for anyone else, although I'm going to let you in on what I'm thinking. No, mostly it's for me because I feel the pleasure of God when I write, and I understand things and retain what I've learned through reflection when I put them on a page. Are you like that too?

Some of you read my last Daily Grace and Truth devotional on January 26, 2009 when I compared my self-imposed sabbatical to Forrest Gump's cessation of running. Remember the movie? He runs, and runs, and runs, and increasing numbers of inspired followers run along and run behind. Then, in the middle of nowhere, U.S.A. he stops. The followers look quizzically at each other and then ask, "Why did you stop?" Forrest answers simply, "I don't feel like running anymore." Well that's what happened and it's been a good break. But my heart is calling me back to share a few more thoughts about my journey, and I hope in comments, emails, calls, etc. that you will share yours.

In a nutshell I am excited about the status of my journey to know God and to have a vibrant, real, satisfying and exciting relationship with Jesus. Honestly, I've been mad at God for not doing what I want Him to do, but thankfully He is breaking through with some truths about who He really is and how He really feels about me that is making all the difference to the point that what does or doesn't happen in terms of provisions for living or 'success' in ministry doesn't matter. What I am learning is this: He loves me. He always has and always will. What He allows and orchestrates in my life is part of the story He is writing for His Glory, and only He knows the script and the end. My part is to enjoy living loved so that I can live loving and love living. What I am learning about this is what I intend to post in this blog.

Are you on the journey?

The writing and speaking of several men has been instrumental for this segment of the journey: Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings, www.thegodjourney.com (podcast), and books, especially "He Loves Me" (www.lifestream.org, free pdf or hardcopy), and Tom Wymore, www.tomwymore.blogspot.com.

I'm planning to write as God nudges me. That might be every few days or it might be several times a day. Not sure what He'll do, and that's part of the joy of the journey.

See you on the road,