Archives For anticipation

Ch-Ch-Changes!

December 14, 2013 — 2 Comments

ChangesLess than 5 years ago, Cheryl and I didn’t have two pennies to rub together. In spite of each of us having pretty good jobs, making pretty good money, we were broke. We were also *broken*. Without hope – lost. We were ashamed of where we were in life. We were in a really good church, but afraid to talk to people about our situation. We were all alone -

(Still don’t know what I was waiting for, and my time was running wild. A million dead-end streets and every time I thought I’d got it made, it seemed the taste was not so sweet. So I turned myself to face me but I’ve never caught a glimpse of how the others must see the faker.)

I wish I was kidding about all this – but about every other week, something was getting shut off – water, electric, phone, cable. Cheryl’s car was even repossessed once in the middle of the night. I remember sitting in the dark, lighting candles for light and warmth, wondering what we could sell on Craigslist to get our heat back on. I wasn’t even thinking about Christmas. We had a tree but there was no reason to even put it up – we had nothing to put on it or under it.

(Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes – don’t want to be a richer man. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes - Turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes, just gonna have to be a different man. Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.)

During this time, I was reminded of a similar feeling Christmas, many years ago, when I learned that my wife (at the time) was having an affair and wanted me to move out of our house. It was too late for me to make any other plans – parents were at my sister’s house on the east coast, all my friends were out of town. So I packed up a few things in my car and drove off, but the car broke down about 20 miles from where I was headed. Then there was a literal blizzard…I thought I was going to die in a 1971 Buick Skylark, in a snow storm, sitting behind a convenience store in the middle of nowhere.

One thing I knew, in both these situations, was that something was not right between me and God. I was a pastor during both these trails. I knew, more than most people know, WHO God is.

But like Jesus said, the demons know as well. And tremble.

(I watch the ripples change their size but never leave the stream of warm impermanence, and so the days float through my eyes. But still the days seem the same, and these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.)

As it was, we were going to lose everything. Our home, our cars, our jobs. Our lives.

We didn’t start out thinking we would ever end up like this. We had dreams! We had plans and goals! We had it all figured out and what in the name of all that’s holy happened? How did everything get so bad? It’s like our dreams had soured, and our lives had rotted away.

(Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes – turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes - Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes – turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes - Where’s your shame? You’ve left us up to our necks in it. Time may change me, but you can’t trace time.)

Even now, if I told you everything was fine, I’d be lying. Different? Yeah. Better? Way. Fine? Define fine.

We have a Christmas tree, but we haven’t put it up yet. Christmas is 10 days off. We are lethargic – mentally, physically and spiritually this year.

(Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it, mount of Thy redeeming love.)

One thing is different between then and now – the way we know God. That one little thing changes all things. He is not just a god (yeah with a little “g”) that we know, pharisaically, in our heads. He is not a god who sits and watches. He is not a list of commands to keep, holidays to observe, or doctrine to learn.

Our God is real, he is One, and when I say I know Him, I mean in a way that involves my heart more than my head. The Truth is setting me free – I know this Truth and His name is Jesus – and He doesn’t care about my Christmas tree, my light bill, or whether or not I love my job. He cares that I know Him – intimately, experientially – and when I do, all these things will be added.

Our God is a warrior God who fights for what is His! And WE ARE HIS!

It just seems like there is so much trouble, so much pain this time of year. But there is more than enough hope to go around. Turn your eyes upon Jesus! Look full in His wonderful face – and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!

 

- Lyrics above in parenthesis are from “Changes” by David Bowie, and “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson

Heinz KetchupHave you ever had to wait a really long time for something? When I was a kid, it took forever between the time we put up the Christmas tree, and when presents were actually opened. It was horrible! I was never a patient kid – not on Christmas or birthdays or any other event when I knew I might be given something.

JUST GIVE ME MY STUFF NOW DANG IT!

Now, as an adult with kids, I see that same thing in them – an impatience when they know something good is coming.

I still see that same impatience in myself, too. I need to get over that. The last week has been pretty rough. I gave up a habit that I felt was holding me back, and I guess I expected everything to change immediately, and when nothing changed, I got all twisted up about it.

I really felt like good things would happen if I could just do this one thing. Maybe I even deluded myself a bit about it. But still I quit dipping snuff, and almost expected the heavens to open and gold coins to come falling down on my head. Instead I got a sinus infection.

Waiting is hard. It’s the hardest part. The bible addresses this by saying “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Hope can be a very pleasant thing – something great is coming! There’s a blessing just around the corner – just hang on! Be patient and God will show up and work a miracle in your life!

Hope can also be a beast. It can be torture. Something is coming – something good! But when? What do I do in the meantime? Do I just keep doing what I’m doing and keep hoping? When is this blessing supposed to arrive? Tomorrow at noon? Today would be better, but I can wait a day or two. But not three days.

I have been waiting years. Sometimes I feel like the little kid with presents he can see just sitting there. But my mom is keeping an eye on me so I can’t even get close – I know something is there but I can’t have it, can’t touch it, can’t experience it. But I also know the day is coming.

Sometimes I turn my back on what I know is there and get all twisted up over it and forget that the giver of these gifts doesn’t actually owe me anything. Sometimes I act like a spoiled brat, demanding my inheritance. Sometimes anticipation is making me late.

A few days ago, I met with a person I had never actually spoken with before. We’re facebook friends, and I consider him a mentor – He’s one of about 5 people that I read everything he writes. His words are full of wisdom and understanding. So I sent him a message on facebook, and we met for coffee early one morning.

He sized me up pretty quickly. I told him pretty much everything. He told me that my heart had grown sick because of anticipation. He told me that my confidence in God had been shaken – that I didn’t trust Him to be who He says He is, and in turn, I can’t be who He created me to be.

All because of a problem with patience.

We hear that good things come to them that wait. But I have become hesitant – I lost sight of how absolutely good God is, how much He really loves me, how He really wants to bless me!

If hope deferred makes the heart sick, how much more will those who wait upon the Lord renew their strength? How much more will those who wait patiently for the promised blessings mount up with wings like eagles? How much more will I run and not be weary, and walk and not grow faint?

That’s what I’m talking about right there! That’s the life I want! I don’t want to care about specifics – did I get a pack of socks for my birthday or is it that new video game I’ve been dying for? That’s not what it’s all about! It’s about walking with God in the cool of the day, and just knowing that you are His, and He is yours.

My prayer for me and for you – that instead of being impatient children, we will become spiritually mature, and learn to wait upon the Lord!

Shiny and New

February 7, 2013 — Leave a comment

shiny and new

There is something so nice about things that are new. Sometimes, new things are hard to explain. What makes them so great? Is it the feel of new fabric against your skin, the excitement of bringing a new baby home for the first time, the smell of a brand new car? People talk about “new” often, but rarely can they explain “new” – we explain our experience with the new thing, but why we feel the way we do escapes us.

We all long for new. New is preferred to the old, the worn out, the unusable. New, as such, is more of a concept that an actual thing. New could also be described as a state of being.

Those who reach a certain age often complain of various aches and pains, and remember back to the good old days when bringing in the groceries didn’t result in a trip to the chiropractor. How many times have we seen older folks struggle to walk a flight of stairs, or stand after sitting for a while?

The fact is, everything wears out. Clothes, cars, shoes, minds, bodies and universes.  Science has predicted the inevitable heat death of the universe – it will continue to expand, molecules will separate, and everything that generates life will cease.

God has a different plan – for us and for every bit of his creation. While science would teach us that we are not the center of the universe, God’s word says that at His chosen time in the future He will make everything new – a new heaven, a new earth, new, glorious bodies such as Adam and Eve had in the beginning – the first time everything was new. What God makes new will never decay, never rot, never grow old and never wear out. And He is bringing all that New right down to where we are!

What would it be like if nothing ever wore out? Do you think this is how God designed things in the beginning? If they had never sinned, do you think Adam and Eve would still be around?

Before all this “new” can come to be, many things will occur. Evil will seem to prevail. The very foundation of the earth will seem to crumble. People will lose hope. People will be hurt and killed for their faith in God. His Word is true, and it will endure, and His promise to His people will come to pass – Jesus is preparing a place for us and when the time is right, we will be where He is!

This is the final piece of God’s plan. He will restore everything to its pre-fall state. Our earth, and everything upon it will be changed. God will walk with His people again, and we will see Him face to face. We know that as believers, we are living in the Kingdom even now, but then – Heaven will actually be on the earth, and all believers will live there. For all eternity, no death, no sickness, no sadness. Just new.

This is His promise for His people – that we will live with Him in “new” forever.

stupid facebook ad

I had a rough day at work. I’m a claims adjuster, which is actually a very rewarding job – I help people who are hurting. Ususally their house has burned up or the water heater popped and flooded them out. I’m not bragging – I’m just telling you straight up if something like that happens to you, you want me as your adjuster. I will put you back the way you were before, quickly, efficiently. I’ll take the majority of the stress of it all completely off you. That’s what I do and I do it well.

My heart, though – it longs for something else. I don’t think about it much because it actually makes me sad when I do. I used to be a pastor. When I’m in a joking mood, I tell everyone I’m a claims adjuster, which is basically the same job as a pastor, it just pays more. I miss it. When I sit and think about it, I remember all the good times, all the people I’ve met and who have allowed me to be a part of their lives. I really miss it – even the hard stuff like funerals, hospitals, jails…I just miss it.

I was the same kind of pastor as I am a claims adjuster. That right there was the problem I think.

I came home tonight after a really long day, got out the computer and got on facebook and to the right where the ads are, I saw the picture above, with the caption, “47 and ready to be a pastor? Earn a degree at a Christian college!”

I already did. I already was a pastor. I did everything I could to bear everyone else’s heavy load, and I just about killed myself doing it. There’s a big difference between calling a local contractor crazy because he can’t add up his estimate right (or even spell most of the time) and being all things to all people all the time.

I was on 24/7. At one church I even lived right across the street from the church building. People just drop by, or someone can’t get in, or the alarm goes off, or so on and so forth.

For 15 years I was everything to everyone. I should have been pointing them to Jesus. I should have been teaching them to stand on their own. All I did for those years was tighten up training wheels, AKA enable codependency.

Yes, I preached, I taught, I led. Looking back, compared to what I know now, it was incomplete, immature. I can’t go back in time and teach myself what I didn’t know. But I can do it differently moving forward.

Believe it or not, I’ve learned a lot about people and ministry being a claims adjuster. A big part of my job is to take as much on myself as I can. That’s the job. But I always take time to educate people – here are your options, here’s what your policy says, this is what I need you to do for yourself.

I tell people exactly what to expect, and then with them make it happen. I don’t push it back on them – I empower them to do it – I give them permission to help themselves. It makes people feel good, too. I get great feedback and try to help the people around me at work see that they don’t have to, and really can’t, bear the whole thing on their own.

That’s what the church I am a member of has done for me. I am responsible for my own spiritual growth. Not my pastor, not my wife, not the teacher in a class I go to on a Wednesday night. That’s what I need to do for others going forward – make them see they are powerful children of God – they can have their very own relationship with him, they can pray, they can study his word, they can minister – all on their own.

Do I still want to be a pastor? Is water wet? Do bears bear? Do bees be? Uh, yeah! And I think when the time is right, I will be.

Anticipation

November 27, 2012 — Leave a comment

christmas-tree2

Right now, my kids are going crazy. Because we are aggravating them. We had our Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving, and the day after T-Day we went out and bought a nice new tree, wrapped all the presents and put them under the tree. The very first thing Trinity asked was, “Can we open one present early?” “Nope” was the only answer she got.

She went to the calendar, started counting and realized that she would be staring at those gifts for over a month. Zoey doesn’t care as much, but she kisses her presents goodnight before going to bed.

What is it about anticipation? It’s maddening, but still often it’s a very sweet feeling – you know something good is coming, you may not know when, or maybe you do. And you’re so excited you can hardly wait! It’s going to be so good! Your heart is pounding, you’re out of breath, your mind is churning! Anticipation can be fun sometimes!

Sometimes, though, anticipation drives us crazy and just leaves us there. Anticipation can make a person bitter. That’s what happened to me.

I knew something good was coming, I didn’t know what or when, and it stopped being something I was looking forward to. It was taking too long. I was restless, impatient, so I stopped waiting. And the anticipation – the fun kind – ended and I got angry.

Anticipation is supposed to be a good thing – it’s supposed to be the waiting period between where we are or what we have and the awesome/wonderful thing that is to come. We are supposed to be excited every time we think of it, we are supposed to daydream, we are supposed to contemplate how different things will be when the time comes.

I knew God had something good for me, and I lost focus. I forgot that he is good. I forgot that he loves me, that he wants good things for me. I forgot who I was in him – and I became someone I wasn’t supposed to be.

I became angry, resentful, apathetic. I didn’t care what God had for me anymore. He wasn’t going to pony up, so I would get all I could out of life on my own. That plan never really took off, either. And then it got even worse. All because I forgot that I’m God’s kid, living in his kingdom already, and that the down payment of all that is to come has already been given, that I can live victorious and free regardless of my circumstance.

So I wallowed in anger, hate and self pity. I was a Scrooge, year round, until I began to be reminded of everything I had forgotten. I began to be encouraged, prayed over, loved by others who had no reason to love me. I began to heal from the past – the self imposed things and the imposed upon me things that had broken my spirit

Something I just heard today from Steven Furtick - sometimes we have to wait because God is preparing us for what he has prepared for us. Sometimes we are not ready to step into our destiny! Sometimes we need to grow, learn, trust, pray and over time become who God dreamed we would be – then he gives us what he has prepared for us.

And that is some sweet anticipation! I can’t wait! I’m like a kid at Christmas! My present is right there, staring me in the face – all wrapped up with loving care, with pretty paper and bows and when God says, “Ok it’s time” all the pretty wrapping in the world will not stand between me and what he has prepared for me, and what he has prepared me for.

It’s slow going right now though. I know some very specific things I need to work on. Other things I have a vague idea about. I’m getting there. But I know that the future God has for me is right there! My current thinking is I could probably step right into that destiny at any time. I think if I continue on my current path, It’ll happen and all of a sudden I’ll wonder, “what just happened?”

Psalm 27:13-14 says, “I am certain that I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous. Wait for the Lord.” I know what’s coming, just not when or how – and I’m ok with that!

How about you? Have you lost that sense of wonder, of anticipation? These are some of the sweetest things in life – unless you get too impatient, unless you try to do what only God can do. You can’t force your way into destiny – it’s a gift that God will give you when you’re ready to receive it!