My One and Only Fabulous/Imperfect Life

“It’s too late for me” is my lifetime cry
“Second tries aren’t possible” screams out the lie
Bitterness feels good, a drug that fills
It’s an unnatural high that quickly kills

I’ve sanctioned my actions, sold out to compromise
Defrauded my mind, it’s made me unwise
I am wonderfully made, it’s called Amazing Grace
My life’s full of fear, it’s such a disgrace

Children should learn, the world needs their illumination
My focus on “I” has muted a powerful generation
More for the rich, more for the strong
Can I keep affording to be wrong?

Prophets redundant in their admonition
Promising pain and affliction
I use up my resources without permission
While missing the point of true religion

Self-indulgence, gluttony, greed, I easily meet
From the inner city down to Wall Street
Covet my neighbor, keeping track of what they own
My happiness is fragile, I don’t even know the Jones

Called to eternal reasons, called to bigger dreams
Called to deeper thinking, it’s harder than it seems
Obsessed with brief amusement, my aim is so small
Bombarded by shallow living, I’ve succumbed to the fall

I’m far more powerful than I believe
Truth is, if I walk in, scarcity must leave
Cynicism rules the day, it has strangled my soul
Stops me from changing, it has taken its toll

Parched soil, empty bellies leads to much heartache
Many won’t eat today, while my plate is too great
I’m not here to manipulate, to throw out guilt or coerce
But I’m missing opportunities that bless and don’t curse

In the words of Paul, “I don’t do what I should”
He goes on to say, “I’m not always good.”
In the words of James, “Your faith might be dead”
He goes on to say, “They’re not works if just said.”

I compromise with apathy, bragging I’m doing no harm
I do just enough, showing off my charlatan charm
Justice is calling, it’s a Kingdom mandate
My comfort zone is charity, I’m missing my fate

The message is simple, it’s clear and concrete
My directive is obvious, overt, not discreet
Hand over my life, it’s the power of surrender
It’s about loving the least of these and a heart that is tender

FINDING SOMEONE TO RIDE THE BUS WITH

Lonely-Girl-Bus-1260x1680

A Harvard study tracked the lives of 7,000 people over 9 years.  Researchers found that the most isolated people were 3 times more likely to die than those with strong relational connections.

People who had bad health habits (such as smoking, poor eating habits, obesity or alcohol use) but strong social ties lived significantly longer than people who had great health habits but were isolated.

Harvard researcher Robert Putnam notes that if you belong to no groups but decide to join one, “You cut your risk of dying over the next year in half.”

Solomon, who was given the gift of wisdom, wrote, “By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (MSG)

Having authentic, helpful people who want your best is not necessarily an easy gift to acquire. It seems to me that a lot of so-called friendships are really relationships based on convenience or in helping someone advance a career.

Oprah Winfrey once said, “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

If I may quote Mary Alice from that world changing show, Desperate Housewives, “Human beings are designed for many things. Loneliness isn’t one of them.”

The feeling of loneliness or abandonment is a very powerful emotion and is becoming an epidemic in our fast paced, self-focused culture.

Mother Teresa once said, “The worst poverty of all is not hunger and sickness, but loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted.” And I believe that is true.

It is amazing what we can endure when we have the right people around us cheering us on.
And it is amazing how quickly we quit when we feel alone.

A few years ago, I got lost on the Paris subway system, and I was alone. It was not a pleasant experience. It was amazing how quickly fear and frustration came upon me, as I tried to ask directions in a language I am not good at, as I watched myself get more and more lost.

Being lost on the Paris subway system would have been a much different experience if I would have been with a friend. It would have been more of an adventure than a crisis. More of an education about how to get around Paris than a panicked mind numbing search on how to get back to the airport!

Human beings were created to do life together, helping one another, encouraging one another, teaching one another, supporting one another.

A person who is involved in healthy relationships can sustain and survive and even thrive in the most difficult of circumstances.

A person not in involved in healthy relationships can get very quickly discouraged and quit even when the circumstances are not that bad.

Strangely, some of the loneliest people in the world live in large cities surrounded by massive amounts of people.

Ironically, some of the loneliest people are people who are popular, people who look like they have it all together, people who are outwardly successful leaders.

Loneliness is an interesting phenomenon, because loneliness does not come from being alone.

Loneliness comes from not having deep friendships where you can share your joys, pains, frustrations, questions and dreams.

Loneliness comes when you are carrying the weight of guilt, failure and hurt on your shoulders and you think no one cares or no one understands.

QUESTION:
Is there anyone in your life that knows all about you?

Is there anyone in your life where you can be totally transparent and vulnerable?

Who do you go to when you have a bad day?

There is an American Indian Proverb that says, “He who would do great things should not attempt them all alone.”

Jim Roan writes, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Now that might depress you as you think about the people you hang out with, but it is true.

You do not find hope and strength by being around just anyone, you have to hang with the right people.

It’s your choice. You can run with people who want to drag you down, people who want to get you distracted, people who want you to compromise or you can run with people who say “You know I want what’s best for you, I want you to finish strong.”

You have to have people around you who say “I’m rooting you on! I am here for you! You can do it!”

How to find and develop good friends:
1) Choose to not isolate
2) Go to good places
3) Be a friend
4) Stay away from negative people
5) Make hanging with good people a lifestyle

Albert Schwitzer once said, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

We have that power to help others.
But we also must make sure we have those people to help us.

Jack Canfield writes, “If asked could you name the five wealthiest people in the world or five people who have won the Nobel prize or the last five Academy Award winners for best actor or actress? None of us remembers the head liners of yesterday. When the applause dies, awards tarnish, achievements are forgotten no one cares about who won which award. But if I ask you to list five teacher’s or mentors who believed in you and encouraged you, five friends who have helped you through difficult times, five people who have challenged and taught you something worth while or five people who have just made you feel special. That’s much easier to do isn’t it? That’s because the people who make a difference in your life aren’t the ones with the most credentials, the most money or the most awards. They’re the ones who care.”

Who is that person who would ride the bus with you?

Life-Changing Touch

WomanTouchingJesus

“Touch has a memory.” John Keats

The Gospel of Luke records a life-changing touch:

“As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him.”

The needs of this world are massive.

Physical. Emotional. Relational. Spiritual.

Ultimately, there is a God-Shaped hole that humanity is trying to fill.

Argentinian poet Antonio Porchia wrote, “We become aware of the void as we fill it.”

St. Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

“And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her.”

The length of people’s pain and the despair of not knowing if it will ever go away are excruciating.

The multitudes try so many ways to take away the pain.

The masses pray so many prayers to remove the chains of injustice.

I am reminded of the pain of young girls I have met in Niger, Africa who have been sold off to marriage much too young, whose bodies are too immature to carry a baby and are now experiencing the shame of a medical condition called fistula, where they cannot hold their fecal matter and urine, and have become outcasts to their own families and in their own villages.

The operation to fix them is simple in the western world, yet it seems like an impossible dream in the deserts of West Africa.

Maybe you can relate somehow.

Your pain has caused you shame.

You have tried everything. You feel hopeless. You feel like an outcast.

Redemption seems like an impossible dream, very far away.

“She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.”

Jesus has the power to heal and two thousand years later, those of us of faith, we are called the body of Christ and now we have the power to heal.

We have the power to heal through touching people’s lives with dignity, love, hope and prayer.

Mother Teresa said it like this:

“Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes
You are his body”

“‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked.”

While being crushed by the masses, Jesus notices the touch of one woman.

With the overwhelming needs of the crowd, he feels the pain of one.

With the noise of our world at an all-time deafening high, can we still hear the one?

A young man walked into our early morning Sunday church service, beaten up and bleeding from a bar fight, his clothes and pours emitting the stench of  way too much alcohol he had consumed the night before. He sat down 4 seats away from a woman in her 70’s who was properly dressed and had come to worship her Lord and learn about his goodness.

When she saw this bloody, smelly young man, her heart broke and she moved over to the seat next to him and touched his hand, and she became the body of Christ, and with no judging or shame, she held it while the music played, and healing began.

This man has not missed a Sunday since that fateful morning and now he has become an agent of healing himself.

The New Testament writer James wrote, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”

Today, with all the noise, be still, listen and you will be surprised how God wants to use you to heal others.

English scholar and Bible translator William Tyndale stated boldly, “The Church is the one institution that exists for those outside it.”

“When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’”

Peter saw the crowd, Jesus saw the individual.

Jesus saw an individual in need of individual redemption.

I have a friend who used to see the homeless as a crowd and he judged and looked the other way.

And then he met an individual homeless man, heard his story and his heart broke and now he is one of the leading advocates in our county for the rights and resources for the homeless.

Do you see mankind as a faceless crowd or are you asking God to show you the individual who has a name and a story and needs to know that healing is possible?

“But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’”

When we see each person as an individual, redeemable by God, we will get drained and we will need to be refueled by the Holy Spirit.

Being drained is part of the process of being an agent of healing for God.

If we see everyone as a crowd, we will not get drained and not have to depend upon the spirit.

Because Jesus came to heal the broken-hearted, he would spend much time alone with his Father before he would spend time with the crowds.

Early in my life, I tried to pace myself too much, trying to preserve my energy that I was mustering up on my own.

20 years later, I have more energy, I am more involved, more invested, depending on Jesus to refuel me.

We pace ourselves, waiting for the moment to give it our all.
Stop waiting, the moment is now. SEIZE THE DAY!

Do not be afraid to be drained. God will fill you back up again.

The beautiful and talented Sophia Loren once stated, “If you haven’t cried, your eyes can’t be beautiful.”

Entering into the pain of humanity and becoming an agent of healing is hard and painful, but it will make your soul beautiful.

“Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.”

I have learned that broken, hurting desperate people lead the way in transparency and humility leading to transformation and healing.

Like the tax collector standing in the shadowed corners of the temple, beating his chest crying out, “God have mercy on me, I’m a sinner!”, people who know they are broken are the ones who come to God just as they are and are ushered into his redemptive, healing arms.

This makes religious people nervous.

Religious people work so hard at looking dignified and well-put together that they miss out on the healing touch of God.

When the church I go to started welcoming broken, hurting people into our services, the rawness and honesty of their confessions of who they were and how God had taken their darkness and replaced it with grace made the more established, well-rehearsed religious people nervous.

One man, seeing people who were far from God now finding God and his mercies, actually stated in disgust, “I wish it was the way it used to be.”

The way it used to be was a few dozen people, all dressed in suits, toting Bibles from the same translation, coming to church, judging the world, thanking God they were not like them and going home feeling justified.

NO THANKS! I never want it to be the way it used to be.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

Henry Ward Beecher said, “The Church is not a gallery for the exhibition of eminent Christians, but a school for the education of imperfect ones.”

“Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’”

When we treat each person with dignity, as an individual, understanding they have been created by God for eternity, and when we take the time to notice them, invest in them, redeem them…then…somehow…supernaturally…their faith begins to rise…and in the words of Jesus…THEIR FAITH WILL HEAL THEM!

Their faith!

Faith rises in people when we pay attention and notice them.

As we choose to love our world, faith will replace fatalism, hope will replace despair.

My job is to pay attention, love and accept everyone.
My job is to bring value to their life. No exceptions.

Now is the time. Yesterday is over. Tomorrow is far away.

In the words of Bridget Willard, “Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.”

Half Full or Half Empty?

half full

Perspective in life is everything.

per•spec•tive /pərˈspektiv/ the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance

Have you ever lost perspective?

Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, poet, theologian, social critic and religious author once said, “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

In this life, perspective is everything!
We can see a problem as a burden or an opportunity.
We can see the rain as an irritant or a gift that supports life.
We can see the poor as a nuisance or we can see the poor as a chance to meet God.
We can see difficult times as God’s curse or we can see difficult times to grow patience, character and hope.

We see the glass half empty or half full.

When Goliath came against the Israelites, the soldiers all thought, “He’s so big we can never kill him.” David looked at the same giant and though, “He’s so big I can’t miss.”

Abraham Lincoln once said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

Jesus taught us to pray a prayer of perspective daily when he said, “May your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

I call this “The prayer of the cup that is half full.”

I grew up in church where I was taught that this world was going to hell in a hand-basket and that we were supposed to get saved from our sins and then hide out and hold on until Jesus comes back.

That was very unbiblical.

Jesus came proclaiming that the cup was half full, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted and to announce that captives shall be released and the blind shall see, that the downtrodden shall be freed from their oppressors, and that God is ready to give blessings to all who come to him.”

Doesn’t sound like hiding out and holding on to me.

Jesus’ prayer was that his kingdom would come, right now, on earth as it is in heaven, then he commissioned and enabled the church to storm the gates of hell and rescue the poor, the blind, the lost, the addicted, the judged, the hungry and the gates would not prevail.

Name some kind of hell someone is living in, and Jesus has demanded and empowered us to go there and rescue them.

In my opinion, Jesus never intended for the church to look like it does today.

There is a lot of resources going to the “already convinced” and most programs are designed to placate the “already converted” and there are a lot of empty buildings and wasted space, except for an hour or two on Sundays.

Jesus always intended the church to be on the leading edge of rescuing people from hopelessness, brokenness, darkness and despair.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice.” Isaiah 58:6

It looks like Harry Rheder and Steve Baker who lead an auto-ministry overseeing dozens of volunteers, fixing cars for single moms so they can get to work and have safe transportation for their children.

It looks like a local auto sales owner, Ron Wells, who regularly gives cars away for single moms and those trying to get back up on their feet and Marty Robinson, who owns a local mechanic shop who donates parts so the auto ministry can continue to flourish, even though they may actually be taking business away from him.

It looks like Marsha Rose meeting weekly with the mentally ill, who have been forgotten and marginalized, to create life-saving support and letting them know the love of God.

It looks like Paul Geddes, who is passionate about farming, who helps plant and maintain a 20,000 square foot volunteer garden to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to the hungry.

It looks like an 82 year old, Berkeley graduate, civil engineer, Art Edwards, spending his twilight years running a non-profit transitional homeless shelter, and against all odds, is helping people move from despair to dignity and hope.

It looks like a 10 year old girl, Claire Cockrell, who after seeing a movie on the true Isaiah 58 fast and how a $10 mosquito net prevents malaria, so she goes to her local public school and raises $1000 to purchase 100 nets and saves hundreds of lives.

It looks like Justin Morsey, in his early twenties, who moved to the Philippines to a very dangerous, religiously militant area where being a Christian puts your life at risk, and became a director of a home where young girls who have been sex trafficked and have been rescued, are rehabilitating and learning about real love, by seeing a young man of integrity who respects women and loves God.

It looks like a retired, firefighter Doug Shelstad, walking the halls of our local hospital, praying for the sick and introducing the dieing to a Savior who offers eternal life.

When people start viewing and expressing the Gospel, “May your kingdom come, may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” through their passions and talents and resources, injustice is fought at ever level.

How’s your perspective these days?

My prayers lately have been a Mother Teresa prayer:

MotherTeresaPrayer2

How are your prayers lately?

Are your prayers, “Jesus, there is no hope, I’m digging a bunker, the government is a mess, I’m going to play it safe, I’m going to let fear control me and pessimism be my guide.”

Our can you pray boldly, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Will you live with the perspective that light trumps darkness and love defeats evil and the unseen is more powerful than the seen.

Will you dream big dreams and live with the attitude that in God’s kingdom THE GLASS IS HALF FULL AND IT’S GETTING FULLER!

Will you live with two promises, “That nothing can separate us from the love of God” and “One day, suffering, striving, sickness, injustice will cease and he will wipe every tear from your eyes.”

A Prodigal’s Progress

ArtRembrandtSon2

“It’s too late for me” is my lifetime cry
“Second tries aren’t possible” screams out the lie
Bitterness feels good, a drug that fills
It’s an unnatural high that quickly kills

I’ve sanctioned my actions, sold out to compromise
Defrauded my mind, it’s made me unwise
I am wonderfully made, it’s called Amazing Grace
My life’s full of fear, it’s such a disgrace

Children should learn, the world needs their illumination
My focus on “I” has muted a powerful generation
More for the rich, more for the strong
Can I keep affording to be wrong?

Prophets redundant in their admonition
Promising pain and affliction
I use up my resources without permission
While missing the point of true religion

Self-indulgence, gluttony, greed, I easily meet
From the inner city down to Wall Street
Covet my neighbor, keeping track of what they own
My happiness is fragile, I don’t even know the Jones

Called to eternal reasons, called to bigger dreams
Called to deeper thinking, it’s harder than it seems
Obsessed with brief amusement, my aim is so small
Bombarded by shallow living, I’ve succumbed to the fall

I’m far more powerful than I believe
Truth is, if I walk in, scarcity must leave
Cynicism rules the day, it has strangled my soul
Stops me from changing, it has taken its toll

Parched soil, empty bellies leads to much heartache
Many won’t eat today, while my plate is too great
I’m not here to manipulate, to throw out guilt or coerce
But I’m missing opportunities that bless and don’t curse

In the words of Paul, “I don’t do what I should”
He goes on to say, “I’m not always good.”
In the words of James, “Your faith might be dead”
He goes on to say, “They’re not works if just said.”

I compromise with apathy, bragging I’m doing no harm
I do just enough, showing off my charlatan charm
Justice is calling, it’s a Kingdom mandate
My comfort zone is charity, I’m missing my fate

The message is simple, it’s clear and concrete
My directive is obvious, overt, not discreet
Hand over my life, it’s the power of surrender
It’s about loving the least of these and a heart that is tender

As Mother Teresa said, “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.’”

My Life Verse – A Useful Sacrifice

There are a lot of useless sacrifices in our world.

If my wife was to go out of town for a week, I could perform a lot of meaningless sacrifices for her while she was gone.

When my wife comes home if I tell her, “Honey, I sacrificed a lot for you while you were gone. I didn’t watch sports while you were gone, I didn’t eat my favorite foods while you were gone and I didn’t listen to my favorite music while you were gone. I did all of that for you.”

Her response would be, “Who cares! Those sacrifices don’t mean anything to me. Those sacrifices were useless.”

But if while my wife was gone, I deep cleaned the house, mowed the lawn and finished some house projects that needed to be done (This is all theory by the way), then my wife’s response would be, “Wow! You are an amazing husband. Those sacrifices mean everything to me. Those sacrifices were so useful.”

There are a lot of useless sacrifices in our world.

Even more so, there are a lot of useless sacrifices in the religious world.

My life verse is Isaiah 58 because it reminds me of what a useless sacrifice is and what a useful one is.

The people of Israel were busy going through the religious motions of the day. They were attending church, fasting from food, giving their alms and wearing clothes that showed everyone how spiritual they really were, yet God was not impressed, in fact He told them that all the religious hoops they were jumping through were useless sacrifices.

They were useless, not because going to church or fasting is wrong. They were useless because while they were doing those things they were oppressing workers, fighting and quarreling, forgetting the hungry and homeless and ignoring their own relatives who were in need.

So God reminded them what useful sacrifices look like:

“No, this is the kind of fasting [useful sacrifice] I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.”

Isaiah 58 shows us that useless sacrifices lead to our prayers falling on deaf ears, and God’s blessings seem fleeting.

Isaiah 58 also shows us that useful sacrifices lead to God not only listening to our prayers, but our useful sacrifices lead to healing, protection and answered prayer.

“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.”

Ultimately, our useful sacrifices lead to our lives being a light of hope, our lives being guarded and guided, our strength being renewed and we will be known as people who care and help our communities and families become strong.

“Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.”

Mother Teresa’s words challenge us, “Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”

These are the useful sacrifices that those of us who say we are followers of Christ should be involved in.