Could it be that in your quest to make a difference or leave your mark on this world, you are in fact on the cusp of realizing it, yet it doesn’t seem so? It was put this way through the prophet Isaiah: “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?”
Perhaps the bigger the “new thing”, the more time needed to be able to look back and see what you were a part of.
As long as I’ve known him, my stepfather, Vern Wilson, has been casual about his seventy-five years as a musician. Actually, I doubt he’s ever called himself a musician, he just says, “I played with ___ band in this town,” as we pass through on drives, or “I never learned to read music, I only play by ear.” Only play by ear – I wish I…
Paul the Apostle says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians. 2:10)
An excerpt from one of my previous posts, “Coached to Excel” says,
“God knows what you’re capable of. He knows what is still uncovered or undeveloped within you. He knows how to unveil those gifts, and coach your potential to excellence and success.”
Hear the coach’s speech: “You are exceptional. Let me show you what you are capable of; what you haven’t experienced yet. You are a diamond in the rough. You have untapped potential within you. We are going to uncover your abilities, talents, gifts, skills, insights, and more. Let me show you how you can gain mastery, accomplish much, and express your strengths superbly. Raise your expectations to match mine. Don’t settle—think excellence. Form habits of excellence, so I can give you success.”
It’s never too late to change attitudes and habits. Think excellence, let God be your coach, and show the world what you can do. We need your distinctive influence and glorious achievements.”
Video credit belongs to John Stofflet, news anchor and reporter, KING TV (2004)
“For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.” Romans 5:2 (Living Bible, TLB)
This verse in the Living Bible translation points us to a joyful future, a time of becoming who God originally meant us to be. Imagine what might have been if God alone had raised each of us since birth. Who would we be today?
Instead, each of us were shaped by the people, cultures, and environments we were born into.
As vulnerable humans in a blustery world, it is no surprise we gradually morphed from the person God intended. We developed impaired habits. We wore useless grooves into our characters by our own unmitigated behaviors and misguided thinking.
Throughout history men and women have tried to tame God. I liken it to damming a river to control the normal flow of the water. What’s possible with rivers is also possible in religion. A group of people can claim that a portion of the river is theirs. They construct dams to control the living water, pave a parking lot, pop up a building, and hoist a sign with a catchy company name. Let’s call ours Choppy River Church. The river is real, but already altered by the dam. Domesticated. Cultivated. Tamed.
Choppy River Church advertises, “Come whitewater rafting on God’s true river of life!” When you arrive, you’re handed a life jacket with the company logo, then shuffled to the formal boarding area where you step into a raft emblazoned with the brand name. Reps from the company man the rafts and guard the shorelines. If your raft catches an unexpected rapid and sends you off the man-made course, workers on the shore use long poles to push you back where they want you. The river is so controlled it no longer represents who God is.
When your ride on that short section of the river is over, you are expected to gratefully disembark and say complimentary things about the company. And its management. And the exciting river. Any honest reactions to the adulteration of the river are quickly met with disapproval from peers or company leadership. If you still don’t comply with the unspoken codes of behavior, you are summoned to a meeting for a stern rebuke. Those inclined to question or resist further find themselves evicted from Choppy River Church.
If that sounds familiar, you might think you were rejected from the river of God BY God. But that’s not the case. Not at all.
There is a river that extends far beyond the trifling range of Choppy River Church. There his river is unaltered by man. The water is unrestrained. Exhilarating. Powerful. Potent. Anyone is welcome at any time. People who gravitate to it are inclined to respect, love, and treasure the river. They bring rafts and ride the waters at will. Rafters come and go much like nature lovers come and go from the earth’s forests, deserts, and mountains—they leave it like they found it. Spotless. Pristine. Natural. Wild.
The river is available for all, but owned by none. Even those who work there full-time as whitewater rafting instructors don’t assert it’s theirs. Those who choose to frequent riverside buildings do so to exalt God together. And to support each other. Nobody aspires to subdue the river. They wouldn’t dream of exploiting it for profit or power.
They value it for what it is: Bigger than man. Mightier than man. Unpredictable and fearsome. But, paradoxically, also soothing. Calming. Restful. Healing.
Choppy River Church does not equate to God. They are not one and the same. A place that claims his name might be contrived, but he is not. He is infinitely more than a controlled, tamed, ineffectual river, and yours for the asking.
By definition, a hazard is an area of a golf course which provides a difficult obstacle, and is usually of two types: water hazards such as lakes and rivers; and man-made hazards such as bunkers. Bunkers are designed to be impediments to golfers’ progress toward the green.
There are man-made hazards in life, too. They are abundant in quantity, seeped in varying degrees of injustice or cruelty, and often come from unexpected sources. Who are these people who choose to be bunkers, who aspire to catch us in their traps?
They are the trolls at gatherings or on social media, baiting whoever will bite with untrue or bombastic statements. They like to inflame, to goad us into reacting, to pull us into their broiler. The antitheses of peacekeepers, they are Fight Seekers.
They are the self-serving plotters, strategists who design ways to take from us, to harm us, to come out ahead at our expense. When they succeed at both plotting and implementation of deviousness, we land right where they want us: in the rough; in the sand; in the deep water of injustice.
They are the malingerers, with goals of living out their days in perpetual trouble. While others endeavor to get out of hazards and put trouble behind, they stubbornly adhere to the bunker they built. They don’t care if we drown in their masterminded troubles, they just want us in there with them.
Unlike those in true need, they are the Hazard Makers. They pose as unaware victims, as having no idea where the trap originated. If they don’t advertise their rotten luck or the contrived injustice done them, they can’t get our sympathy, our anger and action against their so-called “enemies”, or our service to their fabricated needs. These people don’t want solutions, they want problems. Problems put them front and center as the object of our attention.
They are the impeccable actors and actresses in everyday life, good at their craft, and unmindful of truth or who they malign. Their bunkers are deceptively attractive; our entrapment essential to their hidden motives. We’re caught the moment we believe their falsehoods.
As the saying goes, “We have but one life to live.” We can choose to avoid the bunkers, battle our way out when we do land there, and play out our lives on the fairways and greens. We can do our best to never be a hazard to others. We can offer to help people out of the rough, point them to the smooth fairways, support their progress toward the greens, and applaud their well-earned victories.
Choose for yourself who you will be — a hazard or not — and how you will play your game. As for me and my house …
I am viewing a lot of life these past few years, as various lines in the sand. We are each determining where we stand on each side of those lines. They aren’t simple lines without consequence, they are transcendent lines, drawn by God himself.
On the recent and ongoing line of “for or against racial equality” …
I stand with the least of these, those who are subjugated in society.
By default, I then face those who chose the other side of the line. I oppose those who want to maintain the status quo of domination.
Those facing me say I am on the wrong side of the line. They point out the protests: the vandalism and lootings. They point out unrelated civil unrest: inner city gun violence and street murders.
From this side of the line, I say current crime stats have as much to do with a pandemic…
I suppose I should have instant opinions or insight about the current rioting in the U.S.A. and beyond. I do have a blog and that’s what blogging is all about. But …
I’m still back in the murder of George Floyd.
I’m still there …
With a grief that has yet to erupt in tears, but threatens to at any second.
I’ve been in constant, underlying grief for a week.
I want to move forward, I expected to, but it’s just not happened. Because I have noted that, with God, for every problem there is a solution, I prefer to hurry ahead to solutions. That stage pulls me out of agonizing problem-mode, and puts me in the more tolerable fixing-mode.
Yet, I’m still in problem mode.
I’m still in grief of white men murdering a black man. I don’t even have words for all that is embedded in that video.
55 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. 4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples. 5 Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for…
God is not made in our image. He is who he is. Yet we sit in our churches or alongside like-minded peers and relish only the aspects of God that assuage our unconsecrated souls.
We want God to deliver his judgment and wrath on our enemies: those not like us; those who oppose our values, politics, and prejudices; those who we determine, according to our own thinking, to be “sinners”. We assume those “others” will receive God’s vengeance for their misdeeds, but we … we will receive God’s love and grace.
When it comes to God’s focus on us, we are absolutely certain of God’s longsuffering and forgiveness and favor, but the other’s … let them be punished by God. We even get specific in our prayers: we “pray” to God what we want him to do to our enemies.
The power of evil to slowly, imperceptibly rob us of our identities is real. We are unlikely to be a threat to evil as long as we remain subjugated to ungodly people and mentalities.
Satan knows what he’s dealing with as long as we are predictable. He knows the rules of religions, the demands on underlings to conform. If we swallow the pill of mindless compliance, he is assured of our passivity.
We will be passive to injustice. We won’t learn of our God-given rights. We won’t express our true personalities and develop our God-given insights, gifts, talents, and strengths. We won’t be capable of overcoming evil with good.
If you’re suppressed and your identity is muddled, let’s do something about it. Let’s flip-flop the situation, and free you to be capable of overcoming evil with good.
Pray. Expect and listen to the Holy Spirit’s perfect counsel. Reflect: What is…