Only time will tell…

It has been a long six-plus months. I have so missed researching, writing, sending words out into the web-world to shine a light on Jesus. Instead, He’s been shining His light in my own home.

A car accident in January has me still dealing with residual injury, including vertigo that has my brain so tired by the end of the day, early bedtimes are commonplace.

I cannot do what I would normally do…and I hope this is temporary. But in the meantime, He has shown Himself so faithful. Prayer warriors have raised up this challenge time and again. And family with keys to the house have washed more dishes for me, mowed my lawn, painted many a square foot, and driven me about. Admitting what I cannot do has allowed others to help in ways I would have previously, stubbornly refused. Yet, the dishes needed doing. The lawn needed mowing. And they did it for me, out of love, knowing it would bother me that they weren’t done, and even more that I couldn’t do it.

Sometimes as a teacher, seeking to show how Jesus loves us in our every day, we are put in situations where we must receive that which we hope to send out to others.

I can’t write much. I haven’t been able to read for any length of time for months on end as the side-to-side eye motion increased the vertigo. I haven’t been able to do or be many of things for which I had purposed my life. I believe those things will return. Only time will tell.

For years, I have longed to write about Sabbath. And bits of thoughts have appeared on this blog. Yet I wonder if a more powerful story of Sabbath can be written after this, having experienced a forced, months-long rest of a different sort. Only time will tell.

Whatever you’re facing, know you are not alone. He is with you. And what will come of your current situation…only time will tell.

Make a declaration…

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“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

“For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may about more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” –Philippians 1:2-11, ESV

Make a declaration. With your life, with your love. With your peace, bring calm. With your fire, bring a flame.

Make a declaration. Choose a scripture, a verse or a chapter or a testament. Write it on your heart. Proclaim it in your soul, in your home, from the hilltops.

Make a declaration.

“…choose this day whom you will serve…” –Joshua 24:15, ESV

As Joshua declared to the people, declare to your very soul.

Make a declaration.

“…I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God…” –Deuteronomy 30:19-20, ESV

God called the people to choose. He declared two sides: blessing or cursing. And He declared that they should choose life.

Receive Jesus’ very declaration:

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” –John 15:16-17, ESV

Make a declaration. Make a choice. Because you have already been chosen.

My eyes get in the way…

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I play piano. I learned from my mom, who tried her best to get me to learn music theory. But third kid stubbornness won out. I just wanted to play. I didn’t care about theory and couldn’t see it’s relevance to just playing that song I really liked. I didn’t want to bother with plodding out the rhythm, so I would ask her to play the music first. I would listen to her rhythm and watch which notes her fingers started on so that I could get started without figuring it out first.

She eventually responded to my requests with “you figure it out”, I suspect realizing that I wasn’t learning to play so much as I was learning to mimic.

All these years later, I still don’t know theory. I couldn’t tell you what key a song is in or how to change keys. But I am learning. I have recently taken up scales. These musical exercises that seemed so booooring as a kid, are actually pretty relaxing now. As I increase my hand strength and finger placement ability, I realize yet another thing.

Reading the music is getting in my way. The more I look at the music, I realize I am not actually looking at it. I use the first note of a string to indicate where that first not should be, but I ignore the rest of it. Now, my progressions are moving at a quicker speed where I simply close my eyes and focus on the sound. I know I hit a wrong note because it sounds wrong.

But here’s the kicker: this eye closing is an extension of the prior issue. Yes, I might be learning theory now and practicing scales now, but I am not also reading music. I can read music. I am just choosing to rely on my ear and my finger muscle memory instead. This works for scales. It does very little for increasing my ability to sight read a new piece.

And such is the life of faith. your go to might be your gut check reaction. And most of the time, it might be right. But what happens when your gut is wrong, or worse, quiet? Have you built other skills, other approaches to faith that can fill in when the gut fails? Or maybe you fixate on studying the scripture to the point where you’ve drown out the Spirit. What do you do in that moment when you haven’t a scripture memorized that will assist?

Using the music example, here is what happens. I play piano. But I cannot play piano for church. One, because I do not believe it is my calling. But secondly, I simply can’t. My nerves at not being able to sight-read, my need to practice so much that ear and muscle memory can be relied upon, and my inability to ad-lib- fill in if the song leader take too long to come in result in panic disaster for a church piano player. The same is true in faith. If you only build or rely on one set of skills, you will only have those available to you when the situation shifts. God gives us many methods of seeing, hearing, approaching, and engaging with Him.

I still love music, and I still play piano. And I do so relying on my natural inclinations toward it. You can still approach the Father in your natural inclination. But remember we are at war. And sometimes the enemy purposely wages the battle in such a way that you need to use a different set of fighting to attack. Don’t be caught with only one tool of warfare. Use them all. Practice them all. And you’ll find yourself ready when a new battle arises.

It’s amazing what silence will do…

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I didn’t mean to go radio silent on you. Life offers some interesting turns–nothing spectacular, nothing really all that new. But burblings emerging, breaking the surface, and popping in a way that old ideas shine in a new light.

Quietly, surprising in a whispering oh-look-at-that kind of way, confirmation after confirmation emerges. I wondered for many years if I walked the right path. And yet, in all the reflection that an over-analyzer can offer, I cannot see a different way. These confirmations, showing how the circuitous way I arrived here was instead setting a foundation from which to build.

I went into a hiding of sorts that last few months. Hired to achieve a particular goal and knowing it could take three years to do, I hid from the numbers–numbers only I reviewed regularly. The numbers I was brought in to fix, I hid from them. Reason combined with even my own I-can-do-anything approach said it would take three years. And three years was still an optimistic goal. But what I was seeing in the early numbers for the fiscal year had me wondering.

But the come-to-Jesus moment came. In preparing for a team retreat, I knew I had to bring the numbers out onto the table. I prepared for spending three days brainstorming how to keep fixing the numbers. Oh, those numbers. As I built the projections for the end of fiscal year, I had to stop. At first, the potential deficit looked bigger than I had hoped for the first of three years. But there was that big fish at the bottom of the list. And oh how I needed that big fish. I didn’t wait to get that far, I jumped to the bottom, ran some quick calculations, and dumped that fish into the barrel. It provided just a little more hope. I continued on, and not long later, I had to stop. I went back and double-checked, triple-checked everything to that point. I couldn’t believe it.

I took a lap around my office. How could this be? I dove back in and finished the report. Not only did we stop the hemorrhaging, we climbed out of the hole and were already building a new structure for the future. How could things turn in just a couple months? Well, when 70% of your business comes in during those months and each individual account saw growth, hiding from the numbers quickly becomes shouting them from the rooftop.

And inside, quietly all I could repeat was, “it worked.” And all the while, Jesus smiled. We have killed ourselves individually and as a team trying to start scratching back. And the news met with varied reactions. One, who is in the midst of closing his final accounts for the year, took a step back, leaned over on a chair, shook his head, and commented, “I really needed to hear that.” Another got teary-eyed. And a third laughed because neither she nor I believed she would be able to see it before she retires in a couple years.

I wonder how the reaction would have changed had I not avoided the numbers for those couple months. And I have spent (wasted?) much time wondering the same about my life choices. What if…what if…what if…

But the truth of the matter is this: had I seen the numbers creeping up, oh so slowly, I wouldn’t have felt the relief I felt when it broke through this week. The end result is the same–nothing I could have done would have changed that. But the relief, oh the relief. And I see my life in similar terms now. I can question and second-guess, but I keep coming back to the reality that regardless of my choices, I would have ended up right where I am. And any other path I would have chosen would have only brought heartache.

Regardless of where you are in life and what decisions you’re questioning in hindsight, remember this massive promise–post is on your wall, your screen saver, and every social media page if you need to:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” –Romans 8:28, ESV

But wait, there’s more! Yes, the cheesy infomercial tagline is true here too. Often overlooked, the prior verses take Romans 8:28 from a lovely sentiment to a battle cry:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” –Romans 8:26-28, ESV

You’re not alone in the battle. The working together for good is not because of you. In fact, it is predicated on your weakness and the Spirit’s prayers. Your weakness plus the Spirit’s prayers for you means that everything will work out.

The Fruit of the Spirit is Tangible…

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” –Galatians  5:22-23, ESV

Fruit. In this case, the Greek word used for fruit is “karpos”. As I dug deeper and deeper into the root of this word, beauty emerged from what seemed otherwise commonplace. Over and over again, a phrase or parts of a phrase kept coming through. Greek word after word spoke quietly something I didn’t know my soul really needed.

Fruit is “plucked.” Take a look:

  • karpos — fruit (as plucked)
  • harpazo — pluck, pull, take

For something to be plucked, it has to be visible. It has to have form. It must be tangible. you cannot pluck nothing; for in order to pluck, you must feel, grasp, and pull. Something plucked is not an esoteric concept to be contemplated. When you pluck a cherry off a tree, it isn’t considering the concept of theory of a cherry. You actually grab the thing and pull.

For something to be plucked, it must be real. And the fruit of the Spirit is pluckable.

So often, we teach the fruit of the Spirit with the final tag line of something akin to “can others see the fruit in your life.” There is nothing necessarily wrong with this approach, and I have used it in my own teaching. But in this study, in searching the Greek and the scriptures, that lesson became burdensome–and not in a good way. Frankly, I couldn’t muster the care as to whether someone else could see the fruit. Battle weary with more battles to come, in the midst of verbal onslaughts raining lies into my life, it was not possible for me to care whether that person would ever verbalize that they could see the fruit. So much of my faith has been lived out from leadership positions, in full vision of others, I had lived the “can they see it” life. And I couldn’t tell you the answer.

I needed more. And as I asked for wisdom, He faithfully showed me a different angle to the plucking. It isn’t just that the fruit is tangible to others. The fruit is tangible to me. As the Spirit molds and shapes my life, this promise that the fruit of the Spirit will come means that I will be able to see it. I will be able to touch and grasp and feel the fruit growing. I would be able to point it out for myself, see it changing me.

No longer need we be so concerned as to whether that hard-to-love person sees the love. His promise is that it will be tangible to us. I need not wait for another’s affirmation, for He already affirms that I will see the change. That I will feel the difference. And that the fruit He grows in my by His Spirit will make a tangible difference to me.

Our relationship with Jesus can be all the more intimate as we notice the shine on the apple of patience, and thank Him for growing that one. The sweetness of the raspberry of patience will be tasted, and we go to Him asking for more. And the nutrients from the avocado of self-control enriches our lives in ways that we recognize as only coming from Him.

As we study the fruit of the Spirit, take heart. For the fruit is tangible. And YOU will be able to see it.