A Lesson from Laundry

It might just be my perception as an American but I find the pace in France to be a little slower. A little more relaxed. A little more laid back. This is of course except for the drunk man on the bus last night being obnoxious to a young man. At first, and sometimes, this is a challenge. I am a go go, doer. Most things close at 7:30 or 8:30 at night and they don’t open again until after 8. I get up at 6 and am up until 11 or so. I need stimuli. I need movement. I need… to slow down. Right now we are without a washing machine at the house. We should be getting a new one next week because almost nothing in France happens on the same day. So I can either walk to the laundry mat or hand wash. I chose to handwash because I need to slow down. I need to match the pace of France and ease up off the throttle. I still have classes, chapel, language, family, and so on but I still need to breathe. I still need to rest.

I enjoy going slowly because I can talk to and listen to God in the mundane but when I am too busy I miss that. Brother Lawrence said, “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.” It is hard for me to make room for slowness and ease. It is hard for me to relax. But it is necessary. Today I will try and take it a little slower. I will try to move a little easier. I will try and remember what is important.

Just a thought,
Mike

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God is on the move

I think encouragement is a big gift. When you are feeling frustrated, run-down, confused, or tired encouragement is like cool water for your soul. It comes in and brings life to what is withering and suddenly you are ready to continue. Encouragement can come in all sorts of forms too. Sometimes it is a phone call from a friend, a note from a co-worker, or maybe even a smile from a baby. Those are all good but encouragement from the Lord God of heaven and earth is by far the most encouraging thing we could ever get. When God encourages you, it sticks. Other types of encouragement help and boost us up for a time but encouragements from God get down deep and cling to your innermost parts.

Isaiah 42:10-16 is one place in Scripture that I think has incredible encouragement. This is because it is one of those sections of the Bible that talks about what God is going to do. There is a sense that God did this but there is still a part that is to come. Not only does it talk about what God is going to do in a grand worldwide way, but I think it teaches us a bit about who God is. Anytime we can read about who God is and understand His character better we are better off because we get to see Him in a deeper way.

In this section, God speaks through Isaiah and tells us that there will be a time when the people will rejoice and lift up their voice in a shout of praise. He says that every place will shout for joy and sing praises. The deserts, the coastlands, those in villages, and those on mountains will rejoice when God moves. Then as if that was not enough, and this is the kicker, He says that although it has taken a while, He will not keep Himself restrained. He will lead the blind and they will walk on flat ground.

In case you missed it all of this is encouraging because God is saying that He will do this and that sometimes the delay in life is because He has paused the movement. He is the one who is waiting for the time to be fulfilled. Habakkuk 2:3 talks about this as well and says that sometimes there is what feels like a delay, but we just have to wait because God is moving. I have said before that one of my favorite movie scenes is when Beaver says “Aslan is on the move.” In the movie, the children don’t know this is a huge deal, but it is because it means that things are about to change.

I am not going to say that God is going to change things in your life today or even tomorrow. I don’t know when it will happen, but I know this; Jesus is on the move. He is working behind the scenes to do things that will blow your mind you only need to wait for it. Keep the course and stay steady. Wait for the Lord to move and you will see great things. Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes. We don’t get to know when it will happen, and we don’t get to know the outcome, but we do get to know that Jesus is moving and that He is working things out. That is the encouragement; Jesus is on the move. He is Lord and He is God and He will redeem everything in its time. Trust the process, stay the course, know that Christ is in control. Oh, it is going to be good.

Just a thought,

Mike

Casting Burdens or Chuck the Junk

I think it is almost mandatory that if we look at 1 Peter 5:6 then we have to look at 1 Peter 5:7 because it is the natural outcome of humbling yourself before God. Maybe outcome is not the right word though. Maybe it is not an outcome, maybe it is more of a logical next step. As a reminder 1 Peter 5:6 says that we should humble ourselves before God and then He will exalt us. This means that if we place ourselves before God then He will lift us up. The next part of that is we need to cast our cares upon Him. We have to take our burdens and give them to God.

The idea of casting our cares (anxieties) is a pretty simple one. At first, I thought it was like a faith thing. Something like sitting in a chair or plopping down on a couch. You know you just trust that the chair or the couch will sustain you with no effort on your part. Yeah that would have been pretty cool and there is an element to that but it so much more. The idea behind casting is more like throwing. It is not a laying down of your burdens before God in a symbolic act of submission that looks like something from a movie about a hero who needs a little help. No, it is more like throwing. It is not making an appointment with someone who can help you, so you present your concerns or problems in a way that hopefully gets help from them. No, it is more like throwing.

The idea is taking your burdens and anxieties and throwing them before God in a way that says I cannot carry this, and I need your help. It is taking what you have and chucking it before the King of the universe, the Most High God and not even caring. There is a freedom in the throwing because you are not worried that God will look at your stuff and cast you out for bringing it to Him. We can throw it on God because He cares for us and because He can handle it. God is not weighed down by our burdens or anxieties. He does not reach a point where He needs a break or already has too many things going on. He does not need a minute. He is ready to go at any moment and we just need to cast.

I think it is interesting that the other time this same word for casting is used is when the disciples put their coats on the donkey before Jesus rides into Jerusalem. When the disciples were putting their coats on the donkey they were not worried that the donkey would buckle under the pressure of the coats. They did not even think about it, they just put their coats on the donkey because they knew it could carry the load. No, clearly God is not a donkey, but I think we can get the picture. There is not a weight God cannot take. It is like when my kids come to me with a complaint. They are not worried I cannot handle their issues. They know that daddy has dealt with other things, so they come to me and just let it all out because they know I am able to help, and I care for them.

We have to come to God with the same abandon. We must come to Him knowing that He can handle it and that He cares. If we don’t then we will never actually cast our cares on Him. We will gently hand Him little things and hope He reacts well. We will be scared of how He will respond. We do this because of our wrong image of Him. That is on us, not Him. God says come to me in faith and throw those burdens down. This can also be a test for us. If I look at my life and see that I am not really casting my cares on God, then I get the opportunity to examine my trust in God and I get the chance to make a change. That is exciting because in that I get to not only cast my burdens on Him, but I get to grow in my relationship with Him.

Just a thought,

Mike

Encountering God on the Kentucky Flyer

I do not like roller coasters. I do not find them enjoyable and I usually feel like I am going to pass out. So, I avoid them unless compelled. That being said recently at Kentucky Kingdom for my daughter’s birthday I felt compelled. It was not my daughter because she does not like them either and it was not my wife. It was a feeling inside saying do it. I shook the feeling a few times because I felt it was a ridiculous thought. As we were getting ready to leave, I told my wife I wanted to ride the Kentucky Flyer. There are no upside downs so I figured maybe I could handle it. The line moved quickly which was nice and the next thing I knew we were seated and chugging to the top. We dropped down and the first half of the ride was everything I hate. My eyes were closed, my heart was racing, and my hands were clenched so tight to the seat I was afraid I might rip something. Then I heard my Father.

I had been praying 1 Peter 5:6 for about a week because life is a little chaotic right now. It is all good but chaotic. We had been in Kentucky for missions training for 2 weeks at that point. We don’t have normal jobs anymore and we are trusting God for our daily bread in new and exciting ways. Halfway through the ride, I felt God say trust. So, I quickly said, “I humble myself under the mighty hand of God and He will exalt me in due time.” With that, I let go opened my eyes and threw my hands in the air. The ride changed or rather I changed.

What started as something I hate turned into an encounter with the living God and I was crying on the roller coaster. Not because I was scared but because God was showing me how much He loves and protects me. I was in His hand more than I was in a seat whipping around corners. God was holding me and revealing something about Himself to me.

I could tell you that life is like a roller coaster or that life is an adventure but instead, I want to say life is life. What yours will look like or feel like is up to you and God. Yes, you both have a part to play. Life will never feel like a roller coaster or an adventure if you don’t step out and trust Him. That is unless He decides to push you but that’s a different message. Life can be freighting and uncertain but only if you are stepping out into the unknown and trusting God to lead you. It has to be that way because we have to learn to trust, obey and humble ourselves under His mighty hand. God wants you to lean into Him so we can truly know Him. This means He doesn’t give us the whole picture and make everything OK from the word GO. It has to be a process and that is OK because if we embrace the process and press into the Father, we encounter Him in ways we never can outside of trusting in the storms and chaos. It is so worth it to take the ride because in the end, we have something that is beyond anything the world can offer. We encounter the living God and have intimacy with the one who sustains the universe. That is just awesome in the truest sense of the word.

Just a thought,

Mike

Adieu to What I Know

There is a question that my wife and I have been answering and trying to answer for well over a decade now. It was a question that was first posed to us when we lived in Maine and although we thought we have answered it over the years it appears it is a question we must keep answering. It seems every time we answer with yes and move forward the question gets asked again and we are once again faced with answering it. With each asking, the result of the answer gets more and more intense and stakes get higher.

The question is a simple one and its genesis is important. I was working second shift and the evenings were dead. We really did not need a second shift, but I was there just in case. Being the newest employee, I drew the short straw. I did not mind too much because it provided my wife the opportunity to work during the day and I was able to do a lot of reading. This was a time of tremendous growth in my walk with Christ. I was tearing through the Bible and other resources. I was reading everything I could get my hands on and wrestling with the Lord about all sorts of questions. I missed my wife and family, but I needed to work anyway, and this provided a great opportunity to pay bills, learn more in my industry, and grow in Christ. In hindsight, this was a great blessing. One night while reading, I came across Luke 14:33 where Christ says, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake (bid adieu) all that he has cannot be My disciple.” In that moment I felt God ask me clear as day ask me “are you willing to forsake all and follow me?” Being a dedicated and passionate young man who was ready to take on the world I said, “of course Lord.” I said yes but I really was not willing to forsake all. I wanted to be ready, but truth be told I was not, and neither was my wife.

There was a lot of growth and healing that needed to occur in both of us before we would be willing and little did we know at the time that the willingness is a continual willingness and not a one-time deal. It is like carrying your cross in that it is a daily exercise and not a one and done. The initial question and failing did start a process that I am grateful for. I would have chosen an easier path, but I am still grateful for the one we have.

We thought we answered the question when I left my job to be self-supported so we could spend more time in ministry. We thought we answered the question when we tried to move to Spokane for missionary flight school. We thought we answered the question when we started doing foster care. We thought we answered the question when we moved to Knoxville to finish school. We thought we answered the question when we decided to leave everything to go to France for 2-months and have nothing when we return. The problem is that the question keeps getting asked and the stakes keep getting higher.

Just to be clear when we say yes to the question, we are not forsaking stuff. Yes, stuff usually has to go but that is only a very small part, and the first part, of what we are forsaking. Stuff usually has to go because things have a way of distracting us from what God wants to do in us. Things are not inherently bad but they can be blockers. We must move beyond worrying about stuff. I believe that what we are really doing is forsaking the knowledge and limitations we place on God. We are admitting that there is more to this God we serve than we currently know, and we want to know more of Him. This is what God wants from us. He wants us to surrender our hearts, our wills, and our limitations. He wants us to seek Him because in seeking Him we find more than we could ever know. He is infinite and while we will never reach the end of Him, but we can keep going deeper. We can learn more of who He is, what He is capable of, and how vast is His wonder.

The good news is that He has shown Himself faithful and wise every time. Each and every time He asks, and we get it somewhat right things shift in our lives in profound and huge ways. We know what we want, and we believe we know what He has said in this season, but the truth is that our job is to seek Him, follow Him, and answer the question when He asks it.

Part of me wishes this was the last time He asks the question because even an adventure seeking, change-loving man like me wants a little stability. I am the first one to want to do something new, but I do still like comfort and routine to a degree. But I would never trade this crazy Jesus following life for anything. So here I sit waiting until we go to France for 2-months and waiting for God to ask the question again. I sit in expectation, in anticipation, and in faith. Waiting to hear the voice of my Lord. I sit here thinking about my life and once again I am willing to say Adieu to what I know in order to move into what I do not.

Just a thought,

Mike

Search Me

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Psalm 139:23-24.

What a prayer! Praying that God would search and test your heart is a dangerous prayer. It is not only a dangerous prayer, but I think it is an incredibly faith-filled prayer because in order to pray this mighty prayer of faith you need to trust God. I don’t see any way you can pray for God to test you unless you trust Him to be gentle with you. If you are scared of God, you can’t ask Him to search and test you. Not because of what He might find but how He might react. If you are scared of God, then you are afraid of how He will respond. However, when you love and trust Him, you know even if He finds junk, He is going to be gentle with you because He loves you.

When my daughter asks me if her room is clean, she is saying “Daddy I trust you to be honest with me and not freak out because I missed something.” If (and when) I find something I am more than likely going to pick it up and take care of it for her. How much more does God help us? We must come to the same place with God. We must come to the place where we love and trust Him enough to ask for testing. The testing is for our own good. James says that the testing produces perseverance and we need perseverance to move forward in this life. The testing then becomes a time of growth and communion between us and God. Oh, how good it is to be tested by the Lord.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

 

 

Failure is not the end

As time limited creatures we often see failure as the end. If we fail, then we assume that is it and it is time to move on to something new and forget the past. The problem is that we are time-limited creatures. We lack the broad perspective God has to see that a failure now is not a permeant end to that dream, plan, or task. Sometimes failure is just a postponing. To be sure if we fail at something, we have two choices. We can either wallow in that failure or we can move forward. There is nothing wrong in grieving a failure. Some are rather big and hurt for a while. But at some point, we have to move forward. We have to dust ourselves off, dry our tears and say now what. Again, it might take a little while to get there but we must get there. I want to look at two people in the Bible that failed.

First is Jonah. We all know Jonah’s story. God told Jonah to go Nineveh and Jonah said no. Then because that was not enough for good ole Jonah, he boarded a ship for the opposite direction. The storm came, he was thrown overboard, got swallowed by a whale or great fish, repented, eventually got to Nineveh, preached the message that was given to him, the people repented, and Jonah sulked some more because he knew God would relent. Jonah failed in the beginning though. His failure was a deliberate rejection of the call of God on his life. He willfully and intentionally rejected the task placed before him and failed. But God being rich in kindness and mercy heard Jonah when he repented and allowed him to continue on and accomplish the task set before him. Make no mistake about it though, Jonah failed. But failure was not the end, it was only a delay.

The second story and granted there are a lot we could look at, is Paul. We don’t think of Paul as failing. Sure, Saul failed greatly. He wanted to wipe out the Way (Christians) and he condoned the stoning of Stephen. Saul failed big time, but Paul the great Apostle he did not fail. I think before I continue, we should clarify the word fail.

When I talk about failing, I am not talking about being a failure. I am not saying that if a person fails, they are a failure. For example, when I started a construction/handyman company it was a failure. If someone runs for president and they do not succeed, then their candidacy was a failure. Things can be failures, but I don’t think we should so quickly associate people with the word failure. It should take a lot and a lack a moral character for us to label a person a failure. People can fail in things all the time that does not make them a failure. It also does not make failing such a bad thing. Back to Paul.

In Romans 1:13 Paul says that he has often desired to come to Rome but was prevented. This means that his attempts to come to Rome have failed up to the point of him writing the letter. He wanted to and tried to but was prevented for some unknown reason. He failed to accomplish his desire to visit Rome. When we read about Jonah, we might want to label him a failure (which we should not) because he failed but with Paul, we quickly understand that it was not his fault. The thing is that they both failed. Yes, one was their own fault and the other likely was not but failure to accomplish the task was still the end result. Well, not the end…

See what looked like failure was in fact just a delay. Jonah ended up in Nineveh. He preached and the entire city repented. Because of his bad attitude, we get Jonah 4:11 which is a verse that shows us just how great God’s heart is. Jonah failed but it was not the end. Yes, his attitude never changed (at least that is recorded) but he still eventually accomplished the goal.

For Paul, he eventually ended up in Rome. From Rome, we get the Pastoral Epistles (1&2 Timothy and Titus) as well as the Prison Epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon). Without the initial failing, we would not have 7 of the books of the Bible. We would not have the Scriptures about the amour of God, the supremacy of Christ, our place with Christ and so on. We would be missing so much if Paul had succeeded at first. Not only that but when he finally got to Rome, he was able to speak to the most powerful men in the empire. What looked like failing in the begging was really delay.

We fail. It is just that simple. We cannot possibly succeed at everything every time. Sometimes it is because we mess up. That happens. We make mistakes, we are weak, we miss our shot, we get big headed, we sin, whatever. Sometimes the failing is clearly on us. When that happens. Do what you need to do to correct it. Learn, study, repent, whatever it is, do the work you need to do. Sometimes, however, we fail for reasons that are beyond us or our understanding. God stops our plans, the devil interferes, people get in the way, people don’t help, whatever. If you have prayed and you know without a doubt that you did not cause the failing then dust yourself off, dry your tears and move forward.

Failure is not the end. Yes, some doors get closed permanently when we fail to accomplish the task but that does not mean it is the end. It just means there is something else to do. Sometimes this failing is simply a delay.

Just a thought,

Mike