The Park Ranger

I can remember camping. I ought to remember camping. I went just last month (or was it the month before?). But this memory has nothing to do with last month (or the month before).

There have been several times that the people camping nearby have been really extra loud. Not the kind of loud that comes from kids playing and parents yelling, “Don’t do that!”

No the kind of loud that comes from too much alcohol, a stereo volume cranked up for the whole campground to hear, people yelling so the profanity can be heard above the loud music and things breaking amidst the shouts of, “Hey Y’all! Watch this!”

I don’t really mind all that going on, except when it gets close to time to go to bed.

When bedtime rolls around I want to be mellowed out by the sounds of a crackling campfire and the hushed murmurs of people gathered around talking about the day, plans for tomorrow and other happy things.

That isn’t the time to be hearing, “Someone call 9-1-1!”

I love when quiet time rolls around and the stillness of the night takes over.

But sometimes, the partying crowd hasn’t partied out when that time comes.

It often seems as if the party isn’t going to end and my sleep is going to be awakened by fireworks or some guy screaming because he fell off the top of his camper.

Here is the advantage of staying in one of our state’s parks. At “settle down o’clock” the ranger starts cruising the campground and nuges the loud ones toward a quieter kind of party.

That’s usually all it takes. Every now and then it requires a little more than a nudge but when the ranger talks, most people listen.

Lately, politicians in this country have been way too loud. There has been a LOT of ridiculous nonsense being spewed that makes less sense than some of the stuff I have seen happen after someone says, “Here, hold my beer!”

They think they can do and say anything they want and we are so amused and awe-struck. They feel they are taking over the campground and we are happy they have done it.

It has gotten so loud and threatening that a lot of people with half a brain in their skulls are afraid of what is going to happen if idiocy keeps running wild and the rhetoric becomes more and more profane.

Rest assured, quiet time will come and the park ranger isn’t going to let this crap go on forever.

But there is a lot of fear. People are starting to believe that the absurd is about to become the norm and we are doomed.

We are not doomed. I’m afraid the foolish are. Check out Proverbs and see many of the ways the foolish will fall. Buy some popcorn and watch it happen.

Isaiah 51:12 “I, yes I, am the one who comforts you.
So why are you afraid of mere humans,
who wither like the grass and disappear?”

Yep, these people that are engineering this attack on what God desires for us are going to wither. Sure, they can make some things suck. But God can un-suck the worst of situations. God is in charge, not the ones that think they are.

Thinking you are in charge is not the same as being in charge. I know that sounds so basic and simple but I forget it a LOT!

So, watch the news if you must. Analyze the politics. But know that God is running the whole show and he can enforce his rules at any moment and the noise will stop.

It will be tough for all those with their hopes pinned to the ones who wither like the grass and disappear. But God will be there for them. Just go back and read all my stuff I have written lately from Judges.

The false Gods crumble and Israel returns to a God that stands with arms wide open.

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Hiding Behind the Pews

We last saw Goliath instilling terror and trembling in the Israelite army. He was apparently having a great time walking out into the valley taunting an entire army.

Meanwhile, David had been tending sheep. It may not have been as fun as taunting a whole army but it was way safer.

David’s brothers were at the scene of the crime with the bunch of chickens that were so scared of one freakishly huge guy with a big mouth.

1 Samuel 17:26 David asked the soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel? Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?”
27 And these men gave David the same reply. They said, “Yes, that is the reward for killing him.”
28 But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking to the men, he was angry. “What are you doing around here anyway?” he demanded. “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!”
29 “What have I done now?” David replied. “I was only asking a question!”

David didn’t like what the giant man was saying and took offense rather than taking a defensive position.

He wanted to know what the guy that faced Goliath got for a reward. The Israelite army was fairly certain that what a man got was dead.

David’s oldest brother was bugged by young David coming out and acting like the Israelites were a bunch of chickens.

“What are you doing here anyway. You should be with the sheep and let us real men stand out here and hide from the giant! You just want to watch a fight to satisfy your own blood lust! You are trying to trick us into taking on that Philistine Superman! I’d like to see YOU go out there and fight him!”

David was confused that his brother should launch an attack on his livelihood, his character and his integrity.

1 Samuel 17:32 “Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!”

Saul thought, “My prayers have been answered! We have a scrawny shepherd kid ready to go out and slay the mighty giant…NOT!”

Have you ever wondered why present day armies are made up mostly of whisker-free young people? I think it is mostly because they are fearless. They haven’t amasses a wealth of stuff to protect. They haven’t become entrenched in the rut of making a living. In fact, they usually only see into the future about half-way to their next paycheck.

They haven’t become nailed down into life so hard that they see any problem with dropping everything to fight for what they believe in.

I think it is a shame that the armed forces seem to be the only ones really willing to put all this to good use when there are mission fields all around us, homeless that need help, mentally ill that need an army to rescue them, addictions that need support, a whole humongous list of Philistines that need to be conquered and chased out of town.

There are even some real Goliaths out there that us old-timers just can’t muster up the strength it takes to knock them on their keesters.

The church needs some fearless members to give the war-torn and veterans something to cheer about.

Instead, we kind of kill the fire, tell them to calm down. There’s nothing anyone can really do to change anything. They are too young and inexperienced to do what we aren’t coming out from behind our rocks or pews to do.

We need a rowdy kid here and there to make us look hard in the mirror and try to find the one that used to look back at ourselves.

1 Samuel 17:7 The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”
Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the Lord be with you!”

Saul had to be thinking, “This kid is going to get himself killed!”

But David wasn’t trusting in himself.

I’ll never forget when I was battling my addictions daily, getting up in the morning ready to kill the giant and coming home day after day with my butt dragging the ground bearing the scars of another war lost.

Then I stopped trusting in myself. Things changed. My Goliath appeared a little smaller, a little weaker and had a glimmer of fear in his eyes. He spoke a little softer and seemed to back away slowly when I approached.

1 Samuel 17:41 Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, 42 sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy. 43 “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the names of his gods. 44 “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” Goliath yelled.

Goliath was insulted that the Israelites had sent out a shepherd with a stick and a strap. He was all set to take on their best and make mincemeat out of them.

But he was an animal lover and intended to feed the birds and animals with David’s flesh. What a guy!

1 Samuel 17:48 As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. 49 Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.
50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword.

David appeared to not have what it takes to make Goliath fall. But he actually had more than it takes. That’s what God gives us, more than it takes. We are just so hesitant to rely on it. I have sat back and let myself be taunted by my enemies, my personal demons, the ghosts of my past, convincing myself that what it takes just doesn’t exist.

In reality, I have more than what it takes. I just use the wrong stuff. I trust in myself and the sword I can wield, a sword that has failed many more times than it has brought victory because I don’t recognize what God wants me to throw at the problem is more than enough.

David could have picked the smallest stone in his pouch and shot it from a tiny rubber band and Goliath was going down because it wasn’t about the stone, it wasn’t about the sling, it wasn’t about the size of David or anything other than God’s mighty hand.

So, when the kid in church comes up with some outlandish idea that will never work, why not man up (or woman up) and stand beside them? Why not do some brave, strong and courageous trusting in God and be willing to risk failing for once?

Church shouldn’t be where we go to hide behind the pews to be safe. It should be where we gear up and go out to face some giants. Life should be about taking down the giants that are out there mocking our friends, our families, our neighbors, those in need around us.

Instead, I fear we spend far too much time seeing what we can get, giving in to the giants and doing their bidding while there is defeat happening all around us while we choose to say, “That’s ridiculous! There is no way we can kill that giant.”

Yeah. This message stings me a little. I see a selfish man taking cover when I should be kicking butt and taking names.

Well, I guess this is a good place to end this today. I need to regroup and locate my fearlessness.

Time to take up the sword of the Lord and Gideon…but that’s another story.

Famine

When we last saw Joseph, Pharaoh had just nominated him for Egyptian of the Year which was odd, since he was not an Egyptian at all. OK, well, maybe not Egyptian of the Year but ruler of all of Egypt, the Pharaoh’s number two man.

Joseph had let the king know that hard times were coming in the form of famine. I’ve never experienced famine.

I have grown up in farm country, though, and have witnessed some pretty dry years. I’ve seen farmers struggle and crops produce little to nothing. Mostly, I have seen years with too much rain where fertile fields get buried beneath several feet of water because folks in the big city have ruined the flood plain by building themselves levees and seawalls forcing the water to flood places that never flooded before.

OK, enough of chasing that squirrel.

I can remember the famous, real or greatly exaggerated, gas shortage from back in the days the gas pumps couldn’t be set for over ninety-nine cents. So, they had to be re-calibrated so that if you put in four dollars worth of gas, you had to pay eight dollars.

Needless to say, some people struggled with putting the correct amount of gas into their cars.

But, lines got long and people often waited and waited only to arrive at the pump just as the last drops were sold out and they had to go searching for a gas station that actually had gas.

It panicked folks a bit.

Fortunately, food has always seemed to be available here in this country, at least during my lifetime.

I’ve seen some videos, though, of the bizarre reaction some people have had at McDonald’s when the ice cream machine is broken or the “restaurant” runs out of fries. I hate to imagine what they would do if there was simply no food.

Pharaoh seemed to know that things would get ugly really fast if he didn’t have an answer when the famine hit and Joseph’s solution was so logical, it was just smart business to store up some of the surplus for a rainy (or drought-y) day.

Genesis 41:55 Eventually, however, the famine spread throughout the land of Egypt as well. And when the people cried out to Pharaoh for food, he told them, “Go to Joseph, and do whatever he tells you.” 56 So with severe famine everywhere, Joseph opened up the storehouses and distributed grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout the land of Egypt

So, things got really bad in the world and the king was able to sit back and appear to be some sort of genius because he had put such a fine plan into place.

It was great to be king.

Genesis 42:1 When Jacob heard that grain was available in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why are you standing around looking at one another? 2 I have heard there is grain in Egypt. Go down there, and buy enough grain to keep us alive. Otherwise we’ll die.”
3 So Joseph’s ten older brothers went down to Egypt to buy grain. 4 But Jacob wouldn’t let Joseph’s younger brother, Benjamin, go with them, for fear some harm might come to him. 5 So Jacob’s. sons arrived in Egypt along with others to buy food, for the famine was in Canaan as well.

Meanwhile, back in Canaan, things were looking grim and the whole family of Jacob was on the famine diet plan. Jacob had been promised some pretty big things from God and they were hungry, starving even, and probably worried that there was no food in the fridge.

Jacob had seen what hunger can do to a man. He had managed to get his brother to sell him his birthright for a bowl of stew. Now, here was Jacob, old and hungry and ready to send his sons into possible danger to buy some grub.

Basically, today I am laying groundwork for the big season finale of Joseph and his brothers airing tomorrow about this time. But, it is important to see God at work all over this mess.

Jacob was hungry. God had begun years and years before to put an answer in place. One son had disappeared and was presumed dead, spent time in prison and emerged to become a ruler of Egypt and had stored food away for just this moment in time.

What drought do you face today? What famine has your soul dry and parched and lifeless?

I’ve got a big one that burns inside of me. It flames up and scorches all that is within me and I often fear I cannot survive what it is doing as it consumes me.

But I am reminding myself that God is involved. He is just as involved in this situation in my life as he was in Joseph’s life, in maintaining his promise to Joseph and in keeping his promises to me.

There is hope for me as surely as there was hope for Joseph and his family. I know this if for no other reason than God has never failed me. Even when I shouted to the heavens that God had let me down I found myself lifted up.

Tomorrow I will finish this series of stories up with the hardest pill to swallow but perhaps the one that is most necessary for me to heal from my current situation. But for today, I will once again proclaim God’s faithfulness and stand on what he says rather than what I fear.

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I Don’t Want To Go To Work

OK, I don’t want to go to work today.  I really, really don’t want to.

I’ll bet you want to know why.  Well, I’m going to tell you even if you don’t.  That’s how it is for writers, we get to say it even if no one wants to listen.

See, work did some restructuring.  No one lost their jobs but a LOT of people aren’t sure of what their job is any more.  Most of them don’t like where they will be doing it.

As far as I know, I’m going to just be plugging along doing the same stuff I’ve always done…too much.

So, the ones affected are terrified as to how the change is going to impact their job and, in some cases, their whole lives.  The ones least affected are worried that something else is coming down the pike and they will be cast into the midst of seeming chaos.

I guess I could worry about that, too.  But I’m not.

I’ve been in far worse situations.  I’ve sat across the table looking at a man as he explained they could hire two guys to do what I do for the same salary.  So, I was being let go.

Me.  The guy that held down a job no matter how ridiculously I live my life, how irresponsibly, no matter what.  I kept a job and suddenly, I was unemployed.

When I found out, the wind came out of my sails.  I had, in a few short sentences, a handshake and an envelope with severance pay in it, become somehow less of who I was.  I felt like crying, screaming, running, crawling, curling up in a ball and jumping off the roof all at the same time.

Honestly, I went from being depressed to hurtling into the darkest depression of my life that lasted many years.

Even when God intervened, I had still lost part of myself.  I couldn’t be quite as grateful as I ought to be because I felt un-restored, lost and quite afraid of what was going to punch me in the gut next.  I was afraid.

Even though God provided, I was afraid.

For some reason, I thought that at any minute, the rug would fly from under me and I’d fall and God wouldn’t be there this time, next time.

When God brought me to this opportunity, this job, I was still that same man.  I came into this building afraid.  Some people saw it as moody, arrogant and obnoxious, but I was afraid.  I didn’t think I could do that whole losing a job thing again.

But, I will sit in my office today and not be afraid.  I will see fear all around me.  But, I am not going to be fearful no matter how strong the tide of fear gets.  After all, a little fear can swirl into a great big storm of fear, dragging all who feel it in.

Isaiah 35:4 Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.”

The enemy is fear, depression, anxiety, addiction, grief and the whole rest of the list of things that take over humankind’s lives.

Make God your god!  Do it now, right now while you are still getting ready for a day of uncertainty.  These things are coming for you but God is going to destroy them and save you.

Just make God you god.

Put the job behind him.  Put those people behind him.  Put that uncertainty behind him.  Put anything that has caused you not to see him behind him, so that HE is the prominent figure in your thoughts and actions, hopes and dreams and your reasons to get up in the morning.

No, work isn’t where I want to be this morning.  But I’m not going to be there alone, even if I am the only one that shows up.  God is coming with me and my enemies are cruisin’ for a bruisin’ today.

Monsters in the Closet

When I was a kid, there were monsters in my closet.  To this day, I won’t sleep with the closet door open.  I don’t even like to watch TV with the coat closet open.

I can remember waking up during the night for one reason or another and, of course, it couldn’t have been the dog waking up or my dad snoring or someone walking to the fridge to get a glass of milk.  It had to be a monster.

So, I’d scan the darkness for monsters.  Nothing under the bed, nothing around the room.  Suddenly, there in the closet would be the scariest shape looming among the hangers and toys.

My heart would race and my imagination would go wild.  I’d pull the covers over my head hoping that I would somehow be invisible to the monster that was about to exit the closet and carry me off to scary land somewhere out in wherever the monsters in my closet came from.

I’d slowly peek out of the covers and look into the closet.  Yep, the monster was still there.  He didn’t seem to be going anywhere until he pounced on me and did whatever monsters do to little boys that aren’t asleep when they should be.

Finally, I would muster all my courage, step out of the bed and sneak toward the light switch.  I was certain I wouldn’t make it, that the monster would get me just before the light washed away the darkness in the bedroom.

Then, CLICK!  Just before the monster could take a bite out of me the room was bright.  I turned to get a good look at the monster.

There he was.  The outline of a hoodie, a coat and a shirt that just happened to resemble a monster when the lights were off.

I’d close the closet door and sleep like a kid that had just slain a dragon.  Hunting monsters was tough work and seemed to wear me out.

I used to keep my past in the dark.  I kept it stashed away where no one could see it but me in the still hours of darkness, darkness I crept to when all the rest of the world was asleep.

I trembled in secret fear at the monsters that seemed to grow in number daily.

Ephesians 5:8 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! 9 For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

I once looked at my past as a monstrous, waiting to devour me at my next misstep.

But then I learned that being a Christian yet keeping my past in darkness is like accepting freedom but choosing to remain in chains.

I’ve learned to drag those monsters out of the closet full of skeletons and let the light shine on them.  I’ve found they are a lifeless assortment of what once was but is no more.  They are consumed by the light and their power over me is disintegrated.

The past does not define who I now am, Christ defines that through his grace and mercy.  The past nearly shows where I once was.  I am no longer there and the only power it has is the darkness I can choose to let it reside in.  Once the light touches it, it goes up in flames like vampires in a cheap horror flick.

Today, I still close closet doors.  But I no longer see monsters in the darkness because I have been brought into the light, past and all.  I no longer need to keep secrets lurking in the shadows.

Here a Fear, There a Fear, Everywhere a Fear Fear

Everywhere I look I see fear. I see the fear of parents that manifests in worry for their children. I see the fear of people as they worry or lash out at what the government is or isn’t doing. I see fear when people speak of their jobs and wonder if they will have them tomorrow. I see fear every single time I watch the dreaded news on TV. Sometimes it seems that the only thing that is moving this world today is fear.

People are trying to protect themselves from enemies, real and imagined. People are protecting themselves from relationships and getting hurt. People are protecting themselves from suspicious activity. People are protecting themselves and failing miserably. People are still getting hurt.

Nations are still at war. Our nation’s government is stymied by greed and corruption. Evil people are doing despicable things. Our hearts are still being broken. Fear continues to take hold, fester and grow.

Psalm 3:5 I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. 6 I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side. 7 Arise, O Lord! Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked! 8 Victory comes from you, O Lord. May you bless your people.

David had his own fears. He saw a lot of evil in his lifetime. He lived through wars, personal failure and plots to kill him.

But all through the Psalms I can see him lay these fears at the feet of God. He learned how to live above his fears. He found courage in the Lord.

When I am afraid, God wants me to know that I don’t have to worry that I am not strong enough to stand in all the chaos around me. I don’t have to be strong enough. In fact, understanding that I am not strong enough is one of the most important things to learn in life. Victory doesn’t come from me. It comes from God!

Does this mean that I just hide myself away and do nothing until he comes back to earth and does some face slapping and teeth shattering? Um, no. It means that I can boldly do what he tells me to do and know that even when my strength fails, my obedience continues to make a difference even if I do not see what that difference is.

I’ve never actually been surrounded by ten thousand enemies but if I ever am, I need to know and understand God and his relationship with me to be able to stand on top of my fear and use it to see what is beyond them. They cannot stand between me and where I am going. If I am obedient and trusting in God’s strength, I can continue on without fear. You can follow the trail of teeth to find me. God’s not a wimp and he will clear a path for me. I won’t remain surrounded.

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Psalm 118:8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

People, that’s me. Princes, that’s worldly heroes. When I place my faith in those who try and fail, it breeds fear in my heart. Mere humans will fail. That’s practically what the word “human” means. We expect some to soar above the rest and lead us to some sort of wonderful utopia. But they always fail, somehow, some way. If they fail, how can I not? By trusting in God and not in me, that’s how. It is time to take a look at what I am trying to do in futility and exchanging it for victory in the Lord God Most High!

God’s blessings and victory today for us all.

Gateway to Fear

I hate to admit this but I am older than the Gateway Arch. I can remember when it was being built. It was originally two separate structures that began to rise from the ground. As they ascended they began to curve toward each other. I wish I had paid more attention to the whole process but I was only a little kid and I wasn’t really that into what was going on. I was busy sticking fishing poles in light sockets, seeing if a turtle’s shell could protect it from falls on the brick sidewalk and perfecting my Tarzan yell. I don’t know if mom and dad remember a lot about it because they were busy trying to stop me from doing things like that.

I can remember the day the last piece was lowered by the crane and the two structures became one. The shape became complete and it no longer looked like two wilted flower stems drooping in the sun.

The first time I went up in the Arch I was kind of amazed by the little elevator compartments we had to get in to reach the top. They tilt to stay level as they rise up into the curve of the structure. The windows at the top are rectangular and I had to stretch and lean to be able to see out. It was the first time I had been so high up and everything looked so small from there. It was cool and all but watching little people and little cars move around is only interesting for so long and I was soon ready to go back down.

As I waited around for everyone to feel the same way I did and descend the giant stainless steel symbol of something, I noticed something. This was something very disturbing. The Arch was moving. I could feel it moving. I was way up in the air and this thing was moving. I wanted down. I wanted to go down right now. I moved to the middle of the floor, as far from the windows as I could get, and carefully made my way to where we were to board the cars to get back down to the ground. Panic began to set in and I all I could think of was that I want to be on the ground again…now!

About the time I was sure I was going to freak out, the rest of the family and I were making our way into the little elevator compartments. The ride wasn’t fun anymore. It was too slow, the compartment was too small and every creak and groan was an announcement of eminent demise. I sat in silence because I knew if I tried to talk I would burst into tears and no little boy wants to do that in public if it can be avoided. We finally reached the ground and I stepped out onto the hard concrete floor. Solid ground never felt so good.

There was never anything to fear. When the Arch was designed, they knew it would sway and built it to do just that. That’s why it hasn’t crumbled and fell during the wicked storms that hit St. Louis every year. It is built to weather them. I don’t know what will happen if a giant tornado hits it head-on but I do know it will take a whopper of a wind to bring it down. So, I had no reason to be afraid on the nice, somewhat breezy day that I made my first visit to the top.

Fear is caused many times by just not knowing the facts. My mind draws its own conclusions based on the limited knowledge I already have and soon I am afraid of something that has no power over me and no way to harm me. People like me that suffer from depression are even bigger victims of fear because our condition causes us to make up facts that support our fears and let them grow from little gremlins in the closet or under the bed into giant monsters destroying Tokyo.

To fight fear in my life I have to fill my brain with facts and truth. That doesn’t come from the news or talk radio. I can’t get it from guys that put “Dr.” in front of their names like Oz and Phil. Nope, can’t even get it from Oprah. I have to go to the author and finisher of my faith.

John 8:31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I have often heard the last half of the second verse above quoted. “The truth shall set you free!” That’s all well and good but it leaves the impression that if I tell the truth and don’t lie that I am set free. That isn’t what this is saying. Jesus is speaking to following his teachings and learning the facts, I am to dedicate myself to knowing them and following them. That is what sets me free. Freedom from fear, deceit, sin and death can only come from the only one that can show me the whole untarnished truth.

John 8:34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.

He is the truth, the way and the life. He frees me from my fear, my anger, my sorrow and my slavery to sin. The more I know about him, the more I know him, the less I am subject to the fears and misgivings that paralyze me and make me run like a scared rabbit.

God, let me know you. Let me know your truth. Let me be assured that I have been set free and help me to live like a son and not a slave. Amen.

Opening the Door

I’ve gotten up out of bed this morning, that is a good thing, and gotten ready for work, also a good thing in that I wish to remain employed until I decide to retire, and am now sitting looking out the window at a world hovering between light and darkness.

I’m brought back to days in the past when this was one of my toughest moments of the day, the moments when I choose to go out into the world and face it or retreat into myself.  Most days I did both.

I can’t tell you what I was like then.  I only know what I thought I was like and that is so far from reality that I’m at a loss at to what reality was then.

I do know I was scared.  I was so scared that I did things that made no sense like a rabbit that see headlights at night and runs right into the oncoming car.

I kept being run down by each new day that I got to the point that I didn’t care if there was a new day.

Psalm 3:3 But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
4 I cried out to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy mountain.

During those times, I cried out to lots of things.  I cried out to anger, I cried out to my addictions, I cried out to my lust, I cried out to my hate and they all just engulfed me and dragged me out deeper into my depression and into insanity.

Finally, after all hope was shredded and washed away on my sea of pain, I cried out to God.

I have no more strength today than I did on those days that I trembled in fear before walking out that door.  But I am empowered by God.

Now, I know that whatever I need will be given to me.  Even if what I am given looks to me to be different than what I had in mind, I know I will have plenty of it when the time comes.

The sun is beginning to cast some reflections of color on the houses across the lake now.  I’ll be facing the day and all that comes with a new dawn.  It may not be easy and there may still be pain and trouble but I have his shield around me and his hand to hold my head high.  He hears me and answers my cries and I’m no longer afraid to open that door and greet this day.

A Ghost Story

When I was a small child, my family made many trips to “the country”. That’s what everyone called it when we made the trek from St. Louis to the little town of Puxico in southeast Missouri. Most of them just seemed like really long car rides that seemed like they would never end. There wasn’t much to see on the trip and many times it was in a car with no air conditioning so about all a kid could do was take a sweaty nap in the back seat.

I remember one trip in particular though. It was just mom and dad in the front seat and Grandma Dickerson and Grandma Ridenour with me sandwiched between them in the back seat. It is about the only time that I can really remember both of my grandmothers being together for any length of time. They lived very near each other so I am sure they spent time together but I probably didn’t really care at such a young age and Grandma Ridenour died when I was just a little guy.

But this trip I was stuck in between two old ladies (who were probably, at that time, younger than I am now) that proceeded to yak about various things I didn’t give a hoot about non-stop. I was bored to death until they started talking about ghosts and witches.

They told ghost stories that scared the dickens out of me. Grandma Ridenour told us about a witch that used to live in Puxico. They told these stories as if they were true and they had witnessed many of the accounts. I was hanging on every word. It was exciting and I couldn’t get enough of these things that they had seen or heard of.

Finally we arrived in Puxico at Aunt Mary’s house.

I wondered, “Is this one of the places the ghosts were in Grandma’s story?”

I stuck close to mom and dad as we entered the house. It was brooding and creepy, well, in reality it was a little house like all the other little houses in town and was light and cheery, but my mind was convincing me it was filled with ghostly peril. After Aunt Mary did the cheek pinching and commenting on my growth rate I was left completely out of the conversations and I sat there with the grown-ups wanting to go play but deathly afraid of the ghosts that lurked around every corner.

Then I had to go to the bathroom. This meant I had to walk through the ghost’s lair to the bathroom in the other end of the house. It was a long and dangerous walk as I wandered through the house. When I was done I explored the rest of the house. I didn’t find a single ghost and the house lost its dark and brooding nature and became just plain Aunt Mary’s house again.

We hear a lot of ghost stories every day. The news tells us things designed to keep us listening and scare us into actions that just don’t make any sense. I have allowed myself to become so fearful that I cease to do the things I should and sit and watch the television waiting for the next detail of the ghost story to unfold. If I allow myself to, I can act out of fear in everything I do in my daily life. I can say this for sure, God does not do his best work through a man cowering in fear. God tells me that fear is something I have to drive out of my life.

Matthew 10:26 “But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.”

A lot of the fear that people face today is because of what they hear. We feel threatened by people that may or may not have an agenda against us. I am not to fear them even if they actually want to harm me. Jesus was preparing the disciples in this verse to go out and spread the gospel. There was a very real possibility of harm that could come to these men. In fact, eventually most of them were physically attacked and killed. But they got the job done. If they had succumbed to fear what would our Bible look like today?

Matthew 10:28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Jesus tell us to fear God. Does He mean to sit in the house praying God doesn’t kill us? Does He mean for us to run to our cars dodging lightning bolts? No, He means that God alone has power over us. He is the only thing that can harm us and He never will. I am his child and I walk in his power. My fear does not come from Him!

Romans 8:15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”

Psalm 56:3 But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. 4 I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?

God, take away my fear and fill me with courage. Remind me constantly that You walk with me and hold my hand. Your promises are secure throughout whatever the world throws at me. I need to fear no man because You are with me. Amen.

Some Thoughts on Love

Depression has always pushed me to isolate myself.  But it doesn’t always push a man or woman into an isolation that others see well.

When I recently heard of the suicide of Chris Cornell that happened not so long after he had performed before thousands, he probably didn’t seem isolated and alone.  But having stood painfully close to the place he was standing before he left this world, his problems, whatever they were, had become too much for him to bear.

The truth is, all of us bear more than we can stand to bear alone.  It is the self-imposed isolation, the urge to carry what we cannot carry and the refusal to share the load that often kills us.

I can’t sit here and say, “If only this or that had happened he would still be alive.”  I can’t speak into the ultimate outcome of someone taking one step in the right direction in their time of crisis.  But a step in the right direction is a good start.

I only know what happened for me, the step out of my own self into a world filled with other people.  I always knew they were there but I didn’t know I was a part of them.

Although I want to walk as far as I can down the path to recovery, I don’t ever want to forget that I stood on the edge of life and what it was like to live without sanity or a place in a world full of people that care about me.

I have a reason to get out of bed in the morning and a goal for each day.

Romans 13:9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.

Love fulfills God’s requirements.  Love requires me to reach out of my isolation.  Love is the one thing I can never do alone.  Love needs more than one participant.  Love will guide me along the path to recovery and show me sanity.

I’m called to love more than myself, more than my things, more than what I can imagine.  I’m to love others, others that are happy, others that are sad, others that deserve and others that seem not to, others like me and others far different.

Love takes away my self-imposed limits, how much I can take and how much I can give, and lets me experience a way to become more than my flaws as I become a part of something bigger than what I am or what I can become.

I don’t know what all Chris Cornell or anyone else that has taken their own life needed in order for them to still be here today.  But I do know that a little more love would have helped in some way.

As I sit here this morning, I can’t help but feel the need to seek someone out that is approaching that place, that point of no return and showing them some love.  I know that having just plain old me to show that love isn’t like winning the lottery or anything, but I have more than what I am to give.