Going to Brazil meant depending on God to move people to contribute their money and their encouragement. He did a fabulous job. When all was said and done, I lacked for neither.
And the amazing thing is that those gifts just keep on giving. Not a moment goes by that I’m not experiencing the results of having been in Brazil with Global Awakening. That kind of experience will rock a person to the core, changing the very fiber of his or her being.
And by “gifts” I don’t just mean money. One check arrived with a bright pink sticky note attached to it. On it my gracious supporter had written:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8
I took the note and stuck it on a drawer front above my computer in my roll top desk. I see it every day. At this very moment all I have to do is raise my eyes from this screen and there it is.
Before the trip, that note filled me with hope and excitement about the things yet to occur.
Now, almost three weeks after the trip, the note reminds me of the amazing things that happened and of the power I get to carry beyond Brazil, power that witnesses to the person of Jesus Christ.
Folks, I can’t get a handful of popcorn to my mouth without dropping some, and the Holy Spirit trusts me with His power. And He never acts like it was a bad decision and He’s sorry He did it.
I spent a lot of my life thinking that the Holy Spirit’s power was primarily to help me avoid sin. For a long time it never occurred to me that He might want me to use it to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons (Mark 10:8). Sure, it’s right there in His book, but since I didn’t see it happening around me and I wasn’t hearing it taught that this is actually normal Christianity, I interpreted it to mean that it was something that only Jesus’ disciples did. You know, in Bible Times. Not, like, now.
I’ve never been so happy to be wrong about something in my life.
The trip is over but I can’t yet bring myself to take that sticky note down. I still need the reminders.
The Holy Spirit has come upon me and I have received power.
I am a witness to the power and person of Jesus Christ.
And I carry it to the ends of the earth—to Destin and Sao Paulo, to Tom Thumb and Walmart, to every place my feet touch the ground or my words appear on the screen.
I knew it before…but now I know it.
Sometimes I wonder
what I would find
if I walked to
the edge of the world.
Is it like a cliff
the kind that makes you
get all squeezey
when you creep
to the edge and peer over
into the vast nothingness?
Or is it actually
more like a slide,
a small drop with a gentle slope
and just being there
makes you want
to sit down
and push off
and throw your hands in the air
and squeal “Wheeee!”
as you zoom into another unknown?
Or perhaps it’s
more like a seashore,
and you climb from the edge
down onto the deck
a great ship
that lifts its sails to the wind and
flies through the cosmos
to visit the bug-eyed
aliens on Planet X.
I really don’t know
what I’d find
nor do I know
how far away
I am from the edge.
it feels very distant,
I think I must surely be
When my love is too small, Yours is big.
When my knees are weak, Your arms are strong.
When I can’t seem to find air, Your breath fills my lungs.
When my hope is frail, Yours is indestructible.
When my vision is clouded by tears, Yours is strong and clear.
When I’m not sure what to do, You are unwavering.
When I am bent by pain, You stay as close as my skin.
When I feel lost, You find me…and You find me…and You find me.
When I don’t know anything else, You open Your heart even wider so that I may know You even more.
No matter what, You never let go.
Nobody likes to be disappointed.
That seems like a duh kind of statement, but think about it: you can only be disappointed if your hope took a ding. And it never feels good when your hope gets dinged. Sometimes I don’t even know I am hoping something until disappointment shows up on my doorstep and shows me the dent in my hope.
And then I have to decide what I’m going to do with dented hope.
My preference is to just keep moving and leave it behind. But sometimes that’s not a helpful or healthy option. Sometimes I have to stop for a moment and really look at the situation. And then I have to admit that I’ve got dented hope, and it makes weird noises when I try to move forward. If it isn’t tended to, it will keep breaking down until the sound of it is deafening and overtakes my life. That will not be pleasant. No…better take it to an expert.
So then I go complain to Jesus and show Him the dent.
Sometimes Jesus looks at it and says “it’s ok…we can pound that out.” And I don’t know how He does it, but suddenly the dent is gone and I’m ready to take on the world.
But other times He looks at it and says “we can keep everything functional and even make it better than before. But this is going to leave a mark.” And I don’t know how He does it, because the dent is still there but it no longer looks or feels like damage.
In fact, often the dent is actually rather beautiful.
What a striking paradox it is. Who doesn’t hope to be beautiful? And yet to think that beauty may actually come in the form of a dent in our hope?
The upside-down Kingdom never ceases to amaze me.
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.