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In Awe of the GREAT and small

WALKING TOGETHER

We are not wasted space,

we are temples of a Holy Being

greater than ourselves,

temples to be inhabited and brought to life

-Rich Mullins

The opening picture is a favorite of mine. Me and my granddaughter walking on an adventure. The sweet story she is telling me is concern over the dead tree behind us. Her concerns are real and my ears are open to hear the unthinkable about that poor tree.

This picture represents so much about life for me; a listening ear, a chance for someone to open up about what is on the inside and a chance for both of us to walk, on our own…together. I woud pick her up if the story required it(picture an angry bear behind us), but I am more inclined to help people learn to walk on their own. More importantly to walk on their own with the Lord.

My family often finds themselves in the sanctuary of God’s creation. I pray that I have done well to help my children and now their children, learn that our heart is a temple for a Holy God as well and find joy in having that space bring him honor.

This blog reflects my eagerness to fly, willingness to run, but coming to grips with the greater need of learning how to walk and not be faint, by the grace of God

Lasers, Levels, and Plumb Bobs

There is a great cost to fixing what is broken, but the alternative is for everything to be ruined. Sometimes a big fix is in order.

If you’ve ever taken on a home renovation project, you know the difficulty that comes from what your eyes tell you and what your laser, level, or plumb bob tells you. These items are intriguing to me. Useful tools to tell me what is actually true even if the sight lines lie.

My current project, shoring up a poorly constructed lean-to off of my garage. My issues include a poorly constructed retaining wall with no drainage plan. Railroad ties that are rotting and someone decided that helping it looked like using spray foam to fix the rot (solid plan). 4X4 support posts mounted on said rotting wall. The best moment to prove a failed understanding of correct engineering is the use of 2X4X10s as the beam holding the rafters in Northern MN where holding up 36 inches of ice and snow is a must( 2 2X10X8’s is the recommended beam at minimum).

I’m in the process of a complete foundation overhaul, then taking out the old mess. I’m in the middle of trying to discover the new line I should take. Measurements are all over the place, nothing is level, nothing matches the current garage, no level is long enough, I’m left to my laser. Laser’s don’t lie, but to look at what it’s telling me, seems to be… well, a lie. So who or what am I going to trust?

Our society at this moment in history is experiencing the same upheaval. Right, wrong, justice, equality are more like a punchline of satire rather than an objective truth that is self-evident. Who do I trust, are police always unjust when stopping crime or unjust when they are unjust in the middle of stopping crime? Why are the police even needing to be there to stop a crime? If crime wasn’t happening they wouldn’t be there. Are there places police are being unjust when their isn’t even anything criminal going on there?

The search warrant on the wrong house breaks my heart. The culpable officers are the ones asking for the warrant to the wrong address. Everything beyond that is a horrible tragedy. What homeowner with a gun wouldn’t fire shots to such an intrusion and what officer wouldn’t fire back when getting shot at. From my look at justice, the officers who wrote down the address have more blame than the ones serving the warrant. They wouldn’t even be there to make the mistake if things were done right.

Here I am fixing my broken property trying to find the truth. Here we are trying to fix a broken society without a level, or a plumb bob, or a laser.

I wonder if we could ever get to the base problem in all of these matters? I wonder if anyone could stop long enough to look at the actions of each individual and hold them accountable for their actions? I wonder how often the sight lines are incompatible with a laser that could penetrate down to the marrow,” judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart!”

I wonder if anyone wants to stop fixing the bad construction, and dig out some new pillars. Lives matter, sin ruins everything, God’s desire has always been redemption, and that there are levels, lasers, and plumb bobs that don’t lie and using them could rebuild something that would last and that would be just,right, fair, unmistakable.

Truth hurts, but it also leads to construction that can bring life.

Do You See What I See?

“Can the leopard change his spots” is the question asked by Jeremiah. It was intended to be a rhetorical question; the obvious, no need to answer answer is no, a leopard cannot change his spots. In an earlier chapter he makes the comment “Although you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain our your guilt is ever before me, declares the Lord.” You see you can’t scrub the spots off.

In our day we have come to an alternate conclusion, that conclusion is that we can indeed wash the spots off. We have new better soap. We can educate the spots off. We can reform the spots off. We can use reason and therapies, get people to consider their past and be free. We can come up with a “baby steps” book of Moral Therapeutic Deism and make progress. We can punish people, have a rally, use extreme shaming, WE CAN WASH OFF THE SPOTS!!!

The problem is no matter what we try or how much it seems like we might be getting somewhere, maybe do a dye job so we can’t see the spots… the problem is… the leopard is still a leopard. So we can sit in a hammock and repeat a thousand times I am okay, I am okay, I am okay! But the leopard should never share the same backyard as my preschool grandchildren, or anyone for that matter because the instincts of the leopard have not changed.

Ezekiel carries this idea forward in 36:25-28, “I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you to move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. The you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.”

There is an answer for our world if only people could here it. The answer isn’t to make the leopard less leopard less leopard, it’s too replace it’s nature through God taking a stone cold heart and replacing it with a soft heart. What’s needed is a new heart. Any reading of today’s current events makes that abundantly clear.

Shalom!

Human Institutions

Humanity has the uncanny ability to value the wrong things and devalue the most important things. We also live in a world of blame, where when something goes wrong, we feel compelled to focus our attention(negative or positive) on someone.

In our current cultural confusion it’s easy to see both of these things happening with a strong focus on blaming the institution. We are at a point in history where most, if not all, of our institutions have failed us. Politicians lie, clergy abuse, groups play favorites, police abuse their authority, moms and dads are alcoholics, abuse in the home, favoritism in classrooms and playing surfaces, it’s everywhere. Some have felt that sting more or less, but in the end institutions have failed to uphold values that reflect justice.

Because we are smarter than everyone else, we come to the conclusion that the institution I create will be at the center of worldwide peace and harmony. We can create something better! It’s a noble idea, but it’s not backed by history and it forgets an important word…HUMAN!

This gets to one of these loaded words where people differ. For years Humanism has taught that mankind is basically good. Whenever it’s not good we simply need to offer a little education, a little reason, a little boost in confidence and self-esteem. Because mankind is basically good all of these problems are an easy fix. Just come up with a “Dare” program. If you want to keep kids off of drugs, tell them they are bad. A little education can solve anything because humanity is basically good. Through satire, I rest my case!!

Some of you don’t have much interest in Christianity for a variety of reason, but just for a moment, see if a Christian view of things makes more sense. God says that humanity is wrong at it’s very core. Humanity seeks to be proud, selfish, greedy, cruel, dominate, lie, cheat, steal, bribe, kill, spread rumors, undermine, divide, blame, criticise, ostracize, use, on and on and on. A look at the news or a little introspection and it’s exceptionally hard to argue against what God says our base problem is.

Institutions are governed by humans. The manner in which humans act is the level to which the institution will rise or fall in manners of justice and treatment of people. To replace an institution with another institution is a failure to understand that the failing part of this is the HUMAN component.

The measure to which I honor, love, respect, encourage, teach, correct, model, serve, speak honestly, do honestly, ask for righteousness is the measure to which any institution becomes something that brings life to it’s people, or destruction to it’s people. And when the institution is filled with many people doing the same, there is the thing we are all hoping for.

At the heart of what we need is to be recreated in God’s image, stop sinning towards each other and God and start loving the same way He loves us. We don’t have a race problem, class problem, “fill in a thousand blanks” problem. We have a sin problem that God has always wanted to take care of and make us whole.

Do you want to be well? Does our country want to be well?

Mystics and Revolutions

Our day calls for a lot of soul-searching and being a thoughtful introvert, I can appreciate the challenge of trying to draw in a lot of information and comes to grips with my own thoughts (not that it matters much, the internet is full of thought but almost no hearing so the vanity of hearing myself speak seems to have little use.) This isn’t a pity party just a simple recognition that one small voice is simply that, maybe I should yell louder!

But the world is stuck much as it was in Columbus’ day. See, now we can go on a rampage about all of that but… Everyone in Columbus’ day was obsessed with traveling East, no one dared to venture west, the map wasn’t complete, too many unknowns, there’s money to be made sailing East. Someone had to go west, Columbus had the nerve to venture out of the box, out of the norm, say things people didn’t want to hear, sell his idea to someone with enough nerve to do the same, no easy task.

The world is in need of mystics and a revolution. Mystics have an uncanny ability to unmask the truth of human society. The trouble in our day is no one will listen to even handed statements about the nature of our problems in society. Say anything that ventures off too far to one side and immediately this blog with be too conservative or too liberal. Here’s what I’d like to say…

But it wouldn’t matter. I thought about coming up with a list of point/counterpoint items, the only thing people would read are the points that they can chalk up to their side. In the end I wonder why we don’t value life anymore? I wonder why we don’t hold people personally accountable for their own actions? I wonder why no one seems to value the golden rule? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Revolutions without a mystic(good valuable questions) will simply lead to throwing the baby out with the bath water in nonsensical ways, or lead us back to where we started because the nonsense we tried could never have worked out.

A quote from Henri Nouwen’s book “The Wounded Healer”. “No mystic can prevent himself from being a social critic, since in self-reflection he will discover the roots of a sick society. Similarly, no revolutionary can avoid facing his own human condition, since in the midst of his struggle for a new world, he will find that he is also fighting his own reactionary fears and false ambitions.”

Our national narrative is none other than a bad marriage fighting it out. I pray some constructive people can model some form of conversation that gets us somewhere. Some good hard honest question about police culture that needs to be fixed, people of color culture that needs to be fixed, American culture that needs to be fixed. It’s broken and as long as the only solution is “what the other people do”, we will never have a solution. Watch your own bobber!!

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Some Great Philosopher

Where Do I Focus

Like many of you, I feel distracted from any one issue to give it the thought required for it to come to some usefulness. The to feel that way about a dozen or more issues, to realize that even if I came to some resolute clarity about it that would breathe life into our deadness instead of simply more oxygen on the fire, what would still have to happen is that a large portion of society would have to agree too. We can’t get somewhere collectively if we all want to head different places.

Where are we going, this is the question for our day. The problem of protest is that is never takes you anywhere, it just tells people where you don’t want to be. I’ve heard it said that speaking about what you are against in the “Chicken position.” I can make up a thousand things that I am against, but the transformational message is “What am I for?”

Typically people have spoken of the American Dream. A family, house, kids, fulfilling career, and in the end opportunity. I could come up with a little list of my own, but instead of re-inventing the wheel maybe words from our past could point to a future we can agree to. And if we can agree to that point in the distance, then maybe all of us could work on the road that takes us there.

Excerpts from “I HAVE A DREAM”

“But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. 

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. **We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.”** We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”1

“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. 

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,    From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. 

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. 

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm

I have a dream of what could be, but if we are to move forward in any way that bring life, we have to move toward something and not simply away from something. I look forward to the day when all of this is no longer an issue, either in this life or the next, as the body of Christ.

Justice for Some, Broken Systems, Righteousness

As a young adult I always wondered why some sports teams always seemed to be successful and others always seemed to falter. Then as part of a Seminary class we started talking about systems, and it really opened my eyes to bigger pictures than I was formerly capable.

Systems are everywhere. Every group of people becomes a system. Your family, workplace, church, Lions Club, friend groups, teams, cities, states and nations are all under the workings of a system.

Systems give clarity about the norms accepted, things not accepted, expectations both formal and informal. Systems provide a structure for people to live in that not having structure at all would be frustrating and time consuming. Your kitchen is evidence of a system. Everything has a place. Important more useful things are easy to get to, things used less often are at the back of your cupboards (or just migrate there through lack of use!!). Now if anyone came and changed where everything was put every night and you woke up and wanted a bowl of cereal, you’d have to search every cabinet every day to see where the spoons, bowls, cereal ended up, you would be frustrated. Systems are a blessing to us, giving us some predictability.

Systems are also filled with at least two participants, 1. Those who exert authority in the system and 2. Those who do not have any say in the system. Parents, teachers, bosses, coaches, directors, officials, those with official authority and those with unofficial authority have a say in the direction of a group. Systems are also filled with people who have more or less say in how a system is run, but at the end of the day, compliance with orders from others are their norm.

Leaders in the system are typically oblivious to the outcomes on those around them. Depending on the case it can range anywhere from fine to horrible. Leaders have to set a course that is sometimes unlikeable, kids eating their vegetables and brushing their teeth is positive needed leadership. Parents abusing their children, ruining the system is horrible and in need of intervention by another system.

Those who don’t have power in the system are forced to use their intuition to navigate expressed and unexpressed rules. They survive with good navigation skills or get overrun. Ever been in a place that was unfamiliar to you and wondered what was going on at any given moment, always a half step behind the people in the know? New job, new church, new relationship, trying to navigate the world of acceptable and unacceptable. At best trying to avoid feeling uncomfortable; at worst, trying not to get killed. People navigate through feelings and impressions, those feelings and impressions aren’t always right though. Perception is reality only if your perception is reality. If you perceive martians are trying to kill you, it doesn’t make it so.

Why systems are useful:1. A just system keeps things going in the right direction. The Lion King is a great look at the order of a good King and the order of a bad King. The bad King creates the scorched earth view of the character Scar. 2. Systems make things predictable, and in many instances we enjoy that. 3. Systems that declare good to be good and bad to be bad are a balm to the soul, mind, and body. 4. Systems are dependent on leaders leading righteously. 5. When systems are headed in the right direction, they keep heading in the right direction.

Why systems can be bad. 1. When systems are broken, they keep perpetuating the problem. A downward spiral that seems impossible to recover from. 2. It becomes a battle of leaders and followers trying to figure out ways to wound each other some more. Years ago in the city I live with haves and have-nots, with schools divided on those lines, one of the cheers from the “haves” school was “Your dads work for our dads.” I know, right!! The players in the system are broken and actively perpetuating the brokenness. (eventually leaders in the system broke up what was broken, at least in that moment.) 3. The incredible energy required to go from broken to righteous is daunting. Getting people beyond their broken perpetual pattern is difficult(ever tried a diet?). Not trying to be cute, it’s just that even when we want to change, it’s so easy to fall back into what was. Watch a movie like “Mississippi Burning” or “The Free State of Jones” and understand the depth of horrid and the casual nature of speaking those things.

The temptation is to go with anarchy, no system at all, everyone for themselves. Imagine the last week looks like with no intervention. Systems step in to break up wrong doing. In the case of this last week, some law of our land needs to step in for George as a tip of the iceberg systemic problem.

The Old Testament prophet knew what a system needed, “Do Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly.”

ISMS and the many melanin/non-melanin issues

The loving curiosity of children, how does it turn into the cage of adulthood?

Adam and Eve couldn’t keep from eating the fruit, Cain was jealous of Abel and murdered him, this is the beginning story of humanity and it’s not been much better since.

As of today the temptation is to talk about racISM. As the week goes on I will do just that, but for today I want to speak about all the ISMS. For all of time there has been a group think mentality, an us verses them look at life. Even in the animal world we see lions kill baby cheetahs whenever they get the chance, eliminate the competition. The fallen temptation to conquer others, use others, have contempt for others or just simply turn a cold shoulder to others and a blind eye at best, to gouge them out at worst this is our human story. To think this is a recent historical phenomenon limited to USA history is obviously wrong.

Our temptation as humans here on planet earth is to disregard THEM in favor of US regardless of the thing that is at the center of it. Nationality, status, skin tone, education, job, house size, vacation, vehicle, music choices, political choices, anyone not a Denver Broncos fan. Read through any public forum and hate, utter disrespect, lack of listening/hearing etc is non-stop and seems to make the events of our day an obvious end.

This post today is no attempt to speak about any specific ISM, it’s an attempt to get me to focus on me and you on you. God asks us to love, honor, encourage, correct, teach, forgive each other etc, etc. To what extent are you or I bringing light to the world around us, and to what extent are you or I bringing darkness to the world around us in respect to how we treat every single person we come in contact with each and every day.

AND the answer to that question needs to not have any qualifiers on it. Take a marriage(or a broken friendship) for example. So many times when I’ve walked people through the issues it’s almost inevitably, “I’ll do the right thing after they do the right thing.” Translation, we’ll both continue to do the wrong thing and spur on the trouble. The correct answer is “I will do the right thing even if they never do the right thing.” (Sidebar, if the wrong thing someone is doing is illegal, they should be prosecuted for it just so there is no confusion about immoral action being okay).

I’l get to some other issues later this week but for now, if we really want to change the world there are a few things needed… 1. Individuals taking responsibility for their actions/inactions, 2. Living in the conviction that we are to be the solution we want to see around us. 3. Forgive those who are lacking the conviction of #2. 4. Seeking justice when the action rises to the level of criminal behavior. 5. Forgive some more, be light anyway.

The idea that humanity is going to change this side of heaven is far fetched, even impossible. It’s never an excuse to not try and move in that direction, but there will always be a horrible person who says/does something horrible. I don’t want to be the one adding to world’s trouble, I pray that 8 billion people would see it the same way, until then… ( the impossibility of 8 billion makes us shut down and give up, how about we get 100 million Americans committed to the following…)

DO JUSTLY, LOVE MERCY, WALK HUMBLY

Become

The light and the apple tree are holdovers, everything else is new.

This is the beginning of the fourth year on our property. Everything you see in the above picture is new since then. We purchased the property for many reasons, but part of it was the blank slate with which we could transform it into our tastes.

There are hundreds of subtleties that require your attention and over the years they begin to add up. The problem with transformation is the moment when it’s not this thing and it’s also not really that thing yet either. There is a problem spot, a void, an extra a “One of these things is not like the other” type of moments. Bit by bit, things become all together different, a reflection of vision with continued moments of grace for things to grow, fill in, not get killed off by deer!!!

It’s this journey of becoming that is enjoyable, chaotic, and fear filled. What have I become? What if the ideas I had for the place turn out to be less than I had hoped, more of what I feared? What if I get stuck in the “doom loop” of change? The doom loop is when I know I need change, take steps, get afraid and fall right back into the place I started? We’ve all been there.

If you want to know me better, I am a mix of the above. I like the order and symmetry of the plants in front, as well as the chaos of the weepers in back. Leah never knows when my chaos or order side will come out, pray for her!!

There is your Creator who knows you inside and out, created you the way you are(parts might still need some work!!) and has an excellent plan. Give into the renovation, tear out a few things, plant a few new things, wait patiently in hope and do all of that with the Lord ordering your steps. The before and after will be stunning.

“Grant to those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. Isaiah 61:3

I pray that the years reveal in us an oak of righteousness, that displays the glory of God our creator!!

Puffing or Loving

“We all possess knowledge. But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” I Cor 8:2

The first century church had an issue with meat sacrificed to idols. Do you buy your lamb from the local farmer or do you go to the Temple of some god you don’t worship and get a denarius off and save a little money?

How could you eat meat sacrificed in a pagan ritual to a false God?

OR

as Paul states, “there is but one God, the Father from whom all things came and for whom we live.” It’s just meat people, if it’s sacrificed to something that doesn’t exist, who cares!!

It was a real dilemma and caused a lot of friction, enough for it to be addressed. Paul goes on to say, “If what I eat causes my brother or sister to stumble, I will never eat meat again.”

Translation: I am free because of the knowledge I have to eat as many lamb chops as I want, but because of the love that I have for others, I will chose something different if it is a matter of conscience even if I really love a great steak!!

I see much of this old problem coming to life in a new way… will I wear a mask? I should let you in on what my tendencies are heading in to this… currently I only have worn a mask in one particular store because I have to, otherwise I am inclined to not wear one and not feel bad about it. Mostly because I’m not doing much shopping anyway or with groups of people anywhere. I’d rather not ever wear a mask, but…

Paul made it clear that this is for others. People wearing masks in Asia for the last decade or more has always been about others. I wear this out of a concern for you, not out of a concern for me. Americans trip over this quite a bit as evidenced by the repeated line “I don’t care if I get the virus, masks won’t stop it anyway.” Well first, it’s about others; second, some filter is always better than no filter. If you don’t believe that, then take away the filters in your life starting with your coffee filter!!

I see a lot of huffing and puffing about the issue, one side or the other. Much like the early church needing to present their side of the case to their own end. What needs to win out here is the same thing that needed to win out there, a love for others needs to guide our thoughts.

I’d prefer to never wear a mask, if wearing one means I get to be with someone I couldn’t otherwise be with, I’ll do it.

Donkeys Y Dios

In the course of time there are things we say, those things aren’t considered much, people keep saying it, then before you know it, everyone says it and it might not have ever made sense… but we still say it. And we say it a whole lot. What’s at the core of this saying and what is a better understanding?

“I just want to be used by God to…”

First, this statement seems to come when someone is going on a mission trip, moving into a spiritual endeavor where they long to be a part of the Kingdom of God, I get it. But if you think about that statement in light of any other similar use, it’s always a negative. I just want my spouse to use me, I want my friends to use me, I want my boss, coach, teacher to use me. Every instance of that looks bad, sounds like “I would like to be taken advantage of…maybe even exploited”

I look up the word “used” in the bible. The word “used” is used 114 times, but never in the “I want to be used by God” sort of way. Usually in the ” bread used in the Tabernacle” sort of way. As I do a little research online I see all kinds of lists of what you and I need to do to be used by God, chief among them is that you and I need to be Holy.

Second, now I don’t want to argue with the Holiness thing BUT; God used Pharaoh, God used Pilate, God used Nebuchadnezzar, God used Babylon, God used jealous brothers, God even used an ass(Balaams Donkey). If you heard my sermon last week, God used Jonah to preach to 120,000 people. Jonah could be nominated for hardest heart in the Bible. “I knew you were a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” That’s why I never wanted to come here and preach, I knew you would forgive those people… Seems to me that a read of the Bible allows for a wide variety of characters in the category of “used.” If that’s what we want to call it.

My third pet peeve about this statement is it always seems to put us at the center of the story. You were used, because you did something, or the something that was done has something to do with what you did. Now I understand the nature of God’s invitation to us to be the hands, feet, and voice of God to the world around us. There are choices we should make that sometimes we don’t make, so make the choice to be salt and light but maybe we need to always recognize that every good and perfect gift comes from “Me being used”, the grace of God almighty and the work of his hand. God deserves to be so far in front of the story line any second place finish is forgettable.

So what’s the alternative to “I just want to be used?” How about, I just want to glorify God. “Yes Lord walking in your ways we wait for you, because your name and your renown is the desire of our hearts.” Isaiah 26:8 God has a way of taking care of his will without our help even if we are involved. It’s a nice thing that God invites us in. Like it or not, more things happen in spite of us than because of us. Taking ourselves out of the center of spiritual transactions between others and God is a healthier place to be. Third parties make bad parties.

In light of every other negative connotation about being used, I’d rather just have you be loved by God and joyfully, willingly love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and sometimes do that in front of an audience of 1, 10, or 100 and let people see the radiance and smell the fragrance of Christ.

I think this view of our use, cheapens the work of God in the world, tends to put us in a place of a pat on the back instead of “gloria a Dios.” If God can use an ass, he can use anything. But God is very much in love with you and the way to truly find life is to love Him and others the same way. Be loved…love, celebrate what God does!!