Saturday, November 9, 2013

Calling all terrorists.  Part IV

"Turn yourself in and ask for forgiveness."

That quote is an allusion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the cry of the true Church all over this earth to every person doing violence every day, in every way, against God and against His Kingdom.  The message spoken on that porch goes out to every "spiritual terrorist" out there,

Confess your sins to God.  Repent of them.  Renounce them.  Seek God's forgiveness and His  pardon.  Turn yourself in and ask for forgiveness.

The Bible says the following,  "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16

That verse spoken out loud in 13 countries will get me killed.  In 53 other countries it is illegal to preach it.  It is restricted in 40 others.  If I go into those nations with a Bible and proclaim that message as the only truth that man can put his complete trust in,  I am a "terrorist."  However, I am now a "terrorist" against the kingdom of darkness where deception blinds people to the grace and mercy of God.  Darkness is a kingdom using the weapon of deception to blind people to their sin and their need for salvation.  The power of the gospel destroys the kingdom of darkness and saves souls back to God.  The gospel brings light into the darkness. It reveals hidden things giving blind eyes sight.  It brings truth into error.  It radically changes perspectives.

In Watertown Massachusetts, when the police began a house to house search looking for the wounded terrorist, I was reminded of the words of Jesus found in the Book of Revelation.  In chapter three, Christ says the following,

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me."

He is knocking on doors all over this earth seeking spiritual terrorists and waits for the enemy inside to open the door to Him.  Christ is at the door of the heart looking to save the spiritual terrorist but not to kill him or take him by force.  Every single Christian on this earth was once a spiritual terrorist that had to open the door to Christ, voluntarily.  They had to confess their sins, to abandon their terrorist acts and their treason against God's government and become a son or a daughter of God.  A once, violent enemy, confesses to God and desires to learn about life and love and reject death and terrorist acts against His government.  We learn to walk in a new way living the message that God has left us in the Bible.  God helps us every single step of the way. 

I prayed for that young man, a murdering terrorist, a "loser", (according to his Uncle) who is deceived by the kingdom of darkness. I prayed that he would have the opportunity to confess the evil that he did in Boston and ask for mercy.  I prayed that Christ would spare his life so that he might repent of the evil in his heart and seek God's forgiveness.  That he might cry out to God and have his soul saved from hell.

Is that outrageous?  Yes.  
Is that the outrageous hope of the gospel?  Yes.  
Does he deserve it?  No.
Do I?  No. 

Do you? 

The Gospel is an offer from God.  It is a divine exchange through mercy, from grace and love and pardon.  It cannot be paid back but only lived out in humility and the poverty of need.  We become poor in ourselves to be rich in Christ.  We are nothing. He is everything.

The terrorist in Boston doesn't get a pass for what he did if he cries out to Christ for mercy, but he receives pardon from an eternal hell and a new life.  He killed and maimed people for a reason that seemed right in his own mind, and that has consequences, like all sins have consequences.  They don't put people in prison for sleeping with girlfriends and the earthly consequences may only be heartbreak, but eternally speaking, it will put you in hell.  The urgency of the church is to get the message out to a world that has lost that perspective; sin will destroy you and only Christ can redeem you.

That perspective is the only high ground against the flood of evil rising all over this world.

Nothing we have or own can save our souls.  One can own bankers, lawmakers, politicians, and expand their power globally but that will not deliver one's soul.  Profits in the billions and a wage that one makes that is 500 to 1000 times the amount of the workers will not save one's soul.  That earthly wealth is nothing but rags rotting in a suitcase. We can only be delivered from the system of darkness and deception by God's truth, mercy and justice.  God's justice.  We cannot get out of it on our own.  There is no getting off of system's grid by our own means.  We need the Gospel.  However, mankind has freewill.  Christ doesn't kick doors down on anyone.  His rescue is an invitation from mercy.

We voluntarily turn ourselves in to Him.

We admit and confess our actions.  We ask for God's pardon.  We come to God with blood on our hands and violence in our hearts.  We see our condition and it's horrific conclusion.  We ask God for a new life, a new start, a new way.  We turn ourselves over to God.  The turning is both immediate and progressive.  We learn a new life day after day, decision after decision; determination and resolution under the direction of God.  Self begins to die and we begin to actively kill it off.

How can God possibly offer mercy for the terrorist, an actual or spiritual one?  How?  His Son died on the Cross as a terrorist.  Although Christ was the complete and perfect and an actual, historical, physical representation of God on our earth and in our history....He became sin.  Being sin He became us.  He died as sin in a brutal death so that the punishment for every terrorist was upon Him, taking away the eternal punishment of death for every terrorist opposed to God, making them sons and daughters instead.

To those who would turn to Him.  He that bore our sin would become our redemption.

Christ died for that killer in Boston.

Christ died for me.

Christ died for you.

"Turn yourself in and ask for forgiveness."



My writing dropped off with this blog as I went through six months of affliction.  My desire to grow and overcome what I allowed myself to be was challenged.  I tore my knee to shreds and needed surgery and then rehabilitation.  My wife and son survived a horrific car crash on a sunny Friday morning with only two scratches.  A dear man and family member needed great care as his body began to fail from pancreatic cancer.  I was challenged to overcome lies that limited me and prevented me my whole life.  There was success but great pain and heartache in the struggles to those successes.  I learned.  I grew.  I am thankful.  I also know how much strength and power I need to live in a world that I withdrew from years ago, and how little I have in my heart to do so.

I'll write about these things soon.  Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Calling all terrorists. Part III

Calling all terrorists.  Part III

I'll repeat.

If you cannot accept the things that are seen what will you do with the things unseen?  You may not agree that man is responsible for global warming but there is very little argument that our earth's temperament is running a little hot lately and is predicted to do so into the future. The seas are rising but by how high and how long it will take to change coastlines will only be answered after it happens.  What's interesting to me is that there is a conversation going on about the sea levels rising, the seas temperature's warming and that Jesus Christ made a point that when He returns the seas will be roaring .....

and there will be upon the earth anguish of the nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the rolling of the waves. Luke 21:25

The earth is getting slammed by hurricanes, floods, tsunamis and cyclones and man stands perplexed when these things happen. These are devastating natural events that are out of our control and they are happening in concert with societies breaking down, wars, diseases and famines. These things that are seen are connected to what is unseen.  There is a spiritual dimension to all that is going on in our world but that dimension is unseen because of deception.  The "system" we have all participated in (willingly or collaterally) for generations has been able to get us to where we are because of the system's lethal weapon of mass destruction; the weapon of deception.  

For the whole world to be somewhat oblivious to our reality requires a blind spot.  If the blind spot is fully operational when faced with dire ecological realities that can be seen, what about the spiritual realities that cannot be seen?  Spiritual deception is the most destructive weapon of all weapons.  Spiritual deception and it's cataclysmic results in our lives and in nature can be perceived simply by scanning a newspaper or watching a half hour news program.  It is not rocket science but accepting and connecting global realities; accepting the reality of melting sea ice and then connecting that to the reality of humanity's propensity to evil, requires the counter weapon to the system's weapon of mass destruction. The counter weapon is spiritual truth.  Truth is the ultimate counter weapon to the system's weapon of mass deception.  If we dismiss the truth and close our minds off and hide from global realities we willingly become a casualty to the system's weapon of deception.  The system then takes more and more ground, in our natural world and in our spiritual world.

In part II of this blog I used the challenges to change the perception of the global population regarding the serious issue of sea ice melt as a reference to the power of this deception.  The general public remains uniformed or casual to what is happening; even as the Ilulissat glacier breaks up on film and the polar caps melt with meteorological and scientific data to prove it.  If the public is oblivious regarding something that can be physically seen, for example, an area of glacier described as the size of Manhattan breaking apart, what is causing that lack of interest?  The answer is deception.

Deception is the weapon we are assaulted with and deception is the fuel of the system we are living in.  Deception blinds us to danger and reality.  It blinds us to responsibility and accountability. It blinds us to the truth.  No one expects to see our coastal cities under water tomorrow so we push away the reality of what is certain and deal with our lives in our today only.  The world exists in a, "Today Only" reality. "Today Only" thinking is the horrific surrender to the system and to it's deception.  The ultimate cost of Today Only, Here Now, Mine First, is us and the earth we live on.

The high cost of Today Only thinking and the consequences change dramatically, revolutionary, when that thinking becomes engaged with spiritual truth and an eternal mindset.  When we lift our eyes from our preoccupation with Today Only and comprehend an Eternal reality, everything in our living is upended, transformed and revolutionized.  What is happening in our world, in family, society and our physical world is not being played out only in a natural realm that we can see but in a spiritual realm we cannot see.  Unless we have spiritual vision we are blind to the forces of the system and we continually scurry around trying to get a handle on eternal things with a Today Only approach.  We look to charismatic leadership and brilliant minds, we look to innovation, we look to a paradigm shift (somehow) in the system but we are looking apart from the Eternal in those approaches.  Man has created these problems that are way past his ability to rewind or unwind and we need (in our totality) help from outside of man.  We need help from God.  

To dismiss God is to continue in deception.  And we don't need just "a" god but "the" God.  We need help from the God that told us exactly what is coming and how we got here.  We need help from the God that says the answers to your problems in your individual life or global life are found only in Christ.  The only God that says that is Jesus Christ.  Every other religion on this earth seeks the answers to our destruction from within.  The, "Within seeking",  for our personal divine truth is grossly flawed because what we find within is what we see in the without.  The heart of man is polluted so the earth is polluted.  War starts in the hearts of men.  Misery and greed starts in the hearts of men.  Mankind cannot change his heart apart from God's help and intervention.  If the heart does not change the reality of our living and our destination cannot change.  Globally or personally.

If a person picks up a Bible for the first time in their life they can read verse after verse regarding the times that Jesus Christ describes before His return, and they will see that we are in those days; but they have to pick up the Bible and open it up and read it.  To open it they have to fight against deception, a deception that the whole world is under.  The only escape from deception is the Gospel and the power of Jesus Christ.  That's it. There is no other cure, no other rescue, no other place of protection and the call is out now louder than ever for everyone on this earth to come to Jesus, quickly and desperately.  Why?  Our world is not going to get better but worse and we need the Savior. 

That is the truth, and that truth is bombproof information.

Christianity says that what we have in our hearts is the reason for our suffering and brutality. It's called sin. Murders, wars, sexual perversions, greed, marital problems, hatred and all manner of selfish and destructive living is from the destructive power of sin.  That power is broken by the power of God. The ultimate weapon of all weaponry is the gospel.  The Bible says the whole world lies under the power of the evil one.  The system of evil in our world is run by one and the system of everything that is in opposition to that evil is run by another One.  The gospel is the power to switch sides; from evil to good, from death to life, from hatred to love, from darkness to light, from living as a terrorist to a radically changed position of being a son or daughter living in the household of God. 

All terrorists operate under the power of evil.  There are no good terrorists.  A terrorist seeks to throw off a government or leadership's control over his life through reckless destruction.  Terrorism is a short-sighted act of violence against any authority that one is not interested in recognizing or participating with.  Terrorists kill and physically destroy to get their own way and their bias are the final authority.  Just like a terrorist, a Spiritual Terrorist is a person rebelling against God in the pursuit of personal aims to self govern, disdaining and throwing off God's government to have his needs met in a way that seems right to him.  His actions are violent, short-sighted and drenched in error and deception.  A Spiritual Terrorist is as blind as a bomber, waging war every day against God, making himself an enemy of God and a terrorist against God's government.  Apart from Christ's life and His truth, cultivated and lived out in our life, we are all in the camp of the evil one ready to act out with terror. 

God's government is a true and actual government and there is a war going on in this world against that government.  Deception blinds us to that reality.  I was once a terrorist against this government.  Like a deceived madman in ignorance and in my rebellion I believed that what I was doing was perfectly right.  There was pain and loss for what I did but it never registered in my head that it had eternal consequences. I walked around every minute of every day in opposition to God's government, doing violence to His Name and to my soul.

What violence did I do?  I participated in terrorist acts every time I slept with a girlfriend.  If you don't believe sleeping with someone outside of God's plan for marriage is a terrorist act against God, you are deceived.  I listened to a young, educated man on a news program yesterday speaking about the Millennial Generation, the generation from 18 to 33 years of age, that he is part of.  One of his descriptions for his generation was, "not having to validate a love relationship through marriage."  It just rolled off his tongue as a harmless fact, a choice, a freedom from religious or societal mores that he refuses to participate in and didn't feel the need for.  I was one of those people once until the truth of the gospel hit me full force and leveled me to the ground.

What that young man said on television was espousing terrorist doctrine against God.  He was wittingly or unwittingly participating in a war against God's government and he was doing so because he is deceived.  His perspective is wrong.  The cause of that wrong is because the system we are all living in also has limited power to keep the truth that removes deception away from him.  The deception that hinders the truth is a mechanism of the system, blinding and distorting God's truth through culture, education, media, false religion and biblical ignorance. Although he can see the effects of the consequences of that blinding and distortion in every corner of the globe, and in every headline, without the Gospel of Jesus Christ penetrating that blindness he remains deceived.  Only the gospel can break through the system of darkness.

The gospel is bombproof information.  The gospel, also called the good news, is called this because it breaks through the system, removing deception and offering pardon to one life at a time.  The true gospel does two things at once: it reveals to the heart that it is an enemy of God, which causes enormous dread, and then it reveals that God is willing to forgive the enemy of treachery and terrorism, causing a relief that nothing on this earth compares with.

The Uncle of the Boston bombers, those two men who murdered and maimed people in blind hatred, said something to the press that stopped me and I could barely breath. He unconsciously alluded to the greatest message on this earth when he stood on a simple porch surrounded by microphones and cameras and said the following to the killer on the run, he said,

"Turn yourself in and ask for forgiveness."

Part IV continues and finishes this blog.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Calling all terrorists. Part II

Calling all terrorists.  Part II

An online dictionary defines "terrorist" as a person who uses terrorism in the pursuit of political aims. defines "terrorism" as a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.
The F.B.I. reveals that the International Community has not come to a consensus regarding what "terrorism" actually is.

I personally think terrorism goes beyond pipe bombs or rigged cars or an I.E.D. planted by a deceived and delusional murderer in a shopping plaza. Standing in my quiet kitchen in my new jeans watching the story about the pollution in China gave me the perspective that I was an accomplice to an environmental disaster.  The computer I am typing on now was, most likely, physically produced by exhausted and grossly underpaid workers and when it reaches it's end my computer will be stripped down and melted, releasing toxic waste into the starving, exhausted humans who climb through mountains of tech junk everyday to survive.  I have never seen these places but I know they exist because someone took the time to reveal these things to all of us and put them on the internet.  I once worked in a shipping warehouse and my legs would continually throb in pain from the concrete floors I walked on.  I could barely move when my weekend would slowly arrive and that was only after a 40-hour work week, not an 80-hour work week with no lunch breaks and no weekends off.  I can identify, a little, with the suffering of a slave laborer standing in a factory because I have a comparison.

It's limited but I have a perspective.  Without perspective I have little empathy or comprehension.  The internet has given us perspective we never had before.  The things once in the dark are now in the light.

I drive a car, therefore I pollute.  I am a human being living in ease because others are suffering to some extent for my comforts.  I have to consume to exist, even with careful consumption. It is how the world has been set up in the last thirty or more years and it is only getting worse, much worse, for all of us on this planet.  The planet itself is suffering because it cannot sustain how her resources are being grossly extracted without a rest.  It's a system we are all enduring and participating in every day.

What about the people who are responsible for this system?  What should happen to them? Unless you are brutally suffering in a sub-human existence of starvation, discomfort, exhaustion and look forward to only misery and more misery every minute of your life, like billions on the planet are now enduring, you are a participant in their misery.  You and I are the "them".

We are participating in a system. We are living in a system that destroys peoples lives, reducing them to expendable things that make perishable things for some to make gross profits from. It's a global system that we blindly created when we didn't know what we were heading into; when we were ignorant about what we were doing, what our corporations were doing and what our politicians were doing.
Now we have the internet.
Now we see what we are living in and what the cost is.  We cannot claim blindness anymore.  We have to do what we can do to extract ourselves out of the system.  The first thing is self-education and when you begin that process it will take a lot to not be overwhelmed with shock or anger by what you will discover.  Keep going until you find a way to participate in a new way.  Don't get stuck, do. 

What about the people driving the system?  As much as they have insulated themselves away from humanity with unimaginable greed and indifference they are in the same predicament we are in, because, the seas are rising and that is a scientific fact.  A fact. 

TED Talk James Balog Time-lapse Proof Of Extreme Ice Loss ...

Infinitely more sobering is the fact, the absolute, certain, undeniable fact that Jesus Christ is coming.

You may not be a fan of the Bible or have never even opened it, or, at the same time both, but in one interesting conversation with his disciples regarding His return, Jesus Christ says an incredible thing that has not happened in the history of man but is happening now.

"There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on earth dismay among nations, in perplexity of the roaring of the sea and the waves,
Luke 21:25

Is that literal?  I read that literally.  One hundred years ago if I were alive I probably would have made that quote regarding the seas a metaphor, but the seas are rising.   If the seas and waves roaring is a metaphor speaking about the nations in dismay, are the nations not in dismay?  What's your perspective?  Do you not dare watch the news anymore because of calamity after calamity?  What is your perspective?  It's important to challenge your perspective because if you can look at data and images of glaciers calving and watch the news as men try to comprehend what to do with global catastrophes or potential economic collapse, mass murders, wars and environmental destruction and be in perplexity; if you can look at all of that and not be the slightest bit engaged or challenged by it, how can you comprehend what is coming spiritually?

If you cannot accept the things that are seen what will you do with the things unseen?

To be continued.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Calling all terrorists.

Calling all terrorists.

In January of 2012 I decided to avoid malls, stop buying clothes or shoes and empty out my closets.  I thinned out everything and made deposits to a homeless shelter and into a collection box for Africa.  Around the same time I was making that purge I was cleaning out my father-in-law's garage space and under a pile of boxes I found a large suitcase.   It was a very large suitcase.  It was a suitcase that I brought from the States to Portugal over eight years ago and I had long since forgotten it.  When I opened it and started going through it I was actually opening a lesson, a proverb, a visual and tactile teaching.

Weather and dampness, insects and mice had eaten through everything.  I pulled out things that I remembered buying that I didn't need and eventually didn't wear.  I once cared enough about these things to lug them through an airport though and dragged them to another continent where they would eventually rot.  As I picked through the remains I remembered wearing a few of those things and felt sad and foolish that I cared about them.  I actually cared about them.  I spent money on them and took time taking care of them.  As I looked at them now I saw what they actually were, an extremely bad investment,   a poor choice to care about or invest in and a very poor choice to collect.  They were now revealed to me that they were temporary escapes, nothing but rags and fit now only for a trash bin.  I threw them away and thought very carefully as I did it.  Those things, reduced to rags in a rotting suitcase and now being thrown into the trash, once had power in my life.

How sad right, a pair of pants or a tee shirt having power?  They actually didn't have any power at all but I gave them power.  I did it.  I did it when I spent excessive time and energy on what made me look or feel good.  I did it when I walked through a mall and looked for something to wear that made me feel good about myself and had spent money on what I didn't need or really want.  I was trying to fulfill a much deeper need and a want with things that would one day be reduced to nothing but rags.  I carefully remembered, as I tossed those items into the trash, that many times I didn't have that money to spend. I was sacrificing money and reality to get something that caught my eye.  

I was buying lies. I was making foolish, worthless choices for momentary gratification, decisions that were now being tossed into a dumpster not fit to use to scrub a toilet.

Before that January day the last purchase I made was on a couple pairs of jeans.  They were dark blue and so blue they were almost black.  The next morning, standing in the kitchen eating breakfast in my new hip jeans, I turned on the news. Just then CNN was doing a story about the Pearl river in Guangzhou, China and the woes of water pollution because of all the poison dumped into that river.  The river flows through the the township of Xintang where most of the jeans for the world are dyed.  The Pearl river is an environmental disaster. I put my cereal bowl down and hunted for the label but I couldn't find out where they were dyed.  But does it matter?  They were probably sown in a sweat-shop for pennies and sold for what the person sewing them would take weeks to earn. 
My jeans didn't look or feel so hip anymore.

I was faced with a dilemma, an endless dilemma.  Do I grow material for my clothing now and sew it?  Do I grow my own bananas and harvest them and make my own cereal, produce my own soy milk?  Do I make my own dinner from scratch, and from scratch I mean in it's totality; ensuring fairness, safety, mercy and compassion in every minute way regarding billions of people and our global environment?  That is now the dilemma for every person on the planet when they think about it.
We can deny the global environmental disasters connected to our marketplace in places where we don't live, but whether the press speaks about it or not, the seas have a lot to say about this because

They are rising.

If you google the above story about Xintang and dye, stay on your computer and google, ted talks james balog,. In the story of climate change James Balog said an amazing thing, which brings me to what I am about to get into.  He speaks about public perception.  He also, interesting enough, uses the term, "bomb proof information."  There is a clip 19:20 minutes long and I urge you to watch it.  Global perspective needs to change and in terms of eternal matters, perspective needs to change for you immediately.  Immediately, because, you are going to die.  Get real about that.

Perspective is everything and ignorance is not bliss.   In terms of what I am about to say, perspective is the most valuable asset we have in regards to the vernacular of,  "terrorist", "terrorism", "justice" and "death-sentence". 

Perspective is everything.

To be continued.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Me and my shadow, continued.

Me and my shadow, continued.

We found a pizza shop that was still open under emergency lights. The dining room was completely dark but near the windows, with the sun going down, you still had enough light to eat. I wanted to eat and run but Jerry was waiting for a bus to Queens. The schedules were slow and random so we waited for a while.  In that couple of hours or so we talked about our lives.  Mostly it was Jerry talking as I listened.  It was the most amazing night I could have possibly fallen into.

The whole time Jerry talked to me, he spoke using Bible verses.  I cannot explain how he did it really, but somehow, he flawlessly weaved his life story through the Bible using different verses along the way.  He could not read or write but he had memorized huge chunks of the Bible from messages spoken from the pulpit.  Through Bible verse after verse he narrated his life and that life lived in a halfway house. He talked about God, a lot.  He narrated his life in that deep, quiet, "other-voice" from Jerry as we waited at our table for the bus.  I was sad when it came and he got on it.  I wanted to sit with him longer but he had to go.

He thanked me for the pizza and coke with his voice going high again.  He gave me a hug and a, "Thank you brother," and left for home.  We waved as the bus drove off into the darkness.  I wondered what the people on the bus thought of this man in his old clothes that fit so badly and his wild hair that looked like he attacked it with scissors.  I wondered what they thought and how they summed him up.

I never looked at Jerry the same again after that night. Years later, and knowing more of what it means to be a Christian, of how one must live, walk, talk and do I feel my great loss for not chasing Jerry every service to come have lunch and dinner with me. I wish I could have those precious days and nights again and find him in the rows somewhere and sit next to him and take notes for him.  In my arrogance, standing there in my nice clothes with money in my wallet, I was impatient with Jerry.  I felt so smug many times when I saw him. What a fool I was.  It was me that was benefitting most from our friendship and I realize now that he was the gift, not me.  God is greater than us and His thoughts are not our thoughts; and His ways are not our ways. How wrong I was about my sense of being there to help Jerry.

I felt his absence for a long while as I walked back towards the Brooklyn Bridge.  I walked in the city under a full moon, down Broadway, through the middle of streets lined with empty, lightless canyons on both sides of me.  It was so beautiful and quiet.  The sky was full of stars people never see when the city is in full power; the moon was huge and soft shadows hit the sidewalk in front of me.  The only sounds in the quiet city around me were my flip-flops hitting the pavement.  When I got to the Brooklyn Bridge two cops stopped me and warned me before I crossed that there wasn't anyone to protect me if I got jammed up.

I thanked them and took off across the bridge.  The East River was black and silky and sparkled with moonlight under me, next to me the dark, skyline of Manhattan. Under the cover of a full moon and summer stars, the only sound that high up was a warm, summer breeze all around me.  Quiet.  Moonlight.  And a solitude of safety in my chest that was so deep and thick; an otherworldly sense of spirit that was so new to me.  Over me was a deep and real sense of God's love, protection and closeness.  I thought of all the events of that day and all the surprises God had brought to me that night.

I was standing alone on the Brooklyn Bridge looking at Manhattan in the darkness.  I didn’t feel alone because my heart was full of gratitude and a sense of awe for the amazing love of a God I was just beginning to know.  In that nighttime of darkness there was a light in my heart. 

I realize now, and often with tears, that Light is the most precious and most valuable part of my existence.  Without it I have no existence.

I am dead,
beyond dead,
without it.

In the years since that August evening I moved away to a new country and began to face every weakness and frailty of my character.  Starting as a child, my life has been full of long walks and jogs, alone in the woods and in fields, in the snow at night or on a foggy beach, on city streets on both sides of America.  I was constantly seeking solitude to connect deeper.  I often walked through the streets of Manhattan alone except for an occasional work crew power washing the empty streets.  I did the same thing in L.A. and that all started in my hometown.  I was always aware and reaching, or trying to understand, or simply enjoy, the sense of who that someone was that was close to me that I was aware of but could not see.  I was trying to connect with a companion close enough to speak to and almost touch. Starting at Times Square Church that “Someone” had begun to reveal Himself to me.  On that bridge that night I had a personal connection that I had desired my whole life.  I was full, completely full, with satisfaction.  I had everything.  It was extremely hard to leave the bridge that night.  I wanted to mark it in my memory forever.

And, I didn’t want to come down, I wanted to stay up there and not deal with my life.

This past Sunday I sat in church while a friend sat next to me and translated Portuguese into English.  I remembered my friend Jerry.  I never connected the two of us until Sunday.  It saddened me and then made me angry that I do not speak or understand Portuguese yet.  Today I think about my years here in Portugal in solitude.

Throughout my life, solitude was a place to escape and be quiet, to connect with God.  In Portugal, that isolation became a prison without walls.  It hurt my life and my marriage and it stole so much from me.  I came to Portugal and wanted to stay on the spiritual mountaintop that I was on in Manhattan, in Manhattan of all places!  I wanted to permanently stay in that quiet, warm, full moon of peace and connection I had on the bridge.

Now I’m in a valley.  There’s pain here and loss and all of it more painful because I stubbornly resisted.  God was moving on in Portugal and I didn’t want to go with Him.  I wanted to stay on the mountain.  I wanted my comfort, my spiritual solitude and what was intoxicatingly incredible, but all of that without God simply became the grotesque of self.

There is no freedom then but just a prison of self.  There is no growth or gain, just shriveled loss. All building stops. There is no joy, just frustration and anxious feelings. A self in exile, a branch cut from the vine, withering and dying from thirst.

The only way out of this spiritual valley is communion! 

To commune with God is to commune individually and vertically but then horizontally with His body, which is the church.  To commune correctly is to connect with the Head, which is Christ, and serve others with others and to subdue self.  And do the work of love.

When Jerry walked across the lobby that day it was actually a confrontation.  He was invading my solitude space.  He was smashing down a “Do not disturb” sign that I had hung out.  He was oblivious to my shyness and my stubbornness. He did not care about my personal space needs because he was more interested in love. He also brought me, kicking and resisting, into the necessity of sacrifice, service and sharing. The vital parts of my faith walk that I did not want any part of, I wanted peace and quiet, I wanted solitude in church.
And the irony is……I wanted to grow.

All I want to do is find connection now.  All I want to do is come out from hiding and learn and experience what I have missed my whole life, Love.  Real Love.  

The Light, the warm glow, that was filling my heart that night on the Brooklyn Bridge was filtering through cracks in the granite that were just beginning to open.  They began to open every time I reached into my wallet and gave a few dollars to Jerry.  They began to open every time I took his notes for him or was kind to him. They opened up in a huge way that night while we sat in darkness waiting for his bus, eating a meal of lukewarm pizzas and iceless cokes.  The cracks in my heart began to open up when a man that people would pass by on the street opened up his heart to me and shared his walk with God.

Without running into Jerry that night I would have had another night of solitude looking for life through the lens of a camera.  A man and his shadow walking alone down empty avenues.

Thank you my friend, wherever you are.  I’m grateful for your effort and I pray now to put more of what I have recently discovered into practice.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Me and my shadow.

Me and my shadow.

In my blog, I write and wonder about love, life and light in the world I walk in.  This is a story about a man I knew once and a great piece of understanding in my life that I would have missed if he hadn’t made an effort.  His effort was a few steps across a lobby with an open heart and an outstretched hand.  I won’t use his real name in this blog but I will never, ever forget it.

I attended Times Square Church for about six years. It is a huge church in a space that was once a theatre.  At the end of services the lobby would be packed with people talking about the service or where they were going to go for lunch or dinner. For about a year I attended this church by myself and knew no one there, until Jerry.    

I was standing alone in the middle of the masses of people one day and across the lobby, a slightly, overweight man, in white sneakers and a dark, gray suit came over to greet me.  His jacket was old and too small for him, his shirt tales hung out from under his vest and his pants were about two inches too short.  He kind of looked like a sad clown in a circus to me.

"Hi, I'm Jerry.  What's your name?"  

He had a warm smile, although his two front teeth were missing.  He needed a shave, a bath and a change of clothing. His graying hair was all matted down on one side and sticking out in other places. He was a black man but I can't tell you his age because he was like a child, a man-child really.  As we talked he nodded and smiled but when I looked into Jerry's eyes something was a little off.  There was nothing but innocence in them.  He was probably in his early forties but his eyes were like that of a four-year-old.  On that first day we shook hands but each day after that, whenever I saw him, we hugged each other.  He liked me so much.

He never remembered my name though.  Even after many times meeting him in the lobby or out on Broadway, he would just call me, “Friend”.  Not too long after meeting him he started hitting me up for money for McDonald's that was next to the church or the pizza joint down the block, or for bus fare.  He couldn't read or write but he always carried a notebook and looked for me to occasionally write down what God was saying to him.  There was urgency about his notes and the only time I sensed any impatience or frustration in him was when I couldn’t sit down immediately and give him my full attention.

I felt a little annoyed many, many times and tried to duck him more than once.  He would hit me up for some cash for lunch after the morning service and then again after the evening service for dinner.  He couldn't remember my name but he remembered me for food and to write his notes down.  Once he fell asleep on my shoulder in a service and I kind of nudged him hard to wake him up because he was snoring so loud.

"Jerry! Wake up man, you're snoring."  
To which he replied back loudly, "It's my medication!!"  

I felt embarrassed and started to avoid him more often than not.  I wanted my peace and quiet in church, my reflection time, and this brother was messing that time up for me.

Eventually, after many months there, I met my good friend Mike and one day I asked him about Jerry.  "Mike, do you know that guy Jerry?"  I could imitate Jerry’s high-pitched voice perfectly by then, and Mike laughed back, "Dude, you mean the Prophet?"

The “Prophet”.  It had never happened to me but Jerry would sometimes make a beeline over to someone and get right up in their face.  Quietly he would share something that God wanted to say to that person.  His voice would change, getting quiet and deeper.  His gentle brown eyes would get a fire in them and it was very "serious" time.  When he finished what he needed to say, what was burning in his heart, his voice would go high again and that simple, sweet look would come back to his face.

"O.K., I got to go now.”  With that he would walk away smiling, no matter what he had just said.  It could be a warning, or correction, or encouragement from God and he would just walk away smiling, rather oblivious to the feelings of the person who had just received the message.  What was important to him was that he shared what he believed God had put on his heart.  I was basically a baby in Christianity and knew nothing about prophets or prophecies that came from God.  Nothing, but I began to look at this man with his notebook very differently.

After the 9/11 bombing Manhattan was rattled for a long time.  It took many months before the taxis started to blow their horns again.  The city was quiet and reflective and in a state of mourning but eventually the buzz returned, and all the street noises that went with that.  Even after a few years past that September morning nerves were still raw and that's when Manhattan got plunged into a blackout.

It was a warm summer day in 2003.  I just stepped out of one of those old elevators that could hold about 4 people uncomfortably and it was clear that something was wrong. Buildings had emptied out onto the street and crowds mobbed intersections. The subways stopped running and the busses were packed to their full capacity.  People were terrified and everyone kept looking up into the afternoon sky for planes. Cell phone service was cut and no one knew what was going on. Everyone assumed the worst.

It was a total blackout all across the Northeast up to Canada.  When the city found out we weren't under another attack a party atmosphere kicked in.  The streets were emptied of traffic and people walked in the middle of the streets after the sun went down.  Long shadows from crowds, mobs lit by emergency lights in intersections, could have been a very scary sight but then you would hear laughing. Singing! Crowds lined up at Mr. Frosty ice cream trucks or hot dog vendors. Most of the people carried wine and beer.  The whole city was a traveling party. 

I was in Times Square so I checked out the church. There was no service going on because there wasn’t any electricity but the crowd outside was all lit up.  The city wasn't under an attack but a summer black out and it gave everyone a free night to hang out and not go to work.  It was an August snow day for the city that lasted two days.  In the middle of the crowd in front of the church Jerry stepped out and found me.  I was standing there in a tee shirt, shorts and flip-flops with a friend's digital camera. It was the first time I had ever held one and I was planning to walk the whole city and photograph this amazing night. I hadn't anticipated running into Jerry.

"Hi Friend, you want to get something to eat?"

To be continued.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Obedience or sacrifice?

One day a couple months ago I was out taking a walk in a park and saw an elderly woman crying on a set of stairs.  She was alone but I didn’t think she was in trouble or pain.  I passed by her not wanting to intrude on what could have been a moment of reflection for her.  As I walked I prayed about what God would have me to do for her. 

He told me, “Tell her I love her.”

I walked around the circle and back to her with a hope I could tell her what I thought could brighten her day.  She was no longer sitting on the stairs but was now up a hill and walking toward some neighbors.  I started up the hill after her.  At that point I began to plan how I would tell her what I had heard God say.  To express love in Portuguese verbally is a little tricky, especially from a foreigner talking about God.  So, I started to formulate my own plan.  Any time anybody starts to add or subtract from what God is saying it leads to a mess because what’s going on is pride and pride and God are mutually exclusive.

Pride has ingredients and here’s the short list:  rebellion, arrogance, willfulness and stubbornness, stiff-necked and hard-heartedness, disobedience and a refusal to be corrected or taught.  Those things are poison to all growth with God.  In that short walk up the hill I began to descend a slippery slope.  I decided to give her Ten Euros along with God’s message to her. 

I was adding to God’s message now.

As I caught up to this fast walking, Portuguese, elderly lady she was now standing with two other women.   They also thought she was in some sort of distress and they were talking to her.  The message I was told to deliver to her got a whole lot more serious.  To tell a stranger with my shaky Portuguese that God loves you, while she’s crying on a park bench, was easier in my head than to say it in front of two more people.  The thoughts of their reactions intimidated me.

If I was gong to say or do anything, I should have obediently done what I heard. Instead, I reached for my wallet and asked if either of these women could speak English?  All heads nodded, “No.”

I tried to make them understand that I wanted to give this distressed woman what “I” thought she needed to make her day better.  I tried to hand her the Ten.  At first the woman looked at me with confusion and then suspicion and finally outrage.  I had completely offended her.  The women around her looked at me completely baffled by what this creepy foreigner was attempting to do.  I struggled to make them understand but it just escalated into more confusion.  Finally, I apologized and walked away leaving the three of them shaking their heads and dismissing me as a whacko.  I had so screwed up a simple assignment I couldn't really add, 
"Sorry for making your bad day worse but by the way, God loves you."

After the train wreck I caused, I had to take my failure to do exactly what I was told to do before God.

It was ugly.  Mountains of past failures based on the same, self-willed decisions washed over me.  I was still stinging from embarrassment and now I was being corrected and examined by God.   These “small” self-willed decisions are not small.  They are actually the infections in the soul that we can examine in a smaller dose, like a toxic slide under a microscope.  The poisons of pride, of rebellion, of self-will, and an independence from the plans (any plan) of God, is rebellion and the idolatry of self; it is a proof positive that there is a sickness that is rotting in the soul that needs to be radically dealt with.

My initial reaction to this woman when I saw her was emotional.  She was crying but she wasn’t bleeding or in pain and she didn’t look like she needed help.  I just wanted to help her so maybe I would feel good about my day.  So, I was actually going to use her distress to make me feel better about being me.

If I hadn’t asked God for what to do it would have been okay.  The lady was just having a bad day.   But since I did ask, He told me what to do.

When I decided that I would do what He told me I felt great but then I failed to obey. I added my own plan, to hand her a Ten.   That wasn’t at all what I heard from God.  As I returned to where she was, she was no longer there.  She was up a hill and talking to some neighbors.  What God had told me to say to her was now not in the privacy of just me and her but two other women.
As I climbed the hill I thought about how to say the simple words, “God loves you.”

Afraid of what they would think of me, I went to my plan and reached for the bill in my wallet.  Giving money is always a good thing, right?  No, actually obedience is always a better thing.

So, disaster unfolded.

When I got home I told my wife and she bit my head off because of the cultural, as well as the spiritual implications, for what I did to that lady. Later on that day my friends laughed in horror at my story.  I got zero sympathy.  I didn’t have any coming. 

What I got from God was correction (thankfully) in an arena of testing to reveal something to me in a smaller, controlled setting.  I had disobeyed God when He gave me a simple thing to do and I recognized it and admitted it.  I prayed that I would do better next time and to fight the lies in any area of my life that says: God needs my help, I can handle things on my own or I know what I’m doing.  I made a decision that afternoon to prepare my mind and my will to understand and to do exactly, exactly, what God wants me to do and that is where I am in my life now; pressing on in spite of the failures.

I really didn’t need to do anything for that lady.  
But, since I asked, I heard.  
If I had just done what I had heard I could have provided a message that we rarely hear when we're in distress in this world, "God loves you."  Those three words can give comfort and peace that no amount of money on this earth can compare with when you need to hear those words.

If I had just stuck to the direction from God and said that it would have been obedience and obedience to God is greater than anything I can come up with on my own.