Checkpoint

2019 is hours away. Moving into it can be viewed as a portal or gate — imagine a TSA checkpoint at an airport. What if the qualification of passing from our current status to the one we are meant to be in is that we must shed some luggage? — only those who are traveling light can pass through. Would we do it, or would we stay behind, unwilling to comply? What if it was God who defined those terms, and the requirements were personalized? Image result for TSA, person with tons of luggage

I know most people from church culture would say, “Of course, to love God is to obey God, I always do.” But what people say and what people do are often very different. I have traveled many miles, so to speak, with people who claimed God as their priority, and commander and King, but witnessed them unwilling to leave behind their massive pile of luggage at the TSA checkpoint. Had they only left it, as asked and encouraged, they could have passed through to what God had planned for them (plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give hope and a future). 

But alas, their priority was there in their luggage.

Although they begged the TSA agents, and tried to claim, “I’m with him” or “I’m with her”, with intentions to sneak in with someone who willingly shed all that God asked, they were left behind. 

Image result for person with tons of luggageWith their piles of luggage.

Believing they were treated unfairly.

Resenting those who got through the checkpoint and quickly moved out of sight. Inventing something to condemn them, to justify discreditation or dismissal of the forward movers. 

All the while turning a blind eye to the clearly-stated signs at the airport, those personalized stipulations meant for them, too, but conveniently ignored, the posted requirements that those who passed through did comply with.

Deciding themselves victims, not causes of their own circumstances. Dejected and angry, they gather their piles of suitcases and drag them back home. There they unpack the bags to inspect item after item, relishing their worth, reinforcing their decision to hold tight to them. Arguing with God, but not calling it so: believing themselves “right” and the travelers “wrong”. Making themselves feel better by bashing the blameless. Redefining themselves as “the staid”, “the consistent”, “the pillars”, “the holy”, and by compare calling the innocents who traveled forward “rebels”, “flashes in the pan”, “backsliders”, “amoral”.

Which is understandable, perhaps, considering human nature, and maybe not the end of the story for the noncompliant. As long as they don’t settle in where they are and continue to lunge for the future. As long as they look for the Lord’s pillar of cloud by day to guide them on their way, and pillar of fire by night to give them light, as the Israelites wandering the desert did, they may yet come to the passage to their promised land.

But keep in mind, God doesn’t conform to people, people must conform to him. Don’t expect him to change his terms for each person; expect the requirements and enforcements to be unchanged. As long as each is intent on hearing directly from the Holy Spirit and no other voice (including their own), they may yet hear and obey and perhaps even catch up with those who traveled before them.

But why do it the difficult way when it can be done with ease? Why refuse to comply and play all those mind games to hide misplaced idolatry? (It’s not as hidden as you imagine, by the way.) Why forego the good things that would have come with simple obedience and singular godship? 

If God asks us to see it his way, or do it his way, then do it. Do that over and over as often as he asks, and expect to ultimately arrive at portals and gates of things new, things wonderful, things grand, things possible only with God.

We can fake “the promised land”, “blessed”, and “favored” only until the real deal comes along, then the fake is overshadowed by the brilliant light of those who truly loved enough to obey, and who ultimately were planted by God as oaks of righteousness for the display of his splendor.

We can keep all those bags full of our preferred values, ideals, worldview, people, theologies, paradigms, prejudices, material things, and more — whatever it is we value more than him, and stay in the familiar world we like to control. But, don’t fool ourselves that we’ve arrived at the best stuff. 

For those who have been trimmed and thrashed and forged and refined by fires; for those who have loved and obeyed: through the TSA gate they go. They may only have wee little backpacks with next to nothing inside, but they have willingly thrown off everything that hinders. Their eyes are fixed on hope and a marvelous future. They know who God is; they let him be the commander or King or father or coach or any of his many roles in their lives, and they are headed to all things good. 

My friend, if God asks you to drop a suitcase or two or three or fifteen, don’t be a fool. Do what he asks. Travel light. There ain’t no other way to go through to the real deal. Image result for person with small backpack going through airport

Philippians 3:7.  I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.

Jeremiah 29:11 .  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Exodus 13:21 .  By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.

Isaiah 61:3   and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Hebrews 12:1-2 . Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. 

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Those Who Wait

A year ago ago this decade-old geranium was near death. I didn’t have the heart to dispose of it, so I nursed it instead, giving it a new pot and fresh soil, proper watering, and the prime sunny spot in the garage for the winter.

It’s been on my porch all summer, but today I looked up from my reading and actually saw it. It has more blooms than ever before. Half facetiously, I anthropomorphized my geranium. I was happy for it in a way that a parent is glad to see their child who has struggled so terribly finally flourish.

But this isn’t about my awesome, resilient, over-achieving child geranium. Look closely at the picture above, and see what I finally noticed as I crouched with my camera, centering and getting the light just right. That’s my dog photo bombing my geranium’s fifteen seconds of fame.

She was waiting for me to throw a toy, as I frequently do from the advantaged, elevated level of the porch. She’s a border collie, a herding dog, bred to stay with livestock for hours and days on end. Patience is her virtue. Even her slinky posture as she waits is due to her breed: often cat-like, poised for speedy reaction.

I guess she was there in the yard, waiting in that position, for up to thirty minutes before I spotted her through my camera’s viewfinder. When I’d first noticed the geranium and stood to take its photo, at my feet was another of her Frisbees. She had obviously deposited it there before assuming her post in the yard.

She does this “waiting” both outdoors and in, anticipating my propulsion of any number of gnawed balls or discs. I oblige for awhile, then inevitably busy myself with chores or projects. An hour later when I finish my task, she is still there. Waiting. Focussed. Expectant.

Ponder this:  She’s waiting for me, not another person. So I respond to her. I throw the Frisbee, kick the ball, let her in, let her out, take her for a run when she’s fidgety from inactivity. If she took up her post at the periphery of our yard for passersby to notice, to come play, to engage with her, I would respond differently. I wouldn’t stop to attend to her, I’d keep on keeping on with my own thing.

If she put distance between us and had her back to me, searching for someone other than me to respond to her, it would be futile for me to attempt interaction. If she were oblivious to my existence, it would be pointless for me to attempt engagement; I would be throwing my efforts to the wind. She would be heedless to my affection, devotion, love, direction, caution, discipline, or teaching. If she was looking anywhere and to anyone besides me, I would have no reasonable choice but to continue my day independent of her.

But she doesn’t do that. She waits for me.

Because she waits for me, I take notice of her expectations. What does she want from me? What does she need? She’s looking to me to engage with her, meet her desires and needs … so it is I who responds.

It is I who studies her face and body language. It is I who learns her idiosyncrasies, her behaviors, the constants about who she is. It is I who steps in to keep her safe, to redirect her bad habits, to train her. It is I who has a plan in place to guide her to her potential.

It would be a shame for her, and a shame for those who will share her life with her, if I were to turn away when she looked to me.

I have “the sky’s the limit” in mind for her potential. She’s only a year old, so she’s far, far from that now, but I don’t expect her to be there yet. She can’t be there yet. She still has much developmental maturation ahead. I only expect her to progress, at the pace she can, toward her full potential.

I also don’t expect her to get there by herself. She can’t get there by herself. She needs my commitment to her, my patience, direction, repetition and consistent expectations. She needs me to provide opportunities to challenge her. She needs me to set her up for success. She needs me to understand that incremental successes rejuvenate, encourage, and motivate to take on the next challenge. She needs me to understand that too many failures will convince her “the ground is the limit” instead of “the sky is the limit”.

I am pleased to act on behalf of my dog who looks to me, who waits for me. I am committed to her for the long haul, for her lifetime.

How much more, then, would our Father commit to people? I include every person on Earth — we are all his if we look to him, if we turn from having our backs to him to having our faces to him.

If we have all our lives thought him “fictional”, but one day decide to consider him as “real”, and if we genuinely look to him to respond, he will. He may require us to wait a bit, to separate those who are sincere from those who are disingenuous, but he will respond at least in proportion to our degree of expectation.

Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV):  13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

If we give him more and more of our concerns and issues to address, he’ll respond even more — he is there to help as much as we expect him to.

If we give him all of ourselves to love, direct, caution, discipline, teach, transform, heal, rejuvenate, motivate, and fulfill, then he will respond beyond what we ask or imagine. With God, his hope and expectation for each of us is, “the sky’s the limit.” But we need him to get us there.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV):  11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Isaiah 64:4 (NIV):  Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

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