Run Like Jonah

Run Like Jonah

go to ninevah
Jonah, however, set out in the opposite direction in order to get away from the Lord.
Jonah 1:3 GNT

“What am I doing here?! I don’t belong here! I am certainly not comfortable in this place! I don’t know what to say or how to say it!”

This was my self-talk last night. My friend and I were leading Celebrate Recovery Worcester (pronounced Wusstah), an inner-city program. The setting can’t be more different than the suburban CRs I attend. But there I was (and wondering why!)

worcester old
Worcester MA

We had a couple of first-timers walk in during the meeting. I had no idea on how to relate to them. Thankfully, my friend could and did, and (to keep a long story short) we just might see them again. But had it been up to me, I fear my awkwardness would have led to nothing. Awkwardness, and fear. Yes, fear.

 

Even as we sat and talked, I was thinking about Jonah and how he ran the other way – trying to get as far away as possible – when God called him to go to the big city, Ninevah. I am not a city person, and I identify with Jonah’s reluctance because of this. But there I was, led by God’s purpose, and I needed to know (to relearn?) how I could do this.

 

jonah-map
Tarshish was in Spain

First, God places us each where we are for a reason. In hindsight, I can see His perfect timing and how each phase of my journey has prepared me for the next, even when, at the time, it seemed all wrong.

 

Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him,
and to which God has called him.
1 Corinthians 7:17 ESV

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit…
John 15:16

Sometimes God prefers that I’m uncomfortable. As Rick Thomas puts it, “God is calling you to do what you cannot do with the ability that you do not have… because His desire is for you to rely on Him… There will be times when God will accomplish things outside of your abilities.” (rickthomas.net) His power and glory will be on display, not anything of mine.

Second, Proverbs 3:5-6 says to trust in the Lord and lean not on my own understanding of things. Easier said than done! I often have to reassure myself that I am in full agreement with what God is doing with and through me, even when it is scary. I believe He “has put dreams in our hearts and writes a destiny for our lives. And if we trust Him enough to take Him at His word, we will find ourselves on a journey toward fulfillment of that dream.” (myfaithradio.com) (Of course, my problem is that I tend to try and envision what that fulfillment will look like. I get way ahead of Him!)

When I am afraid, I will trust in You.
Psalm 56:3
(One of the first verses I found and memorized in my recovery.)

Third. Free will. Sort of. I always have the choice. Or do I? Did Jonah? I am tempted to distract myself; tempted to run like Jonah. “The flesh dies hard and unfortunately for many, they’ve opted to let their dream die before they’d ever allow their flesh to be confronted.” (myfaithradio.com) I remind myself that I choose God and His way. This helps me to really feel 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love.”

Fourth. Love. Love for others. A desire to see all get the chance that I did, to know the Creator.

But how will people call on Him in whom they have not believed?
And how will they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?
And how will they hear without a messenger?
Romans 10:14 AMP

082Finally, what to say? This is an easy one. First, the more I share my testimony – God’s Story in my life – the easier it gets, and the better it’s delivered (I hope). But I remember

…the Holy Spirit will give you the words to say at the moment you need them…
Luke 12:12 VOICE

So, it’s almost like I don’t have to do anything except show up.

This post is important to me because I know the feeling of wanting unpleasantness “out of sight, out of mind.” I have no ill will toward the least of these. I think it’s more about “ignorance being bliss.” I can pretend to not be aware; to be filled with the direction of my own life and not want(?) to worry about anybody else’s.

I have a couple of great songs to go with this blog! Two of my very favorites.

“These Are The Words I Would Say”  is from the Sidewalk Prophets (a great band name!)
You can download it from my Amazon affiliate link here.

“I Refuse” is from Josh Wilson, and is one of the first songs I heard in my journey.
You can download it here.

1:30AM: When you wake up and… you’re awake

1:30AM: When you wake up and… you’re awake

lampHaving faith is like waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep. I know this from experience. I often find myself in the “wee hours,” wide-eyed, and no matter how I try, I simply can not drift away.

adventureAnd so, sooner or later, out comes the coffee and the journal, and I begin scribbling another blogging adventure. There’s usually some main idea that’s stirred me, maybe based on something that has happened recently (in this case, waking up and not going back to sleep, and wondering how (or if) that relates to my spiritual and tangible life).

…you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep.
For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.
Romans 13:11 ESV

281This verse states the obvious. Of course, every second I live brings me closer to that time when “He returns or calls me home” (In Christ Alone). But what actually gave me the idea that “believing is like being awake” is that, once I wake up (like this morning), I know I can not fall back asleep, which is just like knowing that, having become a believer, I can never “unbelieve” again. This can be a good or not-so-good feeling, like the memory of something seen that can never be “unseen.” It can be pleasant or gruesome.

Part of me does not want to forget. Part of me knows I should not ever forget.

Therefore let us not sleep as others do.
But let us be alert and sober.
1 Thessalonians 5:6 MEV

IMG_3338It’s both the knowledge of God’s grace for me (now) and the promise (or threat?) of what is to come (in the future) that’s behind this need to stay awake. I know because I’ve read God’s Word; I believe because I’ve had personal experience that proves His Word.

The only debate, I suppose, is whether this belief (God’s forgiveness of sin) is a constant completely conscious choice (based on my knowledge), or whether it is fully a divine gift, an uninstallable “system-upgrade” to fix some behavioral bugs.

IMG_3346Patient endurance (something we choose) is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will.
Hebrews 10:36 NLT

Those who have been born from God (something we’re given) don’t live sinful lives.
What God has said lives in them. So they can’t live sinful lives.
1 John 3:9 GW

The only thing which causes me to lean toward the former is the fact that I eventually, consistently slip and fall (and want to, in the heat of that moment). I really do worry about it all being up to me. You might say the thought is what “keeps me up at night.”

IMG_3352For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once and for all.
Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins.
There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgement…
Hebrews 10:10,26-27 NLT

On the other hand, this certainty I feel (about never again being ignorant) is a comfort. I was given something, a gift that cannot be returned or put aside or ever misplaced.

IMG_3303The two combine for a very practical effect. I wake up. I get up and begin the new day. (Don’t worry, I take a nap around noon and repeat the whole process – 2 days for the price of one!) Likewise, I fall. I get up again and keep moving forward. Once was for all. I have received the knowledge of the truth.

Til on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid-
Here in the death of Christ I live.

(In Christ Alone)

For songs to go with this post, I simply must include In Christ Alone (the Getty version).
Please download the digital track here.

But here’s a great hymn in a contemporary style that fits the theme of waking and rising, Arise, My Soul, Arise (the Indelible Grace Unplugged version).
Please download it here.

 

“All I have to do is Act Naturally” NOT

“All I have to do is Act Naturally” NOT

“Acting Naturally” for me is, unfortunately, completely contrary to being God’s man. What to do? What to do? Well, “to do” is the key…

“Doing” for me is not – or is no longer – something that comes naturally. I like to sit, to think, to write, to watch, to rest in the sun (like our grown-old dog, Poochie – that’s him above, going for a walk). Featured Image -- 14820I’ve written before about my struggles with following up planning with doing. This morning, I’m contemplating this in a new way. (See? Just pondering…) But I’d like to think that writing this post is, in fact, completing a process. (After all, “to be” a writer is my goal – it is what I want “to be doing.”)

Certainly, I can speculate about why I tend toward inactivity. For most of 2015-2016, I was hospitalized or in physical rehabilitation from severe health conditions. kid-leashI can see, too, a family history, perhaps because my parents grew up during the depression and their parents’ way of not spending was just not doing. (I do have to point out, however, that this led to frequently getting together with extended family, which is and has been a good thing.) Then, there are those stories about me being tied to a tree or kept on one of those kid-leashes. (I shudder at the thought – what could more effectively Pavlovianly limit a person’s desire to go and do?)

The virtue that I think defines the follow-through I’m missing is diligence. So, to start this morning’s topic, I searched BibleGateway.com for it in the AMP translation. The first hit was

Proverbs 4:23
Watch over your heart with all diligence,
for from it flow the springs of life.

At first glance, this didn’t seem of help to me in becoming active. On further thought, though, this watching over my heart is an action at the root of my issue. To me, it infers not closing my eyes to God’s standard, which is not my own, which takes a big effort to follow. (My major addiction, sex, is a perfect example. Keeping to God’s standard for human sexuality continues to be a huge unnatural thing for me, but that’s another post.)

Further down the list of search returns were these verses:

IMG_3765Psalm 119:4
You have ordained your precepts,
That we should follow them
With [careful] diligence.

Proverbs 12:27
The lazy man does not catch and roast his prey,
But the precious possession of a [wise] man is diligence,
[Because he recognizes opportunities and seizes them.]

Now, these get to the heart of the matter! My preference is for the lazy river, but life and growth happen more consistently in the rapids. The noun, precept, is defined as “a general rule intended to regulate behavior or thought.” It derives from the Latin words prae + capere, “before” and “take,” which were combined to form praecipere, meaning “warn, instruct.” If there is anything that should alert us addicts especially, it is a “warning.” (The trouble I find is that I always want to know “why?” and then I feel obligated to put it to the test, guaranteeing my learning it the hard way.)

This is one of those “easier said than done” things, summed up nicely in Ephesians 5:15-17:

 

IMG_3763
me, about to mow for the first time in years!

Therefore see that you walk carefully [living with honor, purpose, and courage, shunning those who tolerate and enable evil], not as the unwise, but as wise [sensible, intelligent, discerning people],
Making the very most of your time [on earth, recognizing and taking advantage of each opportunity and using it with wisdom and diligence], because the days are [filled with] evil.
Therefore, do not be foolish or thoughtless, but understand and firmly grasp what the will of the Lord is (ME: and not your own will). 

Walking carefully and grasping firmly are both very conscious actions. In them, we are advised to be more than normally aware, to check and recheck ourselves, to not be habitual and thoughtless, to not forget because my mind is wandering. (This may be what is meant by “staying in the moment?”)

effortThere’s a fear here: to always be choosing, deciding? Every second of every minute of every hour of every day?! Not only does it sound impossible to do, the very attempt sounds absolutely exhausting. “No rest for the weary?” What a burden it seems!

So I searched on “peace rest.” The answer that was given is the whole point to faith and belief in Christ:

Come to me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation].
Matthew 11:28

Life in this world is not easy. It was never meant to be easy or thoughtless. As a follower of Christ, I am constantly tempted by the world’s “easy way,” and, when the effort of following becomes too much, Christ is my refuge. By focusing on him and not on the weight of the world, I can “do this.”

img_3337IMG_3741
First, we walk, then we run. Then we soar on wings like eagles.

Here’s a great song that expresses my feelings today. It’s Worn by Tenth Avenue North.
Buy the digital download here..

Tipping For Hope

“So, what do you do?”

imageDo you dread the question? How do you answer, when asked about what your time on earth is worth? I know what I want to say, but I also know how crazy it sounds in this modern, post-Christian world. “I live for Christ, to tell of the Good News, however I can. I blog. I worship. I teach. I Share God’s Story in my life. But, oh yeah, I gotta work this ‘job’ to pay my bills because I don’t get paid in money to do those things .”

Maybe it’s the question. “How do you earn your living,” is inquiring about one thing I do. “What are you so passionate about you do it for free (but would accept donations for),” asks something completely different.

Let me be perfectly clear. I am not selling hope. I refuse to. How can I determine a price that you should pay for “the life which God has promised?” (James 1:12 GNT) “I want to give a little hope to you.” (Third Day, Tunnel) That’s why I proclaim:

Come and hear, all you who fear God. Let me tell you what he has done for me.
Psalm 66:16

…be doers of the Word.
James 1:22

I alone know the plans I have for you,
plans to bring you to prosperity and not disaster,
plans to bring about the future you hope for.
Jeremiah 29:11

I want to broadcast the evidence of my life that proves to me that God exists and that Jesus Christ is everything the Bible says he is. First, he is life-saving, he’s rescued me from multiple rock-bottoms. He’s life-changing, making new life possible. Then he’s life-giving. I have another chance through and with him. Last, but certainly not least, he’s life-filling. Saved, changed, reborn, I have new purpose and new value (and values).

And I disclose, freely, that he – my faith, my belief in him – is what keeps me alive, what keeps me going, through dialysis three times a week, through endless temptations to think and look and touch lustfully, through days when I want nothing more than to hide under the covers. And, oh yes, through times when I feel like and think seriously about quitting. But, I believe! He helps my unbelief.

Jesus will do this for anyone. Everyone. What can I tell you about him?

Is sharing a two-way street? What is new life worth to you? Would you tip for hope?

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…about not writing, option 1

How do you write about not writing?

One way is to write no matter where you are. Technology has made it possible to “speak and be heard” nearly everywhere we can go. This morning, I’m sitting one-armed in my dialysis chair using my iPhone to post this. (Sorry, no images today.)

1 Peter 3:15 NIV

Always be prepared…!

The important thing I’m focusing on right now is that what I am saying does not change, only how (via technology) I say it.

The “old ways” are best for the what to say and do; the “new” ways merely give options for how we say or do it. 

So, when I am seeking for ways to write about not writing, I can just do it, right now. 

Your turn! What’s the craziest, most unusual place or way you’ve posted?

Why Do I Fear NOT Turning Back?

Why Do I Fear NOT Turning Back?

My Dear Readers,

I’m in need of encouragement. Today, something may happen that will have an immeasurable psychological impact on my comfort level. I “say” I am a writer and blogger as a means of earning my way; it may come to a point where I have no other choice. Or chance.

Thorin: “You’re afraid.”
Balin: “Yes! Yes, I fear for YOU…”
– The Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug

You see, my self is ever mired in James 1:8 (a double-minded man). I desire, and believe (help my unbelief!) that God has called me – and literally paved the way – to a life of service to others via Sharing His Story in my life. But I do love my padded golden cage, and this makes me consistently irresolute. Shamefully, I don’t/can’t/won’t fully trust Him.

“When he reached the New World, Cortez burned his ships.
As a result his men were well motivated.”
Remius, The Hunt For Red October

Quite often, I lack motivation to pursue this vision intensely. I’m pretty laid back in mood and effort – perhaps even lackadaisical? It is, so to speak, the way I am. I avoid all or nothing scenarios. (Yet I believe that is the way Christians are led to live. Be Living Believing.)

And these past few years of recovering (on disability) from severe health issues (with a few more years to go before I am transplanted back into the “real” world) have been made safe by not one, but two, fallbacks. (If I fail to earn a living as a writer/blogger/speaker, I have job – to me, a four-letter word – leads.) But suddenly, Plans B and C are in jeopardy, before Plan A has really gotten started.

“Follow your bliss.”
“Where you stumble, there your treasure lies.”
– Joseph Campbell

I’m certain you all will understand my fear of not turning back. Dare I risk the certain discomfort and stress of risking all? Of forcing myself into a life of making my bliss a “should/have to do” instead of “enjoy/want/like to do”? Of committing to this one thing? (How long can one keep all options open?)

The thing is, my life IS a story of repeated miraculous provision – those just-in-(God’s)-time rescues. The evidence throughout my past is refutable. We’ve never not had our basic needs abundantly filled. I have every reason to

Trust in the Lord with all [my] heart and lean not on [my] own understanding;
– Proverbs 3:5-6

He has made my paths straight (although kind of like a stock market uptrend), yet I still resist submitting 100% to him.

It pays to take life seriously;
things work out when you trust in God.
– Proverbs 16:20

Dear Followers, you have read some of my “work” (it hasn’t felt like toil). I need assurance that it “sells”. Is it worthy? Please comment. Can you make me sure?

The only bad decision is no decision, because it leads to inaction.”
– Jonathan Fields

The featured image is our senior kitty, Squeaks, who came to interrupt my writing this post. Kind of just like the doubt and fear that hampers me figuratively.

To Speak Of Knowing What I Can Not Prove

My Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Let us take a moment to speak quietly. Let us each be quick to listen, thoughtful in our response, and very, very careful to watch for even the slightest resentment in our words. Everybody knows a gentle answer turns away wrath, while a harsh retort stirs up anger.

We are all the same, are we not? Don’t we all have eyes? Don’t we have hands, bodily organs, a human shape, five senses, feelings, and passions? Don’t we all eat the same food, get hurt with the same weapons, get healed by the same medicine, and warm up in summer and cool off in winter? If you prick us, don’t we all bleed? If you tickle us, don’t we all laugh? If you poison us, don’t we all die?

And if one of us is verbally treated badly, what then?

I speak just of speaking in this post. Discourse is truly what connects us in a civilized society, written or spoken. But there are at least two layers to it. On the surface, our meaning might be plain, but, buried between the lines, there can be a very different thing. Sometimes we hope it will harm. Don’t we all know this?

We all stumble in many ways. Is there anyone who is never at fault in what they say? Is there anyone who is perfect, and able to keep their whole body (and tongue) in check? I have only ever heard of one, Jesus Christ. And he taught and showed – he was a living example of – what is then the best, kindest, most honest, and purest reply.

(Apologies, but this is not a post about what Christ actually said. May I suggest a study of The Bible if more information is desired?)

My point is that Jesus spoke quite honestly with those who disagreed with him, even when there were no facts or data or statistics – nothing provable – to be had about what he said (specifically about the corruption of the Pharisees, etc). He spoke of knowing what can not be proven, yet is still truth. Parables, allegories, analogies, metaphors were helpful in doing this.

I’ve read and heard many opinions about Christ – in regards to whether he was truly who he said he was. But – regardless of the state of the speaker’s faith – none denied that there was a man who, roughly 2000 years ago, turned the world upside-down as the founder of Christianity. This is history, and we all believe history happened, don’t we?

Likewise, history documents many other social and political events and movements, wars and the causes for, in, and of them, and world-changing individuals. Those who did good and those who did evil. Those who brought great evil here: assassinations; enslavement; genocide; swindling of basic human rights. Can we agree on this? That these things happened, and they still happen today, and that no person or nation is NOT susceptible. “Caveat Emptor” remains a necessary watchword.

We can disagree on the why this happen(s/ed). I believe that humankind was created to be good, but, in falling (in the proverbial Garden), has been broken – beyond our own ability to repair. Hence the need for salvation, for being made right with our Creator. We now individually must specifically and intentionally choose good – and can quite easily take the other path.

We can choose poorly because of greed, or hurt, or hate, or simple ignorance, or purposeful deception by another. It is this latter cause I am writing about today. Knowing what can not be definitively proven. We can be very sure, with history as our witness, that there are people who deceive and manipulate to get what they want, and that sometimes what they want is power over others. These people will seek to conceal their methods. To hide what they do. For everyone who does evil hates the light – for light will expose his deeds.

Same as it ever was.

These days, I keep no doubt that there’s at least a grain of truth in any rumors and allegations I hear. And I hear so many! They are, in themselves, damning evidence. We all know. We don’t need it to be proven to us.


This post took a while to put together, and I could spend a lot more time on it! But one thing about blogging is that it is meant to be more of a concise form of writing (as opposed to a book). Hope you enjoyed reading this and can see the point I was trying to make.

Regarding the ‘why’ I wrote this today, I hope it’s obvious that it is about the US presidential election. “Corruption” and “government” go hand-in-hand. It’s one of those things you’re either realistic or foolish about; one of those things we just ‘know’.

And, yes, I quoted or paraphrased Bible verses, movies, songs, and even Shakespeare in this post. Kudos to you if you recognized:

  • The Merchant of Venice
  • James 1:19
  • Proverbs 15:1
  • LotR
  • Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade
  • John 3:19-20
  • Talking Heads