An Oklahoma Sky- Rejoice In The Lord Always

credit David Schweitzer

credit David Schweitzer

As the Oklahoma sun sets incredible in beauty, my heart floats over the last week.

Mental synapses skim over the last 50 years and beyond.

No, I haven’t seen more than 57 years.

No, I can’t remember all I’ve touched and felt and heard.

But, through the face of a father or a grandfather or an aunt or some other, I have been there.

But, through the face of a mother or grandmother or uncle or some other, they have been there.

We have been there.  With pain and joy and defeat and victory, we have been there.

As a nation, as a people, as a unity of many heritages, we have been there.

And we will be there again.

This week had no predictability.  No week does.

A quiet Monday explodes into a horrendous and murderous Monday. All held breath and wept.  Children’s bodies were dug from rubble.

Some live.  Some don’t.

It isn’t over.

In Joplin it isn’t over.  On the Jersey shores, it isn’t over.  In Japan it isn’t over.  In cities across a world, the torrent and recovery of natural impact will never be over until the world is over.  It is our experience.

War isn’t over.  WWII and Korea and Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan and beyond leave our families with lessened strength and battered men.  We have been there, and we are wounded.

Greed isn’t over.  Selfish business decisions leave scars and death.  It isn’t over.  We live here, and we are wounded.

But.  There is a but.  There is an however.  There is a yet.

This morning I prayed with friends in unison.  We cried out to a good God.   The God of Another Chance.

“Give us joy in the morning, God.  Let us see goodness in this land of the living.  We are still here.  Show us joy and gladness for as many days as we have seen pain.”  We agreed.  We stood together and decreed.  Pain will not stop us.  We will have joy.

Then the preacher, a friend, Pastor Jeff, took us deeper.  “Rejoice in all.  Rejoice in The Lord.  Get your focus on Him.  Rejoice in Him when nothing else has joy.  And in case you did not get it the first time.  Again, I say, “Rejoice.””

He is right.  We are right.

We are on our feet.  We are defiant.  We are shouting to the pain. “I will rejoice! You can’t defeat me.”

As the Oklahoma sun sets incredible in beauty, my heart floats over the last week.

Mental synapses skim over the last 50 years and beyond.

No, I haven’t seen more than 57 years.

No, I can’t remember all I’ve touched and felt and heard.

But, through the face of a father or a grandfather or an aunt or some other, I have been there.

But, through the face of a mother or grandmother or uncle or some other, they have been there.

We have been there.  With pain and joy and defeat and victory, we have been there.

As a nation, as a people, as a unity of many heritages, we have been there.

And we will be there again.

And the Joy of The Lord will be our strength each and every time.  For Thine is the Kingdom and The Power and The Glory, Forever and Ever.  Amen.

 

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You may lose a life. But, you may gain a future.

copyright AP Photo Steve Gooch

copyright AP Photo Steve Gooch

Ezekiel 47:9  And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes.

You may lose a life.  But you may gain a future.

Days of Tornados

Every day we struggle with the immensity of life and death.  Both are enormous.  Both require tenacity.  Both require courage.  In Oklahoma City, we face another tragedy of epic proportions.  Some would refer to biblical proportions.  Many stories recorded in our Bible are such immense acts of God and people that they can appear unbelievable.  Trust me this morning seems unbelievable.

Last year my family and I lost many friends and members of the clans.  Age, accident, and disease ripped loved ones from our vision and arms.  In just a few weeks, the impact reached from California to Oklahoma to Mexico and touched close to my wife, my children, my friends and me.

Last year my job and work family was torn from my hands in the same weeks when these deaths occurred.  Insurance, office, and just a place to get up and go to work and see friends disappeared in a moment of reorganization and decisions in back rooms.

Last year my wife and I flew upside down at 65 miles per hour in our car landing intact in body but a total loss of vehicle we had just bought.  This happened in the same few weeks as the other disasters of loss.

You may lose a life.  But you may gain a future.

We lost our lives. The familiar is gone forever in many instances.  Months of rethinking and rebuilding create a new future.  The old is gone.  It is gone.  It is dead.  It is passed.  Like a dear friendship accumulated over 50 years, I cannot have coffee with him anymore.  I cannot laugh in the hallways of my old life and friendships, for the hallways are not there.  It is not the first time tragedy has struck and will not be the last.  It is the first time of such immensity and scope and hopefully the last of such proportion.   Life is full of passing and coming.  We pray it happens gradually and we have emotional landscape on which to recover.

This Pales.  May 20th, 2013 families lost children at school, their home, their neighborhood, their neighbors, all their possessions, their work place, their memories and familiar turn points as they drove the same streets for years.  Today, they do not even know where they are standing in front of what used to be a house.  There are no familiar landmarks on which to lean and position thinking.  They lost their lives.  Yes, they may be physically alive.  But they lost their lives.  The death count is not 91. The death count is uncountable.

Gain a Future: Now this morning they must start the work of gaining the future.  The future must be grasped and brought into reality.  That is not easy and will take many friends.

Every morning, I enter a strange new land of new friendships and new relationships.  What took a lifetime to build takes another lifetime to build.  I don’t have another lifetime. Do I?

Build:

Can God build a lifetime in a few months?  Yes.

Can God restore fortunes that took decades of labor and saving in a few weeks?  Yes.

Can God bring new friendships and loving relationships? Yes.

Does that replace what we have lost?  No.

You may lose a life.  But, you may gain a future.

What is lost is lost.  A new friendship does not replace an old one. The old one lingers in memory and mixed emotions.  It is not meant to be replaced.  A future must be grasped.

Grief Changes You: Many times I tell friends in grief, “You do not pass through grief.  It changes you.  The pain of loss only begins to heal when you can see the future without what you have lost.  You must be able to grasp a vision of the future without that person or item in it.  Allow grief to change you.  You become a different person.”

Grief comes in waves.  It can be too painful to process at once.  Tsunami grief can strangle a future and lock us in pain.  Ride the waves and grow stronger.  So how does one handle massive and complicated and expansive loss?  A week and even an entire month passes and I can’t even remember all that happened.  Pain dulls the senses.

Change: I really don’t have the answer, because I am being changed into this future person.  He is different than the old man and in some ways the same.  We are human beings.  We are humans being.   It is the business of being that consumes us, morphs us, moves us, changes us and passes us through life and death, through coming and passing.

There is nothing ugly or evil about living and dying.  It is what it is. The normalcy of it can be called evil.

Defiant: In Oklahoma, we laugh about our defiant men, who when tornados come, run outside to watch.  With hubris, we look up in the fearsome clouds and talk to them.  “Move on”, we declare.  “Get out of my neighborhood.”  And, most times, it seems to work.  We go back to our homes where wife and kids are huddled under the stair well or in the bath tub or down in a safe room and say, “See, it is all gone, come out now.” Our defiance of evil pushes it aside.  Yet, sometimes it does not work and we have no answers for that day.  But, we will defiantly and resolutely stand in the face of such evil again and again and grasp our future. We are made of sterner stuff, we are the Oklahoma Standard.

Pain: It does not mean the pain subsides with a flippant face.  It means we must grasp the future with pain in tow.

Attitude: It does not mean the loss is lessened with a conquering attitude.  It means living in loss is unacceptable if you want to stay alive.

Another: Another loss is coming.  Another gain is coming.  Life is about the living through comings and goings.

So  let us pray!

Father, You are the God of the Future.  Every morning is new with You.  Every grace comes fresh with the rising of the sun and the changes of our lives.  You do not view death as final but You view death as entry to the next opportunity for life.  In You, we never die.  In You, we continue.  We move forward.  We change.  We are changed.  In You, we can live and move and have our being.  No matter the pain or problem or pressure.  In You is all we need. 

When a piece dies and goes on, we are still ready for the next living breath and living moment.  Death, where is your sting?  Grave, where is your victory.  We continue into the future in Christ.

Father, I pray those around me find this reality.  Without You all is death.  With You all is alive into the next moment.  You have no end.  Those in You have no end.

Show us.  Let us grieve into becoming our next self and next victory.  Let us die to the old and live to the new.  In You.

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Meet Jesus : Light of the World Matthew 5:13

Matthew 5: 13: Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14: Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

What does it mean to be the light of the world?  Connection to Jesus means we become the light of the world.  Connection to Jesus means we are a part of a city on a hill that cannot be hid.  It is not us individually to whom He speaks.  It is us, the City of God, the people of God, to whom He speaks.  Together in Him, we are the light of the world.  Our world is dark.  Our world is pained.  Our world is putrid.  Get it straight.  This world is full of shadows.  It is wrong because it is disconnected from the light.  Jesus came and spoke to the world to change to a different way of thinking.  He spoke for this world to think light not dark.  When we connect with Him we connect with a message of light.  Together, the body of Christ, is meant to shine a light on problems.  It is meant to shine solutions for our metro.  This city to which we are attached is full of solutions for others to see and grasp and join.

Of course, you may pay a high price.  Businesses and government and education are afraid of Christianity.  They have been put in fearful positions by those opposed, who have sought limitation in the name of liberation.  Choices have to be made.  Promotions will be lost.  Contracts will not close.  There are costs to being affiliated with Christ.  Do it.  Pay the price.  Carry your cross.  Better to shine a light in a dark world knowing some will be blessed and released from pain than to hide it under fear and intimidation and leave others to suffer knowingly.

ACT! Shine a light.  It is so easy to not be like Christ.  It is so easy to skip praying over a meal in public.  It is so easy to just not mention your friends and relationships in Christ.  When conversation at lunch turns to others talking about movies and shows and new homes and kids in school, how do you talk?  Are you free to mention your friends in Christ?  Are you open to talk about a great sermon you heard or a meaningful worship service that stirred your soul? Can you mention the peace you have in personal relationship?  Do you have the courage?  Are you willing to be seen connected to the city on the hill?

PRAY! Padre Precioso, Precious Father, I am committed to join the city and be known as joined to the city.  It is risky.  It is risky to be known.  Even according to Your word, it can bring persecution.  It can bring misunderstanding.  It can bring dissension.  But, Father, I am committed to be known by Your name.  Let me not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ that calls us to live as light in a dark world.  Let me not be ashamed of the name of Jesus.  Let me not be ashamed.  Let not my enemies of my world, my flesh, and the devil triumph over me.

Journey Through Self: Nesting In Who I Am.

477323_4775650149056_1095401088_oPsalm 84:1-4

How lovely is Your tabernacle,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, even faints
For the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Even the sparrow has found a home,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young—
Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts,
My King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in Your house;
They will still be praising You. Selah

This Dove and Me.

This dove gives me pause for reflection.  Well, much of life gives me pause for reflection.    A friend asked yesterday, “Phil, what are you doing for a living?”  Whew.  Surviving was the answer in my heart.  My answer surprised me.  Quick gut answers in the middle of a challenge reveal a lot.  I’ll get to the answer in a minute.

Back to This Dove.  This Dove showed up in a flower pot on our front porch.  My wife and I took a few days away at the lake cabin.  When we came back, This Dove had build a nest, laid an egg (now two), and taken possession of the front porch.  Being the kind soul that she is, my wife has blocked the front walk and given the entrance to the house to This Dove.  I get the back door and walk around the house.  This Dove has disrupted my life.  How dare she be who she is.

She is just This Dove being a dove bringing more doves into this world.  I like that. She is purposeful without having a little goals card in her wallet.  She is purposeful without going to twenty seminars.  She is purposeful in just being who she is, This Dove.

Now, my answer to my millionaire business friend was this.  “I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do.  I’m helping fatherless fathers be good fathers.  I’m helping unfathered kids get a better dad.   That is my heart and my passion and that is what I am doing.  I believe people will see that and support as I need.”  Silence.

Maybe he wanted me to come back with some sideline business proposition to reduce his credit card charges or shipping improvement or business development or marketing proposal.  Many do. They want me to sell them some service in order to support.  When I sell the service, I quit being This Dove.  I can do that, but then I’m not This Dove, I’m This Dove with a dark suit.  My light grey beautiful feathers become sullied and indistinguishable. That means leaving the flower pot and the two eggs and hoping they will survive on their own.

Some days we need to just be This Dove.  Take up residence in a flower pot on a porch.  Nestle in the arms of a loving God, who created me to be me.  Be who I am and trust that He will let me rest on His most holy altar just like I let This Dove take over my porch and my front door.  He will comfort me.  He will provide.  He will let me be This Dove.

So, This Dove is going to work on bringing healthy, dedicated men into two elementary schools where the kids are 95% unfathered.  This Dove is going to work on having a catalyst weekend in a community of 80% fatherless homes in June.   This Dove is just going to build the nest in the most unlikely places and trust a good God will let me have some space on His altar at His temple of love and helping others.

Psalm 84:1-4

How lovely is Your tabernacle,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, even faints
For the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

 Even This Dove, me in who I am, has found a home,
And This Dove, me in who I am,  a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young and fulfill her life’s purpose simply—
Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts,
My King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in Your house of acceptance and allowance and support;
They will still be praising You. Selah

Meet Jesus : Life’s Flavoring Matthew 5:13

meetjesussaltyMatthew 5: 13: Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14: Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.15: Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.16: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Be Salty: Jesus is a challenge to my life. Meeting Him in the early morning hours means letting Him prod into parts of my life that sometimes I would rather hide. But I know His salt is good and will flavor my life. I know His light is kind and will dispel darkness in my life. Then I become the salt. Then I become the light of Jesus.a

Calling someone salty is not always a compliment.  It is a term used to describe a somewhat irritating person with a lean toward sarcasm.  That is not the saltiness for us.  We need savory salt.  The kind that makes a person want more not less.

Shiny Shoes: As I shined my shoes for tomorrow, it reminded me of an encounter on the streets of Chicago.  A street vendor came up and buffed my shoes with some concoction.  None of that mattered.  It just mattered to me to look into his eyes and challenge him to a life more fully lived in Christ.  He talked about his upbringing and challenges of living on the streets with a yearning for more.  It was a simple conversation and his decisions are his to make.  Another vendor had attempted the same in New Orleans some time back, but I had no thought of challenging him at the time.  Sometimes, I wonder, “What is the difference?”  Why do I speak at one time and hold at another?  I’d like to think it is sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, but most times when I don’t speak it is sensitivity to the people around me.  My candle gets a bushel plopped on top.

ACT! Spread a little salt today. Talk about Jesus.  First, think about Him.  What is it that challenges your life that exists in His life?

PRAY! Holy Father of love and light. Flavor my life with Jesus today so that I might flavor the lives of others with Jesus. He is so precious, so kind, so alive.  So many times, I fail to acknowledge You to others.  So many times I put the bushel over the light.  Pierce through me so that salt can’t be masked.  Flow through me so that the light comes out through the cracks in my fearful bushel.  Teach me, Lord.  Let the salt of Your word embed in my makeup.

God Cannot Fill A Full Barn: Enjoy His Grace

Photo: for the fatherless- 25 pastors from across the city and across cultures and denominations joined to pray with one heart and one mind

25+ pastors from across the city, denominations, and cultures gathered to pray

Working with a benevolent group, they adopted a philosophy of full grace giving. Over the years, a few had been serving a few. 1500 meals a month were being distributed. And food went to waste. What would happen if we emptied the pantry every time we opened the door? Would there be enough for tomorrow?

With the approach and idea that God cannot fill a full barn, the adventure begain. Within three years of making the decision to give all that was given every time we opened the door, the team expanded to 50 people from a few, services were given six days a week instead of one, a full mission location in the heart of the urban population was opened instead of a piece of a church foyer, 20,000 meals a month were served instead of 1500, and 650 families came a week instead of 20-30. All the supply came when grace was given.

Prevenient grace is a concept that there is a certain free availability of strength to be who we are. In His mercy and love for us, God allows us to live mostly unhindered in this world. We certainly do not deserve such a beautiful and majestic existence, but He grants it in hope we would respond and join Him fully. God has given us a wonderful opportunity to enter fully into His family and receive of Him while we continue in our mistakes.

Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,

Relational grace communicates that God blesses our world on behalf of those that are united with Him. His family serves Him and serves each other. Those that call out to Him repentant of their mistakes and accepting of His sacrifice and suffering in Christ provide a sort of a bubble around us. Because of them, He withholds an enormous amount of pain and suffering. Wars and famines and disasters are withheld. Surely there are enough that break through as a result of our rebellions. Yet, much more protection is afforded our world than we ever realize.

1 Corinthians 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Accepted grace is the most blessed of all. Accepted grace belongs only to those that enter fully into His blessings in Christ Jesus. Through His blood, we are provided a fullness of grace. His eternal life enters us now and forever. His favor enables us. His peace sustains us. His comfort meets us in times of need. His Spirit guides us and shows us paths of blessing. This world still surrounds us. And He rescues us and blesses us.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)

Enjoy His grace. Enjoy all forms of His grace

Distributed grace is our opportunity. In the hands and hearts of every believer in Jesus is the opportunity to be givers of grace. In our hands is multiplied blessing. When we give it, God gives us more to be given that He might give us more. It is a principle of living. When we give, we receive.

Romans 16:20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

That philosophy and principle of living permeates PrayerMetro and all of the expressions in prayer and Christian unity and fathering and leadership. Mostly it is just grace received given out. Let not our barns remain full. God cannot fill a full barn. Enjoy His grace in the giving.

  • This week at Tulakes (NW OKC) and Epperly Heights (Del City), we opened the doors for Watch D.O.G.S. in the schools so that children might get a vision of dedicated and faithful and healthy men.
  • This week DADSUniversity went forward another week at Eagles’ Crest in West OKC.
  • This week at the Jesus House, we were honored again through prayer and teaching as chaplaincy to the leadership team that serves so many. Downtown.
  • This week many pastors received personal and private prayer and compassion. All over.
  • This week a group of ministers from across our city gathered in Spirit-led prayer to bless our metro on Wednesday at First Lutheran. Downtown.
  • This week a precious touch of God’s love descended at Tabernaculo De Fe during a time of sharing and prayer. South OKC.
  • This week our golf tourney for the Fall was planned and launched.
  • This week thousands of blessings were sent out and many legislators responded with thanks. Nationwide.
  • This week a sharing of word and prayer and worship with the family at Tabitha was sweet. East OKC
  • This week the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assualt met and planned and received me as the Chair. South OKC

And surely, I lived in His grace in all these settings while working a few small contract assignments as God performed great acts of grace.

2 Corinthians 1:12] For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.

There is no way my barn is big enough to be able to be in all these places and perform such a variety of acts as group meetings, leading a ministers’ prayer time, ministering in a Latino congregation, ministering in a mission leaders group, ministering over the phone with ministers and email with legislators, writing business articles, advising in marketing for businesses, planning and organizing a golf tournament, fixing bathtubs and house vents, cutting grass, and just being a dad and husband. My barn must be emptied daily that God might fill it again and again. Your life is the same. Life is limitless as long as you are willing to live in grace and give it all away every day.

Prayer: Father, bring great blessing of grace over my friend. Show Your grace is given most when we give the most. Show how huge You are. Bring supply and bring outlets. Let us live in grace.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

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