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.

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First, Works Don’t Come First

First, Works Don’t Come First

This is a post about being able. Being able to give. I think.

img_1356My time today took me all over the Bible, from Chronicles to Psalms to several New Testament books. I have a dozen verses that seemed relevant to what I was discerning – that is, what I was thinking on and hearing from that quiet voice which connects me to the Creator, Spirit, and Savior.

So, I say, “I think I know what this post will be about.”

It’s not just about giving. It’s not about wanting to give. It’s more about realizing what I have been enabled to give. IOW, what I have been given to give. And, yes, it has sadly taken me a long, long while to figure this out. (I’m still not fully convinced I have figured it out!)

Certainly, it’s not money! Lol! I have no money to throw around. I do, however, have confusion about the role finances should play in how I give what I have to give (because, well, I’ve been given it, I have not been sold it to resell like some distributor.)

IMG_0844Did I pay for what I have? Well, I’ve suffered some but despite a calamitous life, I can’t claim any credit for where I am, what I have today. (Responsibility for where I ended up at my worst moments is another matter!)

So, I’m talking about being able to give, about knowing where and what my bountiful gifts and blessings are, and proceeding from there. First and foremost, works don’t come first. I definitely have something to give, yes, but it’s nothing that was my idea or of my doing. That is to say, first I received it and then maybe I developed it a tiny bit. I made it presentable. I dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s because I was taught that much.

But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from you, and from your hand we have been given.
1 Chronicles 29:14 AMP

 

IMG_1009
Waldo Canyon Fire CO 2012

Maybe a good analogy is the fire brigade – y’know, a line of people passing buckets of water one to the next to get water to where the fire is. I’m like one of those people in the middle. I don’t have any special skills. I didn’t have anything to do with making the water or the buckets. I’m not even sure from where either came. Nor can I see the fire (although maybe I can smell the smoke.) I’m not on the front lines. But I surely do feel that motivating sense of urgency to stand and pass, stand and pass, to keep the buckets moving.

 

But I do not consider my life as something of value or dear to me, so that I may [with joy] finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify faithfully of the good news of God’s [precious, undeserved] grace [which makes us free of the guilt of sin and grants us eternal life.]
Acts 20:24 AMP

315Okay, we’re digging into this subject now. First was what Jesus has given in response to the mess we all make (our anti-good-works, if you will). That’s grace, the good news, precious and undeserved. Second, although I feel the urgency, I feel joy, too. I’ve been told – promised – that this fire’s fiery thirst will be quenched. Third, I’ve come to (mostly) accept that my place in the brigade is important but not vital. I’ve been placed in that specific spot for a reason. I’m upstream (to receive from) and downstream (to pass on to) the people I need. They represent my sphere of influence, my family, friends, and contacts.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13 AMP

That ministering I am to do has two parts. One is sharing the good news. The other is about my responsibility for worldly care. One’s more obvious (and easier to do) than the other (but it’s not always the same one! Lol!)

You know personally that these hands ministered to my own needs [working in manual labor] and to [those of] the people who were with me.
Acts 20:34 AMP

IMG_1015There is some work to do. Work that must be done. That only I can do? Perhaps, but only in a small and unique way. My story is just one chapter in God’s story, and it’s relevant to some few that He has chosen. Only He knows. Some of this work has to do with stewardship of whatever amount of material assistance He provides – my physical stuff.
But (verse :33) it’s not about having a desire for silver or gold or fancy clothes.

Let’s go back to Christ Jesus for a moment.

Who gave himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.
Galatians 1:4 AMP

fire brigadeI think Jesus just might be the first and last guy in the brigade line. He’s drawing the water and making the first exchange. And He’s the one pouring the water out onto the flames. In being both, He’s giving me every example to follow, receiving the bucket from one person and delivering it to the next. There’s no need to think deeply about what or how to do this. The overall purpose for being in the line is obvious so we all can be joyfully singing as we pass the buckets. (Ya, I like the singing part.)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God…
Ephesians 5:1-2 AMP

What’s the takeaway for this post? Well, I’m down to two verses that could sum it up.
Philippians 2:5-8 talks about how Jesus gave up being divine to become in the likeness of men as a servant, becoming obedient to God’s will even to the point of death – and death on the cross at that. I certainly do not “hope” for a death like that! However, if my journey through these past nine years of recovery and sobriety struggles and the fact of my clay-jar fragility has done anything, it is to leave me ready to live and to, ultimately, leave this earth because I have been given belief that this life is not all there is.

Know that the Lord Himself is God;
It is He who made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasure.
Psalm 100:3 AMP

“I want to give a little hope to you.” from Tunnel by Third Day. View it on YouTube.
Download it here.

Now We Who Are Strong–

Romans 15:1
Now we who are strong–

Stop right there!

You may be familiar with the five words that start the chapter, the one whose subtitle (in the AMP translation) is “Self-Denial on Behalf of Others.” Unfortunately, I’m stuck (still) on that first part, the self-denial. How can I do anything for anyone else if I can’t do it for myself?

What about when I’m not strong? I feel this is most of the time, which I guess is understandable given these past nine years of recovery from so many things. Others have been helping me more than I’ve done for them. I think?

So, I googled, “Verses when I’m not strong,” and re-examined what I thought I knew about it. Of course, Philippians 4:13 and Isaiah 40:31 came up in the search results. These are well-known and written about a lot. The one that really spoke to me today was

“My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness.” …
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

When I have lost my strength and my endurance is gone, what do I need to do? I must be reminded to remember to look toward the source of everything and more. He is my source. He is strongest and most powerful when I am weakest and unable to help even myself.

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.
Now may the God who gives endurance and who supplies encouragement grant…
Romans 15:4-5

Sometimes only a prayer can tell what I’m feeling inside. Here’s mine:

Heavenly Father, Almighty Creator God, Master Designer and Crafter of the universe – and more! I like to pretend and play at “knowing” you. I try to sound and look confident in all that I have “learned” about the world and your heaven. I want to be seen as “strong.”
And some days, I am assured, I can feel re-assured. But, really, sadly more often that not, I am merely trying to believe; trying not to doubt what you say and show to me.
(Yes, yes! I am sure that you have messages and give blessings to me.)
When I get to thinking I can and I am able, then, without question, I have forgotten again this very lesson. And naturally, I run smack into the wall of human impossibility. James 4:15: Instead, I ought to center myself and every effort on your control of the attempt and the outcome. Everything and more!
When I forget, I run and hide, hoping to escape the inevitability of your promises. Always, everything – and more – comes back to, returns to, You. This is Your story. Your rules. You have all control, all power.
I have one thing: the choice to believe, to trust, to make this prayer by the moment, and twice as often when I doubt. The choice to hope, to rest in Your good intent. Because that is the real question, isn’t it? Not, “Is there a Creator or not?” But, “Do I believe the Creator loves me, loves us, as He says He does?” When this is what I’m sure of (and not the things I do), then I can ‘release all my held back tears,’ and let You, God, carry me through whatever I face. Lord, I  believe! Help my unbelief! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Here is one of my very favorite songs, which I first heard very early in this journey God has me on. Whatever You’re Doing (Something Heavenly) by Sanctus Real (YouTube with lyrics). Buy the digital download here.

And here’s the songwriter’s story behind one of my favorite new songs, They Just Believe by Josh Wilson. Buy the download here.