Recommending new Mercy Me

Different kind of post today – a brief review of Mercy Me’s latest record, Welcome To The New. At first listen, I didn’t really like it- it was too different than all – and I do mean all – other worship music in style and … Tone is the only word I can think of. 

But, after some time with it, I’ve changed that opinion. This is brilliant. Pure power pop, with an incredible array of musical genres. The songs are produced and arranged like “real” secular hits but incredibly, through the lyrics, maintain with no doubts the reverence of the deep subject matter: the Good News. 

I highly recommend this record!

Unmet – Yet

Sometimes I really do wish there was a way things in life could be ‘unmet’. As in undone. A do-over with an alternate path taken, or an event avoided. This is usually because of something that was ‘unmet’ in the first place – something that never, in fact, did happen. Isn’t it funny how the same word can be used to express completely opposite ideas.

The official definition of unmet is ‘(of a requirement) not achieved or fulfilled.’ That’s it. There’s no second meaning for going back and ‘un-meeting’ someone or something. For changing what is. The word speaks to that which never was.

Yet.

‘Yet’ because that’s how we humans are. It’s our default way of seeing things. It’s intrinsic. And another word that gives the same feeling as ‘yet’ is hope. Eternal optimism. We all have it – hold it. Cling to it. Otherwise, why would we not just quit? Just turn off the movie and go to bed. Admit it. You really do want to see how your show ends. Deep down, you believe that the ending will be all right.

“Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.” -Aragorn

Yes, I know. Everyday some of us do give up. Check out. Turn life’s TV off. But most of us just retreat for the night with full intent to come out fighting in the morning. Even when the odds are totally against us, and “the fortress is taken”, there’s a manner in which we can go out. Fighting. Go down swinging. We just can’t do nothing.

“But I’m gonna try and give a little hope to you.
There’s a light at the end of this tunnel.” – Third Day, Tunnel

My morning readings spoke to me about this. About hope. About keeping going, despite the times when things look bleak. Washed out. Washed away. Drained. Not coincidentally, this is often how I feel after a hemodialysis treatment. Physically empty. I have to be reminded that this is the step I have to take to shake off the bad stuff. I have to tell myself that I have to have dialysis in order to live on.

“Moods are nearly always rooted in some physical circumstance, not in our true inner self. It is a continual struggle not to listen to [them]. We have to pick ourselves up by the back of the neck and shake ourselves; then we will find that we can do what we believed we were unable to do.” – Oswald Chambers

“…when the temporary joys of this world are taken from us, we’re reminded that earth is not our home. … Trials remind us that our paradise is elsewhere, with our Lord… There will be no unmet desires in heaven because our Lord will satisfy all our longings. He’ll abolish pain and pour his grace out on us forever.” – Trip Lee “Risen”

“God still works through and in spite of people… doing dumb things… [He’s] doing great things!” – Erik Raymond

Each day, these spiritual things I read all relate to one another – or I should say, there is some common theme that I find in everything I read. That is God speaking to me. His whisper. And he’s been prompting me to get beyond “me me me” and my pitiful situation, which can seem untenable, unwinnable, and reach out to share with others. To show what can be gotten through. What he can bring someone, anyone through.

Luke 21:19 ERV
You will save yourselves by continuing in your faith through all these things.

:13 But this will give you an opportunity to tell about me.

…To Bring Comfort Where There Must Be Loss…

For our present troubles are small and won’t last long, yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and that will last forever! 2 Cor 4:17

Heavenly Father, Creator God, for whom nothing is impossible. Lord, this morning the health of others is on my mind: B, B and family, M, R’s dad, to name a few. We humans don’t like the thought of death or even sickness, even though they are both sure to happen to us – the former especially as the final event in this life for every one of us. I think the the real thing we feel, Father, is fear. Some of us fear the manner of our own end. But many fear the loss of companionship of someone dear. Abandonment, of a sort. This fear, Lord, is rooted in believing there is nothing after this life. But your children sincerely work at believing, however, that the death of this body is just a release, a doorway home to eternity with you, Father God, our maker.

How can this be frightening!? It is the removal of all the bad and sad things of this world! It is the reunion with those who have simply left before us.

Lord, I thank you for this new day you have given me. I thank you for the opportunity to be a source of comfort for those who must deal with loss – of any kind, but especially of someone closer.

In Jesus’ life-returning name…

In every joy-filled moment of this day you have made…

Everyday… to pay attention to _____?

I could write everyday. Actually, I do write almost everyday in my journal. But, I’m sorry to say, there I write for me, not for you, Dear Reader. I am sorry about that.

“Work” comes into the picture when I have to – when I feel I have to – translate my thoughts from journal to blog, in the hope (and, to be honest, the expectation) that what I have to say will be of some benefit or interest for you, the one who graciously takes the time to read what I write. I particularly hope that I can give a little hope to you.

But, oh, how I long to know, to see how I’m impacting the world. Don’t we all? And therein lies one of my biggest stumbling blocks. In life. In being productive. In everything, everyday. I scream to be paid attention to. Some things never change!

That’s the question. And the answer. The big secret. The challenge and the test. To what will I pay attention? On what – who – will I focus? My God, the Creator of All? On my own pitiful, selfish efforts and desires? On others and their needs? Round and round and round I go, all day long, on a moral carnival ride.

One of the concepts I learned early in recovery from x is that thinking obsessively about x is what I had been doing up to that point. Next, thinking about not thinking about x was the first phase of transformation. It amounts to the same thing, but it’s just different enough that there’s a pathway out to follow. 1 Corinthians 10:13 “…God will also provide a way out…”. It’s a step on the way to the end result of simply not thinking about x at all.

Somewhere I read that they key to getting over an addiction (behavioral) is to let it die from neglect. Don’t feed it. Ignore it. Starve it. But the trouble with this advice is that it isn’t complete. It doesn’t address the need to fill in all that time that I had been spending thinking about x. My friend Sal calls it “Replacement Therapy”.

Today’s readings all related to this idea – that I could

  • think about x
  • think about not thinking about x
  • not think about thinking about not thinking about x
  • and so on
  • think about something else entirely

And the best, most effective ‘something else entirely’ is God. Jesus Christ and what he has done for me.

Romans 8:34 …Christ Jesus died for us. But that is not all. He was also raised from death and now, he is at God’s right side, speaking to him for us.

Can you imagine someone actually voluntarily taking your place in the spot of execution for doing x? Even if x is something relatively trivial or politically incorrect, and some terrorist was now ready to use you as representative of what was wrong in his/her world. This guy steps out of the crowd of gawkers, offers his own life, and you go free. How would that change your life?

James 1:12 is another motivating verse:

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the Crown of Life, which God has promised to those who love him.

So, that gets me thinking that there’ll be a reward for not thinking about x. Not entirely focusing on God, but it’s a start. Follow this thought up with Romans 8:35

Can anything separate us from the love of God?

“Nothing can separate, even if I ran away.” (Your Love Never Fails.) I always have guilt. Guilt over what I do. Or don’t do. Always I have a nagging feeling that I should/could be doing something else, something better. This verse is my reminder that it’s not what I do, but how I am that matters to God.

I read about the Crown of Life on redeeminggod.com. The word used, stephanos, means reward like a laurel wreath for the winner of a race, and it’s different than the gift of eternal life, which is a “free gift to everyone and anyone who believes in Jesus for it… it cannot be earned or kept by good works.”

That’s another concept I have a hard time with: if my salvation doesn’t depend on what I do, why does it then matter what I do after having accepted Christ? Again, it’s not what I do, but how I am that makes the difference. And, having eternal life already, but then persevering through trial and tribulation to receive and additional reward?!

Imagine heaven as an eternal Super Bowl Sunday (a Patriots one, of course). Already a party. But then to be recognized in front of an infinite stadium for having endured my circumstances? Honestly, I’d be happy enough just being at the game! In comparison, my daily struggles are what’s trivial.

And finally, from My Utmost for His Highest:

Matthew 6:26-28 about the birds of the air and lilies of the field. The sea, sun, stars, moon, and the very air – “they simply are – yet what a ministry and service they render on our behalf! … so often we impair God’s designed influence, which He desires to exhibit through us, because of our conscious efforts to be consistent and useful. … Jesus said there is only one way … to develop and grow spiritually and that is through focusing and concentrating on God. … in essence… do not worry about being of use to others; simply believe on me… simply pay attention to the source, and out of you ‘will flow rivers of living water (John 7:38)'”

I can’t say it better than Oswald. But let me try: I have been still, and I know that God is my Creator. He knows me, and what I was made for, what I was made to do. I am focused on him, and therefore, whatever I do and whenever I do it, he uses to work on and with others through what they see in and hear from me throughout the day.

The key here is that, in order to see and hear from me, I have to be out there in relationship with them, and that’s why my isolating away thinking only about my x is so completely ineffective. And wrong. Useless. Nothing to pay attention to.

Rx: Take FAITH

Friends, I’m off – I’ve been off – my medication.

Yes, I confess. I haven’t been taking my own prescription, following my God’s plan of care. Oh, it’s not the once-a-day doses I’ve been missing. I’m right here in the examination room on-time every morning for The Word, journaling my symptoms, trying to purge the evil that seeps into my heart through my worldly-focused thoughts, words, and actions. Or non-actions. And just look at these blog-dates – see, I’m on my written spiritual/physical therapy.

But, that’s not the whole treatment regimen. I admit, it’s because I’ve been feeling – or rather, trying to feel – “fine.” Like I don’t need the extra draught of cure-all. “I’m OK.” “I don’t feel BAD, just not so GOOD.”  I literally ‘feel healthy’ but then I go for hemodialysis 3x times a week, which clearly is evidence of sickness, and definitely leaves me drained and unable to do. Or less-inclined to do.

Sometimes, I honestly don’t like the side-effects. I get all jittery with this urgent faith, as if I’m at war in an invisible realm, while everything on the surface seems perfectly rational and peaceful. No worries. Nothing to fear here. “All’s well that ends well.” Meanwhile, my vitals are borderline, nearly flat-line as I wander in and out of godly consciousness through the rest of the day. Oh, I know I need the dialysis spiritually just as much as my blood does.

You know what I’m missing, don’t you? Proper rehabilitation requires swallowing that peace-pill promptly. It’s my PRN, which mean “pro re nata”, “as needed”. For me, it stands for Pray Right Now, and it’s an immediate fix, the breath from a divine rescue-inhaler or drop of God-glycerin under the tongue. At its very least, it brings the self-doubt and depression under a small semblance of control, and calms my mind enough so that I can remember “whenever I am afraid, I trust in you”. (Psalm 56:3, memorized and mesmerized.)

You see, I continue to be totally hung-up on the aspect of how my doing impacts my salvation. We’re told that there’s nothing we can do to earn, afford, or deserve God’s eternal life-giving gift of grace. And this is true. But it’s because Christ has already completed the action for that part of the healthcare plan. He’s already paid our premium.

Frankly, though, there is an element of this faith and spiritual care-taking, this cure, that does depend on what I do. I have to know and research the prescription, renew in daily, believe whole-heartedly that it will work as promised, and actively take it, all day, and especially when needed. Especially during all those “at a time’s”.

Take one day… at a time.
Take one moment… at a time.
Take one step on the pathway to peace… at a time.

2 Peter 1:5-8 Do all you can to add to your life these things:

– to your faith add goodness
– to your goodness and knowledge
– to your knowledge add self-control (which includes taking your meds)
– to your self-control add patience
– to your patience add devotion to God
– to your devotion to God add kindness to your brothers and sisters in Christ
– and to this kindness add love

If all these things are in you and growing, you will never fail to be useful to God. You will produce the kind of fruit that should come from your knowledge of Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Imagine no… recognition

John Lennon was biased. He had the one thing that made his imaginary world impossible: recognition. The whole world knew who he was, and he had everything- much more than the things he asked us to pretend not having.

Imagine with me, for a moment, a world of zero public identification. (And this post is in no way about being able to get away with evil.) Outside of our own homes, we are completely unknown and unrecognized. Anonymous and androgynous. Only our immediate family and closest friends know us for who we are – just not what we do. How we “contribute to society.”

“It’s easy if you try.”

We work, but there are no name tags. We dress the same, look the same, drive the same car. We still have our unique abilities and talents, there’s just no names associated with any of it. We have our specialists – doctors, chefs, and entertainers. At sporting events, there are no names or numbers on the jerseys. Our movies are all about the average Joe. Our policies are decided collectively, Borg-like. We all get paid. And the daily work gets done, as in any average bee-hive or ant-hill.

What do you think would be different? (Naturally, I’m going to tell you.)

Ephesians 2:9 You are not saved by the things you have done, so there is nothing to boast about. :10 God has made us what we are… so that we would spend our lives doing the good things He had already planned for us to do. “God gives us natural talents and spiritual gifts and hearts with unique passions. And He shapes us further by our individual journeys.” (WiRE).

Somehow, I believe we would be free to discern our purpose – what God made us to do – and would gravitate to it. In anonymity there is innocence, and the ability to simply do the good. We would be loved only by those closest to us, not those who think they know us because they’ve “seen” us in action, associating us only with what we do. If there were no recognition, there’d be no boasting. And there’d be no trying to do what we were not meant to do, only what we were purely and naturally good at. Because they’d be no way to compare ourselves to any one else. The only standard would be, then, doing our best at what ever we did.

What would you do if money didn’t matter – but you still had to do something productive? First, the definition of ‘productive’ would be re-evaluated, and it would have to do with improving the world, making life easier for others. The goal would be practical, serving, Helping Other People Endure (HOPE). Why? Because we were made to work, to spend our energy on something real – something meaningful that shows non-virtual results and not just our own pleasure or entertain-meant. Because personal accomplishments are ultimately empty without the recognition.

We were designed to be recognized – but by who? The masses? No. Individually. Face-to-face. With our loved ones, and our maker.

 

Two Words

On yet another day when I have less than 30 minutes to blog…

For some reason the cliche “I’ll be damned if I (let something happen to me), the implication being that the speaker will do something about it or else… is in my thoughts. It is perhaps, the last great “say what I mean, mean what I say” proverb of our duplicitous times, when bad is good and everything is downside up.

Today’s verses are from Matthew 20. :26 Whoever wants to be your leader must be your servant. :28 The Son of Man did not come for people to serve Him (but) to serve others and to give His life for many people.

From “My Utmost for His Highest”: Luke 14:26 If you come to me but will not leave your ____, … you cannot be my follower. You must love me more than ____, even more than your own life! 1 Corinthians 3:14 If the building they put on the foundation (of Jesus) still stands (on that day), they will get their reward. :15 But if their building is burned up, they will suffer loss. They will be saved, but it will be like someone escaping from a fire. Those two words, “saved, but” gave me the idea for this post. “Saved… BUT!” Such promise yet such foreboding in such a short phrase!

“We are living in a time of tremendous enterprise… when we are trying to work for God … Jesus… takes us over (as if it is Him working for Himself, so)… no one has any right to demand where he will be put to work.

“We never enter the Kingdom of God by having our head questions answered, but only by commitment.”

From Dr Doug Weiss: “Let God continue to work in your life. He will often allow us to go through a process instead of instantly delivering us from a situation or behavior.”

From WiRE (a men’s devotional): “(What shall we fear?) Our ultimate threat (to us) is choosing to live as if (our worldly problems) are bigger than God… Recognize every day, every moment that He’s the most important, most powerful force in our lives, and the we’re His favored sons.

We are. And that’s a very encouraging thought. (Yes, name that movie!)

The End.