Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Liebsteraward 1While I have been writing here at “Sharper Than…” only since Labor Day 2012, I’ve been dipping my toes into the blogosphere for about three years now, in fits and starts (I’ve abandoned more blogs than many better writers have ever started); so naturally I have seen lots of nominations for awards being discussed. In all honesty, I never paid much attention – to me, an award is something you work for, a prize for competing; with this blog I have tried to move away from being competitive and towards being competent. Then I signed up for the A-to-Z Challenge this year, and something wonderful happened – I was nominated for an award! Specifically, my new friend Rebeccah Giltrow over at Rebeccah Writes has nominated me for a Liebster Award, and I owe her a special “Thank you!” for doing so!!

For those unfamiliar, the Liebster Award is a way to help expand the community of connections among bloggers from all over the ‘Net, by bringing the “smaller” sites (like mine) to the notice of more people, in a “pay it forward” system that shares the love and recognition with others, according to these conventions:

  • Post the award to your blog.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and post a link to their blog.
  • Post 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer 11 questions that have been set by the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate 11 bloggers with fewer than 200 followers to accept this award.
  • Ask your nominees 11 questions.

So with the first two items complete, here goes the rest – enjoy, and be sure to visit and show some comment love to Rebeccah and to my nominees!

11 Random Facts About Me:

  1. I have a terrible memory for names, so I routinely make up names for people that nobody knows but me.
  2. So far, the only food item I have ever found that I do NOT like is liver – no style, no way, never again.
  3. My wardrobe consists of 80% t-shirts and jeans, and 20% everything else.
  4. Of the four children my wife and I raised, only one shares my DNA, but everyone tells us how much they all look like me.
  5. Every vehicle I have ever owned was at least ten years old, and all but two cost less than $1,000.
  6. I have worked in commercial air conditioning for nearly twenty years, but my house does not have central heat or A/C, and probably never will.
  7. My jeans are the same size today as they were when I graduated high school in 1986.
  8. I never have less than three books which I am reading at the same time, sometimes as many as five.
  9. I can use any tool I own in either hand, but otherwise my left hand is truly my “dumb hand”.
  10. I failed the test for my SCUBA dive card because I cannot tread water – I sink like a rock unless moving forward.
  11. I don’t really listen to the lyrics of most songs, I just kind of bop along to the rhythm of the words; I am often surprised when I learn what they are saying.

11 Questions from Rebeccah:

1.Where in the world are you right now?

I live in Houston, Texas – born and raised, and except for 2-1/2 years in college, never lived anywhere else.

2.What has been your best gift?

If you define “gift” as “something given by a person”, it was when my employer offered to pay for my dental reconstruction because he thought I was “worth investing in”. (Botched dentures several years ago left me missing 2/3 of my natural teeth, with all the problems you can imagine go with that.)

3. Can you play a musical instrument?

Sadly, no…I have taken piano and guitar lessons, but not with enough consistency to actually learn anything. I did learn to sight-read music singing in the church choir, so it’s not hopeless!

4. If you could time-travel to any period in the past, where would you go?

Torn on this one – United States, end of 19th century, at the birth of the Industrial Revolution; or 1st century Judea, to experience the earthly ministry of Jesus first hand

5. What’s your favourite dessert?

No contest – my own recipe: Harvest Spiced Cornbread Peach Cobbler

6. Who was your favourite teacher at school?

Ellen Farrell, 5th grade at Dechaumes Elementary – she was the first teacher to challenge me to be to do more than merely pass, but to excel…I didn’t know it then, but she was teaching critical thinking before it was a “thing”.

7. Do you have any pets?

Yes, we have a pair of rescue dogs we saved right off the streets – a 4-yr old American Pit Bull named Cinnamon, and a 9-month old Pit/Boxer mix named Li’l Girl; and we just recently lost our 12-year old chow-chow, Ginger, who came to  us as a 2-month old puppy.

8. Where did you go on your last holiday/vacation?

We drove across Texas to Waco to visit my daughter at the birth of my granddaughter, and then stopped in Austin on the way back to meet an Internet friend in person for the first time – both wonderful experiences!

9. What languages can you speak?

I have a semi-functional command of Spanish (useful on the jobsite, in restaurants, etc) but I am working to improve.

10. What’s your favourite word?

“accoutrements” – gleaned from a Daffy Duck cartoon as a child

11. If you could exchange lives with anyone, who would you choose?

I would not; each of us is a unique creation, shaped by our experiences…dropping into another’s life would not be the same as living it, and so it would be a disappointment at best, and a waste in any case.

My 11 nominees:

11 Questions to Answer:

  1. What is your favorite candy/sweet treat?
  2. Where is the farthest from home you have ever traveled?
  3. Name one book that you have read at least twice.
  4. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner – which is your favorite meal?
  5. What modern “convenience” would you gladly do without?
  6. Which is your favorite holiday?
  7. How long has it been since you climbed a tree?
  8. Have you ever had an unusual or exotic pet?
  9. What sports or games do you participate in?
  10. What movie have you seen more than five times?
  11. What place in the world would you most like to visit?

Thanks again for playing along, and be sure to pay this forward. See you all in April!

Many of you may be wondering why, after finally finding a nice steady pace, I suddenly stopped posting…yeah, there’s been the  occasional re-blog, when I see something I find especially moving…but no writing. And isn’t that the whole reason I started this blog, to give myself a forum to practice my art? Well, that is an interesting question, so let’s examine this idea.

I must admit that I have let myself become pretty divided lately…after all, I am just a guy, and I have trouble doing more than one thing at a time very well; multi-tasking has never really been one of my spiritual gifts. Here lately, I have reached critical mass – taking care of Karen as she slogged through cancer treatment; handling an enormous level of responsibility trying to drive the design process on a complex construction project at work; helping to kick-start a prayer-and-share ministry at a halfway house; and “standing in the gap” at the church while we struggled through the transition period without a pastor, or much of a leadership team at all, for that matter. The Lord has been with me, and these things have prospered…I have been blessed to have been a part of it all. But even seasons of insanity come to an end…and strangely enough, that has been the problem!

Karen has finally reached the end of her regimen – only two more radiation treatments and one more follow-up, and she will be done, hallelujah! The project has been designed to a fare-thee-well, and actual construction begins next week. A new crop of volunteers has been trained for prayer-and-share, and a routine has been developed, duties spread around. The church has merged with another fellowship, so we have a pastor, and a staff, and budget, and a vision. Suddenly, I don’t have a gap to stand in, and it has left me off-balance and questioning  my role, and in fact my value, because that is just how I am wired.  I have a lot of trouble functioning well unless there is a crisis going on…smooth seas and clear skies leave me twitchy and anxious, and I have never really understood why; in truth I still don’t. But that doesn’t mean that I have to accept that as a healthy or right way to live, because I can recognize that it isn’t…it’s just a matter of learning a new way to behave; substituting better habits in the place of bad ones, and rediscovering passions from my past that I have allowed to wither under the weight of “busyness”.  I have been working on that very thing for a few months now, with success, and so I think I can expand this behavior into other realms of my life.

Back on New Year’s Eve, I made two  life-changing decisions: I stopped smoking cigarettes, and I started distance running…something I really enjoyed back in high school, but allowed to die out.  I also began blogging about the journey, at the suggestion of a friend, who reminded me that accountability and support from others in a similar situation are invaluable for making commitments stick. She was right, and I have so far succeeded: I have not smoked for nearly 12 weeks; I have run almost 80 miles this year; I have completed one 5k race, and and I’m signed up for a 10k in May; and my running blog is doing quite well. So, let’ s apply some of these principles to my current issue: how to spend less time in agonies of doubt, and more time pursuing my God-given art of writing (the reason I began blogging, remember?) Here’s what I came up with:

I have registered for the Blogging from A-to-Z in April Challenge, as a way to encourage myself to write something every day for a month. I will focus on themes relevant to Christianity (my own unique spin on the challenge) and in the process, try to recover some of my joy and wonder at the purpose God has placed in me – to express in writing how great He is, and yet how accessible He is to any who will seek after Him. THIS is my role, THIS is my value to the kingdom of heaven…and I am grateful that the Lord is patient, and continues to minister to me and encourage me. He has done this through many mediums – the sermon series our pastor is doing on how God’s plan for humanity has always been that we are blessed to serve Him and to serve others for His glory; the brothers at the halfway house and at the prison where I serve, who are constant examples of how God’s grace extends to “the least and the lost” of this world, and that our worth in His eyes is in no way dependent on how the world sees us; and by a book I finally picked up off the shelf and started reading: Quitter, by Jon Acuff, who tells how finding fulfillment of our dreams is more about recovering than about discovering…a message I really needed to hear! (Jon also recently reminded me that artists are specially blessed by God, and that writers are artists.)

I welcome your comments, and pray that God will lead me in finding 26 creative ways to write about Him in April. I have heard that once you do something 21 times it has become an ingrained habit…let’s put that to the test again, shall we? Stay tuned, spread the word, I believe some wonderful things are about to happen!

It has been a very trying and taxing week in the life of a Nicky…death and discouragement have been all around, but praises to God that He is more than all the enemy could ever send against me.

Through the course of her chemo treatments (today was the last one, btw…hurrah!) Karen has made some wonderful friends; adversity is a fantastic incubator for closeness. One particular person, Danni, has really been through it – she had already undergone surgery to remove one lung, and a lemon-sized brain tumor, and met Karen while doing a course of chemo for “insurance”. Well, the chemo caused an episode of kidney failure, and while being treated for that, she suffered a stroke – which led to the discovery of a second brain tumor. At that point, Danni called BS on treatment, and said she could just ride out the rest of her life in peace and dignity. Her family consented, and the next step was moving her into hospice about a week ago. We have been visiting every other day, for as long as she has left, she will know we are here with her. Last night was hard…she kept telling her daughters “Today is the day, they are here for me.” We don’t know who she is seeing, because communication is very difficult for her, but she is convinced “they” are there, and so we wait with her…

Last Monday a dear friend from the church called me, sounding desperate, tired, and depressed – she has been fighting asthma and COPD from years of cigarettes, drugs, and life on the streets of New Orleans; the Lord rescued her from all that, and sent her to Houston in the aftermath of Katrina. She became a member of our church, and an invigorating reminder of the Holy Spirit’s transforming power – I have never in my life met anyone who more understood what it means to be redeemed. But last week, after several rounds of in-and-out at the ER, suffering pneumonia that just wouldn’t quite go away, she called me to pray with her – she said she was so tired, and hurting, and ready for God to heal her any way He wanted to, if she could only find some rest. So Friday morning, He did just that…Patricia went home to her reward, and now she is by His side: no more pain, no more sadness, received into His rest at last…

Yesterday morning, as I was making notes for the morning announcements at the worship service, I learned that the church secretary’s brother Wayne had also passed this week; he had been in the hospital for some time, and was not really expected to get better, but the loss hurts just as deeply, no matter what…

All this just kind of piled up on me, and I went and sat at the back of the church alone, to pray and collect myself to welcome the congregation, when the Lord brought back to mind a couple of passages of Scripture; some of them I had just received the other day from another blogger friend. I threw away my notes, and read these instead, and as I prayed I sensed the Holy Spirit settling over us, bringing the comfort only He can. I would like to share those verses with you…perhaps someone reading this is also in need of His touch –

When someone close to us dies, or is near death, it often helps us to remember the words of the Apostle Paul, who addresses the church at Corinth about these very concerns:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal…For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens… For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.  (2 Cor 4:7-5:5, selected)

And then, while we may be comforted about our friends, we may still end up angry at God, or confused and wondering just what He is doing…if nothing happens outside of His will, what exactly is His will? These two passages explain precisely what His will is: Jesus, speaking to the crowd gathered at the seaside says,

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:38-40, emphasis added)

And then, again from Paul, this time in exhortation to the church at Thessalonica,

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thes 5:12-18, emphasis added)

God’s will is very clear – we are to serve one another, in love that is the likeness of Christ’s love for us; and to endure in that love, so we may be lifted up in the last day. Those who have gone on ahead to glory, those already lifted up, are no longer under obligation…we who remain in this world are indeed in debt to Him whose love has redeemed us…and it is that very love, which makes all the rest something we can endure.

Hi everybody! I haven’t done much “free writing” here lately; seems like everything has been purpose-driven: sermon texts, bible studies, reblogs of (really great) work by others, and discussions in apologetics – that’s pretty much the index for the whole last month, isn’t it? Well, today I want to ramble a bit, so thanks for reading along, or you can click away…the wonderful freedom of the Internet, that no one is forced to suffer a bore! (But I really hope you aren’t bored by what I say, and if you are, why are you still reading this sentence?)

One thing on my mind is “perception”. This has been pinging at me from a few different directions lately. I live a life with many facets, like most people do, right? But it always amuses me a little when friends from one area seem stunned to learn that there is more than one side to who I am…as if the part they interact with is all there is to me, when they themselves are many-sided people…we all are, aren’t we? Or has TV corrupted our minds to the point that now we think of each other as characters in tiny little reality shows…you’re either Snooki or Honey-Boo-Boo; a ballroom dancer or a guy who makes duck calls; you bake exotic cakes or build exotic motorcycles or wear and create exotic tattoos, and that’s all I need to know. The only exception I can think of is “The Most Interesting Man in the World”, but even he exists only to hawk mediocre Mexican beer (I don’t always seem condescending, but when I do, there’s money in it!)

That last one highlights the confusing flip-side to this: the lengths fiction goes to in creating back stories for characters…imaginary people can be shallow, because they have a limited purpose and don’t need much more than shadows and suggestions for us to decide how we need to view them. Writers know this (or should know it); lazy writers use stereotypes as  a quick and easy way to get the audience where they need to be to understand the plot…who are the “bad guys”, who are the “good guys”, and what are their motives? For the purpose of entertainment, that’s fine…I really don’t want to invest a lot of time and energy “doing life” with a cartoon. But real people are not entertainment – it is very multitude of interests we have that make us worth knowing – yet we are becoming conditioned to treat everyone outside of ourselves as if they exist merely for our own benefit or amusement…and it’s working. This near-sightedness, or tunnel-vision, has direct impact on how we interact with others, but sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who notices it. Let me share two examples from experience.

Recently, I was approached by my employer, who wanted to discuss my future with the company, so he asked me into his office and closed the door. (Does anyone ever enjoy that moment, wondering what is coming next?) He expressed his appreciation for my contributions to the company, and the efforts I have made to improve both communication between office and field, as well as efficiency in the execution of our work. Of course, I am sitting there waiting for the other shoe to drop – in the past, these speeches have proceeded an explanation of why my contributions are no longer needed – and he blows me away by telling me that he wants to invest in my future; he feels I can be of greater benefit to the company by training others in the way I approach a project than by doing the work myself. I am humbled, and grateful…with my wife’s illness, the prospect of losing by job and health insurance fills me with cold dread…and so we begin to discuss some concrete details. He was surprised to learn that I have already been through several of the management and leadership courses he had in mind; that I have previous design, engineering, and CAD experience, going back over twenty years; that I have already purchased some of the collared shirts that office employees wear instead of the logo t-shirts of field crews (out of my own pocket, because the company only provides one set of “uniform” shirts); and that I have public-speaking experience from preaching at my home church…I am much “more” than what he thought I was, and it confuses him…why I am content to “plod along”, when I could be leveraging into higher paying jobs? But I have a checkered history, which limited my options long ago; I still believe that faithfulness and loyalty count for something, even in today’s economy; and these people have been patient, understanding, and supportive of my ministry work and the difficulties of Karen’s illness…how could I receive that, and then leave because someone offered me a dollar or two more an hour?

– – –

Many of my partners in the prison ministry attend a United Methodist mega-church in one of the wealthy enclave communities that surround Houston. They have invited me to participate in any number of the “small group” activities they participate in (I guess 300 men in a discussion group is “small” when Sunday worship attendance is 8,000, but I belong to a church of less than 100, so it’s weird) and I have accepted once or twice, but the “character” disconnect seems to make it strange and uncomfortable for them. These are, by and large, good Christian men and women; but also, by and large, they are white-collar professionals, from good families, with college degrees. So when we shake hands, and they are surprised at how strong and rough my grip is from years of physical labor; or they want to meet at 6am on a weekday for coffee and fellowship, but I must decline because I am either already at the jobsite, or commuting to get there for 7am start time; or when someone asks for a donation to a worthy cause, and they reach for checkbooks and write zeros, while I’m counting cash from my billfold and thinking about how much gas I have in the truck…I am somehow “less than” the person they assume I am, and it confuses them…how can I do this ministry, giving so much to these people, when I have so little of my own?  But while we may serve as brothers and sister in Christ on the teams in the prisons, I have a substantial difference in perspective: they serve in obedience to the call of Jesus to reach “the least of these”,  and while that is also true for me, I do it more because I was once one of those “least”. There is a vast distance between “sympathy” and “empathy”, and the former does not guarantee the latter. I love my friends’ giving hearts, and how they serve because they are richly blessed; but I serve how I do precisely because I have nothing else to give except myself…and I also consider myself richly blessed.

– – –

I don’t know that any of this has a point…I said this was a ramble. So I will leave you with the closest thing to an explanation for how and why I act, work, serve and DO the things I do..I have made this a focus of my devotional time for about two years now, and it continues to inspire me; perhaps it can do the same for you: Colossians 3:23-24, NIV

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Yes, it has been some time (feels like way too long) since I’ve posted anything. There’s no one singular reason, just a feeling that I needed to get some other things lined up in their proper priority, before I returned to my work here.

Last we met, I was just returning from the Kairos weekend at Eastham Prison. As always, God is glorified during these events, and hope in a life with Christ becomes something our Participants can grab onto with both hands, and make into a reality for themselves. I am honored and humbled to share in such rewarding and meaningful service to the Kingdom of God.

I am also honored and humbled to serve Him at my home church, stretching beyond what I thought I could do, and more importantly, what I thought I should do, and into the newly discovered country of continuing in faith what I was already doing, and no more than that. I have found myself flat upon my face a great many times the last couple of weeks, oscillating between thankfulness at His grace and mercy, and disgust at my own sinful heart; He is revealing things about myself I would rather not have known, but it is His infinite wisdom that prevails…thus may I be healed when I ask forgiveness for my pride, for my lack of trust, for my refusal to follow Him and only Him.

I am also honored and humbled by the level of trust displayed by my employer, who has helped me create the perfect working environment for my needs at this time, while still maintaining productivity and profitability on multiple jobs for multiple clients…I could not imagine a better training scenario, and I am getting paid for it – who writes this stuff?

Beyond all this, Karen is tolerating chemo far better than either of us ever dared to hope. It is wearing on her – the blood counts are dropping, the energy level is dropping, and we are both just a touch paranoid about cold and flu season this year – but she is still willing to make plans and do things, and we are grateful to God more than we can express in mere words.

So I am working out what my actual schedule is, and how much time it leaves me for writing. I am still trying to live my life according to this bible verse; I am learning that it often means doing less things, with more quality. This is a valuable lesson, but I must fight against the reflexive response to abandon everything in frustration, or else I have learned nothing of balance. This is the hardest part for me, but the most important.

What that means for you, O Constant Reader, is that you will have to settle for a few less posts a week. but hopefully those that do appear will be worthy of this blog’s title. The bible lessons will resume next week…I hate to leave a great story when it’s just getting started, even when I’ve seen it before! Beyond that, we will see what each day brings. I seem to be a in a transitional interval – some things have changed, more are going to change, and this is the breath in between; the trick is to remember that life does not stand still, and there is work to do while we are waiting. I will be sending out the occasional update as I navigate this strange country, and deal with the low-level anxiety of not knowing exactly where I am going. Please keep me in your prayers.

Following hard after Him,

and some days are harder than others,


Just so you know…

Posted: November 11, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

I apologize for not posting last night, but a series of unfortunate incidents did some injury to my to- do list. Let me explain… it’s a good quick story.

Karen has not yet been called to serve on the Outside team for a Kairos weekend, but she always attends the Closing. This year’s sudden drop in attendees from my church created a logistics problem – I had no driver from Houston to the prison for Karen. Three consecutive contingencies fell through, and I was left with only one option. I left the base camp at 10:30, drove home, packed up Karen and drove back. We got to bed at 2:30, up at 5:30, in the gate at seven; by worked the day with the Outside team and came in with them for Closing. We got home two hours ago, and here we are.

I need a day or so to process, so look for that post on Tuesday. Short version: God’s grace is greater than the darkest prison cell, and tonight forty-two men shouted out in joy, celebrating that truth for themselves. He is mighty to save!

Tomorrow will be the regular lesson in John’s Gospel. Now it’s off to bed, due at the office at seven am. Good night, and may God grant you that same measure of joy.

Following hard,

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you are also in the body.

This weekend I am serving with the Kairos prison ministry at Eastham Unit in Lovelady, TX. Please be in prayer for the men, the volunteers, the staff, and for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Nevertheless he ought to be slow to believe and to act, nor should he himself show fear, but proceed in a temperate manner with prudence and humanity, so that too much confidence may not make him incautious and too much distrust render him intolerable.

– Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

For an author who derided the concept that moral virtue was a necessary condition for an enduring government,  Machiavelli does on occasion offer advice that all leaders would do well to remember. Here, he is referring to a prince who has newly come into his power, and is in the early stages of consolidating his base…but temperance, prudence and humanity ought to be the hallmarks of any person who would take on a position of authority, don’t you agree?

October, specifically the last 10 days or so, has always been my favorite season of the year. I’m  Houston native, so the realities of growing up in a home with no air conditioning made the cooling off of Fall into the stuff of daydreams and visions in the heat shimmer coming off the concrete. Also, there was the eager expectation of the sanctioned gluttony and wantonness of Halloween …we weren’t church people, or even Christians really, so all was fair as long as Dad didn’t have to pay for anything and nobody went to the hospital…pretty good system from a kid’s-eye view.

Later in life, I became enthralled with the spectacle of the natural cycle…spring inspires many, but for me fall is much more mysterious; watching vibrant life transition into restful slumber,  fills me with a breathtaking faith in, and expectation of, a promised rebirth – I cannot explain it any better than that, I have tried but it escapes definition. I actually flirted with paganism briefly in college, looking for some deeper meaning in the forest, rather than the One who made the trees in the first place. (Wow, if you ever want proof that God has a sense of humor, consider that twenty five years later, that same confused, crisp-air-and-candy-addled young man would be writing a blog post instead of finishing the most important sermon he has ever been asked to present…I couldn’t pitch that on public access, let alone network TV.)

There’s a cold front moving in this evening; the wind is dragging the tree branches against the house, and it makes the dogs anxious. Karen is tired, and her irregular sleep schedule makes her anxious and irritable as well, but God bless her, she is working so hard to not take it out on anyone, and she is succeeding enough to earn the “A”, so all is well there. I have a full slate of projects to get focused on, and while I fervently prayed not to find myself in the position I’m in with some areas, we are past that point, and it is what it is. I am faced with a decision, and I do not have all the information I need to make it, nor a definable deadline. That does not absolve me of the responsibility to answer my calling to the best of my ability, where He put me, until such time as He sees fit to move me elsewhere. The prison ministry I serve makes a point of explaining to our participants the difference between the two Greek words used in the New Testament to describe time: chronos – linear time, as measured by humans,  with the expectation of schedules and timetables that we can manipulate and control; and kairos, “God’s time”, the “fullness of time”, the time that God has ordained for this thing to come to be. We have no control over this kind of time; we can neither hurry things along, nor hold them back. Living in this kind of time requires a rock-solid faith, a willingness to go to a country we have not seen yet, but will be shown the way as we go. Jesus reboots that, and shows us how to get to that country – from Mark 8:

34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

Denying myself does not mean that I don’t use the gifts I have been given…it means that this whole last year has been intensive training in how to use them properly, so that I serve God and not my own ego or interests. I have failed in this area before, but I have learned much since then…and I have had success, too. It came when I began to do the work for God and not for me –  this verse is pinned to the wall beside my monitor:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

My heart is wringing out, I see confused, hurting people all around me, and I must minister to them…this is what I am here to do. If there is more to come later, so be it…I’m not all that interested in “later”. If I’m supposed to be following Jesus, how about I believe and do what He said?

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

OK, I’m gonna go outside, look at the blowing leaves, then finish my sermon and go to bed. Today is nearly over, I’m done with its trouble, and tomorrow isn’t here yet. Good night, good weekend, God bless you all.

Following hard after Him,


PS: The Friday Forum may become an alternating feature; I would love some comments on which types of posts you most enjoy, as I re-examine the focus of the blog, and decide what to keep, dump, or add.

I just had this thought rolling around in my head, and needed to share it so it will let me sleep tonight – thanks for reading!

When someone hurts us, it is our natural instinct to cry out for Justice – We have been wronged, and a price must be paid. (This is the essence of God’s case against humanity – He has been wronged, grieved, injured by our sin, and His justice demands propitiation.)

The difference between vengeance and grace is in what we are willing to accept as payment: Vengeance says, “I have suffered,  so you must suffer as I have;”  while Grace says instead, “I have suffered, and I do not wish another to suffer like that. I will therefore give my pain to God, and accept His peace instead.”

– Nick Ortega