Days of Peace

 

Today was one of those beautiful days…. when He seems to be so close…. from the moment of getting up, walking outside to feel the wonderful morning air…. until now in the quiet early morning hours of the 28th… this has been a time when the very air seemed to shimmer with transcendent light…

I always write these entries in the very early morning of each day… it is ten minutes until three a.m. now… in these wonderful hours of the morning the world is quiet… at these times I feel very, very close to the Father… at these hours the veil seems especially thin…

In the last couple of days I have been so blessed… a couple of what seemed to me to be completely incidental things culminated in bring a good friend a measure of peace…  a measure of healing so needed… a continuation of the process that can take decades after a profound loss…

Though I don’t feel free to outline these things in detail in such a public forum as this…. I can say that this has been a time when you see the Golden Strands that God weaves which become our lives… indeed at such times I think I can hear the gentle working of the loom…

Never think that what you consider to be the most unimportant things said or done will not profoundly move someone else and fit into Gods plans for our lives…

I would have to write a book to truly explain what is in my heart right now… the events of so long ago set in motion forces, for lack of a better word, that would bring peace to someone though a series of event strung together like translucent diamonds strung on that Golden Thread…

God brought together strands going back forty years….

Let every thought you think be as noble as you can make it…

Let every word you say be as loving and kind as you can say them…

Let every moment be one in which you look beyond the external to the underlying meaning….

And know that every action creates ripples that may well not reach the far shore until years later….

And know that meaning can come out of profound tragedy that decades later will bring healing, relief, new meaning and peace to the lives of those who are still coming to terms with a life changing event…. and know

That the Father God is in control….

Leading Like Jesus Christ

Leadership…. thousands of books, articles…. thousands of seminars every year try to teach men what is leadership….

Leadership is at once the easiest thing to define and the hardest thing to do…. as I see it…. it requires a degree of honesty and integrity to such a degree that the leader is an outlier… someone who is off the charts…. because they lead by showing….

Jesus walked at the lead of the disciples hundreds… probably thousands of miles…  in fact he did not ask them to do this he just did it and they followed. …

Jesus taught his disciples to pray by praying… by worshipping his Father in Heaven…  He taught them to pray through the harsh watches of the night… because he did it they did it… Jesus asked Peter to step out of the boat and have faith that he could walk on water…. Peter was successful until he let his faith grow weak…. but he would likely never have done it had Jesus not been already walking on water…

Jesus taught them that the gospel is for all mankind by visiting with, eating with and staying with the lowest of the low in a town… he showed his disciples that we should care for the poor because he cared for the poor….

Jesus taught mercy by showing it… when Mary Magdalene was brought before him to be judged and stoned…. Jesus stood with her …. the perfect example of courage in holding back a mob with his sheer personal force… then he taught forgiveness by asking where are your accusers…. when she said she did not know, he told her then neither to I condemn you… Go and sin no more…

Jesus taught love by giving it… in the Sermon on the Mount, the most beautiful of Christs teachings we find him telling us how to treat each other, then we see him doing what he says by saying… let the little children come unto me…  

Jesus taught love and care for our physical well-being by feeding the people who had come miraculously… He taught that the body must also be fed as well as the soul because he did it.. he fed the thousands there from a few fish and a little bread…

Finally the greatest example was his willingness to give his life on the cross…. He paid the ultimate penalty for us… and in that example he tells us what we are to do for each other…  to love others as much as we love ourselves…

If Fathers would just show, instead of lecturing,  do the hard things instead of berating his children, not drink so his kids wont drink, not do drugs so his kids won’t do drugs and be able to and do everything that he asks especially his sons to do; then young men would be far less lost than they are today. 

If we would just imitate Jesus Christ…. the simply show what a Christian life is in love and friendship we would attract more people and youth to Jesus Christ because what we have as Christians will intrigue them… Then our opportunity will come to become men who are

Leading like Jesus Christ. 

The primary example is Jesus Christ… he was the leader of leaders, the king of kings,  lord of lords… because he was the personification not only of God but of Men… of fathers…. of leaders…

Jesus Christ was so tender and loving in his leadership… and in that he was more powerful than any leader who ever has existed or ever will exist.. His was always the first step as well as the initiating example…  He really did just a few things that are the most powerful principals in leadership. 

He, unflinchingly did the hard things that he asked the disciples to do.   He never asked his disciples to do anything he would not do himself…. He prayed longer… he was up earlier in prayer before the sun…. His step each day was the initiating step… he was the first one starting on the journey each day… He just asked his men to do what he did….  there is so much power in that.  The disciples realized that what he asked of them he would co and could do.  A leader who will not do what his followers are asked to do is doomed to be discovered as the fraud he is.  The school principal who never teachers, the field commander who stays back in the rear issuing commands, the factory supervisor who never comes out of the air conditioning onto the shop floor where it is hot, dirty and unsafe….  all these are not leaders but frauds who ask others to do that which they will not do…

The Power Of a Godly Father in His Son’s Life

I’ve been thinking more about the Redmond video I posted yesterday.   I have to feel that every part of that video is an analogy illustrating something good in the relationship of a father and his son in a very broad sense.  As I go through my work with young people, young men, as a youth pastor, teacher, mentor….. I see so much anger….so many boys who have just gone off the rails… in every case there was no man in the boy’s life…

No father… no mentors…. no role models… no leaders…. no one….

Abandoned kids… abandoned boys…. adrift, angry, like rogues… I recall a fascinating story about a problem in Africa with young bull elephants….

If a young male elephant is raised without a bull elephant around… it seems to lose control… it goes wild…. roaming through the country side with other young rogue adolescent elephants destroying everything in their path… essentially gangs… they are led by their testosterone at its worst…. power without direction…. power unchanneled. 

Apparently, the solution is to capture the crazed adolescent then put it in with fully grown bulls, larger, more powerful, experienced…   so the story goes the bulls will get the young elephant between them just holding it until it calms down… that will be repeated when it gets out of control… nothing horrible… no goring… no damage… the other bulls just restrain the adolescent until it calms enough to follow their example…

Could it be…. possible … that young human males are at least analogous to young elephants…. that without the leadership of a strong father…. they… go wild?    Can a young man become so lost without the example of a father that he strikes out at everything?  I think so. 

I am watching the little league world series… the coaches are miked… what they say to a kid on the field can be heard by millions of people…. a young boy is pitching…. obviously nervous…. not settled…. like a young colt… unsure… frightened….

His coach walks calmly out to the mound, signalling time out as he does… the boy simply stands waiting… the first words out of the coaches mouth are “you are doing great”…. the boy stands with his head down turning the ball…listening to his coach as the coach praises his skill, his character…. as the coach tells him how proud he is of the young pitcher… he gives him a hint about pitching… the camera angle changes… the slight smile on the boys face is visible… his coach pats him on the shoulder and says “you are the best, have fun, just have fun”….  as the coach turns and walks away the boy wipes his sleeve across his eyes… takes a deep breath… stands up straight and strikes out the next two batters….  And I think… it is that simple…  

Derek Redmond was seemingly alone when he started his race for the gold at the 92 Olympics…. but he wasn’t alone… the entire lifetime his father had spent with him was there… in his entire being…. the tenacity his father had taught him….probably just by example…. was with him… but most important…. his father actually was with him…. an appropriate distance away because his son had gone on his way as the Bible teaches that young men must do…. but his father was watching…

Derek had obviously been taught independence… determination… character… because when his father did see he needed help… he came to his side… and when he did…. he said “you don’t have to do this”… but Derek said… “Yes, I do”…..

What happened next… he gave his son just the help he needed… he kept the people who would stop him away… he just removed the stumbling blocks from his path… and he gave him support when he needed it…. but then something even more important happened….

When they approached the finish line Derek’s father let him go…. he released him to let his injured son finish the race by himself….

Derek’s father was being the perfect Biblical example of a father… he had trained Derek up in the way he should go… Derek had already proven that when he said “Yes, I do”…. Derek’s father then allowed his son to be the man he wanted to be by finishing the race alone.  His father could have gone over the finish line with his son…

but he knew something about young men…. they need dignity… they need to feel both supported but strong enough to do it themselves…. and at every opportunity a Godly father will let his son have the responsibility he needs to grow into the man he wants and needs to be…. so that he can carry that responsibility… that sense or ability and confidence into his work life…. his relationship with a woman…. he relationship with other men…. and to be an exemplary father to his own children….

The power of a Godly father in his sons’ life was shown in that simple video…. the power to direct strength…. to teach responsiblity… to teach courage… tenacity… to teach all the traits men need to make it through life… and something else was obvious to me…. though I could not see or hear it… I’m betting that at some point in that run with his father Derek heard the words “I love you son”. ….. “I am proud of you”…  just as I am sure he heard them throughout his life… 

Those all important words… I know… will be repeated to Derek Redmond’s own sons and daughters… as he leads them by the example his father used to lead him.

Derek Redmond in the 1992 olympics, His father raised him up

This is an earthly Father…. with a heart filled with such love one is amazed and brought to tears….

He would not be kept away from his son who was down, hurt and to weary…..

His son was hurt and his heart was burdened, and he sat there on the track until his father came…

His father who raised him up to continue his race……”You don’t have to do this” the father said… the son…”Yes I do”… the father “The we will do it together”

This earthly father carried his son until he got him near the finish line, then he released him to finish his race by himself on his own two feet. 

He gave his son the greatest gift that day… he gave himself and exemplary love….

He gave other fathers a great gift that day as well…. an example of how a father should be…

How much more will our Heavenly Father do for us…. in different ways.

He is all forgiving… all loving… perfect

He is filled with justice… our wrongs will be cured and our injuries will be healed.

Oh, there have been so many times when He was with me but there were only one set of footprints in the sand…

Those were the times he was carrying me… lifting me… being the air beneath my wings…

Raising me up so I can stand on mountains….

Calling me out of the boat to walk on stormy seas…

My Heavenly Father raises me up to more than I can be….

I’ve stood on mountains, I’ve walked on stormy seas, I been lost in abject wilderness,

But you raised me up Father….

I am strong when I am on your shoulders….

You raise me up to more than I can be….

Oh my Father…. You raise me up.

 

Gratitude Monday August 23

Well, another Monday is here.  Time to list some things for which to be thankful and to give thanks…   you can never think of everything but here are a few…

for the first day of school

for teachers who give everything to their kids

for kids who try to learn and bring their best every day

for administrators who make that possible

for  home schoolers all over america and the world

for parents who have the caring and the courage to home school; the best education possible

for parents who give their children their very best everyday

for cakes to auction

for birds in a wildlife sanctuary

for quiet afternoons with the camera

for finding a new and beautiful place to communicate with God

for an incoming front

for a magnificent thunderstorm

for rain on a 100 degree day

for a new trick my dog has learned

for midnight calls to ministry

for a friend who trusts me well enough to make the request to come at midnight

for a friend who is a minister, he just doesn’t know it

for a young man who has the courage to face his problems

for the same young man who has the courage to take the steps to conquer those problems

for 24 hour IHOP restaurants

for persimmons

for fresh tomatoes and mozzarella

for fresh peas

for churches that care about those who go to them

for churches that feed the poor

for ministers with the courage to lead

for Sunday lunch after church

for men who will get up before daylight to cook and grill so that all can have food

for other young men who overcome

for hundreds of FB friends who chat

for a young relative in Ireland who chats everyday

for technology that allows us to connect with the rest of the world

for cake auctions after church

for another minister who makes and enthusiastic auctioneer complete with smart remarks to the bidders

for a friend who is a leader of men who takes charge of anything

for opportunities to minister to kids

for a doctor who cares about you as a human being

for brilliant surgeons who are also human

for the grace of God who brought me through to the completion of recovery after an accident

for honesty

for a new vehicle that is a duplicate of the old one I loved

for truly good friends who care

for swamps and walkways through their wonders

for little league baseball champs from Pearland, Texas

for alligators who investigate so you can take their picture’

for cypress trees and cypress knees

for Spanish Moss and mystery

for Jesus Christ

Feed my Flock…faithful hands….

These are the hands of God… because these hands are following his commandments… that the beautiful things we know about God can be made manifest…  that the true radical faith can be shown to be true… that we feel his pleasure when we are helping his least… when a thirsty child receives a cool glass of water… when an elderly widow doesn’t have to worry about rain leaking into her house… when a child lost in the world can find a place of love and safety….. Yes, these are the hands of God….
 
Because he put us here that through our hands his work can be done….
And these hands are doing just that….
 
 

Faithful hands

Is it the grand things that we would like to do?    Is it building the giant cathedrals and beautiful architectural masterpieces that is important to Jesus Christ?  What is radical Christianity?   If Christ were given the choice between a giant cathedral of marble and crystal… what would he choose?  I know what God would choose….  

Since 1974 I have been a youth worker in some way… some of that time was spent as a conductor working with young musicians…. some of it was spent as a teacher working way out of the mainstream and under the radar with kids who just didn’t fit in…  the vast majority of it has been spent in some kind of youth ministry…

In that time I have seen kids who could not study because they were hungry…. I have seen kids who were left alone in homes while their only parent was hospitalized… kids who were not reared at all… who did not now how to be …. in any sense… lost… without guidance… with no compass… Today even in America there will be hungry kids who needn’t be hungry… who needn’t be without good clothing… who needn’t be in dark, dank housing…   fatherless, motherless…  

    

   

 Thank you Lord there will always be people of faith….the radical Christians who truly imitate you…  like the ones of this church… who in imitation of you will get up in the middle of the night… to work.. to cook… to be sure that there are no hungry mouths if they can find them.. no children without food, without clothing…. without decent housing…To be sure that the elderly in the place the Lord has given them to minister have care… someone to check on them… someone to know if they have fallen… to know if they need food, or medicine, if they have a cool or warm place to live…. to be sure they have a roof that doesn’t leak…  

Christians who practice radical faith… real faith… the faith that insures that all those around them believers or not will be full of both food and the Holy Spirit… that those around them will know the mission of Jesus Christ… that those who may not know you will know that they are looking at people who love their neighbors as well as themselves… and who act on it…. that as far as it is in their power hunger will be banished, abuse will be stopped, loneliness with be destroyed, medicines will be delivered, love will be given…  

 The thing that young Christians want is a radical faith… that fulfils the real gospel as this church is doing… to help those who are weak, to feed those who are hungry… to stop pain when they can, to be sure that tears of sadness are replaced with tears of joy… that loneliness is replaced with love…  they have grown beyond the mindless activities that so many think kids want… what so many young men and women want is a real working faith… a faith that puts it on the line… that risks… that  

makes sure that the gospel has real meaning… these are young people who mean it… who take what God said seriously… who want to live a real life of faith… not an artificial, routine “religion” but radical Christianity focused on the  

Person of Jesus Christ and his true Mission… to bring souls to God.. and to take care or the Earthly needs of the people around them…  

to fulfil the two greatest commandments of the Lord God… To love the Lord with all your heart and because of that……….To love your neighbor as much as you love yourself….  

   

so that the love of God can be known… and felt… and real….

As a little child….

How can I approach him …. the bible tells me as a little child… and I think…

A long time ago when I was first learning to teach band I was an assistant band director …. low on the food chain…. I taught a second band and a groups of sixth grade musicians…

I’ve always walked the line between friend and teacher very carelessly… it’s just hard to ignore a kid… there was this one child… a drummer… a shy boy… who needed to talk often… I have always talked to my students… I never turned them away…. I had needed someone to listen when I was a boy…

One day this boy walked up to me with tears in his eyes…. I’m moving, he said.. I asked him how long it was going to be …. he said on Friday.

When Friday came he got through class looking sad…. then hung around waiting for the other kids to leave… he walked up to me.. barely in control… shook my hand and said goodbye… I walked him out of the back door of the band hall… As he walked away I told him to remember what a good kid he was and that he was going to be ok…

He walked away…. stopped …. and turned and ran back to me crying… he grabbed me around the chest and sobbed into my shirt.. “You are the only one who cares about me”…. I didn’t know what to say so I just hugged him back… Here was a child who saw something in me worthwhile… for some reason he connected to me.

Maybe at that point in his life he felt I was the only one in his life who cared about him… or more likely he was having a temporarily rough time. 

Either way I received his hug with love, forgetting and forgiving every time he had talked out of turn, every time he had been mischievous, every time he had made a mistake… those things just drifted away… all I knew was that this young boy had somehow come to see in my something worth imitating, something worth loving… and I received him in the way he came.  I felt such a warmth and love  for this child that I would have adopted him on the spot.  All the mistakes, childishness, and minor misbehavior was forgotten.  He also said “I’m sorry for anything I’ve done” through his tears.  And he got complete utter and total forgiveness.  If he had needed another home at that moment I would have adopted him. 

That is how our Lord works…. and what he means when he tells us to come to him as a little child…. we come without guile… running to him to tell him we did wrong and can he forgive us and we receive his forgiveness… without reservation… and from him we receive a home in his heart… we are kept close there… and he prepares another home for us in the future…

In coming to him as a child… we come to him as  someone who has nothing to give and wanting nothing but forgiveness and love… and we receive it…  and he holds on to us and holds us close…. forever…