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.

 

Advertisements

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.

Community Transformation Initiative

Champion Fathers Tourney and Luncheon

Meet Jesus: Rewarded Matthew 5:12

Matthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, … 12: Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

 Connection with Jesus is a connection with reward.  The reward is not free.  It comes with great price in this world and great blessing in the next.  Sometimes we want that formula changed to blessing here and blessing there.  There is a time of blessing in this world.  There is a time of persecution in this world.  Sometimes they are the same item.  When we follow Jesus, we must be willing to embrace both and not be deterred by either.  To address persecution as blessing is an enigma only those that know the honor of being joined with Christ can understand.

Anne’s Pressure: The press against Ann was intense.  She had taken this new position in obedience more than desire.  Over the last few years, she had seen the team go from pitiful performers to top class award winners.  The team performance was receiving notice from across the company.  Ann simply prayed to be faithful and do the right things.  God had answered and given her favor and wisdom.  The results were good for the company many times over.  Now, she had been promoted in place of her director.  The rumors in the workplace were heavy.  People talked.  All she wanted to do was serve faithfully.  This was a blessing.  This was a persecution.

ACT!  The fear of persecution has stopped more than one person from stepping into greatness in God.  Is there a fear in you of blessing that leads to success?  Are you afraid of the concurrent potential persecution?   Put down the fear.  Understand that God, Himself is on your side.  He will strengthen you in blessing, though it may take all the strength you have in Him to truly enjoy.

 PRAY!   Father, deliver me from the fear of greatness.  Deliver me from the evil that would avoid victory because of the attendant persecution.  Break loud in my soul the blessing of Your assignment.  Teach me to fearlessly embrace the victorious living in Christ.  Teach me that persecution is the greatest blessing when it finds me because of faithfulness to Your name and Your assignment for my life.

Meet Jesus: Discerning Kingdom Matthew 5:10again

Matthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he omeetjesussortpened his mouth, and taught them, saying, … 10: Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Marks of Honor: Being a joint-heir with Jesus is a great honor.  With that honor comes challenge, persecution, problems, and pain.  Those four lead us to discern the kingdom of heaven.  As Jesus walked this earth, His life was full of all four of these semi-pessimistic issues.  Man tends to get trapped in the pain of the issues instead of seeing the possibilities.  Jesus never became trapped.  At the high point at which all four converged on the cross, He was still looking to the joy that was set before Him.  He was still pointing a man to paradise.  He was still persisting in taking care of family and friends.  He was still speaking of salvation available.  He was still talking to the Father.  He was still submitting to the will of God for His life and living.  He was discerning of the kingdom behind the scene.

Kingdom Sink Holes: The realization that kingdom living includes all of the items listed above must sink in to our souls.  It is a kingdom of challenge, persecution, problems, pain, possibility, joy, righteousness, peace, paradise, family, friends, care, salvation, encouragement, conversation, submission, service, and more.  This kingdom in which we are called to live today and tomorrow and beyond is not as super simple as we want it to be.  It is fulfilling.  It is live to the max.  It is a joy unspeakable in the middle of pain indescribable.

Robert’s Doubling Day Dilemma: The complex issues pushing against Robert’s heart stymied progress on his studies.  For two years he had been in this MBA program.  Now he was beginning to doubt he could finish.  His teenagers were struggling through issues that needed his time and counsel.  Betty, Robert’s wife, faced a rocky middle life every day that rattled her emotions and body.  She needed him.  Sales were down as he needed time to do the studies.  That meant less income as his eldest daughter completed her last year at the university.  Men from his study group at church were calling for time and a merciful ear.  This morning, Robert knew he was involved in all the right places.  Now he needed strength to go forward.  His prayer was soft and intense at once.  “God, I need help.”

ACT!  What the mix of your life in the kingdom?  Are you moving forward?  Have the normal problems pushed you out of the path you seek?  Take inventory of the mix.  What is going right?  What is going wrong?  What are you doing in the middle?  Make sure you are doing the right things not those that are most pressing.

 PRAY!   Father, this kingdom of heaven is a strange life.  Yes, Father, I submit that it is a life not a place.  The kingdom affects me every day. 

 Father, can You show me some light this morning.  Show me the peace that comes after persecution.  Show me the joy the will be revealed after the pain has passed.  Reveal to me the strength and endurance that will be built in me as the challenge is engaged and conquered.  Let me see Your face. 

 As Moses called out to see You, Father, so do I.  It is Your glory that will inspire me.  It is the blessing of the beauty of the kingdom that will give me strength to continue.  Keep me focused on living in righteousness concerning the right actions and thoughts not the comfortable items.

 

Meet Jesus: Blessor Matthew 5:1

meetjesusblessorMatthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4: Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5: Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 6: Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 7: Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 8: Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9: Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 10: Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11: Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12: Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

 When you meet Jesus, you meet blessing.  Pure and simple, He is a blessor, especially of the underdog.

I remember my 50th birthday.  Hey, it wasn’t that long ago, give me a break.  So many blessings were received.   A business trip to a great site coincided the week before.  A group at work attended an NBA game.  My youngest son and I attended a hockey game.  Family celebrated at home.  My oldest son was able to be here, though for another reason.  My pastor and others called and encouraged, “Disfutas cumpleaños.”  (Enjoy your birthday.)

All of this was in the middle of a horrible and tragic sickness and rapid death of a family member living in my home.  While my home was grieving it was celebrating.  Daily the situation of the family member became worse.  Daily, my Father pulled out another blessing to make sure his son had a good birthday week.  While that grief sat heavy, the blessings were rich.  In the middle of our mourning, God is faithful to bless us unrelentingly.  These verses hold daily and moment by moment meaning.

It is an honor to attend a loved one in the process of death.  Yet, it is tough.  Receiving special touches from the heart of Jesus give life and strength and blessing for the moments.  Appreciate those blessings no matter the struggle.

¡Bendiciones!  (Blessings!)

 ACT!  Find somebody who needs a blessing today and give them one.  You may be holding the exact blessing from the Father that can turn the tide of pain for them.  Release it.

PRAY! Father, I receive Your blessing from Jesus to me.

Finding Energy For Living

In Ephesians 3 Paul breaks into prayer for those to whom he is writing.  I get like that sometimes.  When thinking about others and laying out plans for a next step, my mind and heart break into prayer.  It is habit.  It is a developed habit.  Hopefully, it is a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being

In the middle of the chapter and a long thought sequence on the unity of believers in Christ,     we find an enormously useful prayer encouragement.   It is a pure power prayer meant to impact lives.  This is not a wimpy prayer.  This is power.  I would love someone to pray this prayer for me on a regular basis.

The first part is all about health.

out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being

Every one of us needs energy to get our lives in motion.  Every one of us needs energy to overcome lethargy of disappointments and discouragements and diseases.  Every one of us needs energy.

Energy can come from the synergy of the Holy Spirit filling and activating us.  In a service in Matamoros, a pastor asked for prayer.  As I prayed for him and his wife, the energy of the Holy Spirit lifted me.  Praying for him, I was energized.  After three intensive days on my feet in the church and in the street, I was tired.   That moment lifted me into a new realm of energy and the rest of the service went by rapidly.

Going to bed can be a laborious ritual for some of us.  Not much energy in getting ready to sleep.  But going to bed on a tough day saps expectation of joy for the new morning.  I don’t like to sleep until I know I will wake with energy and expectation.  Right before I go to sleep I am motivated to stir up the Holy Spirit within me with scripture and expectant prayer and some times defiant declarations.  Somehow, I believe that is the Holy Spirit within me disturbing His power for protection and preservation and potential.   Then I can rest for the evening.  Confidence in His love is reassured and rest ensues.

Energy is needed.  The Holy Spirit inside of you is a source of powerful energy.  His action inside of you brings synergistic impact on reality. Reality changes to conform to God’s will and creativity.  You take out of the abundance of His storehouse of all that is needed for life    and Godliness and apply it to you action and day.ASK

In Malachai there is a promise.  The Son of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings.   You will leap forward out of a dormant position like a well fed calf jumping from the stall.  That is energy.  Anyone who has been to a rodeo knows that roping a calf is tough business.  They are full of moving energy. Darting and dashing, they elude the rope and delay timing of the best.  That can be you.  You can be darting and dashing and eluding the drag of life.  You can be full of energy.

Spend some time in the scripture. Spend some time listening in prayer.  Spend some time developing a forecast of the future that fits the design of God.  Be energized.

Energy can overcome every discouragement and disease.  It has a way of making them of no effect.