Saturday, July 30, 2016

Belonging

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,  for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by. -- Psalm 57: 1


My last Sunday at a church in Northport, AL nearly 20 years ago as the associate pastor before going on leave of absence (the first time) from pastoral ministry, the choir, at my request, sang this as an anthem, 'Til the Storm Passes By.


Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand, keep me safe till the storm passes by.

The Daily Office in the Book of Common Prayer has been my daily devotional guide for years.  It provides for me daily scriptures I can read and follow as much or as little as I desire.  Two verses from the Psalms, Psalm 57: 1 and Psalm 61: 4, struck me on consecutive days this week and painted a picture for me.

We can find refuge in the shadow of the Lord's wings until the storm passes by.  Years ago, I knew it was time for me to withdraw from ministry for a period.  There was a storm in my soul.  I was growing more and more unsettled.  A leave of absence was an opportunity for me to rest beneath the shadow of his wings.  The refuge we find in the Lord is a fresh hope for us these days, too.

Let me abide in your tent forever;  find refuge under the shelter of your wings. Selah -- Psalm 61: 4

Again, refuge under his wings, and David prays to be found in God's tent, his presence forever.  A mother bird shelters her young beneath her wings when there is eminent danger.  I'm comforted by this image.

Selah means to stop and consider.  These verses speak to me of what David already knew.  He could ask with confidence to find shelter and refuge in the Lord's presence, under the comfort and safety of his wings.  Its a place where we belong.

April attended worship Wednesday night alone at the church we've been visiting in Birmingham this month.  Due to my work schedule, I had to stay home to go to bed early.  During a time of receiving prayer that evening, April heard in her spirit repeatedly, This is not my place. 


We belong in God.  We're comforted in a time of uncertainty. We belong in the shelter and the refuge of his wings until the storm again passes by. 

Finding a church, a faith community, where we feel we belong has been difficult for us.  A simple explanation of my desire to go on leave years ago is attributed to feeling I didn't belong as a pastoral leader.  It wasn't that I wasn't called to lead in ministry.  It was that I was wearing the wrong clothes.  

Its hard to believe we don't belong in a congregation. We've worshiped at Word Alive International Outreach  near Anniston since we've moved here.  We've attempted to link with leaders and small groups.  There's never been a sense for either April or me that this is home for us, safe beneath a sheltering wing or a tent protected from the storms of life.

We've attended King's Way Church in Birmingham.  The worship has been rich, but this isn't my place.  

We belong to each other.  We belong to God.  We're confident enough to believe we're under the shelter of his wings.  Our callings are unique. We're pine trees planted where no such trees thrive.  We're ruined for anything else.

There will a day of belonging, and a people will come along side us.  In the meantime, we're confident of the shelter we find beneath his wings, protected 'til the storm passes by.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

But Its Not What Will Be

"It is what it is. . . ."

I've discovered over the last few weeks I say this a lot now days when discussing or sharing my own experiences and how they might relate to my giftings or destiny.  As if to say, these experiences and thoughts stand alone.  They are what they are.  It is what it is.

This has now become a folk-saying to me.  Perhaps it has emerged from disappointments over the last couple years.  We've experienced things or heard things or had dreams all of which might have been communication from the Lord, but little if anything has manifested in our movement forward.  Oh well, it is what it is.  It amounts to a fall back position of understanding.  This isn't a denial of what I've heard or experienced lately.  These moments or words can stand alone.  If the Lord conveys to me understanding or an encouragement to believe, cool.  If what I've heard or experienced are merely circumstantial, okie dokie.  It is what it is. 

April has begun adding an addendum to my folk-saying that casts our vision forward.  It encourages me.  I say, "It is what it is."  She adds, "-- but its not what will be.

 
The last two days, I read from the books of Joshua and Romans and Acts of the Apostles through the scriptures from the Daily Office.  From Joshua's words to the Hebrews before his death and the life of Paul, I sensed the theme of an ordained calling in these passages.

Therefore be very steadfast to observe and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right nor to the left. -- Joshua 23: 6

Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. -- Joshua 24: 15

For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ. -- Romans 15: 18, 19 

After they had set a day to meet with him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. -- Acts 28: 23 

There was a mission, a calling, a purpose in the days of Joshua, to maintain the Promised Land's integrity by sustaining the covenant.  Paul fulfilled his mission, calling and purpose that came to him through revelation, as well.


God did all the heavy lifting for the Hebrews, as well as for Paul.

Joshua then says to everyone gathered together, "Choose this day whom you will serve."

Paul explained from morning till evening the Kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus.  Some were swayed, and some were not.  On the Mount of Ascension at the close of the gospel of Matthew, some still doubted as the resurrected Jesus spoke to them.

There's always a calling, a mission, a God-given purpose by virtue of the revelation given and received.

The calling on our lives is real and has not been rescinded.  It is ever with us.  We're at a place of surrender and sacrifice for what we believed to be our God-given purpose.  We were called to buy a farm on Sand Mountain, steward a place to be a portal for the presence of God to come in an environment of worship, giving testimony of the works of God and teaching insights of the Kingdom.  Those who come will encounter a God that saves, heals, delivers, encourages and makes whole.

Our calling remains in tact.We've suffered a cost for coming out from under the mantle of a denominational system, but it was a cost we accepted.   We believed and still believe we received revelation and subsequent confirmation. All of which solidified our calling.

The work of explaining and convincing and calling hearers to choose is not my calling.  It was a yoke of obedience on Joshua.  Paul couldn't help himself.  This was their calling, mission, and God-given purpose but not mine.  It is what it is.

What is interesting is while yesterday and today as I wrote about calling/mission/purpose, the song, For the Sake of the World, played on my iPod.  Callings & missions in God are real.  They are what they are.


Our callings are in tact.  For the sake of the world, burn like a fire in me!  While that's affirmed, it feels, at times, we're under house arrest.  We so want to leave here and do what we're called to do.  Our circumstances of being under employed and underutilized in the Spirit brings its own discouragement -- but its not what will be.

We've asked how long.  We've been led back to a familiar congregation in Birmingham that's brought us a new feeling of being at home.  We've also experienced renewed relationships with friends. The Lord has not told us how much longer we must wait.  He's brought us new liaisons and renewed friendships, instead.  They are what they are, but not what they will be.

What will be will be beyond what we can think or imagine.  

April and I agreed in prayer the Lord would send prophetic people into ourselves to speak to us in person prophetic declarations that would bring us hope in these days.  Before long, April had a vision in prayer which was followed by two people, one friend and one stranger, that confirmed the vision.

Angels have assembled to fight for our sake.  The Lord Jesus will then split the ranks of the angels as our champion and open doors for us which to this point have been defended by the enemy and remain locked.

Our life is what it is.  But today, we are encouraged and blessed, but its not what will be.  It will be much more.  Alleluia.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

First Draft

After a rest, of sorts, I'm back to writing.  I didn't think it was important enough to continue, but I've been told otherwise.

I dreamed one night in late June.  I believe I was a student in a college level class.  The dream was segmented into two days that night.

First day, my class was a small gathering of students.  I never saw the instructor.  We were due to pass in the first draft of a paper.  It made me anxious.  I wasn't proud of my work; in fact, I was embarrassed to pass in what I'd written.

At home, which kind of looked like one of the parsonages we lived in several years ago.  Friends came in checking on me and my assignment.

The next day in the dream, classes resumed.  As before, the classes were small and held in an office building.  While the day before, it wasn't as noticeable, each class or grouping of students was uncomfortably set either in the corner of a large room full of empty desks and chairs or curiously set in a hallway.

Like the day before, I couldn't see an instructor for my group.  At one point, I was encouraged to stand and collect the first drafts from the students.  I was told from an unseen source to ask if there was any student who didn't have a paper.  One guy raised his hand.  I was confused about what to do.  I went to ask some authority what to do next.  I was encumbered in navigating through the room and the hallway and a nearby stairway due to all the empty chairs in my way. I never found anyone to ask.

Earlier in June, I dreamed of meeting a cousin of mine who's a lawyer.  He complimented me on the short pants I was wearing.  Symbolically, short pants mean an unfulfilled calling as the empty chairs in the dream before could mean, as well.  This assignment of a first draft is part of a larger assignment yet to be completed.  I stopped writing on my blogs.  Could this be part of a larger, unfulfilled, uncompleted assignment?  First drafts are necessary in order to complete adequately the full assignment.

In addition to this, I was in a class in order to learn, but I was still given the responsibility to collect the assignments of other students.  A student and a instructor-in-training?

Last week, I dreamed of being at my current place of employment.  A co-worker came to me with a joyful attitude wearing a cartoon superhero costume.  This added to the jovial attitude already in my workplace.  I then found myself on the floor above.  It was a bookstore,  I was an employee there, as well.  The walls were brightly painted.  The windows let in lots of sunshine.  On the ground floor, there were no windows.

There was a square counter in the room.  I stood at the cash register.  Beni Johnson, Bill Johnson's wife from Bethel Church in Redding, CA, was sitting at the counter reading and marking the first drafts of papers from students in the class she taught.  She was my teacher, also.  I never passed in a first draft.  It embarrassed me I hadn't with her reading the other papers and never seeing one from me.  I felt ashamed she'd be disappointed in me.  In this dream, I believe she represented God.

This reoccurring theme of first drafts I can't ignore.

I dreamed of being a student in both dreams.  There is something about callings or assignments being unfulfilled in both dreams.  I really didn't take the assignments seriously in both instances.  By not writing for blogs anymore, I've decided to not take this kind of writing seriously anymore; however, in both dreams, I was a student.  Evidently, there's something I need to learn in this writing exercise.  Unless I'm a student, I won't learn it; if I don't write, I won't be in a position to learn.

Obviously, I'm supposed to keep writing on my experiences, reflections, dreams and encounters with God.  As much as I'd like in theory to write about other things, nothing else interests me as much as my life in God. If you're still reading this, that's probably true for you, too.

I'm back to writing.  What I've ever posted or will ever post may always read like a first draft to you, and maybe to me.  That may never matter a lick.  What matters most to me, right now, is to give testimony of what God is saying and doing in my life, and I'm going to write about some of it.  I invite you to read and comment about it.  It's what I'm supposed to do. What are you supposed to do?





Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Get Together

video

Everybody needs some encouragement these days to hope and believe the best is yet to come.

Also, we grow as people and as communities when we connect with stranger and friend alike to learn to appreciate for who each person is, even in this environment of uneasiness.

This artistic expression in song captures our hope and mission.  Listen, sing along and look for opportunities to be a blessing to everyone you encounter in these curious days of change.