My Grace is Sufficient for you......God

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Perspective Changes Everything

There's a story in the Bible about how Jesus and his followers were going across a lake in the middle of the night after a long day of Jesus teaching the crowds. They were tired and Jesus was sleeping up near the front of the boat.

Sometime in the middle of the night, I suspect it was around 1 or 2 AM because this is the time of night when all the bad crap happens, a storm came up. At least a few of Jesus' followers were fishermen and understood the way of the lake and I'm sure had experienced a storm or two in their careers.

This storm that arose was apparently bad enough that even the experienced sailors were terrified they were all going to die in the storm.

Then someone noticed Jesus sleeping soundly up near the front of the boat. If you  have ever been in a boat when there's a storm on, you know that's the worst place to be. It pitches up and down the most. If you're gonna get sick, its in the front of the boat!

These big strapping fishermen are scared stiff and I'm sure the non fishermen of their little group were more than terrified. I suspect they were just waiting to die.

Soon though, one of these terrified men decided to wake Jesus and complain. In fact, they were pissed he wasn't helping them bail the water out of the boat. So they woke him up and demanded to know whether or not he even cared if they were all gonna die or not.

Of interest here is a few things that are missing from the dialogue. There was no mention of waking him to see if he could do something about the storm, there was no mention of Jesus being capable of doing more than simply bailing water along with the rest of them. No mention at all about how He was able to sleep during such a severe storm. It seems reasonable to think these men who had seen Him do miracles might possibly have a clue He could do more than bail but they didn't. They were still clueless as to who was laying there without a care in the world.

So finally waking Jesus up and asking Him why he didn't care about them they received quite a shock when instead of taking up a position near the side of the boat and bailing along with the rest of them, he instead stood up and spoke to the winds and waves and commanded them to be still. Immediately there was calm and peace on the lake. Then he said to them, "why do you have so little faith?" I think what He actually may have said there was "If I'm not worried, why are you?"

If we take this story as a literal story and the group actually experienced a storm and Jesus actually spoke to the wind and waves and there was instant peace, then we need to figure out how to apply this nice story to our lives. After all its in the Bible for a reason.

In relation to this story, I've always heard that we can speak to the winds and waves in our own lives and there will be instant peace.

Can I say something now that might possibly be construed as blasphemy? Today I sit here and I call BS on that statement. Why? Because I have spoken to the winds and waves in my life plenty of times and not ONCE have they gone away.  Instead, I've hunkered down and just endured the storm. And am still enduring.....

My personal experience leads me to believe Jesus didn't calm the storm at all. That the winds and waves may have even gotten larger. That the circumstances never changed.

What I am coming to believe is the perspective of the followers of Jesus changed. That instead of being terrified of the storm, Jesus removed the fear of the storm and because the fear was gone, it was as if the storm was suddenly over.

What I am suggesting is that because the fear was removed, the followers of Jesus had such a profound experience of internal peace that they actually believed the storm was over. That Jesus had literally spoken to the winds and waves and calmed them. So much so that years later when they were writing down all they had seen and heard Him do, they wrote what they believed had happened.  Like they couldn't really remember the storm after Jesus spoke.

And this I can say makes far more sense as it aligns with my personal experience. Instead of the winds and waves (trials, sickness, financial issues) going away, my fear of the outcome of these things has gone away. In the place of fear has come peace. Not to the degree where I no longer believe the storm has gone but still to the point where I no longer fear the storm. Because Jesus is my place of safety, strength and provision. And I trust Him.

My reading of Jesus's sayings is beginning to show that He never promised ease and comfort 100% of the time. Instead He promised peace in the storm. This is something I've heard over the years but never really understood. This promise of peace speaks to the idea of an abundant life. One that's not contingent upon the physical surroundings but on the person of Jesus. One that depends on Him for all aspects of existence. One that is surrendered to the idea that from Him flows all life and all things necessary to sustain life both in the afterlife and also in the right here and right now.

It seems the circumstances (wind and waves) will change over time. From peace to storm and back again, but what's important is that Jesus is sleeping in the boat. If He's not worried then neither am I.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Practical Grace

Grace is not supposed to be practical. Its supposed to be this amazing spiritual force, this essence that surrounds and protects us. Its supposed to be there but unseen and unfelt....Its just supposed to be....

And yet, after a year of experiencing His grace in profoundly spiritual and mystical ways that have affected my spirit and even my sense of who I am but yet without surfacing in the so called real life of where I live each and every day. To be sure, grace has shown up in my relationship with God in deep and intensely personal ways. It has revolutionized how I see Him and how I perceive His love for me. Grace has been about me. My sin, my problems, my issues, my peace, my joy, my strength....its been inwardly focused.

And justifiably so. If grace cannot change me to my core, then what good is it? My revelation of who He is and what He has done for me must first change me. Then and only then can His grace flow not just to me but from me. And so the last year has been about recognizing and reveling in His grace toward me. Changing my outlook on eternity. Changing the way I view the Good News....how its presented, how it affects me and others, changing my mind (true repentance) about who Jesus is and what He really did on the cross. 

And yet grace with minor exceptions has not really affected how I live outwardly. I'm more joyful even in the face of circumstances that would otherwise prevent joy. I'm more at peace with uncertainty knowing that He has only good for me. I no longer chafe under guilt and shame for misdeeds both great and small as I know He has already forgiven them and in fact, doesn't even remember them, so if He doesn't condemn me, why should I condemn myself? I see everything through the prism of grace.....but.....

Practically speaking my interactions with others have not changed substantially. I still get angry easily, less so than before but still, I feel I should be slower to anger, frustration sets in pretty quickly when things don't go my way or people can't see my point of view even though its clearly superior to theirs. Forgiveness and kindness are not my normal modus operendous. 

Just when I was thinking that grace would be my lifelong companion but would really only affect my spirit life, a blast from the past steps in and sets that way of thinking on its rear. 

Ten years ago, a Christian man did me wrong in business. No details here but suffice to say, it hurt and even when I tried to follow up with him after the fact and find out what was going on, he refused to take my calls and never once got back to me. Then over the last few years, I'd see him at functions or around town here and there. Always he treated me as though nothing had happened. This was a man I'd had in my home and treated quite well. As time went by, I began to harbor ill will toward him. I was glad when he lost his job. Then I found out quite by happenstance that he had done a couple of other things that reinforced my opinion of him. In my heart I was glad he was such a dirty rotten person...I felt vindicated that it was him and not me that caused the issues many years ago. 

Then I found out his wife works at my daughters school. She greeted us as though all was peachy keen....my face smiled but my heart was black with distrust and spite. Meanwhile, grace was overflowing my heart, revealing how much I was forgiven, bringing peace and joy.....I was smug and happy I was being shown this wonderful grace that was brought to me by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Content to walk happily along secure in my knowledge of who I am in Christ. 

Then yesterday, I was eating my .85 burrito at Del Taco and who should walk in....but the man himself. In his smug little shirt and tie looking as though he was innocent of all wrong doing. I was hoping he wouldn't notice me....but alas, straight to my table he came. 

Not only did he head straight my way but to my utter disappointment, he sat down and asked if we could talk. I didn't want to talk, not now, not ever...but civility demanded at least a cursory attempt at conversation. No way could he know how much I resented his very presence. 

After some brief and awkward small talk, he said to me, "I've been wanting to tell you this for a decade, but I've been very sorry about what happened back then but I've never really had the chance or the courage to say it". Crap....he's apologizing. Now what? No way can I act like all is forgiven, its been too long with to many wasted chances to apologize for him to do this now. So with my mouth I said no problem.....water under the bridge, but in my heart, I didn't mean it. No way no how.....

A few more minutes of small talk and off he went to get his food and a few more minutes pass and I get up and leave. I never gave it a second thought. Whats done is done. 

However, the Holy Spirit had other ideas about the whole incident. 

Moments after turning out of Del Taco's parking lot, clearly and without any question I heard, "freely you have received, free give." What? Who? WHY.......but it came again, "you have received my grace freely, how dare you not freely give it." My heart broke. I recognized my beloved voice. His firm but gentle correction coming from the throne of grace. 

So rather than turn around and go fix it, I told God if I saw this man in the next day or two, I'd make right how badly I'd handled his apology and then if the opportunity presented itself, I'd explain how grace led me back to him for that purpose. 

Off I went to finish my errands for the day. I had two or three more stops to make and then back to the house. My last stop was to run the car through the car wash to get rid of all the bird poop it had accumulated over the last few days.

I entered the car wash listening to the radio, sat as the machine went back and forth and as the final rinse was spraying over my windshield, I got ready to exit and go through the dryer.

Something you need to know, this car wash is set up with some car vacuum stations just behind the drive through wash section. As you drive through the air dryer, you can see two of these vacuum stations right in front of you. And as I began to enter the drying area, who do you think was in the very first vacuum station? 

My nemesis was right there, vacuuming his car out. Not in one of the other dozen or so car washes in town. This one, right in front of me at exactly the same time as I was. This could not be coincidence and remembering my promise to God to make it right with this guy, I laughed out loud at how He had set this up. 

I pulled over to this guy, shouted above the noise of the vacuum to get his attention and fulfilled my promise to God. Of course he was far more gracious with my apology than I had been with his but as I drove away, the only thing I could think about was how much I'd been forgiven and little I tend to forgive.
Grace is practical. It can and should affect every area of our life. As I drove on, I talked to God about clearing my life of the garbage ten years of unforgiveness had brought me and to restore all that had been damaged. 

Practical grace. Not just for me but for every one everywhere for every reason and every occasion. Grace covers it all. 

Friday, February 28, 2014


I am filled with good intentions. Most of us are. One of mine has been to keep this journal up. But honestly, most days feel to mundane to bother writing about.

Then I look back, and the mundane has taken on aspects of wonder.

The daily details often obscure the wonder that is life. Today I took some time to look back at previous posts. I am filled with awe at the things that have transpired in between the posts. Each post represents a period of time in which details to mundane to mention coalesced into incidents that have meaning.

Some posts are rich in detail about single events. Take my friend Peter's death. I read that post today. I was taken back to that time and I wept again. But then I remembered its been two years. Time has passed. His wife Shanie has remarried and is celebrating new life on her honeymoon in Europe and his kids have all begun successful adult lives of their own and one is even expecting his first grandchild.

In sadness there is joy, in grief there is new life. It is the way of the world. The way of the Creator. The way of grace.

Other posts are less poignant. They are simply milestones in the journey. Some of which I can't remember why I wrote them. They meant something then. What I cannot remember, nor do I care. I care about the ones that bring back the memories of wonder and awe of His goodness. While this blog is sparse in terms of posts, its still full of wonder and awe. I remember the previous six years and what this blog has been about.

And I'm blown away by it:

Some history;

I lost my business
I filed bankruptcy
I lost my house
I lost the rental we were in after losing the house.
We are essentially homeless
I lost my reputation in the community
My brother lost his house as a result of my business failure.
My dad lost his house as a result of my business failure.
My dad had a quadruple bypass
My dad had a terrible gall bladder operation and took months to recover
My brother had stents put in due to heart disease.
My other brother had stents put in due to heart disease.
I had a heart attack.
I had three stents put in over a 6 month period.
I had pneumonia
I had 30 hours of Afib. Not fun at all.
I lost my identity. Who was I?
My wife was very depressed, ( who wouldn't be?)
I was depressed....but in severe denial about it.
I have severe tendonitis in my right shoulder. A result of 20+ years of being a desk jockey.( getting better but still its a handicap)
I lost most of my so called friends. They ran like rats on a ship when the money stopped flowing.
The church we called home for 25 years and that my wife grew up in collapsed. My spiritual foundations were shaken to the core. Some of those foundations gave way.
One of my best friends died.
One of my wife's best friends has cancer.
A friend I had trusted with my business, someone whom I had helped and placed in a position of trust betrayed not only me but my family including my brother to employers and pastors. Jobs were lost, trust was damaged.
Another friend and employee went out of their way to spread lies and rumors about me and my business around town. Someone I had taken in and trained to be my assistant. Who worked for me for 4-5 years. They made nearly six figures as my assistant. From next to nothing to six figures. And they betrayed me.
Sleepless nights
Hours of weeping
Constant and unrelenting worry

There are other things. Trivial in relation to these. All this happened from 2008 to the present. Six years so far. Seems like an eternity.

Through all this, my foundation which is supposed to be my faith in God was shaken, I mentioned this already but its important enough to reiterate. EVERYTHING was shaken. Some of it destroyed. The frame work of my life, success, money, friends, church, faith, even family, all shaken. This blog in part has been an attempt of retaining some of my moorings. Of trying to journey back to faith or more appropriately, of retaining what little I had left and yet done from a perspective of trying to hide or at least shield myself from the truth of the destruction my family and I have experienced over the last few years.

Reading back through the various posts, I am reminded that He is good. More importantly, I now know that even in the midst of this journey in which only bad things seem to be happening, He was still good. Its taken a long time to accept. My journey into grace which took off last February but was begun even before all this happened is what has sustained me in all this. In my deepest sorrow, anger, grief and frustration, He has been sustaining me. Often times I was not aware of it. I questioned the very existence of a being that was supposed to be good and yet let all this horrible stuff happen.

And so the truth is I am undone. Some of it my own doing. Some of it outside my control. Some of it intentionally done by others. Regardless, I am exhausted in my physical being. I am tired of trying. Of putting on the brave face. I am exhausted by the facade of OKness. I am weary of battle. I have PTSD. I am war weary. I am lonely. I am walking wounded. I have no community. I am prodigal.

But today, I know that my Redeemer lives. I know that no matter what, I am secure in His love. That I am in His light. And nothing can separate me from His eternal love. He has revealed to me what has always been. That I am loved. This the good news. That all these present troubles are but a mist. A mere trifle, a minor annoyance in light of His wonderful love and goodness. The promise of abundant life, the assurance of peace, the presence of eternal joy. These are His gifts of wonder and awe to me.

So hope springs eternal. Because I have Him. And the story is all about Him. Not me. Its about He has already rescued me. How His joy is my joy. How his rest is my rest, about how his strength is my strength. About how He is my closet friend. About how His contentment is my contentment. His health for my sickness. His riches for my poverty. His loyalty for my betrayals.

I'm sitting in Starbucks writing this. I love the atmosphere. The casual indifference. The strong smell of coffee which I'm becoming addicted to, the bitter taste of expresso....the swirl of people getting their caffeine fix (I drink decaf due to the heart condition). Sitting here, listening to my extensive library of worship music. I can't help but be of good cheer. For He has overcome the world.

I am a new creation. Honestly, I wish all the stuff I mentioned was fixed. Its not. Some of it hasn't even begun to be fixed. Maybe it never will be. Who knows. But I don't care. Jesus loves me. I love Him because He loves me. I can worship freely and with abandon. In the midst of continual struggle, I am finally free!

I can't believe it. Freedom has finally come. And it looks nothing like what I thought freedom would look like. I was blind but now I see!

This little video from Lakewood is a little bit of how I feel today. Worshipful, joyful and hopeful.