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

Perspective: His vs. Ours

I’ve been reading through a year-long devotional written by Billy Graham on YouVersion and one notion that keeps showing up again and again in Graham’s commentary is the concept that our minds are finite while God is infinite. Our days are numbered, but, He is eternal. Our perspective and understanding of other people and events that happen all around us is limited, but, God is omniscient and, from His perspective, He sees and knows everything.

Too often in my life I’ve determined my position, in relation Jesus, in relation to my soul, and in relation to other people, based on my own personal perspective which, one moment, can be one way, but, a moment later, based on any of a number of variables out of my control, or even something as fickle as my mood,  can be completely different.

It wasn’t until I surrendered, after having everything in my life fall apart in a manner that I realized went far beyond anything I could ever repair, to the reality that my only hope begins in a God can that make sense of things that I can’t, that I truly found peace. But, to be able to surrender I had to exercise faith – a placement of trust in that which I can’t see. I had to trust that there is more to this world and this life than what I can see, hear, feel, taste, touch, and process with three pounds of gray matter in my skull.

Everybody has faith. The difference from one person to the next, though, is where each person places theirs. We either place our faith in our own understanding and ability to figure things out and make sense of the world around us or we place our faith in something bigger. For some, this might mean the ever-evolving knowledge of science in which the accepted scientific “truths” of today are turned upside down by the discoveries of tomorrow. For others, the trust that they place in something bigger might be in a form of religion or politics that places one race or group of people on a higher pedestal than another.

My faith is invested in the One who is Love (1John 4:8), the God of Jesus Christ who, while here in the flesh, taught, healed, served, and fed those in need and instructed his believers to, above all else, love God and to love others as themselves (Matthew 22:37-40). He did not come to judge and persecute. He didn’t come to mistreat those who didn’t understand or agree with Him. He came to love, serve, and save and He instructed His followers to do the same.

I am not the most articulate person when it comes to defending my faith by quoting scripture off the top of my head (I had to look up everything mentioned here for the proper scriptural references). I don’t think I posess the quick wit of a person who is apt to win a debate with somebody else they’re sitting across the table from, either. But, I realize and find comfort in the fact that I don’t have to be. My trust isn’t in my finite self, but, instead, is invested in He who is infinite.

“Father, although my finite mind cannot understand all the wonders of the Gospel, I thank You for the assurance of my salvation through Christ.”
-Billy Graham

“Whatever you think is love, whatever you think is peace, whatever you think is good, whatever you think is right, whatever you think He is, He is infinite.”
-Kevin Max

Other posts I’ve written related to the topic of God’s perspective vs. our own:

Randy Alcorn, Kevin Max, and Infinite Providence

In Our Lives: The Glorious Unfolding

Fear In The Face Of The Unknown

The View From The Valley

Here In This Moment, The Sun May Not Be Shining

A couple of great songs that celebrate God’s providence:

“Infinite” by Kevin Max – His new album, BROKEN TEMPLES, celebrates the fact that when we are broken, we are freed to find our peace in Him – the album is due 3/10 and available for pre-order through Pledge Music at http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/kevinmax

“The Glorious Unfolding” by Steven Curtis Chapman – One of my favorite albums, now, specifically because so many of the lyrics on the album, including the title track, focus on this concept of faith in our God who can see so much more than we can.

Is It Worth It?

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Please help us to walk through this open door together to serve with The Hands & Feet Project. Click on the photo to find out how. Thank you!

In January 2014 I joined a short-term mission team to serve with The Hands & Feet Project in Grand Goave, Haiti. I’m headed back there, again, in July for another week and, because my wife has decided to jump in this time around, we’re having to dig deeper and reach out further for help to get there. So, yesterday I spent some time setting up a fundraising site that features a convenient link for kindhearted donors to contribute through and indicates the amount of money we still need to raise in order to make the trip.

It was during the process of putting the fundraising page together that I realized, upon typing the total amount of money that we have yet to come up with, that some people might question whether or not it is worth investing this amount of money into a week-long trip. Wouldn’t that amount of money better serve the needs of the people there if it was sent directly?

It’s a fair question and, after pondering it for myself in relation to my own experience there, my growing familiarity with the kids, mission staff, Haitian staff, and American staff of The Hands and Feet Project, I can state with confidence that your investment in our trip will not be wasted.

Sorting shoes by size for the younger kids at the Thozin site in the storage depot

Sorting shoes by size for the younger kids at the Grand Goave Hands & Feet Project Children’s Village in their storage depot

A significant percentage of the cost to make the trip benefits the work of The Hands & Feet Project directly. The Grand Goave Children’s Village of The Hands & Feet Project is still in the process of building and providing safe structures and buildings for the long-term American missionary staff, short-term mission teams, local Haitian staff and, most notably, the orphaned and abandoned children to live in. Measures are being taken to ensure that the new buildings are built to resist damage from natural disasters like the one that brought Haiti to its knees just five years ago. Donations that the Hands & Feet Project receives go directly toward providing, not just a safe place to live, but, also health care, a balanced diet, an education, and a staff to provide spiritual guidance.

Short-term mission teams bring various skills to provide manual, on-the-ground support and elbow grease to tackle projects ranging from construction and maintenance to recreational and educational activities for the kids that live there. In addition Hands & Feet Project mission teams engage with the local Grand Goave community by assisting with community outreach programs.

Happy to have some new shoes!

Happy to have some new shoes that our team delivered in January 2014

Mission teams coming to Haiti to serve are sent wish lists for supplies (ranging from toothpaste to tools and clothing), by the long-term Hands and Feet Project missionaries, a few weeks prior to their scheduled departure so that they can gather much-needed items and bring them to Haiti as part of their baggage. Because of Grand Goave’s rural location in a third world country where neither the U.S. Postal Service or UPS deliver, incoming short-term mission teams serve as a lifeline to the children and staff on the ground with The Hands & Feet Project in Haiti.

The Hands & Feet Project understands the importance of taking a responsible big-picture approach to addressing the orphan crisis in Haiti. The directors and long-term mission families that lead The Hands & Feet Project on the ground in Haiti have a deep knowledge and respect for the history and circumstances that have made Haiti the poorest country on the western half of the planet. They understand the importance of respecting the dignity of the people and they provide a means to prevent future children from being abandoned by providing sustainable employment through their new and developing Haiti Made initiative. In fact, this trip, for us, isn’t just a one-and-done effort. We sponsor two children that are a part of the Hands &

Kettia is one of the two children we sponsor that live at the Hands & Feet Project's Children's Village in Grand Goave, Haiti

Kettia is one of the two children we sponsor that live at the Hands & Feet Project’s Children’s Village in Grand Goave, Haiti

Feet Project family. This trip will allow me to build upon the relationship with Kettia that I started a year ago, and it will give Angela a chance to start hers. We truly desire to be like long-term family members to Kettia and the other children of the Hands & Feet Project and develop bonds that, though miles and time may separate us, prayer and return mission trips to serve at their Grand Goave Children’s Village, can grow for eternity in Jesus.

Last, but, certainly not least, your monetary support for our participation in this mission enables us to serve Jesus, himself, directly. James 1:27 states that, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress…” Jesus himself explained in Matthew 25:31-40:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I learned about and became involved with The Hands & Feet Project by walking through open doors that I had no plan or ability to open myself. Now my wife Angela is ready to step outside of her comfort zone, too, and I know that this trip is going to have as profound of an effect on her life as it has on mine and I truly believe that this trip will have a profound and positive effect on our marriage, too.

The work of The Hands & Feet Project and their vision to fight against the orphan crisis in Haiti are sound and sound and sure. Please help my wife and I to both walk through this open door and serve in the work of The Hands & Feet Project, bringing hope to the orphaned and abandoned in Haiti, together.

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Going Deeper

Featured Image -- 1767 Kevin Max‘s alternative approach was just the approach that I needed. His music, more often than not, knowingly leans away from that which would woo the center flow of this big river we’re all swimming in. But, not everybody is caught up in the surface flow of the main channel and the concessions that must be made to appeal to the largest demographic. Some prefer to go deeper.

There is something to be said for those who opt for the road less traveled and, yet, shine, “like a piece of gold from the mountainside…” Read my story here: Providence In The Shadow And A Pledge Of Allegiance To The Music And Poetry Of Kevin Max.

Fear In The Face Of The Unknown

I spent a few minutes this evening looking over different definitions and explanations of what fear is and the most common explanations focus on the perceived thread of danger. Danger, of course, can present itself in many forms, from imminent and extreme danger (e.g., coming face to face with a large, angry bear while hiking) to perceived danger which may or may not actually be a threat (e.g., discovering a lump on your body is may or may not be cancer).

As humans we sometimes suffer under the tremendous weight of fear. On the other hand, we also seem to be addicted to the sensations that come by entertaining a small measure of fear and allowing our attention, emotions, and imagination to be carried away by stories, movies, and sports — when we invest our interest in a particular character or team and allow our emotions to rise and fall with the limited uncertainties of either a happy ending, a sad ending, a win, or a loss.

And that’s all fine and dandy as long as we know the movie will end or the game clock will wind down to zero and the stress will be gone. But, what about in our real lives? In reality we don’t necessarily know when or if the job demands will let up. We don’t know what the biopsy results will be or if therapy will be effective. We can’t be there for every challenge that our kids will face as the grow up to support them through to a safe and happy end.

Fear grips our hearts hardest when we don’t necessarily have any input on the outcome. The weight of burden becomes too much for our finite brains to process and we break down under the weight.

In the March 21, 1944 audio clip from the BBC Series “Beyond Personality,” C.S. Lewis entertains a question that many, apparently, asked him regarding how God could possibly give appropriate attention to millions of prayers being prayed to Him simultaneously:

…I’d like to deal with a difficulty some people find about the whole idea of prayer. Somebody put it to me by saying: “I can believe in God alright, but what I can’t swallow is this idea of Him listening to several hundred million human beings who are all addressing Him at the same moment.”

And I find quite a lot of people feel that difficulty.

Well, the first thing to notice is that the whole sting of it comes in the words “at the same moment.” Most of us can imagine a God attending to any number of claimants if only they come one by one and He has an endless time to do it in. So what’s really at the back of the difficulty is this idea of God having to fit too many things into one moment of time.

Well that, of course, is what happens to us. Our life comes to us moment by moment. One moment disappears before the next comes along, and there’s room for precious little in each. That’s what Time is like. And, of course, you and I tend to take it for granted that this Time series — this arrangement of past, present and future — isn’t simply the way life comes to us but is the way all things really exist. We tend to assume that the whole universe and God Himself are always moving on from a past to a future just as we are. But many learned men don’t agree with that. I think it was the Theologians who first started the idea that some things are not in Time at all. Later, the Philosophers took it over. And now some of the scientists are doing the same.

Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life doesn’t consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty tonight, He hasn’t got to listen to them all in that one little snippet which we call “ten-thirty.” Ten-thirty, and every other moment from the beginning to the end of the world, is always the Present for Him. If you like to put it that way, He has infinity in which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames.

That’s difficult, I know. Can I try to give something, not the same, but a bit like it. Suppose I’m writing a novel. I write “Mary laid down her book; next moment came a knock at the door.” For Mary, who’s got to live in the imaginary time of the story, there’s no interval between putting down the book and hearing the knock. But I, her creator, between writing the first part of that sentence and the second, may have gone out for an hour’s walk and spent the whole hour thinking about Mary. I know that’s not a perfect example, but it may just give a glimpse of what I mean. The point I want to drive home is that God has infinite attention, infinite leisure to spare for each one of us. He doesn’t have to take us in the line. You’re as much alone with Him as if you were the only thing He’d ever created.

When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you’d been the only man in the world.

The human brain is a physical organ that is limited in it’s potential to comprehend just as much as it is limited in its mass and size. The notion of having every aspect of our lives and, particularly, our futures under control is an illusion that we will never be able to actually grasp in reality.

Consequently, the peace that we seek in security and control is also an illusion. We cannot achieve peace in our lives. We can’t know all that the future holds, but, we can know He that holds the future. We can’t acquire peace in our lives on our own accord, but, we can trust the One who, in His infinite existence, is able to attend to each one of us fully and at all times. He alone is peace. He alone is hope. He is love. He is infinite.

“Infinite” is a song from the forthcoming album Broken Temples by Kevin Max. In it Max celebrates the fact that God is so much larger than human thoughts can hope to conceive and so much greater than human words could ever hope to articulate. We must trust His word, but, should be wary in trying to limit Him to our own personal human conceptions and constructs. It is a perspective not often articulated in music, Christian or otherwise. Feel free to check out the Pledge Campaign purposed to aid in the release of his new project Broken Temples so that it, like his past projects, can serve as a beacon to those seeking peace and truth in an open manner so that we can all dig deeper and rest in the peace that can only come when we trust Him with the purpose and direction of our lives.

Randy Alcorn, Kevin Max, and Infinite Providence

I came across a blog post this morning by Randy Alcorn called “Surrendering To God’s Wisdom,” and it proved to be quite a worthwhile read. In it Alcorn highlights the dynamic between Job’s limited understanding and God’s infinite providence. Time and time again, God has proven that He can take my messes and reshape them into His victories. As I was noting to a friend today during a lunch conversation, I am starting to notice a pattern in my life: challenges, trials, and circumstances that weigh heavily on me, making me uncomfortable, if not completely disorienting me, keep turning out to be the fertile ground out of which His providence proves true. He knows what he’s doing! It’s really not that complicated, but, too often, I tend to over-analyze each and every circumstance in my life, letting trials and challenges pull me under a rising wave of fear and depression. Because I place too much emphasis on my own need to know what’s going on and to understand all of the variables, I miss the chance to trust God. I miss the chance to live without fear. I place the limited confines of my own brain next to the limitless expanse of the mind of God and then, like an idiot, get flustered and scared when I can’t make sense of the narrow view that I might have of His big picture. The fact is that, whatever I think he is, HE IS INFINITE.

Unwrap Christmas

Perhaps more so than many, I am guilty of wrapping myself in the colorful nostalgic tradition of the holidays that I was born into

Ho. Ho. Ho.

Ho. Ho. Ho.

in 1976. With an ever-present nod to the visions of Clement Clark Moore and the sounds of Bing Crosby, I’ve reveled annually in the green, red, and shiny tinsel of the season. Christmas music, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, holiday lattes at Starbucks, and annual trips to the mountains of North Carolina for Christmas trees have all found their way into my family’s cannon of holiday traditions that make this season what it is for us year after year: a glowing, blinking, tinsel-strewn festival of merriment that, unfortunately, is as far away from the central, critical Christian focus of Christmas as it could possibly be.

In Reflections For Ragamuffins, Brennan Manning articulately described the crime that is so smoothly committed at this time each year:

The infant Jesus was born in unimpressive circumstances, no one can say exactly where. His parents were of no social significance whatsoever, and his chosen welcoming committee were all turkeys, losers, and dirt-poor shepherds. But in the weakness and poverty the shipwrecked at the stable would come to know the love of God.

Sadly, Christian piety down the centuries has petrified the Babe of Bethlehem. Christian art has trivialized divine scandal into gingerbread creches. Christian worship has sentimentalized the smells of the stable into dignified pagent….Pious imagination and nostalgic music rob Christmas of its shock value, while some scholars reduce the crib to a tame theological symbol. But the shipwrecked at the stable tremble in adoration of the Christ child and quake at the inbreak of God almighty. Because all the Santa Clauses and red-nosed reindeer, fifty-foot trees, and thundering church bells put together create less pandemonium than the infant Jesus when, instead of remaining a statue in a crib, he comes alive and delivers us over to the fire that he came to light.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that the happiness and warmth that is, in fact, shared by many during this season is bad. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m extremely thankful for the blessings that I experience on a daily basis and that come in the forms of a warm place to live, plenty of food to eat, a job, family, and friends and the holiday season is a time when such blessings can certainly be celebrated. But, what I need to focus on this year is carrying the same loving spirit that fills Christmas past December and into each and every day of the new year.

The notion seems simple enough to write about in a blog post like I’m doing here, but, what would that actually look like on a daily basis? For me it means filtering out the fat in my daily routine and replacing it with more time and interaction with my family. It will mean giving more of myself – my time, my creativity, my help – to others. My approach as a teacher has room for improvement, too, in terms of focusing more on the students that I teach and less on the content that I teach. It means spending less time reading sports articles and more time praying.

What would it actually look like in your daily life if you took the first steps in unwrapping the real meaning of Christmas and carried it into the new year?

To anyone kind enough to have given your time to read this. Thank you. I wish you a very merry Christmas in which you are able to fully, and happily enjoy your blessings. I also wish you, as I intend for myself, a leaner more giving New Year.

If you’d like to learn more about one of the major steps I’m taking in order to have a leaner new year, please peruse the posts that I’ve written focused on the Beards, Hands, and Feet Project. Then visit and ‘Like’ the Beards, Hands, and Feet Project Facebook page. Thank you and Merry Christmas!