I’ve heard thoughtful people talk about how they don’t want to be summarized until they’re dead. That their last book is not what they want to be known for. I can relate to that. I’m still growing. I still feel misunderstood. I still haven’t created all that it’s in me to create. I’m not ready to be done.
One of my best friends, George Dunn, lived a full life that ended with the decline of his health. He was a great man, who I will be excited to see when I also cross over. He never complained about his circumstances, he was always concerned with others and or what G-d was doing. He was a really unique man and it was a unique relationship the L-rd had given us. I will forever cherish it.
For his service, I shared a few words that came to me during the little hours one morning. Here they are…
Although George had plenty of profound things to say. He embodied the Kingdom in ways that confirmed what my heart already knew. Honestly, he did that in ways no one else had that I have met. And it has forever marked me and as a result and released me to do the same for others.
I’d like to share a few of those ways.
The Kingdom is familial… and George was my father
He didn’t assess my religious giftedness and treat me accordingly; He simply loved me. Deeply. For no good reason. For years, regardless of any reciprocation.
Which is exactly like my Father who art in Heaven.
The churches and the religion they display, and we sometimes experience, are not synonymous with the Kingdom of God. That can sound a little heretical, I have to admit. But the truth that lies in that concept has set me free in ways I simply can not explain. It’s allowed me to remain fervent in my passion for Jesus and His church regardless of how well the local church performs. The fact of the matter is that the church was always in need of a savior and she will always be in need of a savior, at least on this side of heaven. And I am chief among those who are flawed and displaying the Kingdom imperfectly.
Family, relationships, and authenticity trump religious posturing. And actually for the people of God religious pride and pompous flies in the face of Jesus and His ways.
Georgie was human in ways that made people uncomfortable. He disarmed you. As I have grown to know is a character trait like Jesus.
George had experienced that even though our righteous acts are like filthy rags, Jesus loved us and died for us. His eyes would well up with tears and he would sing hymns about his Jesus. He knew that we could never earn, fully understand, or fully explain God’s love. He knew that the Kingdom was not for sale and those who tried were not offering what He had experienced.
Georgie was not unique. He was a prototype of what God would want all of us to experience. Not by our effort or giftedness. But by our surrender to God’s great love. George knew God’s love and displayed it perfectly. It’s a sloppy love. One that makes you uncomfortable. One that doesn’t make sense. One that is not without blemishes. But its Holiness overshadows our sinfulness and failures. It’s just that great. Because our God is just that great.
Effort to uphold our part of the relationship with G-d is proof of our idolatry of Him.
Effort implies we expect response. Relationship with G-d is a turning of the heart. An awareness of Him. NOT the payment of a toll, or Quid Pro Quo.
If our hearts are conditioned to need to ”pay the toll” to feel right with G-d we must seek healing. Making a payment to G-d is offensive, like a baby seeking to pay their parent.
Be His. Be with Him.
I initially became acquainted with the overwhelming presence of G-d in a heap, on the floor, under a blanket. I had all BUT completely train-wreaked my life by the time I was a young adult. From a broken home, having developed a twisted perspective of life, I barely escaped landing in prison. I remember at times knowing that I was being watched by authorities, and other times spending the night being interrogated by the police. I kept bad company… I was bad company.
So when I EXPERIENCED being known, loved, and forgiven by G-d it was a game-changer. It wrecked every fiber of my being. A friend I once sold drugs to saw me in public about 10 years after my life-changing event and said I looked like a different person.
Although I expect that I deserve some “credit” in this journey, if everything were known and you had experienced what I had you would have made the same decision. I painted myself in the corner and a majestic Being approached with healing in His hands. My life has never been the same since.
This trajectory that I had been gifted with had very little to do with my ability or my choice, which sounds a little self-deprecating. I came across some Kingdom-minded people and authors who helped me understand something vital to my life. I learned that there was such a thing as the renewing of the mind (See Romans 12:2).
THIS was a game-changer for me. As a person who likes to achieve AND a person who is painfully self-aware, THIS renewal, THIS renovation that G-d wanted to do was vital to my spiritual, emotional, and mental health. The concept fit so very nicely in my heart regarding my future. Of all people, I needed renovation. I was full of residual and habitual evil. Memories, habits, inclinations… the very fiber of my being was ugly. And this Prince of Peace wanted to make me like Himself. He wanted to change me. To make me to be the best version of me that could ever be. I was and have been ALL IN ever since.
This morning I started reading the book of Matthew again. I got stuck in the first chapter, verse 6. “David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.” (If this phase doesn’t cause you to have some wow feelings take a look at 2 Samuel 11-12.)
If you’re anything like me you may see your life, your history, your parents (consider the case of Solomon) a train-wreck. It’s been an unfair journey where the odds have been stacked against you. Your dad was abusive and deranged your view of the world, I know. Your mom was on crack all your life and you didn’t know it. You never knew your dad. Your dad acted like you were more of an inconvenience than a blessing. Your mom’s critical posture towards you is still going, even though she is gone.
BUT, G-d is a redeemer of things. He is the ULTIMATE thrift shopper, and YOU are HIS prized possession. (Stop and read that again, please?)
This life, no matter how wildly hard and painful, is not unknown and unnoticed by G-d. He desires to comfort and be an escort to changing us and our perspective of it all.
I was reminded this morning of some first-century philosophy. There is a concept called the paradox of Theseus’ ship by Plutarch. He questioned that if a ship had a broken mast and the mast was replaced, then part of the hull was damaged and replaced, at which point would it cease to be the original ship? What if every part of the ship had been replaced over a 60-year time span? Would the ship still be Theseus’?
Consider this: “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of G-d, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
We are in process, my dear friends.
You are being renovated.
Whatever failures you experienced before you knew G-d have been and are being renewed (…and LISTEN hard to this part…) ALSO and EQUALLY, whatever shortcomings you’ve had AS A BELIEVER are being renewed and redeemed. This process is ongoing by ALMIGHTY GOD, who is exceedingly higher, abundantly more loving, and kinder than we could ever imagine. He is renewing us, making us into HIS likeness. Renewing, renovating, bringing justice and purpose to every landscape–If we’re willing to allow it and in minor and major ways, choose to participate in it.
“See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns us from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let’s show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”
– Hebrews 12
It seems to me that we are in a time of shaking. Although we’ve become experts at self-comforting and self-medicating; I wonder if G-d wants to be our comfort… our medication.
I wonder if we would even be able to recognize it if He were trying to get our attention. I wonder if now were a time for lamenting we would even have the bearings to do so?
It seems that He is clearing off the table of all idols so that we might find our refuge IN HIM. Let’s?!
3 months ago I stepped away from social media. I had become too immersed in what was happening online. I frequently got into squabbles. I cared too much about how people critiqued what I shared. I watched what people were doing and saying all the time. I felt like I had a life there, to the point that I began to be less than present in my physical world. Most importantly, I distracted MYSELF with it and kept myself away from other matters that were most important, like my inward attention.
I’m sure there are more clinical ways to describe the process of stepping away from social media. I’ve heard others use the terminology of social media “detoxing”. Which in my case has seemed to be the case.
For the first few weeks I felt odd. Like a newborn baby, adjusting to life outside the cyberworld womb. To some extent it felt like a form of grief. Then, like I was emerging from slumber, I began to be more sensitive to other ways of interacting with my community. I called and texted friends and set up lunch dates. Strangely and unconsciously, I made some significant decisions regarding my future. It seemed that being away from social media cleared up my brain’s ability to function, kind of like RAM on a computer. I had so many internal conversations going on and so much new, good, AND pointless information swimming between my ears that I had let my mind get bogged down by. I had been unconsciously overwhelming myself with the constant intake of social media, and felt refreshed by its absence.
To be fair to myself and to you, I know that good can come from social media. I’ve kept in touch with those who I would otherwise not be able to. I’ve received insightful ideas and shared the same. In this sense social media gets a bad rap as if IT is evil. IT is not. It’s a new piece of technology that we’ve not quite learned how to incorporate in our lives in healthy ways.
Historically, people have always been critics of new technology. For example, many people were threatened by the introduction of the telephone, the television, the novel, the car radio, and the newspaper, just to name a few. Progress that changes the way we CAN think is often seen as an enemy to the way we CHOOSE to think.
I recently learned of Hugo Gernsback’s 1920s invention, the Isolator. It was the supposed cure for writer’s block and a way to help a person to refrain from distractions. Sounds profound, huh? He later admitted (and science has now confirmed) that “You are your own disturber practically 50 percent of the time”. In other words, the problem of you being distracted isn’t the distractions themselves. The problem is that YOU WANT to be distracted. And if we’re honest, having the World Wide Web in our pockets just might be the MOST TEMPTING DISTRACTOR EVER. (full stop)
Regarding distractions, I’ve read of catholic monks who’ve made vows of poverty and simplicity. They chose to renounce their inheritances and refrain from marriage for the sake of focusing on and serving God. In their times of reflection they observed that if your mind is crowded with too many thoughts, living in a room with a single chair and desk won’t help you. In other words, your stuff and your actions with your stuff is a result of your thinking and your choices, not the fault of your stuff. You have to declutter your mind, and if we’re not consciously making an effort to do so you can best believe that it’s full to the brim. To lay this topic bare we need to be aware that our minds and our choices are where our problems lie, not outside of it, BUT the two worlds ARE connected. There is a very real inseparable connection between us and our world.
The challenge is to learn to conquer ourselves with the appropriate amount of temperance and grace:To be free, not slovenly; To be balanced in our connectedness.
I’m just one person, so I can’t speak for everyone but isn’t this the sickness of our day? We’re over-inundated with information, comfortable making ourselves vulnerable virtually, and yet so very disconnected from other humans. We’re in love with being partially connected to the others, but never really known. We have too much information, but not enough flesh and blood experience and the empathy and understanding that comes with human interactions of all types.
Jesus didn’t pull any punches when it came to keeping us from harm. It was commanded of us that we should have no idols, that we would love G-d with all our heart, all our strength, with ALL our minds. See, G-d knew we would gravitate towards being divided AND He knew that HE was the BEST thing for us. He knew we would not be faithful so He sowed into our consciences a conviction about our commitment towards Him, but presently, it seems that we’ve all but fallen asleep to these commandments. We’ve been entertained into a damn trance. “Nothing can separate us from the love of G-d”, scripture tells us, BUT we can separate ourselves from G-d. We can choose to allow our ears and hearts to become callused. He will not force Himself on us; That’s simply not His way. If you know anything about being deeply connected to G-d you know that fully being invested in Him is the way to unlock true joy in life, full stop.
Jesus didn’t come as a web page, He came as a human. Our REAL human presence will never be substituted or be able to be adequately avatar-ed with technology.
I don’t have “an answer” regarding these new luxuries we now have access to, but I want to contend with you that the most profound friend you will ever have is beseeching you to not become callous to His presence. He is the one who can comfort you. He is the one who knows your future and your past. He is the one who will be your helper in times of heartache and desperation. So whatever you do, maintain your relationship with Him. Love Him with all your heart, all your strength, and all your mind and be willing to recognize when something is hindering that relationship. Don’t allow yourself to be so entertained by your damn phone that you lose track of the L-rd. Start your day with your own mind, your own issues, with your Bible and with the L-rd in prayer. Stay connected to Him, listen and follow Him. THIS is where your purpose and identity are found.
A stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This came about from the Lord;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
As children, we find great fitment and companionship with other kids, with our teachers, and with the schools we attend. We find great comfort in being accepted and having a social environment to fit in to. Yet, as we mature we no longer fit into those places and become independent. In other words, we grow up. Hopefully reaching a level of maturity that enables us to nurture others and help them grow to maturity.
As young Christians, we also find great companionship in certain places among certain peoples. There is a grace given and people entrusted to help others find Christ and His Kingdom. And as we mature into G-d’s Kingdom and become surrendered to Him and His will the comfort of fitting into those grace-filled places diminishes. We grow up and He makes us His own. To quote Jesus in the Gospel of Mark and The Song of Solomon “Come away with me.” He makes us into a people whose home is not here. Into people who do not fit in here. Peculiar people, longing for their heavenly home.
So as you have surrendered to Christ and look back on the days when you were young in Him, do not look back with disdain OR with a longing to return. The grace for that is likely gone. Now is the time to look ahead. To look to the person of Christ who is now your home. He is your comfort. He is where you fit in. And when you find others who walk on the same journey they will help you know that THIS is the right path. To companion the Holy Trinity and those who have been marked by them.
Quit fighting to try and return to the places you once were comforted by. YOU are not that same person any longer. “Know that the Lord has set apart the godly person for Himself.” – Psalm 4:3
Do you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength?
This was the question Jesus posed to the religious leader in Mark 12. He, like us, interpreted Jesus’ cutting words as “THAT is some really good teachin’!” Because we have the enormous privilege of having all access to God’s word we have allowed the most amazing words ever to be uttered to become too familiar. We’ve turned them into pleasantries, instead of heart breaking challenges.
Jesus establishes His Kingdom by helping people come to terms with their deficiencies, so that they might find that His provision is more than enough. In like fashion His people are called to do the same.
This is how Hell fire and brimstone preaching works. Not that it is right or the way of Christ. But it shakes people out of their slumber.
Jesus did it over and over again in the gospels. He cut people straight to the heart. Nicodemus came to Him in the night pontificating and Jesus CUT STRAIGHT to his heart “You must be born again!” The rich young ruler came to Him wanting to be justified and He told him to “Sell all you have and follow me!” Peter did it at Pentecost.
Yes, there are wonderful things we can learn about the statements, about the Greek, about the culture of that time etc. etc. etc. But don’t miss the fact that Jesus most always needed to sober people up to the Kingdom.
The reality is that God’s love for us is so very immense that whatever causes us to crack and see Him gets overshadowed by His goodness. There is no dark thing that the Light of God’s love can’t out shine.
- Ponder that first question I asked at the top of this page. Bring it into prayer and allow the Lord to meet you in the answer.
- Realize the enormous love God has for you and depend on it. Make it such a fabric of your being that you become willing to call someone else out of the slumber of their sad lives unto that same love. Be willing to be that girl or guy. It’s the way of the Kingdom.
The first red letters of the New Testament come at the climax of Luke chapter 2 when Jesus’ family visited Jerusalem for Passover.
“Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”
In the midst of this short story I believe we are exposed to a CRITICAL character trait about the Lord Jesus, to follow Him. His family “supposed” Him to be in the caravan but He was not.
How many times do we do things and suppose Jesus is with us? How many times do we take action and suppose this is what Jesus wants us to do? Are we at a job we suppose Jesus has called us to?
In fact, supposing goes against the act of following. People who are fond of Jesus are sharply separated along these lines. We can confidently recognize one group as disciples and the other group…. not.
(I totally hijacked an entire article on weight training/power lifting by Jim Wendler and changed about 25 phrases to reflect a life of discipleship. The bold words are mine the rest is his. The original article is here www.jimwendler.com/2015/09habits-of-strang-lifters/. He has some pretty brilliant training perspectives. As you’ll see bleeding through this re-written article)
Without a doubt, the strongest and best disciples in the world have consistently busted their buns in the prayer room. For decades. Not weeks, not a year, but decades. There are genetic freaks out there that achieve a high level of spirituality quickly, but comparing yourself to them is unfair and will probably drive you out of the faith and into a 10-year “I hate church” bender. Now, consistency doesn’t always mean they’re going all out, every day. It means they chip away slowly, but surely.
Even with failures, hard times, faltering of spiritual leadership, terrible churches, etc., the great disciples will find a way to adapt and overcome. If that means following Christ alone in your own sanctuary at your house, they do it. If that means having to train in a mega church by themselves, they get it done. If that means they have to train around wounds, they research and find a way. Nothing will stand in their way and when an obstacle appears, they don’t get frustrated; they simply find a different route around it. It’s easy to be motivated and excited to pray when everything is going your way. It’s another thing to hit a wall, scramble, kick, and scratch until you look back and see the marks of blood and sweat you leave behind.