There are few things more annoying than knowing that I bought something and tucked it away for future use, and then not being able to find it when I need it.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.
Hand soap is on sale, I need one but purchase three because the price is good. Tuck it away…somewhere. I always keep extra hand soap under the sinks, and I don’t remember ever putting it anywhere else, so I should find it there, right? I mean, where else would it be?
That’s a really good question. And I don’t know the answer.
To tell the truth, I’m not really thinking about hand soap right now. It’s just a convenient and ever-applicable example, because I really do believe my house has some sort of hand soap black hole.
I’m really thinking about the decades of study and training I’ve had to understand the gospel, and what incredibly good news it truly is, and how my identity is completely changed because of it, and what amazing privileges I have as a result of it, and how I get to be part of bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth.
In the bible it says:
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
2 Peter 1:1-3
So maybe you don’t read the bible much. That’s ok. I’m going to briefly unpack a couple of things here, and the concepts are simple.
Who has received a faith? Me.
Who got it because of how good and perfect Jesus is and not because of any personal qualities? Me again.
Who has been given, once again through no merit of her own, everything pertaining to life and godliness? Yup…that would be me again.
You know what that word everything means?
It means EVERYTHING. As in all the stuff. Full benefits. The total deluxe package with all the “but wait, there’s more!” addenda completely exhausted.
SO WHERE IN TARNATION DID I PUT IT?!
I’m not talking about moral failure here. If you keep reading in the book of 2 Peter it talks about some great qualities to cultivate that will help a person keep it between the ditches when it comes to that.
I’m talking about my frustration with how easily I accept a limited, powerless gospel which is really rather questionable on the good news scale. And how if I really, truly got the full goodness of this good news, I would walk in a power, boldness, and fearlessness that sometimes I swear must surely be hiding out with my hand soap stash.
What does it take for me to really live as if I really believe the truth that it’s impossible to overstate how good God is…and how deeply and wildly and passionately He loves…and how personal He’s willing to get…and how willing He is to back me up if I’ll step out in boldness to bless the people He loves and wants to touch?
I need a higher thought. I need more boldness, more fire. According to 2 Peter, I already have those things. Somewhere.
I look down and I can still see me, so this blaze needs turned up a few more notches until that mess is incinerated.
I can’t handle one more minute of the hope-sucking mindset that says I need to be nice, balanced, controlled, or reasonable. I’m bored out of my ever-lovin’ skull with it.
I’d rather be passionate, sold-out, and completely yielded to Him with no thought that I might actually be able to exaggerate God’s extravagant and outrageous love and His willingness to get His hands dirty with the likes of broken humanity.
Jesus, You’ve got to teach me how to do this, because I sure as heck don’t know.
Humans are complicated critters.
We’re a walking myriad of ifs, ands, and buts, all of which can change at any given moment according to the height of the tide in the Azores, the Dow at 1:47pm on Thursdays that fall on dates with even numbers, or how high our socks are on any given day.
That’s assuming we didn’t consume any seafood within the past 24 hours, of course.
We do things we’re determined not to do. We don’t do the things we intend to do. We think we know who we are but then we can’t explain why we make the choices we do.
And then there are emotions. Joy, grief, anger, jealousy, disappointment…all of them potential tsunamis, suddenly rising up to bowl us over with their intensity. We’re left wondering where that came from.
Being complicated gives us many facets. Like a perfectly cut diamond, when we’re clean and clear we can reflect light with dazzling brilliance. But if we’ve got cloudy spots and cracks and fissures, light gets muddied and our sparkle is dulled. Our complicated facets magnify what’s inside us.
There are days I’d rather be a simple person. It seems as if life would be easier. Maybe it would be.
But without my ifs, ands, and buts I’d lose my me-ness. And frankly, I’m pretty sure I’d get bored. I have some pretty interesting neighborhoods in my head, and it would kinda stink if they all got reduced to one blinking traffic light small towns.
So it seems better to embrace the fact that like the rest of this bizarre human race, I am a complicated order.
Go ahead…just try and call security.
The days of herds and lemmings are long gone.
I am no fan of the bandwagon; neither do I relish the sweat of bushwhacking. But the sweat is true to who I was made to be, and the bandwagon is just another rut in which to be mired.
I choose the only viable option in my eyes and desperately wish for a roadmap.
But there isn’t a roadmap. There’s just this machete that I’ve been swinging like crazy, slashing a path through uncharted territory. I’m tired, a little lonely, and I don’t know if this is the right direction.
And if I’m totally honest, I have to confess I feel afraid.
Afraid this will be the time I heard incorrectly.
Afraid this will be the time I missed it.
Afraid that this will be the time I overstepped.
Afraid that this will be the time I dreamed too big.
Afraid that this will be the time I over-promised.
Afraid that You aren’t going to back me up.
I hate fear. I’m never happy when I’ve let it have the controlling vote. I rarely see an excellent decision inspired by fear. That said, over time I’ve made a few poor ones in the name of flipping fear the biggest bird I can muster, but at least I didn’t have to live with the idea that I chickened out and let fear win before I ever even tried.
Some day when I make peace with failure, I know I’m going to be really happy about that.
So fear lurks, and I feel it. Big deal.
I tighten my grip and keep swinging, keep walking, keep pushing forward into the unknown.
If I go down, I go down swinging.
The nature of being a blogger is that I write stuff.
How’s that for stating the ever-lovin’ obvious?
But it’s true. And the nature of this particular blog is that it’s a peek into what’s going on in my brain on any given day, which is why “It’s always time for something!” That means that if you’re paying attention, you can learn a lot about me. And if you’re not paying attention, you probably still know more about me than you realize.
Probably more than I realize, too.
But knowing about me isn’t the same as knowing me.
That can be a tricky thing. Because when a person regularly drops intimate thoughts on life, faith, and the abomination called cilantro, you end up feeling like you really know them.
It’s just the nature of how these things work.
I’m probably a better person than you think. I’m also probably a worse person than you think. If you really knew me, you’d be both awed and disappointed. And it would be a totally fair assessment and reaction.
I am a walking contradiction, an introvert with a personal public platform, a work in progress, a broken vessel trying to live in wholeness.
I am dreadfully human.
And so are you. But I suspect you already knew that.
We humans can be a fickle bunch. We mean to be trustworthy. We mean to be upright. We mean to be safe. But then some cool commercial comes on the television or someone tells a funny joke on Facebook and we get distracted and drop the ball.
But not God. He’s not like humans. I always have His intimate attention. He’s trustworthy, and I’m safe with Him even when I don’t really like what He has to say about something…and even when He doesn’t like what I have to say about something. He never stops being good. He never stops being good to me.
He knows me. And yet, I don’t rely on His sovereign omniscience. He doesn’t know me just because He can. This is a relationship, and we both get to make choices in how we interact.
So I invite Him to know me more.
He has complete permission to search me, to know my thoughts and the ways of my heart. To break me. To correct me. To form me. To lead me. To back me into a corner and make me do the hard things. To melt me with tenderness and compassion I know I don’t deserve. To make wisecracks that make me laugh at inappropriate times. To place the tip of His sword against my chest and say “Now…come here.”
Think about it: have you ever considered that God wants to know you in a way that’s deeper than the fact that He already knows everything?
He can crash any party He likes…but He loves nothing more than an invitation for an intimate gathering of two.
Go ahead…dare to be known.
Love doesn’t mean much if it’s forced.
My translator and I were nearing the end of ministry time in Uberlandia, Brazil, when a young man, probably in his late 20s, came and stood before us. After a brief conversation with him, the translator turned to me and explained that the young man suffered from depression and anxiety. He liked the peace in the atmosphere of the building and wanted prayer for personal peace
I nodded and said I would pray for him. I lightly touched his arm and prayed.
“Vem, Espirito Santo”. Come, Holy Spirit.
I felt a shift and sensed the Spirit telling me of a rift that needed to be addressed. I stopped praying.
“Are you a Christian?” I asked, pretty sure I already knew the answer to that question.
He made a reply to the translator, who then explained to me that he said that he sometimes attended church with friends, but that he was a spiritist.
Spiritism is very common in Brazil. It’s a funky mixed bag of false enlightenment that appeals to the intellect and cherry-picks bits out of other religions, including Christianity.
Bottom line, it’s not Jesus, even if it tips its hat to Him.
I smiled at him. “Did you see all the miracles Jesus did here tonight?”
He nodded his head.
“Jesus is the only way you can get peace that you get to keep,” I told him. “Would you like to receive Jesus?”
We were keeping the translator busy. She relayed his answer to me.
“He just wants prayer for peace.”
“Ok,” I said to her, “I can do that, but be certain he understands that it’s having Jesus and the Holy Spirit inside him that makes it so he can carry that peace anywhere. Without Jesus, when he leaves this anointed atmosphere, there’s no way to hold onto that peace.”
She spoke to him. He nodded.
Ok. Well, then.
I wondered how much English he understood, if any. And then I decided it didn’t matter. I would pray for what he asked, and more. I was certain he would receive what I asked for him. And more.
“Don’t translate,” I said. She smiled and nodded.
And I prayed, fast and hard and in English.
I prayed he would feel the deep peace of the Spirit upon him. I prayed that it would give him a taste of rest and joy like he’d never known before, and that he would know beyond any doubt that this is the gift of Jesus. I also prayed that when he left the property and that peace lifted and the tormentors returned, that he would remember that rescue existed and that there was only one way to live in permanent peace, and that he would have a dramatic encounter with Jesus that changed his life forever. I prayed for his salvation. I prayed many things…I prayed until I was prayed out.
“Ask him how he’s feeling now.”
A few brief words flew back and forth.
“He says that he’s feeling good, very strong peace,” the translator replied.
I smiled and gave his arm a squeeze. “Good. Blessings to you.”
He turned and left, and I felt sadness for him.
He had seen some crazy awesome healings and miracles that night. Things that should have been impossible, happened. The presence of God was so thick, it was amazing. And the young man knew that he could get what he desired so deeply, and much, much more. This was the place. This was the time.
But he was not willing.
Power evangelism is some striking stuff. When you see what Jesus can and will do, it’s not hard to recognize that you want that kind of Person active in your life. We saw many salvations on this trip because eyes were freshly opened to the love and the power of God.
But every crowd contains those who close their eyes and choose skepticism…unbelief…pride…
Every crowd contains those who choose to say no to love.
I am confident that what I prayed is what happened. I could feel the yearning of Jesus for it.
And I hope that when faced with the reality of the choice he’d just made, the young man changed his mind.
It didn’t seem like much at first.
Monday night on my flight back to the U.S. my throat was a little scratchy and my voice was hoarse. But nothing awful. I expected it to blow over in a day or two.
But in a day or two it moved from my throat into my lungs. My airways began crackling and whistling so loudly upon exhaling that the noise actually kept me awake.
By Friday morning I was coughing my head off and I could feel my eustachian tubes. It’s never a good thing when you can feel your eustachian tubes.
Rather than risk getting worse over the weekend, I called the family doc and he worked me in that morning. He figured it was a virus, but gave me a prescription for a Z-pak and some Happy Syrup to help with the cough. He told me to wait 3-4 days on the Z-pack unless I spiked a fever or got significantly worse. That was fine with me; I don’t like taking antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.
By Saturday evening it was obvious that I needed to start the Z-pak. I was aching, chilling, and pushing the upper bounds of 101 degrees. I could tell you what the fox says because I’m pretty sure I was doing fox calls every time I opened my mouth, and it was like coughing razor blades.
And today? Today the creeping crud done crept into my sinuses.
I wasn’t planning on bringing much back from Brazil, and I certainly wasn’t planning on this. But let me make one thing abundantly clear:
It was totally worth it.
I’ve been processing all that happened through a fever-induced haze. But it won’t be that way forever. My immune system is getting some steam on it, and that Z-pak is kicking in. And on the other side of the aches and the barks and the fever sweats, some things will still be true:
Like how I saw a woman get her sight back in her eye. Like how I saw a man come out of a wheelchair and not only regain the use of his legs, but also his broken mind. Like how I saw a man with shattered heels do a flying acrobatic flip off of a stage and land on his feet with a bounce and a triumphant smile. Like how I saw numerous people with frozen shoulders suddenly able to swing their arms with full range of motion, and painful knees suddenly able to kneel and do deep bends.
I saw these things and more, and I can’t unsee them.
This bug wracking my body will be history, but what I saw in Brazil?
That I get to keep.
The moment came
when wonder turned to tears
and tears turned
to great gasps of panicked breath.
She leaned forward
and drew her shoulders in
and tucked her chin
as she wrapped
her arms around herself,
to not blow apart,
unaware that she already had.
As she sat there
as tightly as she could manage,
the hand of mercy
reached down and rested
upon her back,
the pressure somehow
stemming the bleeding
from an unknown source.
And though she
could not stop
she was not immune
to the comfort
flowing from that hand,
flooding her being
with the strength it would
need for the coming days.
Had she known
she needed strength
it is possible she would not
the hand to stay.
is bliss, they say,
and there on the floor,
a hair’s breadth away
she clung to that thin thread
with all she had,
unable to fathom