Thoughts from an Ordinary Guy

This journey through life is never boring......

Month: August 2015 (page 1 of 2)

The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Jesus said, in Matthew 11:28-29: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Let’s take a look at what He is saying there……

“Are you tired?  Worn out? Burned out on religion?”   I  think those three are related and not separate questions…..

Are you tired from trying to keep up with the regular stress of life?   Are you worn out from the challenges of this world without any way to “fill your tank?”   Are you burned out on religion?   Are you frustrated with the church, frustrated with pastors who don’t minister well?  Frustrated with churches that don’t allow or encourage you to be real?

To be real with your pain.  To be real with your exhaustion.   To be real with your frustrations with life, with church, with the twists and turns of life that turn in what you feel are the wrong directions…….

And what does Jesus suggest in terms of how to deal with that?

“Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.”

Step back from trying to keep up with the proverbial “Joneses”  (sorry if your last name is Jones.)   Step back from being so involved and frantic that you don’t have time for Him.    Turn off the TV.   Put down the newspaper.   Stop following the news on Twitter.   Be selective in the ways and the means you use to try to understand what can’t be understood.   Don’t worry about The Donald – believe it or not, God has a plan for that circus.

“Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.”   I don’t know who first said it, but there’s a saying that being a Christian is rather simple though very difficult –  “See what God is up to and be a part of it.”

“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”

Learn – it’s not something that comes naturally.   We have to study it, think about it, learn it.

Unforced rhythms – this reminds me of the gentle lapping of the small waves at Lake Michigan.   It’s unforced, it’s a rhythm that can lull you into a sense of peace and comfort.   It’s not the wind and the roar of 8 ft waves and 40 mph winds.   That’s not the unforced rhythms.    Learn to look for God in the rhythms of life and to see his grace in it.

Grace – with all of the talking heads and the pressures and the things that are going wrong in this world, we need to learn more of God’s grace.    More of what He says, more of what He does.

Grace – when we realize we screwed up again.

Grace – when we realize that our church has been a road block rather than a welcome sign.

Grace – when someone opens the door to their pain and we walk on by without acknowledging it.

Grace – when we can’t see God’s plan and it’s too hard to understand why things happen.

Grace – in the middle of unspeakable tragedy – and in the middle of ordinary life.

Learn the unforced rhythms of God’s grace and let us all make this world a better place because God has given us grace and has given us the mandate to work with him.

TJV

Stuff That Needs to be Said

I borrowed that line from John Pavolvitz.   John is a pastor and writer (www.johnpavlovitz.com) who has spoken to my heart and soul many many times in the last year or so (since I discovered him).

The tag line on his blog is “Stuff That Needs To Be Said.”   And he’s not afraid of tackling the tough issues.   The issues that hurt, the issues that divide us.

The issues that this country seems to be torn apart or at least tearing apart over.

Many of the issues that John writes about resonate deeply with me.   Some of them are outside of my realm of experience and so they don’t hit quite as hard.  And that’s okay.

But there are many things that I feel that way about.   Stuff that needs to be said……

About Church and The Church (check out The Church some time).

About adoption, abortion, Planned Parenthood and what it really means to be pro-life.

About racism.

About orphan prevention.

About supporting adoptive parents and their children.

About terrorism and human trafficking.

About corruption and mismanagement in government, in non-profits, in “big business.”

About the need for recovery meetings.

How to say it all?

How to even start?

I don’t know but I know it is stuff that needs to be said.

So stay tuned.

Tom

P.S. If the blog has been kind of quiet lately, it’s because I’ve been working on some longer term type of things.   Thanks for your patience.

 

 

Is That What It Means?

Matthew 10:6-9 from the Message – “Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.”

Go to the people in the neighborhood.  Now I firmly believe that our neighborhoods extend well beyond the size of the neighborhood in Jesus day.   When Jesus walked the earth, the neighborhoods were a lot smaller.   When I can “reach out” and talk to people in Haiti, Uganda, Texas, Italy and Scotland in a matter of hours, our neighborhood is much bigger.   But that doesn’t change Jesus command – go to the lost and the confused in the neighborhood.

Bring health to the sick – so often when I’ve read that, I’ve thought that it meant just the disciples that could perform miracles.   But, what if it means that we are supposed to bring health to the sick by supporting health care for the underprivileged?   What if it means we’re supposed to bring health to the sick by praying for them?   What if it means we’re supposed to bring health to the sick by fighting against a system that makes it incredibly hard to get medical care for children who struggle with mental and emotional challenges due to their past – a past that was not their fault?   

What if that’s what it means?

“Touch the untouchables.”   Once again, I often thought that it meant that the disciples were supposed to be comfortable with going among the leper colonies and healing the sick there.

But what if Jesus means it as more?

What if Jesus means that to touch the untouchable, we’re merely supposed to be willing to sit next to the hurting?

What if it means we’re supposed to be willing to sit with the grief and pain of a parent whose child is struggling with mental illness?

What if it means we’re supposed to let our guard down and be open to saying, “Yeah, me too.”

What if it means we’re supposed to ask, “How are you?” and really take the time to mean it?

What if it means that we’re supposed to be willing to help – even when helping is ugly? Even when helping hurts and takes time.   Because these are God’s people who are hurting and we need to reach out and touch them.

What if it means standing up and saying and doing the uncomfortable because people and places both in the United States and in the Middle East are doing the unspeakable and the incomprehensible?

What if it means standing up and saying, “I won’t tolerate people in our country being treated differently strictly because of where they were born or the color of their skin?”

Is that what it means?

I used to think that this passage was just talking to the disciples before they went out on their mission trip.

I don’t think so any more.

TJV

P.S.  I didn’t even get to the generously part – but much of what we did talk about requires a generous life……

Pieces and Parts of God’s Plan

I’ve thought and struggled a lot over the last couple of years – even longer – with the whole idea of God’s plan.

Knowing He has a plan.   But knowing I can’t see it.

Trusting that He’s behind all of the moving parts – but not understanding the direction of those parts.

Wondering what is the work of the devil and what is God moving and saying, “Trust me, I’ve got this.”

The earthquake in Haiti.

A change in careers.

An ending of a position.

Medical concerns.

Questions, questions and more questions.

And the only consistent answer is “Trust Me.”

Don’t trust yourself, don’t trust your brother, don’t trust your minister (well, you know what I mean).

Trust ME.

I heard it said that God will often only show you 6 inches of the path at a time.   He does that to know that we are indeed trusting Him.  He does that because we’d probably be scared out of our minds if we could see further.

It happens, though, that there are times where God says, “Turn around.  Look where I’ve been.    Look how I’ve worked and orchestrated and planned.   See how I got you to this place?”

God did that today.   He gave me an opportunity to turn around and look backwards.

And I saw it.

I saw IT.

I saw the way that He’s been working and moving in many different pieces and parts over the last number of years.   

And suddenly, many of them make sense.   And there is great peace in that.

Great peace in knowing that “Trust ME” works.

As I turn around and look forward again, I still can’t see more than 6 inches ahead.  Because many of them that make sense looking back don’t make sense looking forward yet.

I don’t what His plan is.    But I know that just as He planned before, He still is.

And as I move forward 6 inches at a time, I know that “God’s got this.”

Because I saw today how God had “that” and “that” and “the other thing” too.

And that brings Peace Like a River.

God’s got this. 

Amen

TJV

Sometimes you just need to be quiet…..

Sometimes you just need to be quiet.

 

Sometimes you just need to turn off the noise.

 

Sometimes you just need to focus on the basics of life.

 

Who you love.

 

Who loves you.

 

Who died for you.

 

Who gave you life forever.

 

What really matters.

 

And what only acts like it matters.

 

What’s worth fighting for.

 

And what is worth fighting to get away from.

 

How to hit the “off” button on the TV remote.

 

And to step around the messes on Facebook.

 

Because God calls us to “be still” but He doesn’t want us to be still forever.

 

“Be still and know that I am God.”

 

And then go out and love your neighbor and your cyber neighbor as yourself.

 

TJV

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