Encouragement in time of Discouragement

Discouraged I don't know exactly what to post today…there have been many days that have passed since I last wrote SOMETHING for this blog.  To say that I've been "discouraged", would be an understatement.  I've had to spend some time over the past weeks discerning the difference between discouragement and despair. 

The difference is becoming clearer to me…despair is more of a debilitating emotion that can often accompany discouragement.  It is a feeling that can extract and defeat.  Discouragement is more of cry of the heart that proclaims, "give me a reason, any reason, to take the next step".  It has not been an emotion as much as it has been an experience that has led to a longing…a longing for hope, for support and ENcouragement. 

Nehemiah. 6:9 For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, “They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.

God is strengthening me…I read, ponder the truth of the scripture…read some more…think deeply about how God's Spirit is holding me during a time of waiting that seems to be lasting an eternity.  Voices that have strengthened me have been plentiful…knowing that there are those who have stood with us in the gambit of these days has brought light in times when darkness could be proclaiming victory.

Trust me friends…the battle isn't over…but there is ENcouragement that is coming our way…I have not given completely into despair…I'm holding on to promises, love, hope, and to the only means of security that a person can have in a time of wandering in the wilderness – that being the true and ever-present, ever-ENcouraging God.

An appropriate “sign”…

Christians-at-play_2 Last night, I was hanging out with my son.  One of the things he was sharing with me was how some Christ-followers that he knows have now "banned" everyone from having any books or recorded sermons of Rick Warren's.  Apparently, Rick's interview on Larry King recently regarding gay marriage was not "wishy washy" (my son told me those were the words that this one pastor used).  This one church took all of Rick's books out of the church library as a result…now, I'm not a "fan" of the Saddleback cults of personality and mega-church.  I not a mega-church lemming. 

EVEN SO, I still have respect, admiration and "love" for what God has done in that ministry…many of you know, we lived in the shadow of Saddleback for years.  Even when I was the pastor at Good Shepherd in Irvine, we attended Saddleback on Saturdays occassionally (when they were in the tent – early days of the movement).  So, though I have issues with Rick (e.g. he once told his congregation to boycott Disneyland, something that the rest of his denomination was doing…oh yes, Saddleback is a Southern Baptist Convention congregation), I not going to throw a brother under the bus.  I thought to myself as my son was sharing (by the way, he was NOT in support of what was happening, in case you wondered), "just another GREAT example of Christian love, huh?"  It appears that many people are still purpose driven, that is, purposely driven to not build the body but tear it down…I don't know whether to laugh or cry!

By the way, thanks AGAIN to "The Naked Pastor" for the great cartoon!

Spent the weekend with the Lord and Nouwen

Hells-canyon-snake-river Went on a community campout this weekend at Hell's Canyon on the Idaho/Oregon border.  Hadn't been there before…wouldn't want to be in July but at this time of the year, it is gorgeous.  I took my dog, some food, my bible, my Baby Taylor, "300" and Henri Nouwen's new book, Home Tonight.  All I can share about my time, where I was reflecting, praying and meditating on God's words to my heart, is the following quote from the book:

"The first call is frequently to follow Jesus or to prepare ourselves to do wonderful and noble things for the Kingdom.  We are appreciated and admired by family, by friends, or by the community.  The second call comes later, when we accept that we cannot do big or heroic things for Jesus; it is a time of renunciation, humiliation and humility." 

Enough said…I'm leaning into the second call!

The Illusion of Perfection and Utopia

2392166973_e0e2a2e8dd Whether it is Progressivism or Statism or Non-racist Fascism or Social Darwinism (Evolution of society/culture), there are those in our relativistic culture who really believe that we are a law, a political structure or movement or a charismatic leader away from moving closer to "heaven on earth" (not in a Kingdom of God sense theologically more from a utopianistic perspective).  It is amazing to me how many followers of Jesus are buying into this political/sociological ideology.  Instead of valuing freedom and then acting responsibly in the context of community/relationships, there are those who believe that our freedoms need to be "overseen" by a big government or by a world order that holds on to an fantasy based idealism ("if we only do this…or this…or this, the world will be perfect) that is ignorant of the reality of original sin. 

When the American Prez made reference recently to the "Two Foundations" parable at the end of the sermon on the mount, he used a powerful story to make a point about his financial rescue plans.  Ripping off biblical images for the sake of pushing one's political agenda is a bastardization of the biblical worldview.  The only thing that building our lives on the "rock" has to do with banks, financial institutions and national budgets is the fact that it doesn't. 

We are in the midst of interesting times…I'm sure that there is more reflection from all of us that is to come…we have to remember, our hope is in the Lord…He is the only foundation on which to build a life and community. 

The Beauty and Agony of Waiting

StillWaitingThe word "wait", according to the dictionary, is a verb…it is an action word for essentially personal inaction.  Not that being in a state of inaction means doing nothing…a person in waiting is a person choosing to be in-action..about the discipline of something that is difficult for even the most mature among us…being still, available, looking forward in eagerness but not impatience.

Some of the most difficult moments in life come in times of waiting…I have to admit, waiting is not something at which I excel…I excel at being a patient person but only because I really desire to be liked as a person and the virtue of patience is primarily other-centered.

But waiting is intensely personal…it has to do with trust…with calm longing…with anxiety in the heart that you attempt to keep under someone Else's control. The bible says to:

"wait in expectation" Psalm 5

"wait in hope" Psalm 36

"wait patiently for the Lord" Psalm 37

"wait for the Lord and he will deliver you" Proverbs 20:22

There are over 140 references to the word, "wait" in the bible…ending with the phrase, "wait a little longer", written in the book of Revelation.

I wish I was a spiritually fit as I know I am called to be when it comes to the discipline of waiting.  I've waited for many things in life…thinking I was doing better with the passage of time.  But now in this season of waiting, I find that I am as impatient as ever.  It is as CS Lewis writes in Mere Christianity…"fine feelings, new insights…these are all meaningless unless one's faith actually makes one's life better".  I must admit…I've had a plethora of new insights over the past years…and I've had some good, deep, religious feelings that have kept me connected with God.  Even so, this time of waiting is surfacing within me a shallowness that surprises me and a intense desire from deep within my soul to trust. 

I am going to choose today to wait and to wait "well".  Being a faithful "wait-er" does not seem to me as something that happens miraculously as it is something that is an act of volition…something that one trains oneself to do.  So, again…I'm enrolling in the Grad School section of a course on waiting.  I pray that I will learn today and rest in tomorrow the ability to faithfully wait.