Tuesday, July 18, 2017

“The Caveman Who Forgot Who He Was”

For much of the past 20 years or so, I have lived in a cave. Well, let me clarify.... not a literal cave...not yet anyway. I'm thinking that once we hit a “certain” age or place on our journey of grace and recovery, IF we are willing, there's an invitation we receive--an opportunity to a pilgrimage into solitude and silence away from the call of the clamoring culture or the watchful eyes of peers, fans, critics, or rivals. Maybe I was a freakin' idiot, but yeah...I accepted that invitation into the cave. Of course, at the time, I had NO clue what that would entail. I was thinkin' more of an occasional visit into the cave, nothing too long or too intense, but just an optional, casual jaunt into that setting--really more of a sightseeing excursion from which I could return to "normalcy" and the demands of reputation and image, at will. Yeah right! Did I get an industrial sized dose of reality!!! The door of this cave, once you're inside, can only be opened from the outside. You don't have to enter, but if you do, you're there! Life seems to leave THAT little tidbit out of the "Caveland Brochure". So anyway, for around fifteen years, I've been here. Oh sure, I've had contact with the outside world; I’ve interacted with my family, and have had occasional opportunities for "flashes" of community and relationship. But at night, when I sleep, or in the serenity of the morning drinking coffee, I'm reminded.... in my "situation", the cave is only intended for two...Love Himself and me. While a citizen of "Caveland", you see faces, hear voices, watch people pass, and observe life happening around you, only it seems like you're watching it all unfold from behind a glass wall. You can't "really" take part in what's going on. You attempt to engage, awkwardly try to communicate, and try talking to people who are looking at you with confused, blank stares. No one seems to understand what you're saying, where you are, or what YOUR life is about. Many times, it's truly as frustrating as heck! The cave experience affords you plenty of time to think, to evaluate, to reveal, and to learn. The choice is yours. You can do your time there in pity, pouting, and anger, or, you can surrender to the seasonal surroundings, sort of like Tom Hanks in the classic movie, "Castaway". Should you choose to accept this mission, an incredible process awaits you! It is futile to "logically" anticipate or speculate about the series of often enigmatic and confusing events that might happen while "hangin" in the cave. Doing so only sets you up for frustration and fear. It's best to go with the flow of the cave, embracing each moment in trust and rest. The cave can offer a time of repose and stillness EVEN in the absence of any foreseeable answers or direction. You will never feel more helpless than when you are in the cave, but you will never be more safe, more loved, and more significant in the heart of Love Himself. As I sit alone in my own corner of this cave, I have fewer answers than I had when I entered. I had more plans, goals, and strategy when I entered than I do now. I was more self-assured, manipulative, and intelligent when I entered than I am now. But somehow, as my process in this cave has progressed, I find a strange peace in the unknown, an inward strength that is not my own. I am beginning to see a recovery of my true identity form out of the pain of my frustration, out of the bitterness of perceived rejection. It's almost like a cleansing--a stripping away-- is taking place, and a childlike wonder and untainted trust is beginning to awaken inside a new heart where skepticism and cynicism no longer have a home. And my mind is no longer obsessed with knowing every answer, or being able to arrive at a logical conclusion for every when, where, why, and how, but simply resting in THE Answer--my identity in Christ--and finding the grace and faith to believe in the security of that identity, regardless of present circumstances or emotions. I'm learning to see EVERYTHING through the lens of who I am in Christ, and what that looks like in everyday existence. You see, in this cave where I'm still hangin' out I've been made aware of how distracted I've been through the years, and how my perspective on so many things has been grossly distorted. I have been searching for significance from the outside in, and holding other people unfairly to standards and expectations that I, even in my wildest dreams and fantasies, could never reach. What the cave has been revealing, though painful and sometimes paralyzing has started to bring healing. And the simplicity of it all is beginning to shine through, how Love Himself is my purpose, my identity, my "calling" in life. Circumstances change, and emotions waiver. They are as fickle as shifting sands and fading shadows, certainly not foundations that life can be built on. I don't know how much longer I'll be in this cave, or if "achievement" and "opportunity" will knock on my door anytime soon. I guess I'm okay with that, because "those" don't define me anymore. I'm significant in the watchful eyes of my son and daughter, and I'm a success in the smile of my beautiful bride! It is a most baffling paradox that I'm learning in this cave-- I'm growing stronger in the power of Love Himself--Christ alone-- by becoming weaker, and not fighting for myself. What a freedom I've discovered in surrendering to the cave. I am finding who I am by losing who I thought I was suppose to be. So the journey continues, and I breathe in each new day with no allegiance to worry anymore. My relationship with Love Himself is leading me ever closer to His heart, even here in this cave.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"From The Depths"

In the throes of raw, emotion-fueled, uncensored frustration, from depths I've never known.

Intense fear, toxic anger, condemning, accusing thoughts that shame me to the bone.

Accusations born from circumstances that I just can't understand.

I have aimed them all at you, my Father, yet you won't release my hand.

I feel so useless, so abandoned, so exhausted without a clue.

How can there still be more of me left to heal, to purge, to undo.

There is nothing left to say, no more ideas, I'm all out of "tries".

It's simply for YOU that I cry, it's only the light of Your love that will expose all these lies.

You knew me, chose me, and destined me before I'd lived a single hour.

Please come now and take this fear, this guilt, this anger from my heart, and replace it with Your power.

You've given me identity through the blood of Your Son. And by Your grace, through faith alone, I have overcome.

"Who's Your 'Daddy'"?

You will never change the heart of one person by condemning them for that which you disapprove of or disagree with--even when it is blatantly wrong. And yet, the "activist", crusader-like mentality is so prevalent in our culture, often operating under the "guise" of change and justice, even at the risk of destroying people--people, who although on the opposing side of an issue and perhaps guilty of injustice--whom Jesus loves passionately! The hearts of those considered on the "wrong" side of an issue are hardly acknowledged. It's the issue and our desire to be on the side of right that usually matters most. So, you have to ask...is it really genuine change, justice, and reformation in the hearts and lives of broken people that you seek, or simply compliance to what you (or the popular opinion of the day) consider right? If it is the latter, then there HAS TO BE--in our sense of "rightness"--a bad guy or villain. What we fail to understand is that there is but one enemy. And although many of his plans are carried out by unsuspecting pawns, there remains but one enemy. The people, the people still matter to God. He paid the price for every wrong they would ever do. Condemnation of wrong happened once & for all at the Cross. From then until now, the mission remains a "salvation" one, including toward those that may continue to perpetuate the sin which was condemned in the body of Jesus himself through His finished work at the cross.
Jesus DID pay the full price for our righteousness and redemption, and He DID suffer the full condemnation of sin in His own body at the Cross, but as far as humanity is concerned, He didn't come on a mission of condemnation but of salvation. Perhaps those that claim to speak on His behalf should realign with His heart!

"What Do You 'Call' Me"?

For years, I resisted the "call" to ministry. I always defined myself, not by who I was in Christ, but by my talents and people's acceptance and validation of those. My heart has always been passionate for intimacy with God, living in Christ and sharing His life with others, and the Kingdom of God. But from the environments that I was a part of, and mindsets I'd been exposed to, "ministry" was so limited, and seemed to be so contrived and subject to the control and abilities of man. I didn't fit into any of the "expressions" of ministry that I saw. I never quite understood why the desires and gifts that God had placed in my heart never seemed to find an effective place in what "ministry" looked like in the religious world around me. I always felt weird, out of place, and too unconventional to function the way so many other "ministers" seemed to function in those environments. For the past 16 years, God has unfolded in me an understanding of the depth of what it means to be "called". The simple yet powerful message of Identity in Christ has consumed me, and I've experienced a love for the gospel that I hadn't known in 35 years of being "raised" in church. I'm so grateful and thankful for the faithfulness and patience of God, and for a dad and mom who, beyond everything they were a part of and the influences they experienced through the years on their journey of Grace, always emphasized intimacy with God, a prayer life, and the reality of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Today, I am humbled and honored to say I am a minister of the Gospel. It's not a career, it's a life calling, and a creative one at that. I don't know where or how God may invite me to engage others with the good news and the amazing abundant Life reality of Jesus for the sake of His Kingdom, but I'm excited beyond words to watch it unfold.