Raw Reflections from the Journey

Thursday, June 25, 2009

When I'm with YOU

"Daddy, when I think about the times I feel most loved and accepted it is when I am with you."

This simple sentence penned by one of my daughters completely undid me this past Father's day. I couldn't help but cry because I was deeply touched, stunned and humbled.

Quickly I began searching my memory for the times we'd been together in the recent past. "What did I do? What did I say?"

One on one each of our children is a delight; each are fun, funny, thoughtful, curious...and loving. But, I had no idea that simple courtesies and common conversation was having such a profound impact. AND I wondered about the times I did and said things that made her feel anything but accepted and loved. "God help me to live more loving."

I've thought of myself as anything but loving at times. So, I was truly shocked to receive a spontaneous affirmation that my saga to learn to live loved by God and to live loving with others is happening. Not perfectly, and not all the time, but enough to have an effect.

She feels loved. What more could a father want for Father's Day, or any day?

Papa, please help me to lean into your love. When I'm with you is the time I feel most loved and accepted. Please, somehow, help your love to leak out of me that they might feel loved too.


Friday, June 19, 2009

A Good Idea or a God-Idea?

My friends were puzzled about my relative silence. "This isn't like you. What's up?"

A portion of my quietness was due to information overload. The previous hour had been spent with two friends in the U.S. Sentate Chaplain's office (Dr. Barry Black) for a private meeting during which he shared many nuggets of God-given wisdom, including the following, "Everyday, Alan (his chief of staff) and I look out that window to see man-made monuments surrounded by God's creation." He went on to explain that man can do apparently great things, and pursue great ideas, but that it is all in the context of what God initiates, allows and blesses. "Alan and I are in this office by God's appointment to share His Word. We didn't put ourselves in this position, and any day He wants to He can remove us from it." The genuine humility of men who have every reason to be spiritually arrogant was humbling.

Another portion of my silence was due to the fact that I had been quietly praying in an attempt to discern if the idea's of a friend were good ideas or God-ideas. "You make a lot of suggestions to connect with people", I said, "But which of your ideas about connecting and pursuing relationship or ministry partnership are God-ideas and which are simply good ideas?" I asked. The implication is that only God-ideas are worth pursuing.

Alan chimed in on this thread. "Jesus only did what He saw His Father do" he said. "He never ran anywhere in his ministry, but rather he seemed to rest and retreat between active engagements with others." As Alan suggested, that's pretty remarkable, given the fact that He only had three years to launch a global, eternal ministry. If it were us we'd certainly have been running everywhere!

For whatever reason, I'm tired of chasing good ideas that come to naught. Maybe it's because I'm in my mid-forties, or because I've run on and therefore run-out of adrenaline in accomplishment-driven ministry pursuits to validate myself. Whatever the reason(s), I'm tired and therefore unwilling to expend energy on other than God-ideas. I think this is a good thing, and I think that God thinks it is a good thing. Coming to an end of self brings us to the beginning of Him.

"I'm rather non-plussed by the 'doing' of ministry" I confessed to my concerned friends. "I'd rather just be quiet and alone in conversation with God than to speak, teach, or even coach" I continued. Alan, one of my spiritual mentors for the past four years simply smiled and patted me on the back. "Hang in there" he said lovingly. This was said with wisdom born of experience along a similar path of spiritual maturity.

Does God work through our creativity? Certainly. Is every one of our ideas a God-idea? Certainly not. How can we tell? We can take them to Him and then we can listen.

So now, after speaking for a bit I'm going to get quiet again.

Praying you joy on your journey,


Friday, June 12, 2009

A Heavenly Haircut About A Bloody Past

She survived the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, but her parents and siblings did not (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Killing_Fields). Ironically it was her survival of those horrors that stayed her self-execution when her husband of 20 years became unfaithful. "It is Asian custom to not talk about shameful things, but I thought, 'I've survived worse than this. Why would I kill myself?'"

I was an unsuspecting customer for a haircut this morning when the Lord decided to interrupt an ordinary morning with an extraordinary conversation.

My stylist's story is one of remarkable courage and perseverance in the face of malicious godlessness and sin. First a totalitarian government steals the joy of life with her family, and then her husband's adultery begins a season of living death for his once cherished bride and children. So sad, and still she survives.

I asked if faith had played a part in her survival. "Yes", she said. But what she talked about more than her faith was her loyal and compassionate customers in whom she confided her marital situation and thoughts of suicide. "For six months they listened, and even had me to their homes to talk. I felt cared about and they made some suggestions that helped me."

Hmmm. Heroic life-saving by a cadre of customers who paid for a service and paid back with priceless care and compassion. She groomed their heads and they held her heart. The result is that her heart continues to beat with renewed hope and emerging joy.

I don't know what deposits I left in my stylist's life today, but I know that this unexpected appointment reminded me about the way of life as a Kingdom special agent. "Anytime, anywhere, with anyone...be prepared to speak about the reason for the hope that you have, and to adminster the grace of God according to the gifts you have received."

Continually surprised in Washington,


Monday, June 8, 2009

Daddy, Can I Have a Hug?

They don't ask for hugs as often as they used to, but they still ask, especially when they are tired, anxious, sad or otherwise feeling the need to be loved or reassured.

It feels great when our kids ask for a hug without asking by opening their arms, sitting close, or leaning their head into my chest. Instinctively I wrap my arms around and squeeze. For a few moments all is well for them and for me as we simply enjoy a connected embrace that communicates thousands of words.

"I love you"
"I'm sorry"
"I've missed you"
"I hurt for you"
"I wish I could make it better"
"I forgive you"
"I wish I could protect you from hurt and disappointment"

Recently, each of our three kids reached for a hug within an hour or a day of a hurtful conversation or disappointing behavior. Since I'm personally on a journey of learning to live loved by Abba (God), I'd taken my hurt and disappointment to Him. Then, when my children came to me for a hug I simply loved instead of instructing or correcting. That felt good, AND it worked well as a parenting response. Simply loving them made space for self-correction.

"Daddy, I'm sorry for what I said. It was wrong and I know it hurt your feelings."

"No, you're right dad. It's not been an easy day, but it probably wouldn't have happened if I'd been where you asked me to be when you asked me to be there."

Jesus was clear that we would face many troubles in this world, and that we could take heart because He overcame the world! Day after day the challenges and disappointments continue. Personally, I'm learning when I feel angst in my breast to reach for my Abba. He makes everything ok by reassuring that He loves me.

Daddy, can I have a hug?

Learning to live loved,


Monday, June 1, 2009

The 85% Rule and the Number One

"I did the math on the faith chapter, Hebrews 11. Eighty-five percent of those who heard from God and who were commissioned to do something for Him had increased difficulty, heartache and problems in life after they were given their assignment."(1)

So, do you really want to get in line to work for God. It's not the stuff of Hollywood which takes people from the pits of despair to the pinnacle of success in two hours. No, it's more likely a long gauntlet which may appear at times to have no end (kind of like a few climbs today in the Catoctin Mountains that go up, up, up).

What's up with the processing process? Why does God put his chosen instruments through so much?

I was pondering this at the picnic table, my favorite post-ride resting place when I had some clarity. Jill and I know that we know that we know at least two essential ingredients that couples need to heal from desperate circumstances in painful marriages: Heart and Hope. "These are exactly what I often have trouble experiencing", I thought. "So many of my efforts that were full of hope and heart have not come to fruition. It's sometimes so hard to try again because I don't know how to get them back."

In an instant, the Holy Spirit arrived to teach me. "That's the point of the experiences I've given you" I heard. "You know how it feels to be absent heart and hope, and you know that you cannot muster it yourself; that it is something that only I can give. Turn to me and I will heal your heart, renew its strength, and give you hope, which is faith that I will bring to pass all that I have promised you, in my way, and in my time."

I know that God has orchestrated the crucible of the past five years. Had we known all that would be involved we wouldn't have chosen it. But the beginning of a loving, trusting and dependent relationship with Him makes all the difficulties, disappointments and disillusionment worth it.

Biblical patriarchs probably had little idea how much they would be studied and celebrated. They were simply struggling to be obedient to the God that had revealed Himself to them, one day at a time. That's the other number to remember, 1.

I can't imagine surviving deserts of difficulty without Jesus' wisdom about living one day at a time. Prior to a challenging mountain ride with friends today I was without heart and without hope in response to the visible world of circumstances, bills, etc. But, en route to the ride, I made a choice to embrace the day as ONE day that they Lord has made, and to rejoice and be glad in it. Because of this, I literally felt light on my feet and strong in my legs as we ascended climb after climb. It's amazing what a simple decision of the heart can do for one's entire body.

Are you in the process of being processed? Take heart. You're not alone.

Are you choosing to enjoy a loving, trusting relationship with God one day at a time? If not, that is a decision you can make right now, and each day after.

One. One God, One Son, One Holy Spirit all completely present in a loving way for us One day at a time. Thank you, Jesus.

1. Wayne Jacobsen, "The Adventure of Hearing Him", podcast, www.thegodjourney.com.