Sinking at Lent?

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Jesus rescues Peter

Hearkening to my Catholic roots, I observe Lent most years.  March 24 marked Lent’s halfway point with 20 days of observance ahead before Easter (23 calendar days).

O.K. so I’ve taken my eyes off Jesus with regard to my Lent resolutions.  At the halfway point, I’m essentially like Peter in Matthew’s account of Jesus walking on water – sinking.

That’s the story our pastor chose to open our monthly church board meeting last week, from Matthew 14:22-32. The disciples ran into a storm while crossing the Sea of Galilee when Jesus approaches their boat, walking on the water.  Peter asks the Lord to command him to come, also atop the raging sea. When Jesus agrees, Peter climbs from the boat and heads Jesus’ way.

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (v 30)

Our conversation generally regarded how Peter sank when he allowed the storm all around and underfoot to draw his attention away from Jesus. Hard not to empathize with Peter because we do that too in our own lives as believers.

Me? I’m not bold like Peter.  Pretty sure I would have remained in the boat, I am most drawn to how Jesus rescued Peter as he sank.

“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” (v 31a)

“Immediately,” sounds good to me, as in without hesitation or any qualifying questions or cross examination. Sure, Jesus chided Peter for doubting but only after he rescued him.

Rescue first, lesson later.  That’s God’s pattern.  Generally, if not always, God leads, initiates, calls something into being, invites, appears, reveals, or rescues before making any requests or demands or commands.

No problem finding other stories like this in the Bible – Adam, Abraham, Job, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Jonah, and on into Jesus’ time with Peter, Zacchaeus, and Paul.  Invariably, God establishes himself with whoever he draws into his story before he make his “requirements” known to honor, respect and  acknowledge him.

.Too often we anchor faith on what we do while the key to faith is what God does before he asks us to do anything.  Painstakingly, patiently God is showing me how my doing is actually responding to him, his presence, what he has done for me – drawing, restoring, redeeming.

At the board meeting, fellow Elders offered several thoughts about how walking the often rough waters of life while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus plays out practically.

Someone offered that  Jesus often counsels us relax, be quick to repent and not to be so hard on ourselves.  Didn’t he also readily acknowledge that we would have trouble in this life but to take heart because he has overcome?  (see Matthew 11: 28-30; John 3:17 and 16:33)

For the balance of Lent, I’m taking Peter’s lead, following him out of the boat, challenging myself to do better in the next 20 days before Easter. Not so much to satisfy a Lenten duty or requirement for holy living or prove anything to myself but in response to what the Lord has done for me and to honor who he is.

I’m not planning to falter but if I do, I am assured that Jesus’ hand will be there to rescue me.

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Back to even

ANNOUNCING … Road Report will soon have a new name and location: @ RoadReportJournal.com. I will continue to post at both sites for a while but come check us out anytime.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the new look and site.


Hanley Lake sunrise – back to even

Just after punching in at the hardware store, my boss beckoned me over for a “Key Academy” refresher lesson.  “Customers returned ten of your keys for re-dos,” he explained.

In nearly six months working there, I’ve cut a lot of keys and thought I was doing well. Although he was not the least critical but patient in reviewing key-cutting basics with me, I felt a little down about it. As I headed out to the floor, I prayed briefly along the line of James 1:4 “Let perseverance finish its work….” (NIV)

Back to even

A family party conversation turns to praises for life and work achievements of siblings, children, grandchildren and people present.  “Someone” loves to use these work identity conversations to re-ignite my self-doubts. Hours later, unable to pull out of the sadness, I find a verse to remind me Whose I am.  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  (John 10:10)

Back to even

With two other couples, Cindy and I help set up a room for a reception that weekend. After the work is done, we hang out with these friends, three pairs of catching-up conversations. My conversation with Robin about writing and life and how God’s leading is so real and refreshing.

Back to even

Two responses to two inquiries about how and what I’m doing now that I want to re-do. Despite having pre-thought and even written draft responses, I answered weakly both times. All I can do now is pray. “Lord, transform my feeble words into a life-giving word by the power of your Holy Spirit” (Romans 8:26, ESV)

Back to even

At the reception, I reconnect with Susan and learn about her own career search. “Difficult,” she admitted but she just found something new after a year of little promise. Then she recounted times in the new job when she appealed God to show up to overcome a seeming dead-end – and how he always did.

Back to even

Disclosing my struggles and faltering with the guys at Saturday morning prayer lead to reflecting about the kind of joy Jesus had in mind to endure the cross so we would not grow weary and lose heart. (See Hebrews 12:1-3, ESV)

Back to even

Judges 2 covers Joshua’s death and foresees the next phase of Israel’s shaky history with God. Here in the “promised land” that God delivered to them, Israel will initially honor him and prosper.  Then gradually they forget his redemptive role. Cozying up with their neighbors, they set God aside who let them drift into deep trouble.

At their bottom is where they “remember” God and beg for rescue. The only reason God ever gives for why he listens is simply to assert who he is, “I AM.”  He raises a rescuer (judge) who delivers them.  And then Israel repeats their weary cycle.

Judges 2 is a snapshot of the entire Old Testament and also of my life as a one who claims to also believe and follow God. A casual reader might wonder why a story like Israel’s or mine would be written or read. For that matter, who would write such a story?

Knowing that God would write such a story and did makes me smile.  What first appears as a miserably repeating cycle of human failure is really God’s own story as he tells it, as Creator and Redeemer.

Only by the grace of the most gracious Author of life am I in the story at all. “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” (John 15:16a, NIV)

Back to even


Notes:

A great post along this line: God, Are You Enough? – Melissa Taylor, 5/31/2013

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I abide. God provides.

ANNOUNCING … Road Report will soon have a new name and location: ROAD REPORT Journal @ RoadReportJournal.com. I am still tweeking RRJ and will continue to post at both sites for a while but come check us out anytime.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the new look and site.


Firewood yield from tree-trimming

I just happened to be home when a company contracted by our electricity provider pulled up to trim trees growing under electrical wires running along the back of our property.

“Would you mind leaving larger hardwood branches behind for our firewood?” I asked one of the crew members.

And just like that, my dwindling firewood reserve was replenished!  Several large branches trimmed from two trees in ours and our neighbor’s yards produced two-plus face cords of hardwood.  Like ‘wood manna’ from above!

The sense of God providing rose in me as I marveled at the daring worker climbing high into the branches of our towering silver maple. After strategically fastening ropes to secure his safety harness, he tied off one of the large branches for safe cutting and transport to the ground with help from his crew below.

We burn wood for enjoyment, so God’s provision in this case was more along the line of fulfilling a desire of my heart.  (See Psalm 37:4, NASB).  Nevertheless, a caption popped into my mind for this moment, “I abide.God provides.”

“Abide,” as from John 15 where Jesus tapped into the agricultural mindset of his followers to paint a picture of how God’s kingdom operates.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. (John 15:4, NASB)

A few sentences later, Jesus describes the destiny of cut off, no longer abiding branches – thrown aside to dry, be gathered and burned.  Except here I will gleefully re-purpose these dead branches for fire fuel to warm our home on a winter evening in the future.

No feature of creation is beyond the reach of our all-providing God, even death.  A fire’s ashes rejoin earth’s humus to spawn new plants and trees.  Jesus restored Lazarus to life after four days in the tomb and shortly after Jesus shared his abide principle, his own death would achieve the ultimate, providing event of all time – restored relationship with God!

Note the order and roles.  1) I abide. 2) God provides.

In 2011, I themed a Christmas ornament with this same “abide” message.  God has since worked abiding into my life. After drawing me through a season of waiting and learning to trust more in him, a “next phase” opened where I saw possibilities in developments I never would have considered before. I am still in that phase now, more accepting, even appreciative that the ways forward don’t often unfold as I plan or envision.

Linking my abiding with God providing also presumes that failing to abide dims my sense of God’s nearness.  “Abide-failure” tends to cause pride and urgency toward self-preservation to rear up in me. Counseled Jesus, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33, NIV)

“These things” include anything we ask God to provide. (See Matthew 6: 28-32, NIV).

Seeking and abiding is not standing still.  God’s first work for humanity was to tend creation as his image-bearers.  Working, serving and tending is often where God shows us new possibilities.

In God’s provision is also a caution not to allow our abide to descend to pride, especially when life is going well.  Unless I’m missing something, the Bible only sparsely connects our efforts with God’s provision.  More frequent is how poorly most of us handle bounty.

Abide elevates our thankfulness to the Lord whereas pride turns us inward, attributing provision more to our own efforts, intelligence, entitlement and ingenuity than to God’s shaping of situations that yield benefit for us.  Think about some of your greatest achievements and honestly consider how much you can truly attribute to yourself after discounting for other contributing factors over which you had little or no control.

Honestly acknowledging our lack of control over most of life can sink us to anxiety or draw us to giving Jesus’ abide invitation a try.  Abiding prepares us to recognize and give thanks when the “Provide” trucks arrive unexpectedly to replenish our firewood reserve!

Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good. His faithful love continues forever. (Psalm 136:1, NIRV)

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See: Abide in Me Ornament, 2011

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Witness against yourself?

Source site: see notes

Something about my manner caused a new co-worker to suspect I was a believer. After determining that I was, he explained mentioning to his wife after his first day at work, “There’s something about Glenn that makes me think he’s a believer.”

While I’m certainly not guarded with people about my Christian faith, I also don’t feel lead to advertise I follow Christ.  Still, when my  co-worker asked if I was “saved,” I responded without hesitation.

“Yes indeed, a sinner saved by grace,” I answered, offering my hand.

“Amen brother,” he replied as we warmly shook hands.

To be known as a Christian can be both affirming and sobering – affirming when our manner honors our Lord but when our conduct or attitude falls short of how a Christian is “supposed” to be, our faith claim essentially witnesses against us.

Near the end of the book of Joshua, the people of Israel tried to convince Joshua they will carry on fine after he was gone.  During his farewell speech, Joshua recounted how God made good to the people of Israel by bringing them to the land he promised to give them.  Then Joshua reminded everyone that God would not tolerate any unfaithfulness.  While the people insisted they would remain faithful to God, Joshua answered,

“You are not able to serve the Lord,” he cautioned.  “He is a holy God; he is a jealous God….If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will … bring disaster on you…” (Joshua 24:19, NIV).

Joshua had good reason to doubt his fellow Israelites.  After all, he was one of only two of those rescued from Egypt allowed to enter the promised land. All the rest of his contemporaries, except Caleb, died in the desert because they doubted the Lord.  Joshua’s audience now were the doubters’ children who insisted they would succeed where their parents failed.  Unconvinced, Joshua warned,

“You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.’” (Joshua 24:22, NIV, italics mine)

Did he really say they were ‘witnesses against themselves?’ Doesn’t the Lord want his people to openly proclaim allegiance to him?

If we walk our talk, then yes.  But we tend to fall short.  O.K. we always fall short.

Of course God knows that Israel will mess up even though he is pulling for them not to. Since we read this story as history, we too know they failed, lost the promised land and were carried into exile by their enemies.

Fortunately, God’s plan wasn’t dependent on his chosen people holding up their end.  Back up a few sentences and note that Joshua’s prefaces the warnings part of his message by recounting what the Lord has already done for Israel in spite of their mess-ups!

Speaking through Moses, God notes, “I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.” (Joshua 24:13, NIV)

Get that Israel received a promised land not of their own making not because they were good, but because God was.  Same with us.  Just as God gave his committed, though faltering, chosen people cities they didn’t build and food they didn’t grow, he can and does make things happen in our lives that are in no way attributed to our own efforts.  Why? Because he has a plan for people who follow him as their Lord that somehow works out for their (our) good AND his glory.

Our pledge of allegiance to the Lord may, on one hand, be a witness against when we falter in our faith despite that we intend to be faithful.  But because we are aligned with the only One able to make all our wrongs right, God’s plan works out for us.

While claiming to belong to the Lord puts us at risk of essentially witnessing against ourselves, in our faltering and dealing with repercussions failure often involves, we often reset with God who restores us and urges us to resume the work he has for us to do.

Seems a little backward, right? Welcome to the Kingdom of God.

Amazing how God has all this figured out down to the most intricate detail.  Do we really matter to him THAT MUCH?


Notes: Image source site: The Fifth Amendment Project

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May I Never Tire of This

Morning spot at Laura’s

Here I am again.  A new morning, pre-dawn, hot cup of coffee, journal, Bible, laptop…

This morning finds me in a guest spot specifically set up by our daughter, Laura at her house for me –  because I do this.  Because I’ve being doing this for years and years and everyone I know knows I do this, especially anyone who has ever put me up for a night.

May I never tire of it.

This morning I pray for Laura and her husband Michael along the line of these verses I selected for them….

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the
Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
(Psalm 92: 12-13, NIV)

Later we will visit a church they want to check out.  I pray they find a “house of the Lord” to root into, belong to, flourish with. Perhaps a family church like Grace Chapel where Cindy and I belong and where Laura particularly synced with the Lord during middle school where dear friends Tony and Heidi Cece lead “Breakaway,” our middle-school ministry then?

Cindy and I are still firmly rooted there, like a palm tree, like the cedars of Lebanon. May we never tire of Grace Chapel. Sundays there are the high point of every week along with other Grace Chapel moments between Sundays.

I flipped back through my journal to revisit what the Lord spoke to me about last week. God always has a lot to say and this week, I captured several thoughts in my journal…..

  • Friday – An impression I drew from God’s declaration about Israel in Isaiah 22:14, “Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,” after which I jotted, “then Jesus came and did it.”
  • Thursday – Notes that fed into a message to a Facebook friend about a quote he shared from Bruce Springsteen’s new autobiography, Born to Run.  While Springsteen credits family, faith, work and being Italian as under-girding his life and work, he’s a self-avowed agnostic so maybe faith isn’t so much a factor even though God’s grace is essential for him or any of us to endure and triumph. However, when God gets no credit, personal toil and dogged determination takes most of the bows.
  • Wednesday – “Everyone Invited” is how I titled notes for 1 Timothy 4:10 “we put our hope in the living God who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” – more layers for a thought theme developing in me.  I agree to the “all” but how does it fit with election? Lately I arrive at God sovereignly knowing how we choose. Return to this later.
  • Tuesday – Notes from pastor Doug’s Sunday message from 1 John 2: 3-11 that I titled “Obedience/love litmus test.  I underlined “if you know, you show” than jotted James 2: 14-26 in the margin.  Well done, Doug.  Again.

Another week of listening and drawing near to God. May I never tire of this.

Road Report rose directly from the fertile soil of this field I pray I never tire of – intentional time each morning with the Lord.  Expressions I’ve shared out of this hour over the years – poems, prayers, ornaments, articles, essays, and letters prompted some recipients to encourage I try my hand at blogging.

Friends Todd Waller and Dan Rose set me up and I launched in April 2012 with more than a little trepidation about whether I could consistently generate content.  Turns out content isn’t a problem but finding time to write and then getting myself out there is.

I’ve continuously written something somewhere since I was 15.  Although I have shared some writing and other creative work over the years, Road Report is the first attempt to put ideas out that are accessible to anyone.  Even so, faithful readers are few so Road Report is presently more like playing guitar in a room with the door open.  Visitors are welcome but most don’t stop by for a listen.

Faithful Road Report followers, thanks for looking in each week.  For now, it’s just us few and the Lord, a kind of message practice perhaps?

I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
(Psalm 130:6, NIV)

May I never tire of this.


Notes: coming soon – www.RoadReportJournal.com.

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Because it’s you

Image source: see notes

What do you look for in a greeting card?  A message that closely expresses your sentiments best? Or do you key on the cover picture or image?  Perhaps you prefer sparse text or even blank inside that allows you to write your own thoughts?

Most likely, a combination of elements in involved in your greeting card selection that also depends on the occasion or situation and, most of all, your relationship with the card recipient.

All those factors came into play last week when I was picking out an anniversary card for my wife.  Expressing what’s in my heart regarding her is difficult to put into words.  Sometimes I simply want to say, “Honey, because it’s you” and know she’ll understand what I mere words fail to say.

But “Just Because” isn’t very romantic, right?  Still, does not the completeness of being truly loved have everything to do with the integrity of the person offering love?

That’s what I see in God with the people he chooses.  Take the story in Genesis 21 of God comforting Abraham who is distraught about having to send his first-born son Ishmael away.

Let’s review. Recall God selecting Abraham to father a nation to be known as the people of God, promising that Abraham’s offspring would populate this nation.  But when Abraham’s wife Sarah didn’t conceive soon enough, she urged Abraham to impregnate her servant Hagar.  Thus came Ishmael who was 15 when Sarah finally conceived, giving birth to Isaac.  Now Sarah resents Abraham’s sentiments toward Hagar and Ishmael, insisting they must go.

Enter God to who counsels Abraham to comply with Sarah’s demand.  Meanwhile he (God) would take care of Hagar and Ishmael this way:

“I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” (Genesis 21:13, NIV)

Key on: “Because he is YOUR offspring… “  Also note that the nation Ishmael would “make” isn’t just any nation but the Arab nation.

Recall God’s prophecy regarding Ishmael:

“He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” (Genesis 16:12).

When God made this promise to Abraham, did he know how that prophecy would play out down through history?  How the ferocity of Arab nations would keep the Mid-East region of the world in constant conflict?  Did he foresee terrorism by Arab extremists?  Continuous animosity towards Israel?  That the homeland of Arabs and Israel could become ground zero for the next worldwide conflict? Was all that known when God promised Abraham regarding Ishmael.

Amazingly, the answer is yes, absolutely yes.  All of the above was known to God and he gave his word to Abraham ANYWAY!  And the only reason he offered was, “…because he is your offspring.”

Perhaps my takeaway is overly simple, that God’s RELATIONSHIP with Abraham, his chosen man to have a huge role in his redemptive plan for all humankind and creation was MORE IMPORTANT than how the implications of the promises he made to Abraham would to be viewed in the minds of people down through the ages.

Likewise with God’s relationship with you and me.  Our relationship with him is of UTMOST IMPORTANCE to him no matter how much we mess up along the way.  We may break trust with him but he never breaks trust with us.

Note in the Bible that God initiates relationships with people – Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, every prophet, the Apostles and Paul are just a few examples.   We claim to choose God when in fact he chooses us, even before we were born. (see Ephesians 1:4 and Jeremiah 1:5)

I offer that compared to relationship with us, orchestrating the implications of the choices we make to achieve his purposes is easy for God.

“For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27)

However, God chose not to control our choices, especially regarding our choice to accept his invitation to be in relationship with him, even though he knows how we will choose. (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:5).

Relationship with you and me really, really matters to God.  Because it’s you, because it’s me is reason enough for God to allow or support even the most ill-advised choices we make because he is able to work everything out for our good and his glory.

Just because….


Notes:

Image source site: http://iteachstamping.com/2013/03/sending-a-hand-made-greeting-card-just-because/

 

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To have and to hold

First married walk on February 16, 1979

February 16 marks the 38th anniversary of my marriage to the former Cindy Alfonso. While we considered writing our own vows, I worried that nerves would render me tongue-tied so we went the traditional route, repeating after Fr. Cronin who performed our ceremony at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Farmington Hills, MI.

“I Glenn take thee Cindy…”

I’m pretty sure I used “Cindy” vs. her proper name, “Cynthia.”  She has always been “Cindy” to me, or occasionally “Cin,” (pronounced sin).  Never thought much about calling her Cin until our pastor questioned me about it when he first met us.

“Do you really call her Sin,” he queried?

“Not S-i-n but C-i-n,” was my amused answer. “Same pronunciation, different spelling.”

I also hold fondly that word “take” due its first use by Cindy’s dad as he blessed our plans to marry.

“Here, you ‘take’ her,” he urged conspiratorially.  “I can’t do anything with her.”

To this day I am deeply moved to recall dad’s jesting blessing due in part to my fondness for him and to having indeed been blessed to do life with his beloved second daughter as my wife.

“to be my lawful wife…”

“Lawful” as in Cindy agreeing to take on becoming “Mrs. Trevisan.” Hearing her addressed as such still sends of a shiver through me, marveling that this stunning lady agreed to set aside her own family name for mine. Also “lawful” that she so readily accepted that “wife” role that sources from humanity’s beginnings when God recounted fashioning woman from the man’s rib, thus “completing” a grand design began when he announced,

“Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’” … so God created man in His own image…male and female He created them.”  (See Genesis 1: 26-27, NASB)

“to have and to hold…”

Layers and nuances of having and holding marks every good marriage, including ours.  Perhaps the words were inspired by the man’s excited response when God brought “HER” to first name and then to also have and hold.

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:23, NIV)

Not hard to imagine the man thinking God saved the best for last while also wondering how God timed her arrival to complete man’s odd naming assignment during which he realized that unlike other creatures, he lacked a suitable helpmate. (see Genesis 2:20, NIV.)

Given their nudity, having and holding probably flowed spontaneously at first especially with God managing the introductions and then staying near to delight in how their loving parts fit together just so.

The leading word “to” in this phrase launched our life as a married couple, formalizing the blending that formed during our 16 months of dating and courting as we two become one.

“in sickness and in health, for richer or poor…”

These phrases that sound so romantic during the ceremony are less endearing when encountered in actual life. Nevertheless, weathering life’s highs and the lows together is how our romance formed into a priceless gem.

A game-changing paradigm was discovering that the highs require as much if not more tending as the lows.  Success, prosperity and well-being can grow layers of entitlement that lusts for more while gradually replacing humility, gratitude, and serving that undergirds relational maturity.

That I’m hard-working but not particularly endowed toward tapping the money spigot has kept us in a near-constant “make do” mode most of the way.  But here we are a team with God timely opening doors that we gratefully stepped through.  Along the way, we were credited with distinctions that allowed us to eek out and frugally fashion a modest but comfortable life.

“to love and cherish from this day forward…”

To be drawn into a redemptive relationship with the Lord Jesus was a huge highlight in our first few years of marriage that grounded and grew us individually and as a couple. A minor setback occurred when we turned to the children part of our plan until we were inspired by the nature of God’s relationship with us to also adopt.  (see Ephesians 1:5, ESV).  Having formed our family that way, we enjoy the uniqueness of being a 100 percent “chosen” family.

“until death do us part.”

Uttering these words, we naively thought of death as distantly future and as the only power that could part us. When we and are marriage were adopted into Christ, we were folded into a reality where death was mercifully settled and behind us.  Considerable biblical teaching on this is includes Galatians 2:20:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (NIV)

This plays out practically as we confess our stumbles to each other and God whose “amazing grace” assures forgiveness so complete as to literally separate our failings from us as far as east is from west. (see Psalm 103:12, NIV).

A dear friend just lost his wife after illness that dulled the last 20 or so years of their marriage.  Walking alongside him in the aftermath of her “homegoing,” we marvel at how God has seemingly dissipated the fog of those sickness years to bring to light the sometimes overwhelmed but nevertheless steady pulse of love and joy running through their now completed married life.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”This mystery is profound, but I am speaking about Christ and the church. “(Ephesians 5: 31-32, NIV)

Here Paul cites a profound mystery as the reason why a man leaves home to unite to his wife. Marriage alludes dimly to Christ “taking” the Church as his bride that in turn draws from the covenant Yahweh extended to Israel.

“With this ring I thee wed.”

The significance of our rings were in no way diminished by purchasing them at Murray’s Hardware. Same with Cindy’s first diamond, so small because I waited until after diamond prices skyrocketed.  By the time we upgraded both the bands and her diamond, their merit to us was due more to the richness of our love than to any value they have as precious metals or gems.

While  I cherish and support Cindy’s individualism that allows me to also grow as a person apart from her, I most appreciate that we share many elements of life, building deeper layers as we mark more years together.  One of those is music and song, such as the chorus of Warren Barfield’s “Love is not a fight.”

Love is a shelter in a raging storm
Love is peace in the middle of a war
If we try to leave, may God send angels to guard the door
No love is not a fight but it’s something worth fighting for.

 

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Dual Citizenship Dilemma?

see notes for image source

Despite that I devote little attention to news and political matters, I’ve ventured into a few social media exchanges during the just-concluded presidential campaign and since President Trump took office. I’ve also deleted or edited some comments here and there that didn’t feel right later on.

Immigration is one of those issues on everyone’s radar.  For all the problems in America, plenty of people desire to live in the freedom that United States citizenship affords.

Freedom of speech may be one of the most valued freedom American citizens enjoy.  While America allows expression with minimal risk of repercussion, freedom of speech can easily get us into serious trouble with anyone in the range of our voice especially when our speaking platform is social media.

As someone who writes into this media, I know firsthand that some of the views expressed here have riled up a few people.  My intention with Road Report is draw from personal experiences to share what I hear God is saying in and through me.

I am grateful to be able to share my perspective this way thanks to the freedom afforded me as a citizen of the United States of America. However, by drawing God into the center of these messages, my citizenship in his kingdom is also very much in play.  Lately I notice more contention between these kingdoms of my dual citizenship.

Perhaps the dilemma is due to that the manner and conduct of the kingdom of God is often not in concert with the manner and conduct of the kingdom of America that is part of the greater kingdom of the world. Read Jesus’ beatitudes to see how people of God’s kingdom are.

Besides the beatitudes, the Bible has much to say about this dual citizenship believers in God and Christ.  Here’s how St. Peter frames this dilemma believers face:

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.  (1 Peter 2: 11, NLT)

Jesus claimed to be king of a kingdom not of this world. (see John 18:36, NIV).  People gain citizenship in the kingdom of God when they are “born again” – adopted into a new family and citizenship that is ruled by God.

It sounds simple enough but unlike towns and neighborhoods where we live out our mortal lives, God’s kingdom is invisible and we Christians have no visual features or language that readily identifies us as “temporary residents and foreigners.” So how should Christians approach this dual citizenship?

Peter continues with some practical guidance: Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. (1 Peter 2: 11b-12, NLT)

1)      keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very soul (v11b)
2)      live properly among unbelieving neighbors (v12a)
3)      behavior honorably (v12b)
4)      don’t judge (v12c)

The big question regards whether our citizenship in God’s kingdom is as noticeable as (say) an immigrant’s native accent reflects his/her Spanish-ness or Middle Eastern-ness or Asian-ness? What should an accent resonating the kingdom of God sound like?

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Notes

1) Image source: http://preachersstudyblog.com/2013/05/dual-citizenship/

2)  Referring to believers as “temporary residents” is noted elsewhere in Scripture (such as Genesis 23:4, Leviticus 25:23, Philippians 3:20 and Hebrews 11:13).  (Biblegateway link in NIV)

3) What does ‘Born Again Christian’ mean?

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When All the Saying is Said – Cling

jesus holding up a man

God clinging more firmly to us as we draw near to him.

(Reviewing Road Reports archives, I came across this post of 8/13/2013. Three-plus years later, it still hits the spot so share it again along with a few tweaks learned since then…)


We were in our 30’s when some of the guys in our family started an annual  “Boys” winter weekend in northern Michigan. Now the oldest of us are in our 60’s.  

During those weekends when we were younger, we imagined what the years we are now living might look like, something like:

  • careers on cruise control
  • accumulating money for retirement
  • children grown and on their way
  • plans for our senior years nearly complete

Things didn’t play out like that for me. As I was turning in my mid-50’s toward a last push of accumulating for retirement, my life ship hit an iceberg.  I didn’t sink but a lot of our cargo jettisoned into the cold, dark waters called “Detour! Change of plans.”  As I tread water to keep my face on the air side, my faith in Christ became a lifesaver.  A Bible story that resonated with me was Job.

The premise of the story is disturbing – a debate between Satan and God that turns into a bet, like roulette.  After God singles Job out as a righteous man, Satan protests that Job’s faithfulness is all due to the favor God has bestowed on him – prosperity, health, family, and status.

Retorted Satan, ”But (if you) reach out and take away everything he has, he will surely curse you to your face!” (Job 1:11, NLT)

So God permits Satan to stack the deck against Job by devastating his livelihood, family and health.  Then God puts all his chips on Job and spins the wheel.

The rest of the story is a series of monologues by Job reacting to his plight and by three of his friends who weighed in with their own views about Job’s situation.

Some friends, right?  They lead off well with comfort and empathy but soon get frustrated as Job’s situation drags on.  Their monologues bounce between offering hollow answers and blaming Job for bringing this plight upon himself.

In my early readings of Job, I used to camp on Job’s speeches more than of his friends. Knowing how God favored Job at the beginning of the story, I surmised that Job’s discourse would be the most right on. Also, I KNEW the other guys’ reasoning about what caused Job’s plight was off.  

Now I realize Job didn’t have the corner on wise speak. In each man’s reasoning is shades of truth, speculation and error.  In these discourses I was reminded that we all sin, all fall short and that none of us can make much sense of life sometimes.  

Although God attributed righteousness to Job, his friends also followed God even though their judgment about Job’s plight were completely off base.  In the end, they each admitted their error by dutifully paying the penance God demanded of them.  

I see my own story in Job’s.  A detour interrupted my plan and as I dealt with it, I groped for answers that don’t exist.  In Job’s story, we see a victim dealing with trial while he and his friends conjecture about what happened..

When all the saying is said, Job clings to God so God wins the wager but Job also recovers to a new normal. Best of all, Job’s relationship with and awe of God moves to a more enlightened and practical place.

Clearly Job’s “rightness” with God is more about God than Job.  Because God had Job, Job had God. Don’t you love the end of the story when Job realized he only needed God, not God’s answers?

I had only heard about you before,
but now I have seen you with my own eyes.
I take back everything I said,
and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” (Job 42:5-6, NLT)

Trial has a way of helping us to really “see” the God we only heard about before, and to truly get that God is always for us and never against us.  When we respond by aligning with God, we win and the next detour is a little easier to navigate.

Job’s story illustrates this principle well.  I hope my story does that too.

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Notes:

Photo source: Held by God on Pintrest

Here’s a good book offering insights from the experiences of the prophet Elijah: “I didn’t sign up for this” by Aaron Sharp

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Violation Intended

Revised 1/25/2015. Somewhat in deference to comments received about this post, published 1/24/2017, I’ve made some revisions to clarify my intent. Red = additions


Taken at Our Lady of Sorrows in Farmington Hills, MI in 2015

The 44th “anniversary” just passed of the Supreme Court’s “Roe v Wade” decision to legalize abortion. Prior to the recent presidential election, a friend emailed me a link to a homily given on October 22, 2015 by Fr. John Lankiet, pastor of Saints Simon & Jude Catholic Cathedral in Phoenix, Arizona.  Fr. Lankiet had something to say about how American Catholics should approach their civic duty to vote in the upcoming election.

Acknowledging that no political party aligns with all Catholic teaching, he urged Catholics to discern which issues are closest to the heart of Catholic teaching to guide their voting decisions.

He referenced issues as diverse as racial justice, education, the economy, immigration, health care, affirmative action, capital punishment, military action and even child abuse by Catholic priests.  He offered several scenarios where innocent people could be unintentionally victimized or even killed when the justice intended by existing laws falters

Then Fr. Lankiet brought his main point home that, in the case of abortion, victimization and death is never accidental or unintended or resulting from a faltering of the laws pertaining to it.  Unlike all other issues debated by people and candidates, abortion’s intent, under authority of law, is to grant a mother life or death authority over the life of the baby boy or girl in her womb.

The carnage of nearly 60 million babies killed in their mother’s wombs since this monumental decision on January 23, 1973 is difficult to imagine.  Equally impossible to grasp is the level that our indifference to the sanctity of life has fallen since Roe v. Wade.  To think we allowed our courts to extend our government’s jurisdiction INTO a woman’s womb, where she is entrusted and uniquely endowed by God with the sacred privilege and responsibility to nurture until birth every human being who ever lived, including our Lord himself.

If Roe v. Wade has a “silver lining,” it is to again prove that we cannot be trusted to do right by God or ourselves or to steward each other or our planet without Jesus’ redeeming grace guiding, correcting and empowering us.  St. Paul bluntly charged that absent redemption, we are the walking dead, like those zombies and demons glutting our televisions and theaters today – obsessed with demons, death and violence.   (See Ephesians 2: 1-2)

The band Casting Crown band offers this perspective in their song “While You Were Sleeping:”

United States of America

Looks like another silent night

As we’re sung to sleep by philosophies

That save the trees and kill the children

We save trees but kill children.  Need I say more?

My compliments to Fr. Lankiet courageously for thoughtfully declared that linking what abortion always intends to terminate life, is to some of the a horror not generally intended with all other issues could become, issues many of us offer as being more important than abortion in our voting decision. Regarding abortion, is seems we each decide (1) if and to what degree we agree with this premise; and, (2) the extent our premise influences our choices.

The premise of the “pro-life” position is not so much Personally, I’ve moved from a basis of when life begins to but that the  “inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” guaranteed by our constitution comes from God alone, not by a court or government or any human being. Remove God from the equation and the sanctity of life is severely in jeopardy.

Human life is sacred and protected because we are “fearfully and wonderfully made … in the secret place … woven together in the depths of the earth…set apart before birth … in the image of God… male and female.” (See Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139: 13-16; and Jeremiah 1: 4-5).

Go read the simple yet beautiful account in Genesis 2:18-25 of what may be the first lovemaking between man and woman, a magical moment created, approved and initiated by God that moved Adam to excitedly exclaim, “At last!” … This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.'”

The Bible reserves two sacred purposes for this lovely union – to seal, cement and enrich each couple’s bond and to bring forth new life under the celebration of shared intimacy.  How much further can we get from this awesome and uniquely human gift than abortion?

While I admit to often using a candidate’s abortion stance as my initial  first line litmus test for my support of them, I also confess to feeling embarrassed when my approach is depicted as overly simplistic, uninformed, irrational or even imbecilic. But I’m O.K. with that now. Sign me up as an “imbecile for Christ.”  A tipping point for me has become St. Paul’s assertion that the “message of the cross” is foolishness to the world and that God “will destroy the wisdom of the wise” and frustrate the “intelligence of the intelligent.” (per Corinthians 3: 18-20 in NIV). 

As I continue to submit to Christ’s shaping of me, I increasingly find myself at odds with my preferences for comfort and acceptance in order to draw nearer to God. This is the ultimate dilemma Christ followers face.

Contrasting God’s rule with the thief-like influence that otherwise rules our lives, Jesus summed up both our situation and our opportunity when he said, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10, NIV)

Prior to launching into his abortion indictment, Fr. Lankiet stood with his Savior to offer mercy and complete forgiveness to any person involved with aborting a child, noting that no wrong or sin can stand against redemption in Christ, no matter how great.


Links:

  1. Text of Fr. Lankiet’s Oct. 2, 2015 Homily
  2. Fr. Lankiet’s Homily on YouTube (19:49 minutes)
  3. While You Were Sleeping by Casting Crowns

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