Spiritual Umbrellas

I came across this quote a while back and stored it away.. I am still wondering about it..
"When it rains, get wet." -Quincy Jones
Ever get afraid of the rain.. ever walk with a bit of fear of getting wet? This idea of rain.. in a spiritual sense.. can be a difficult one.. it can dial you back to a difficult and painful time of rain and cause you to be fearful of future rain. It causes me to think about Jesus' statement from Matthew 5:
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Rain can often represent difficult days for us.. times of testing and trial. During times of rain it is so easy to get our spiritual umbrellas out and 'protect' ourselves from the full effect of the rain. Often we will use the umbrellas of withdrawal.. of manipulation.. and of passivity to protect ourselves from the effects of the rain.

During times of rain I think that it good to remember that God's rains are necessary for growth.. they are good for us.. really.. ever heard of a farmer running through his crops with an umbrella.. funny picture isn't it. When we are tempted to open up those spiritual umbrellas we need to remember what Quincy Jones says:
"When it rains, get wet"
Do you have any spiritual umbrellas? Care to share about them and what has helped you to keep them in the closet?

Fasting My Sorrows

I have been thinking about Lent for the past week or so and wondering if God would have me fast anything. I woke up this morning with this song on my heart and it really spoke to me.

The last year has been one of sorrow for Ann and me.. disability and wheelchair life has sucked the joy out of our lives.. we so need a break through. So today.. by faith I am declaring a season of joy for our family.. a time to fast from our sorrows.

We need your help.. please pray for us.. leave a comment with any practical way that you have brought joy into your life.. and stand with us as we proclaim:

I'm pressed but not crushed persecuted not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I'm blessed beyond the curse for his promise will endure
And his joy's gonna be my strength

Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord


Practical Agnosticism

I was 17 years old and sat in Philosophy 101 (or some class like that) at my neighborhood Community College when the professor introduced me to the Big Bang theory. From what I can recall his presentation went something like this:
Since we really can't scientifically explain the origins of the universe then lets just say that there was a "Prime Mover" that started it all.. and let's call that "God".
Now that really made an impression on this impressionable teenage boy and for the next 10 years gave me cause to be a practical agnostic. Interesting enough I still went to the Episcopal Church with my mom every week. It really didn't bother me to go because I still believed in God.. just not a personal God.. not a God that heard prayers.. not a God that really made any difference.. just this "Prime Mover" that got things going.

Years later when I was 27 I came in contact with a different "God".. you can read that story here.. but until that weekend I lived a life of practical agnosticism. Unlike many agnostics, who simply say "I do not know if there is a God", I believed there was a God (albeit a Prime Mover sort of deity). This belief in God did not however make any difference in the way that I lived my life. When my first wife went blind when I was 22 years old I did not pray.. why would I do that.. Prime Movers don't hear or answer prayers. I can remember crying about my wife's blindness.. I was in a boatload of pain.. but had no one in my life to talk to.. I spent most of my evenings with six of my best friends.. their last names were the same - Budweiser.

I think that many people share my story.. even ones who call themselves "Christian". They look around and see the logic in the idea that something or someone intelligent had to have designed it all but cannot come to grips with the idea that this entity is still involved with the creation. They see all of the pain and heartache in the world and in their lives and cannot come to grips with a God that is still involved. They exclude this kind of "God" because it just doesn't make sense to their heads.

On a cognitive level I am yet one of those people.. but my heart was changed some 33 years ago and my spiritual eyes were opened to a God who came to earth and poured His life out for me. Pain and heartache still don't make sense to my head.. I still hurt when people I love so much suffer so much.. but somehow I have been given the ability to filter this pain through my heart instead of my head. And when I am crying the most I find myself remembering that beautiful Man who died for me.. and everything is different.

I am no longer a practical agnostic.

The Blessed Heart

I think that the Sermon on the Mount is a sermon about the heart.. throughout it Jesus addresses the below-the-surface aspects of life. When he speaks of murder He goes to the root issue of hate.. He does likewise with adultery and lust.

So today I thought I’d share few thoughts on that section of His sermon that we call The Beatitudes.. and how we are blessed when we live from our heart. Here is Matthew 5:3-10 from The Message with my comments:

"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule."
So often we must get to the end of our proverbial rope before we can grasp His deep message living in our heart. I remember vividly that time when my wife Ann's legs were paralyzed on a cruise ship.. I could not think my way to peace.. I had to let go of my thinking and hear the Voice in my heart.
"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you."
When I lost my first wife Ellen I began a long journey of the heart where I began to depend less on my thinking.. it was a painful transition. I love how it says that God will embrace us in the context of the pain of loss.
"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are--no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought."
It is hard to be content when you live from your head - there is always more to be had.. more that we 'think' we need. A regenerate heart is a content heart ... a heart that is happy being and not doing.. we can be content when we live from our heart.
"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat."
This verse describes a healthy heart.. one full of passion for Jesus. A hungry and thirsty heart involves spiritual exercise where we feed on the word ... we do the word ... then we get hungry again.
"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'carefull,' you find yourselves cared for."
A compassionate heart filled with mercy will attract other compassionate hearts. As you are moved with compassion, compassion moves towards you. It is a kingdom principle.. we sow mercy and we reap mercy.
"You're blessed when you get your inside world--your mind and heart--put right. Then you can see God in the outside world."
A regenerated heart sees God in other people. By embracing your heart you change everything.. eyes of faith are opened.. things that were not visible are now seen. When we live from our heads we can get discouraged.. encouragement comes when we engage the eyes of our heart.. when we see life through His eyes.
"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family."
If you know your heart you have the ability to compromise with others.. when you disagree you have the humility to know that your brain may be wrong.. you have the ability to listen to others and learn from them.
"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom."
The path of trial is the pathway into the kingdom. Like pumping spiritual iron we strengthen our heart as we overcome the trials of life.
Jesus' teaching always seemed to center on the heart issues. In these verses He seems to be teaching on the blessings of the new regenerate heart.

Spitting Into the Wind

I think that the path of wisdom is the path of the heart.. a path that cannot be figured out with the head. One of the wisest men in history put it this way:
"I said to myself, "I know more and I'm wiser than anyone before me in Jerusalem. I've stockpiled wisdom and knowledge." What I've finally concluded is that so-called wisdom and knowledge are mindless and witless--nothing but spitting into the wind. Much learning earns you much trouble. The more you know, the more you hurt." (Ecc 1:16-18 MSG)
Living out of the wisdom of my heart has been a difficult path for me.. jettisoning my head "wisdom" is just not natural for me because I have lived the majority of life from my head. Here is the way the Apostle James put it:
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:13-17)
In this passage we once again see the struggle of our inner and outer being. There is a fleshly wisdom that often masquerades itself in ‘intellectual’ sayings and ‘thoughtful’ deeds.. at its core it is bitter, self-serving and controlling. The wisdom of the heart.. of the beautiful inner man.. is transcendent in nature.. it is from above. This heart's wisdom loves peace, is considerate, it is submissive, merciful, impartial and sincere. Isn’t it interesting that this kind of wisdom isn’t described in terms of education or knowledge. How much of my life has been a quest for earthly wisdom.. seeking the approval of man.. chasing after intellectual credentials.. studying the scripture to puff myself up.. desiring to be somebody.. no understanding that self is the focus of this kind of wisdom. Here is the way the Apostle Paul put it:
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Cor 1:20)
Fleshly wisdom is foolish ... we must learn to walk in the wisdom of our innermost being... to pay attention to that gut instinct even when it doesn't make sense to our head. When we walk in our own natural wisdom we are like fools with spit on our face.


Sometimes I find life and faith to be a compilation of contradictions. In Proverbs 16:9 we read:
"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."
Isn’t it strange that God wants us to plan but reserves the right to change those plans. How weird that the bible instructs us to
“work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12b-13)
Our “work out” versus His “work in”. How strange a marriage of contradictions that we believers walk out each day.

Often in life, it is in the letting go of control that life happens. You know, we are qualified to live life but we are not qualified to control it. In hindsight I have come to understand that I have not been able to control anything of importance in my life.. health, death, relationships.. these are all parts of life that we often have to experience and not control. I am sometimes a stubborn controlling person who gravitates to the safe recesses of my brain (where I can control) and have difficulty with heart concepts like risk and faith.

One of the cornerstone scriptures supporting our trust of God’s providence is found in the 8th chapter of Romans:
”And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
It is another contradiction of sorts that God sometimes uses "bad" things to bring something "good" in our lives. Isn't it absolutely amazing that He takes these things (that we do control) to bring us to a place of trust where we become like Jesus. Makes you want to give up control ... even if it is just a small amount of it :)