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Learning To Dance

It’s said that “you can never go home again” but what I thinks meant by that is that you can’t go back in time. And while that’s certainly true, at the same time it can seem impossible to move out of your past and into the present, let alone into your future! Despite all of that, earlier this year I did make a move! I moved my family from south-central to a new place in south-west Missouri,back to my hometown!

Not only my hometown,but to the very neighborhood I grew up in…

Even though I consider myself to be a sentimental person who as such is well acquainted with the “slings and arrows”which so often accompany it I’ll admit to being caught off guard by my subsequent reactions. It took a while for me to sort out why on a certain level I seemed angry about how so many things I remembered had changed! Like I was caught in the throes of some childlike egocentric fit over not having been “consulted”.

I didn’t say that the feelings were “right” only that I was having them!

Another thing I wasn’t really prepared for was the onslaught of questions that living in such close proximity to my past would move to the front burner of my mind or the rough terrain I’d have to traverse to find the difficult answers they demanded! Questions like…

“What the heck happened to my education?”

or

Just exactly where and how did my life “Jump the shark” so to speak…

 I want to make it really clear that this isn’t just some sort of pity party I decided to throw for myself nor am I attempting to fix blame on God or anyone else. Some of the events of my life have been rather unfortunate and apart from my aforementioned personal search for answers my intent or purpose in writing about them here is to encourage others who’ve had or will have similar experiences.Understanding our own issues of the past can be the key to moving beyond them into a better future! I can hardly express how important it is for me to be able to look back on my life and instead of feeling despair regarding certain aspects of it, to feel hopeful. Hopeful not only because I survived it but because I somehow found the courage to go on and the faith to believe there was something better waiting for me somewhere. lastly,to express my thankfulness to my Father in heaven who did then,and does now hold me in the palm of His loving hand!

I’d like to start with this video clip which was probably taken in the summer of 1971 when I was 10yrs old. As I watched it I remember being taken aback at how happy I appear to be! This video was taken by my father during one of the most difficult periods of my life,within a few months after my parents’ divorce.

The surrealistic background music provides a fitting contrast to the seemingly carefree display caught on the clip. It truly is a reality vacuum! Not only had my family recently changed in a not so good way, I’d also been the victim of significant sexual abuse on several occasions by people close to me. I’d recently become involved with a local church and had accepted Christ as my Savior, been baptized,and then when I stopped coming…forgotten.

I watched helplessly as my father who I worshiped became increasingly distant and more invested in his new life and family and less in me. I found out what it was to be hungry and to not have sufficient clothing that fit properly. And so at my lowest point,to then have my mother on whom I had become quite emotionally dependent begin spending a great deal of time away from me further compounded my feelings of insignificance. I was still just a bit too young to roam the streets after dark like my older brother…so I spent a lot of time at home alone.

When I watch this video…

I wonder what in the world I had to dance about!

And then it hit me…

I was playing the best cards I had in front of the one person I loved the most in the whole world! And despite everything wrong that had happened in my life up to that point in that moment,I chose to dance!

To block out everything else and focus on the only thing I felt had the potential to save me…

His love!

In my mind I was just doing what I’d always done…performing!

But what I was really doing was sort of the ultimate act of defiance.

I was in effect saying to the circumstances of my life,

You have not defeated me, you’ve thrown just about everything you could at me.

And guess what? I’m still dancing!

Isaiah 54:17

 No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.

It still inspires me…But what happened after that? You’d think that someone with that sort of “sand” would probably go far in life. I think what happened to me, and what happens to a lot of other people too is that we eventually become convinced that there’s nothing in this life worth dancing (or smiling) for!

When the subject of my education comes up what happened is no surprise considering I’d been a dedicated addict for almost six years at the age of 17. What I struggle to understand is why my school counselors and administrative staff chose to ignore what was happening. I attended a vocational course in the mornings which I was bused to and from daily and then spent the afternoons in various classes. As that last semester of my junior year came to a close I believe I was simply overwhelmed by the assignments which were due. Not knowing quite how to handle that I chose to simply skip the last eight days of afternoon classes…and so I flunked the eleventh grade!

I understand that I wasn’t the only “problem child” they were dealing with but I wonder could they of made a phone call to my parents? Aren’t there policies in place concerning this type of infraction? One last thing,anyone that reads this who attended my high school or any high school in the seventies for that matter knows what it was like as far as drug use on campus is concerned,and so, after they failed as an institution to provide a safe and secure environment for students to learn in and I become a victim of that I’m appalled that they could then decide that the thing to do is throw me out!

This took place during a time when my mother was going through another divorce from her second husband and we ended up moving from an upper class home in an exclusive neighborhood into a small two bedroom apartment. I did enroll the next year at a different school and lasted maybe a month before my principal at vocational school suggested that what would be best for me would be to quit school and get a GED. I did get a GED, and that was basically the end of my formal education although in truth I believe I learned precious little from formal schooling past the age of about 12.

One of the most common, if not the most common things you’ll hear Christian ministers say is “God has a plan for your life” and of course I believe that! I also believe that our enemy has a plan for us too…I’m convinced that on the day I made that walk down the isle and knelt down at an altar to accept Christ as my Lord and Savor there was a celebration in heaven! I also believe there was an emergency board meeting in hell! That meeting’s purpose was to put the kibosh on the plans my heavenly Father had for me and subvert the role I was designed to play in ushering in His kingdom.My sense is that there must of been no small amount of surprise and disappointment expressed by the attendee’s that their earlier efforts on my behalf had had so little present effect on me.

Knowing that my souls redemption was a done deal at this point, their only remaining option was to try and stop me from doing what I had the God given potential to do and be in Gods Kingdom by whatever means available to them! I mentioned at the beginning the feelings I’d been having and what I thought they were related to. However at this point I’d have to say that they’re actually directed at the forces of darkness which have for many years stolen so much from me in this life. Who’ve worked diligently behind the scenes orchestrating circumstances and events in my life to do towards me what’s prescribed in the mission statement below…

John 10:10

 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Obviously there’s a disconnect between those two premises…

Genesis 50:20

 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

These are all life verses to me…

They give me hope,encouragement and peace in the midst of my storms!

Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

King David danced before the Lord. Out of joy that the Ark of The Covenant had at last been returned to Jerusalem. David had to go through quite a painful learning process as he endeavored to lay down his will and surrender completely to God. In my life I’ve been challenged by similar lessons,it seems as though I too was following the example of the Philistines! Learning to trust that God truly does know what He’s doing allows me to be able to sit, (or dance) so that He can stand for me! The answers to our problems are still the same for us today as they were for David then! All of us have a God sized hole which can only be filled by drawing closer to Him! By staying focused on The Father, through our Lord who is Love,which is the answer,instead of on our world and it’s problems! If we can do that, we can also experience the continual joy of being in the Lords presence!

To me,that’s what “learning to dance” means…

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The Sacrifice of Praise

In our society, if we don’t abide by the law, chances are at some point we could find ourselves answering to a higher authority. And then there are the laws of physics, far more absolute and impartial, but even they are subject to a “higher law”. Here’s an example…an airplane is much heavier than air and therefore according to the law of gravity it cannot fly. But when the law of thrust and air flow are introduced into the equation guess what? It flies! Because of the over-riding principles of a “higher law” which has dominion over it,what was impossible becomes possible.

The other day I was talking with a friend and I mentioned how glad I was to be “On this side of the cross”. I’d been reading some of the old testament books and was overwhelmed by all the sacrifices they seem to be constantly making. His reply to me was “We still make sacrifices,the primary difference being that everything we do now to honor God has to do with our hearts and not our hands!”

And he was right!

Mankind is still under the law,the wages of sin is still death! And of course the great news is that Christ’s death on the cross paid our sin debt freeing us from that penalty! Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law on our behalf and gave “Whosoever Believes” the opportunity to come under a new covenant based on higher precepts,or commandments. Ones that can’t be satisfied by anything less than the sacrifice of our own most precious possession…

Our Love!

Jesus told the Apostles this…

John 14:12

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

Healing people,feeding thousands with practically nothing,raising the dead,turning water into wine, these are just a few of the things Jesus did! How is it possible for us to do these things which are impossible based on the laws we understand? By understanding a higher law!

1 Peter 2:24

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

Didn’t Christ die to redeem us from the curse of sin,sickness and death? If that’s true,and I believe it is, then the manifestation of what Jesus said then is possible in the here and now! More than that, it’s a foregone conclusion…ye were healed! The victory has been won! We simply must, by faith, acknowledge this truth and the power of the higher law Jesus the Christ died to make available to us!

We’re called to proclaim His Kingdom!

Luke 10:8-9

 And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

Matthew 4:23

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

The kingdom Jesus spoke of is a place where there is no sin. No sickness,pain or death. It’s a restoration of The Father Gods creation to it’s original condition as it was when He pronounced it “Very Good”. Not crippled,or sick, or afflicted in any way

Genesis 1:31

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

The gospel is “Very Good News” and I believe that the stronger our grasp is on the reality of the higher law which rules there, the less power the laws of this present, perceived kingdom can have over us! We simply subscribe to a higher truth,Gods truth! We choose to operate in it! Choosing to believe what He says about every aspect of not only our lives but the lives of others and the world as a whole…in short,by our adoption into His kingdom we adopt a whole new belief system that transforms everything about our lives! As a result, we’re empowered to speak to the deception’s of Satan’s kingdom and command them to flee!

Healings, deliverance’s, manifested blessings of all kinds!

Wouldn’t you like to see that?

I believe it’s possible,in truth,I think it’s required!

But first, would you give it up for God?

Whatever it is that you love most…

Just like Abraham did with Issac.

Except Gods not asking for your son,

He wants YOU!

To perform a sacrifice of praise, to put your pride on the altar…

And then stand back!

1 Peter 2:5

 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

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Everyone’s A Winner!

Did you buy a ticket in the recent mega-millions lottery? I heard that the odds of winning were somewhere in the neighborhood of being struck by lightning four times and surviving…It’s interesting that given those odds anyone would still participate! Apparently even the remotest possibility of us being a winner has a powerful draw on us. The siren song of the carnival barker seeks out such a hope in each of us. Playing on our vulnerabilities,our insecurities, boldly declaring that…

Everyone’s a winner!

But who are the real winners in life?

My guess is that we all know at least one person who based on our own specific criteria we consider to be a winner. There might be a number of factors that cause us to view them as such or perhaps just one thing that proclaims success to us. Untold fortunes have been made by authors, ostensibly trying to help the rest of us to achieve our potential’s and thereby enjoy the benefits of being a member of the coveted “winner” club.

I have my own theories as to what’s most essential, they go something like this. It occurs to me that all winners have one very important thing in common. They all know in the depths of their being that they are loved! The most successful young adults I’ve observed are those who’re able to remain focused on their life goals instead of being distracted by all of the misguided attempts engaged in by those around them to get this most important need met. Who can deny that this fundamental lacking is the source of many (if not all) problems in young peoples lives.

I’ve also noticed that people who have a winning attitude seem to fall into two distinct categories. There are those who believe that based on the merits of who they are see themselves as being quite deserving of the love they’ve received and then those who instead are humbled by the love which has been shown them despite who they are! What’s interesting about that to me are the ramifications of these relationship dynamics. One party,believing themselves to be worthy often operates from a place of insecurity while the other,believing the opposite, draws their esteem based on the unconditional love of another which relieves them of the anxiety and insecurity of living up to expectations.Being a winner by the worlds standards can be a very difficult task for most people. I understand that all too well! But what’s so wonderful to me is that I can be a real winner through my relationship with God The Father through His Son Jesus Christ! Because I know deep in my soul that I am loved! I’m not anxious about where I stand with Him because His love for me isn’t about my worthiness…it’s about His nature,it’s about who He is, Who once you have an encounter with will end your own misguided questing for love a love that grows more real and true with every passing day!

It’s also interesting to me that modern psychology teaches the former,

while Gods word teaches the latter…

I’m going to go out on a limb and make a few unqualified statements.

I believe that everyone wants to be a winner!

I believe that everyone IS loved!

Not based on transient things or superficial qualities,

but for no other reason than for just “showing up”

If only we could all know it…

That everyone IS a winner!

Even You!

 

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Emmanuel עמנואל, “God is with us” (part 1)

That seems to be the only possible title for a post that endeavors to describe the many ways in which God’s been faithful to me in the past year…I truly am the grateful recipient of His grace which is defined as the unmerited favor of God.

What else can I say?

He loves me!

It’s the only way I can begin to understand how my family has once again very comfortably “made it” through another year! Especially a year like this past one in which so many were negatively affected. As it draws to a close and I look back on the many ways Gods cared for us I feel many emotions. First of all I’m humbled,and then I’m bewildered at His love for me. It’s hard to truly understand what I mean unless you’re someone like myself who is at times perhaps a bit more “human” than most in that I have a history of making more than my share of mistakes and bad choices. Most people find it pretty easy to explain away the “near miss” or disregard what could’ve happened under slightly different circumstances but I can’t. I suppose that’s because I’ve seen it happen so many times or perhaps it’s because I’ve been “blessed” to see myself so clearly for who and what I really am without Him.

It’s been quite a year for me, the job I had at the beginning of the year ended when the teenage girl I was working as support staff for flipped out one day and took an overdose of her prescription drugs. It was quite traumatic for everyone involved, afterwards everyone was put under investigation by the department of mental health. I was cleared of any charges of neglect,which is a very big deal and I was extremely relieved. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong but I also know that people get wrongly blamed for stuff all the time.

Thank You God!

My next job was a blessing in it’s self. I worked over the summer for the Eleven Point River canoe rental outfitter in my hometown shuttling people down to the river to go on float trips!

It was a great experience for me to meet so many interesting people and to be able to play a part in their summer fun! Where I live is such a beautiful place and I never grew tired of introducing others to it’s wonders. Oh,and on top of all that I got paid for it!

God…You’re my rock,and you ROCK!

Among the things I’m most thankful for this year I have to include being invited to join a small study/worship group which meets at a friend’s home nearby. For a while prior to that I had stopped going to church. I soon found the groups emphasis on study and open discussion as well as the great time of fellowship we shared to be just what was missing!

It’s wonderful to come together with other Christian’s and really be the church to those in need in your own community. That’s what attracted me to become involved with an organization called One Hope Outreach located in my hometown of Springfield, Mo. They’re focus is helping homeless people find permanent housing and empowering them to make positive changes in their lives. This photo was taken at a fundraiser which was held at a local restaurant.

Thank You Father for meeting ALL of my needs, both physical and spiritual! Thank You for giving my life meaning and purpose!

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How Dare You?

Are you an investor?  I think it must take a lot of nerve to put large sums of money into stuff and then hope that someday it’ll pay off! I suppose it’s kind of like the lottery, they say you can’t win if you don’t play but there are others who believe that you can’t lose what you don’t bet…I’ve been told that relationships are work, as if they’re a task or a job that has to be done and that may be true…it would explain why so many don’t work! I think it’s also true that you first must venture something before it’s possible to see a return of it, let alone to see a return on it! We sow seeds hoping for a crop and although there’s a reasonable expectation of a result it’s still not a for sure thing. I’m drawing comparisons here to various things that involve risk so that I can talk about what most people perceive to be the greatest one of all,

loving people!

Allow me to clarify, I feel as though I need to because there are so many concepts people have about what that means. I’m talking about the type of love that can and most likely will cost you everything. The type that never stops to count the cost before acting or that leaves no room for compromise or half measures.  It’s an all consuming obsession that’s primarily characterized by selflessness and a concern for what’s in the best interest of it’s “object” which of course is so much more than a thing to them…

it’s their everything! 

Many people practice a much more conditional definition of love as in,

“I love you as  long as times are good or until you do something I disapprove of.”

Another common example is the idea that I love you until it becomes inconvenient for me or until my feelings for you result in a “heartache” on my part at which point we’re through. Some people do see love as an investment, and as such they have some very definite ideas about what they expect in return and while I do believe that love always comes back to us I don’t think that anyone truly gives love only because of what they expect to receive in return.

Having said that I’d also like to say that even though expecting a return on our love investment is not in character, that when we do give, sow, invest, or commit ourselves to truly loving someone the return is guaranteed! Perhaps not in the way we might expect or from the person whom we’ve loved but just as the rising sea levels of a harbor lifts all ships we benefit from bringing more love into the world! Like am electrical wire with current flowing through it, we’re warmed by it’s passage!

I’d like to be able to say that I’ve loved that way, but what Robin Williams said about loving something more than yourself kind of left me hollow, I find it’s quite a struggle for me to love something more than I fear being rejected by it…

I’m also floored to know that this is how God loves each of us, except it’s actually so much more than I can even comprehend. He sent His only Son Jesus to be our redeemer even though I’m sure He knew that many would reject this supreme act of love!

Thank You Father for Your infinite love, please change my heart to allow Your love to shine through me more, and for me to see the fear in my life for the liar that it is!

Do I dare?

How dare you?