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Until I’d Go Through Anything

Me. I. My.

How many stinking times a day do I say these words? When will I get it through my head that it’s not about me?

Evangelist Todd White uses the illustration of orange juice vs. apple juice. You would think it pretty strange if you squeezed an orange and you found apple juice. It should be equally strange when the circumstances of life squeeze a Christian and anything but Christ comes out.

Life has done a whole lot of squeezing me lately. Are people getting a bunch of Jesus from me? Or are they getting a bunch of: Me. I. My.?

When work gets hard, do people hear me complaining and backstabbing, or do they see me face the challenge with humility and courage? When multiple doctors tell me that they can’t help me, and the journey drags on much longer than I ever thought possible; do those around find me hopeless, depressed and angry, or do they see a testimony of courage under fire?

Conviction.

How much do I really love Jesus?

Do I love Him just enough to pray that He would “bless” me with that new car, but I could do without the diabetes? Do I love Him just enough that I would gladly accept that new promotion, but He doesn’t dare ask me to accept the loss of a job?

Is my life really about whatever it takes to become like Jesus and show Him to a hurting world, or under the surface has a pity party turned on the music?

I have come to find that I don’t really love Jesus until I’d go through anything for His glory. Anything less, and I just really love ME.

Could you accept with grace whatever comes your way today? Is your life surrendered to HIS will, no matter what…no matter who…no matter where life might take you? Decide now.

Would you go through anything that would bring Him glory?

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Waiting for a Leader

This morning in church, my dad told the true story of a young man whose normal appearance was disheveled. His hair was a mess and he did not wear shoes. One Sunday he decided to attend a certain church that sported an entirely different dress code. As the young man made his way in, he discovered that there were no more seats left. Arriving at the front of the sanctuary, he casually found a spot on the floor and plopped down. It was an unusual situation.

Noticeably uncomfortable, the congregation watched as an elderly deacon dressed in a three-piece suit slowly made his way to the front where the young man sat. Each click of his cane made the congregation sit in anxious expectation of what would take place. After all, it was understandable what he must do.

As the deacon arrived at the front of the sanctuary, the cane dropped loudly to the floor and with great difficulty, he sat down next to the young disheveled man to worship with him. There was hardly a dry eye in the place. Greatly moved, the pastor stood up and said, “What I preach today, you will not remember. What you have seen today, you will never forget.”

What is a leader? The easy answer is this: someone that people follow. What is a godly leader? I would argue that at times it is someone that is willing to step out and do the right thing, no matter how uncomfortable it might be and despite the fact that no one else is doing it. It may mean breaking a “social rule” here and there. In the very sense of the word, it is someone who guides others with his/her example. A leader’s convictions are more important than the reputation he/she desires.

Am I a leader? This is the question I am asking myself today. I am a pastor and I am a manager, but am I a leader? You see, a certain position or earned accolade does not make you a leader. Integrity, consistency, and honor make you a leader. Position really has little to do with anything.

There are certain things that if God asked me to do them in a church service, it would make me very uncomfortable. Being the first one to go to the altar would be one of them, especially if it was not during “open altar time.” Being very expressive in worship when everyone else around me is standing still would be another one. And yet, if I cannot worship God freely and openly in church, how will I ever be bold and fearless about Him at my work, in businesses in the community, or with my non-Christian friends?

When I started to think about things further, I realized how most of us are all waiting for a leader. Think about it: a catchy song comes on at church or in a concert, and there is a little stretch of music that is uncomfortable until someone steps up and starts the clap. Then others join in and people start to stand on their feet. The rest is history.

I have also been in church services where a catchy song came on, and the uncomfortable part of the song dragged on and on as everyone wondered who was going to start the clap…and it never happens. Everyone was thinking the same thing, but no one was willing to be the first one.

I wonder how many altar calls have gone by where several would have liked to go forward but no one ever made the first move. I think about all the times that I have felt God nudge me to step out, but I was too afraid to be the first one. So I waited, and then never went.

This is such a simple example – but it has really made me think about all areas of my life. Am I a leader? Traditionally, I have rarely been unafraid of others’ opinions of me; I have been afraid to be the odd one. This is not the person that I want to be.

I want to be like that deacon who sat down with the outcast. I want to be used by God to give others around me permission to openly express their needs and their worship. And I want to have the boldness when I am outside the walls of the church to be just as passionate about my faith as I am within the church building.

If we truly want to reach our community for Christ, we need to be willing to feel uncomfortable and at times be the only one. We need to be willing to ditch our reputation at the foot of the cross, go out and simply do what is right. Our pride must die its rightful death and Jesus must be all we want.

The world is waiting for a leader. They are waiting for you and me.

The Unwanted Path

It’s not the path I would have chosen for my life. It’s definitely not the path I want to be walking right now.

Today, I wanted one thing from this specialist – for her to take me seriously. For her to schedule me for whatever tests would be necessary to put a name to this beast that I fight every day. Instead, I felt dismissed, like I was just another number.

One of the many frustrating things about muddling through the health care industry is that we as patients have to be such relentless advocates for ourselves. With normal illnesses like the flu or a cold, someone might simply say, “I’ll go see the doctor.” The doctor gives him medicine, and he gets better. Those of us with more obscure, mysterious symptoms that persist and debilitate – most often it feels like we spend all our time and energy just trying to get someone to understand the depth of struggle that we deal with constantly, somehow without coming across as a victim or a hypochondriac. No, I don’t have pain because I’m stressed. I’m stressed because I have pain. There’s a big difference.

It can feel so often like we are stuck between a rock and a hard place, unable to move. It seems like we are stripped of our ability to choose how we want to live our lives. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the things we cannot do, all the trips we cannot take, and all the bills we cannot pay. It’s easy to lose sight of who we are.

I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be a victim of my illness or of the medical industry. I have never wanted that. However, in the past the decision to maintain my autonomy meant ditching health care all together. It meant dropping my meds and living in ignorance of my limitations. And it kind of worked for a while. However, lying to yourself never works for long.

 

Amy Carmichael wrote in a poem:

“Before the winds that blow do cease,

Teach me to dwell within Thy calm:

Before the pain has passed in peace,

Give me, my God, to sing a psalm.

Let me not lose the chance to prove

The fullness of enabling love.

O Love of God, do this for me:

Maintain a constant victory.”

 

What does it mean to live in victory in the middle of the storm, in the vast unknown, or in the midst of being misunderstood? What does it look like to have a joy that no one or no thing can take away? How can one have peace in the time in-between, when it seems like the waiting is excruciating?

This is what I am learning.

 

And I can say, for me right now it means this:

-That I do not allow the things that I can’t do to overshadow all that I can do

-That I do not view my illness as something that makes me incomplete as a person; but that I would see it for what it is – a challenge that I have been given

-That I would embrace this time as a precious gift – one that causes me to look deep into what it means to take care of my body and learning how to take care of others

-That I would not see this as an interruption to ministry, but rather a redirection in ministry. How many people are going through the same things? How can I be an encouragement and an inspiration to them?

-That this would cause a deepening of my understanding of the love and comfort of my Heavenly Father, who understands when no one else does and walks with me where no one else can

And I will always say: I will praise Him even now!

 

I love this quote by Ann Voskamp:

“Even if today didn’t go as planned, Lord

and if it’s not at all what we hoped,

and if “we’re” not yet quite what we hoped,

and if life’s not unfolding to our Plan A

and if it’s not even close to Plan B

and if the diagnosis is not great

and if the forecast is not good

and if not…and if not…and if not…

“You still are.” You still are Good and You still are God.

And we will be the people who will still…

The people who will still rest in and sing it into the dark:

“and if not…He is still Good. He is still God…so we can still and be and be at rest.”

 

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