Breakfast Is Served!

I’m reflecting this morning on the end of the gospel of John and a few key points seem particularly relevant to me today:

1-Jesus met the disciples where they were and in their then-present circumstances (he knew where to find them and what they’d be doing: out to sea fishing);
2-Jesus provided for them (a catch of fish too large to haul back into the boat);
3-Jesus prepared for and served them (cooked a meal of fish and bread and gave it to them).

Then, after doing so, He said, “Follow me.” The bible seems to indicate that He was just speaking to Peter, but, John got up and followed Him, too. Martin Luther, in his commentary, indicates that there are two lessons to learn here. First, even Peter, one of the greatest apostles, immediately after having been engaged in conversation with and called by Jesus, lost his focus. He took his eyes off Jesus and became concerned with what those around him were doing. Second, Jesus may have different plans for each one of us. In essence, Jesus responded to Peter’s question by letting him know that it was none of his business what His plans were for John.

So, what do I get out of this? First, I was reminded that Jesus loves me personally, where I am, right now. He knows what I’m dealing with on a daily basis. He knows what is swirling around in my head from one moment to the next. Second, He is more than capable of providing for my needs in my present circumstances. Third, what He has in mind for me is far greater than anything I can come up with on my own. I’ve never had fish for breakfast, but, if prepared and served by Jesus Himself, it would be far better than anything that I could pull out of the pantry or refrigerator to make for myself in the morning. Finally, we are not all called to live out the same story or to serve in the same mission or ministry in our lives. We shouldn’t model ourselves after other people that we think are good. We should model ourselves after Jesus. This is His story and He knows where we fit into it.

Have a great day!

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

In Our Lives: The Glorious Unfolding

“…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48

My cup is absolutely spilling over. I’m sitting here on a Friday morning on my couch drinking a special select blend of Starbucks coffee that a good friend sent me (Thanks Shirley!) that I ground up just two days ago and brewed in a French press this morning. Fortunately, it isn’t my coffee that’s spilling over. No, all of that is being enjoyed the way it should be. What IS spilling over is my recognition of all of the good that is happening in my life that I have to be thankful for.

I’ve witnessed God’s plan, devised long before I drew my first breath, unfolding in a wonderful way over the past two years. In the words of Steven Curtis Chapman, it has been a very “glorious unfolding.” Yes, for those familiar with my story, it has had A LOT to do with The Hands & Feet Project (you can read more about that here), but, I’ve noticed other ways that His plan has been spilling out before me, too.

God has been doing amazing things with my family. We’ve been settling into a new church over the past year and seeing the positive effect that this new environment and community has had on my wife and kids has been nothing short of a privilege to witness. Without knowing my wife and kids, you wouldn’t have any point of reference to notice the dramatic change that I’ve seen in them, but, trust me when I say that my faith in the notion that God knows what He’s doing, and that He will do amazing things if we just get ourselves out of the way and let Him work, has been affirmed and emboldened many times over in the past two years.

So, what now? Now, I will continue to seek His purpose for my family and I. A friend recently introduced me to the word sovereign. It is a word that I may have heard before, but, had no idea what it meant and I had certainly not ever used it. Just in case you, the reader, don’t know what it means, I’ll give you an in-my-own-words definition of sovereign: God is good and everything He does, as a result, is also good whether we understand it or not.

I recognize at this point in my life that there is nothing in my house, my garage, my shed, or my bank account that can offer me any security. Sure, I could work my tail off to fill each of those with things that I think will make me feel more secure, but, the fact is, there is nothing that I can do to protect myself or better myself as a person.

There will always be external circumstances that can compromise, if not completely destroy, what I think I have. So, instead of building up my stores, focusing on the substance of life is my goal. In Randy Alcorn‘s book, THE TREASURE PRINCIPAL, he emphasizes the biblical principle that whatever possessions we gather here on earth are subject to forces and circumstances beyond our control:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”

Matthew 6:19

Alcorn makes the point that while the material things that we collect and gather over the course of our lifetime are finite, treasure that we build up in heaven by living out God’s will in our daily lives, is eternal. Whatever we think is good here is temporary and fleeting in comparison to God’s infinite purpose.

Yet, this is not a matter of working hard to serve others here so that I can benefit down the road. No, from my perspective, there is great satisfaction that can come from serving others here and now and, hopefully, giving them a chance to see the hope that lives in me. It is out of gratitude for the blessings and purpose that God has given me that I seek to help and serve where I am called to do so.

If I were $10,000 in debt and you handed me a check for $20,000 to cover that amount and give my bank account a little breathing room to boot, I would, without a doubt, feel compelled to, at the very least, shake your hand and say thank you! But, I am even more compelled to let His will work in me and to serve in the manner that He has called me, since He has taken my life, void of vision and deeply in debt to all of these things in the world that I thought were worth my time and, instead, has filled my days with a real and tangible purpose and awareness that He can do things with and through me that will have far-reaching positive consequences for his kingdom beyond what I can possibly comprehend!

I truly believe that it is our responsibility as believers to look for where the need is greatest and, then, to look for ways that we can address that need. That is precisely what Christ did and what I will continue to do going forward. His grace has and will continue to be sufficient in my life and I will gladly move forward, one step at a time, without as big of a concern for a final destination, but, instead, with every breath, a prayer of thanks and a request for guidance to know where to land each new footfall on the path that He has prepared for me.

Which Criminal Would I Be?

It occurred to me this morning that the thieves that hung on crosses on both sides of Jesus serve as a clear example of the choice we all make at one point or another, if not every day, in relation to the role we invite God to play in our lives. The first criminal cynically mocked Jesus saying “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!” He didn’t recognize Christ for who He really is, but, instead, took the popular position of mocking Him, with a complete absence of humility.

But the second criminal took ownership of his own failings and, in humility, said, “Don’t you fear God since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong…Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

I need to take ownership of my selfishness and shortfalls on a daily basis and acknowledge that He suffered through what I deserved. I need to make that daily decision to turn from myself in humility and accept the gift that He, though I certainly don’t deserve it, has given me: His love and the hope of paradise.

Which criminal are you?

Written in response to Luke 23:39-43

“I’m Not Afraid. No, I’m A Believer”

“I just don’t understand why it has to be this way.” Those were the most honest words my dad ever uttered to me with regards to the cancer that was, at the time, just a few short months away from finally robbing him of his life. My dad was a product of his generation: a man who worked hard and didn’t talk about his feelings. It was an extremely difficult pill for him to swallow. He had an amazing track record of getting the short end of the stick. He wouldn’t have been a good poster child for the notion that people get what they deserve. It was a horrible way for his life to end and anyone who reads this blog or who knows me at all, knows that the seventeen month journey that I endured, from the moment my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer until the midnight moment when he passed away as I sat with him in his bed, was a terribly dark, trying, and painful journey for me, too. It was like watching a fatal car crash happen in slow motion over the course of over a year’s time. As his main caretaker, I was there at every turn carrying a progressively heavier load as his condition worsened to the point where he couldn’t talk or do anything for himself. The description of those months as the darkest period in my life is, to say the least, an understatement.

As dark as it was, though, the backdrop of shadows revealed a thread that was just beginning to strengthen and glimmer intermittently, reflecting a faint, still, small hope that peace would be found, at some point, further down the road. It wasn’t, however, a hope that relieved my pain or a miracle that washed all of my stress and fear away. Nor was it a time machine that could beam me to some future point and time in my life when I would be stronger. It was, simply, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” (Hebrews 11:1). I can’t remember exactly how or when, in the midst of that journey, I came across Psalms 18:16-19, but, when I did, it was immediately relevant and became the main security handle that I have held onto tightly ever since:

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me;he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

The identity and timing of “a spacious place,” however, remained a mystery to me until the naming of Kevin Max as the new lead singer of rock outfit Audio Adrenaline.  Heartfelt encouragement from Kevin to consider “the least of these” set off a series of events, one of which was an introduction to the work of The Hands and Feet Project. As described in a prior post titled, “How To Live Life,” I was inspired to step out in faith and commit to donating profit from the sale of my Dad’s house to The Hands and Feet Project. After making the donation and relaying my Dad’s story and an explanation of how the donation came about, Hands and Feet Project director Mark Stuart extended a generous gesture by asking if they could name the kitchen in a new building that is currently under construction in honor of my dad.

Without going into too much detail, the redeeming and burden-lightening effect that his gesture had on my family and I with regards to the memory of my dad, a guy who always worked hard and looked out for others, but, seldom received his due, was nothing short of monumentally life-changing. Almost instantly, the weight of several months of my life characterized by mourning and wondering how to navigate life without the man who was the best man in my wedding, my best friend, my Dad, started to lift and a new and inspired life swelling with purpose and hope began to emerge. With one kind gesture, my Dad’s legacy would be  shifted from one of loss and emptiness to one of eternal hope in a vocational school kitchen from which teenage Haitian orphans would be receiving their daily meals as they developed skills to become productive Haitian citizens.

I know that Audio Adrenaline’s (the band that started The Hands And Feet Project in 2006) new song “Believer” is being explained by the band as the story of blind surfer Derek Rabelo, but, it wasn’t long after the album’s release that I found my own story told in the lyrics of the song. From an adult life characterized at first by complacency, and then by utter darkness, to a life of purpose and meaning, learning how to step into places where Jesus wants those who are His to go,  mine has changed significantly. Now it is I who am finally “giving up, letting go of control,” not only as I make preparations for a January 2014 short term mission trip with The Hands and Feet Project to Haiti, but, also, in my daily life. I’m learning that my personal comfort and convenience are not a priority, but, that loving others as myself, and in doing so, honoring God above all, are the priorities that matter. In fact, I’m learning, now, about what living life more abundantly really feels like. Each moment spent in my classroom teaching fifth graders is more passionately invested. Each hug and kiss from my wife and kids is more distinctly savored.

Like Derek Rubelo, I can’t necessarily see the waves of life coming, but, learning to feel my way through, with faith,  “I can walk on the water with You, Lord.”

I want to live this live unsafe, unsure, but not afraidWhat I want is to give all I got somehow, giving up letting go of control right now‘Cause I’m already out here, blind but I can see, I see the way You’re movingGod how I believe that I can push back the mountains, can stand on the wavesI can see through the darkness, I’ll hold up the flameTake me to the ocean, I want to go deeper, I’m not afraid no, I’m a believerAnd so I lose this life to find my way and come aliveThey can try to deny what’s inside of me, but there is more, can’t ignore all the things unseenOh I believe I can walk on water with You, LordWhen I walk through the valley of the shadows, when I’m trapped in the middle of the battle, I will trust in You‘Cause trouble comes, but you never let it take me, I hold fast ‘cause I know that You will save meI will trust in You, I will trust in YouOh here I stand all alone waiting on you, Lord, waiting on You

Learn more about The Hands & Feet Project at http://www.handsandfeetproject.org/

Motion

I wrote the following poem about a month ago with a very clear and personal interpretation taking shape as I typed each word and to me that very personal narrative is still very strong. It is one of hope and grace and motion. Now, though, I have the privilege of watching those same notions materialize in other places and in the lives of other people around me. I’d like to dedicate this poem to a friend who continues to inspire me on multiple levels as his life continues to unfold as an amazing and very tangible testament to God’s grace and the wonderful way in which my Abba has chosen to weave it through the stories of those who leave themselves open to His hope.

The call resounding
An echo returning
The claim He staked on me
Catacombs filling within
Even their walls soon yielding
To the lightless’ unbinding
His grace like the sea
A rolling tide within
Destroying my frailties
The resentment
The fear
The jealousy
My measured love
Soon
Now
Free
To be more
To be His
Clearly

for K

Prayers Of A Fool… (via the beautiful due)

This post hit me square and moved me surely. Many of my friends and family know that my dad is currently battling stage four brain cancer and that the name of our fundraising team (Angels Among Us 5K to raise funds for research at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University) is: TEAM JIM – “…one foot in front of the other…” The quote is philosophy on this journey. It has translated into my own growing love of running as I better my health and strengthen my determination for the sake of him, my wife, and my kids. But, after reading this post, I shall pray that all my runs and my work be dedicated to others. I found this blog through the blog author’s association with my favorite author Brennan Manning and I will certainly be continuing to follow its new posts.

prayers of a fool... Eric Liddell said ‘when I run I feel His pleasure.’ I’m no Liddell, in that I’m not fast, swift. But I can run far. And when I do, I feel His pleasure. Two or three times a week I head out on the lunch hour and run far. Sure, the sun’s directly overhead and lately its been 90+ degrees at noon, but I’m aware that not everyone gets to run in the shadow of Pikes Peak, so I ‘suck it up, buttercup.’ Here’s the deal. For me, running is praying. No, I’m … Read More

via the beautiful due