Friday, August 26, 2011

the opposite of faith

I am looking at the future and wondering what to do.  The economy is hurting our business.  New healthcare laws are limiting how much we can help our clients and how much we make.  Six years of struggling to make business work, and all the forces of nature seem to be against us.  Life these days is like trying to navigate raging white-waters on a surf board.  I know that I'm not the only one.  Other folks around me are undergoing far worse.  It's not just me.  There are times in everyone's life that life seems overwhelming and impossible.

I admit it.  My first reaction is usually fear.   I try to be optimistic, but fear is the first surge that I experience.  I appreciate how God works during hard times.  He always comes along at the right moment and nudges us.   I was beginning to feel succumbed by the hopelessness of it all.  I lose sight many times along the to the way, feeling the way the enemy would have me feel.  Here is where I have found myself failing time and time again.  I confess it.

So out of nowhere I got the almighty nudge and a hopeful reminder - the opposite of fear is faith.

"Humans are amphibians - half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time."
-C.S. Lewis

I can easily be overwhelmed or learn to navigate each new hardship with faith.  Fear will always make us lose control - eventually tip us over.  I believe that we are more spiritual than physical.  Like the Lewis quote infers,  we only have our physical bodies for a short amount of time - we are forever spirit.  We must endeavor to learn to live our lives in an unseen reality.

You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.
-C.S. Lewis

While on this earth, bound by our flesh - we are to take the spatula of truth and flip our fears over and find our faith.  Most of us have experienced this before in our lives, we have to give our fears to God and believe on Him.

 "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
-Hebrews 11:1

God doesn't always deliver us from trials that cause us fear.  He desires the trials to test our faith in order that we learn to rise up with the character of Christ.  I still have to relearn the lesson of faith over fear - to step out of the boat onto the water.  None of us are going to make it if we try to overcome situations in the flesh.  We can't balance ourselves on what we perceive with our own eyes.  We have to let go and stand on what we have been taught.  We are not to balance flesh and spirit.  We are to walk solely in the spirit.

" ...and everything that does not come from faith is sin."
-Romans 14:23

We are not to be drowning in fear, but walking by FAITH.  We are indeed spiritual beings. 
I should know this by now and I need His reminders from time to time.  It's too easy to get caught up in the fear of the flesh, because it is the natural thing to do.  Living in faith isn't natural.  Stepping off into the unseen unknown scarey.  We will struggle with it until the day we die.  It's because all we each see in the mirror is flesh and bone.  All we see around us from day to day are flesh and bone.  It's easy to lose sight of the unseen and drown in all that is seen.  Sometimes we'd rather stay in the comfortable familiar than experience life the way we were meant to live.

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."
-Romans 14:17

We are to be above fear and not forever drowning.  It is faithlessness that keeps us from being the beings we were created to be.  If we are constantly reacting to life with fear, our lives will not be as full or as fruitful.  If we are constantly succumbing to our fear, we are acting just as lost as the rest of the world.  We must live by faith and discover the way we were meant to walk.  We have to make that bold step each day.

"If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this."
-C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

i miss them

School is back in session.  Both of my daughters are no longer at the office during the day.  I miss them here.

There was a long period of time this Summer that our family was running on just one vehicle.  The old van was in the shop for a month due to a mysterious electrical problem.  Gina needed our only car running to drive to and from the nursing homes.  The girls and I were stranded together at the office during the work day.

It wasn't bad mind you.  Most of the days we brought sandwich materials from home to have lunch.  A few times a week Katie, Kelsey and I would close up shop at noon and hang an Out To Lunch note on the door.  We'd walk to lunch.  I miss THAT.  We'd hold hands, talk and laugh as we strolled together downtown.

Sometimes the three of us would venture down Broad for a  monster  of a club sandwich at Gadsden Variety & Deli or for a hotdog from Connie's Coney's.  The girls liked sitting outside under the shade of the umbrella and munch on a hotdog with chili and cheese.  Sometimes we'd venture down Chestnut for a reuben sandwich at the Downtown Deli.  Kelsey hasn't acquired the taste for a good reuben as of yet.  She'll take the ham & cheese.

Here I am writing about food.  I can get that stuff any old day.  What I MISS is enjoying lunch with my daughters.  I miss walking to lunch with them.  I miss sitting down and enjoying them on a Summer day.

Today  I sit alone at my office and contemplate what I'm going to do for lunch.  I find myself opting out.  It's just not as fun without my girls.

Monday, August 15, 2011

armed for school

Early childhood is a time when little ones are buffered from the world.  For most of us, the family unit was the comfortable cocoon in which to learn as we grew under the broad wing of parental love, guidance and encouragement.  Our world was our family.  Before we knew it, we found ourselves standing alone looking up at the towering doorways of public education for the first time.  Like a young bird being pushed from the nest, school was our first experience of first flight.

As a parent, I experienced emotions that my parents must have felt.  I remember looking in the rear-view mirror and losing sight of my young child as she became part of a herd.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that I watched Katie as she was shepherded into the building by a stranger.  I could hear the bell ring in the distance and remembered what it felt like to experience walking down those institutional walls for the very first time.  Like my first born, came my second child, and the feelings never changed.  With both children I felt both anxious and a little sad.

I was anxious because she was no longer completely within my protection.  I was anxious that she was now in a strange land without her father and mother.  I was a little sad because with each passing year, we have to let go a little more.  As parents, we begin learn to lean on God a little more.  We pray that our children will be okay in the world.  They begin by learning new things and experience new adventures.  They will bring home crayon masterpieces, construction paper hats, and progress with reading, writing and arithmetic.  When they are little, they look forward to the next school day.

By junior high, the landscape has changed.  The kid’s have been out there and know now what to expect.  By junior high, education isn’t bated with sugar cookies and recess.  Teachers are getting down to business, expecting their pupils to get down to business and bear the responsibility of learning.  Something more is going on though, more than classes and homework.  Something deeper and darker awaits our children.  Evil awaits!

As this year approaches I see it in my daughter’s countenance.  As the last week dwindled down to the last few days of Summer’s freedom.   She ponders the pending future with an uncertain gloom.  I can see it on her face and hear it in her voice.  School for her growing up was a happy place.  But now she approaches her new high school year as a soldier would D-Day. She is braced, but not feeling ready.

School is an unavoidable an un-erasable sentence.  School is a child’s first encounter with the world.  For those who were raised in Christian homes, they will experience first-hand the merciless salvos of principalities and darkness.  They are bused into a world where children are often cruel to one another.  Here young souls experience darts and arrows targeted directly at them.  Children can be cruel.  Peer groups, social elites.  Here the world sharply divided those who are weak, from those who are strong, those who are big, from those who are small, those who are pretty, from those who are plain, those who are rich, from those who are poor.  On the campus, let the cruelness begin.  Oh how the enemy in this world sets his forces against our own children, to break their spirit.

School approaches my child, and there is no stopping it.  It’s going to be a head on collision and I sympathize with her gloom of the looming inevitability of Monday.  As her parent, she seems to not believe that I was once there too.

Last night I told my child that as she pursues the Kingdom of God in her life, she will experience a Matrix moment.  If she is to overcome this world in her life, she will need to see the world for what it really is.  I believe she will see it.  She will see herself fighting not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and darkness.  She will see through the façade and see her part in this battle.  Each day is masquerade and she will learn to see behind the masks.   She will see the world as Jesus does.  Lost.

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
-Ephesians 6:12

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exaulteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of  Christ."
-2 Corinthians 10-5

Elitism has an ugly face. The lost soul will try to make another feel small, in order to feel big.  The lost soul will make another feel dumb, in order to feel smart.  How noble is a heart that would make another appear the nerd, in order to feel cool?  How beautiful is the heart that would make another feel ugly, in order to feel pretty?  It’s a small world after all.

The world is filled with fallen children of Adam.  This world is filled with a humanity that is self-absorbed, self-serving, and self-righteous.  This is what God sees.  This is why God sent His beloved Son.  The Matrix moment for everyone is to see that the world is filled with lost children.  It is in school that our children must learn to be in this mess, but not of it.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
-1 John 4:4

This is why I am sending my children to school armed.  Self-confidence is a good thing, but a child needs to be given more.  They need to be armed for the world with something sharp.  They need protection. The child needs the sword of truth, the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness.   My children need to have the mind of Christ. Katie reads her Bible daily.  I see that life is already putting the Word in her to the test.  All the scripture that she’s read have yet to reveal its full meaning.  She has still yet to experience enough life, not yet experienced all that is in the world.  Like the young rulers of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, my children will be tested, but they will not be unarmed.  The Word is in them and their parents are equipping them and giving them continual prayer support.   We want them to know God and know His voice, no matter how far they are from us.

"We must put on the whole armor of God.  We must have the character of Jesus Christ.  It is impossible to have the power of God without having the character of God, which is holiness."
-Ephesians: 6: 10-18

As we each travel in the world, we learn what it means to be in it and not of it.  We learn that through each encounter, each valley, each hardship, we will find God’s glory beyond each personal conflict.  We can give thanks that no matter what we endure, we can overcome if we are always in Him.  It is how we weather the most difficult times that forges our character.  As we lean on Him, and go through life pursuing His Kingdom in our lives, we begin to take on the character of Christ.  Something I have discovered about my Creator, He redeems all of our hardships.  If we go with God in this world, we will come out the other end different.

And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
-2 Corinthians 12:9

The world would have my children think little of their selves.  As a father, I am given the eyes of God to see my children for who they truly are.  My daughters are beautiful inside and out.  They are each a gift from God and gifted by God in their own unique way.  They are loving creatures that love to love and love to laugh.  They will sing to the world their own song.  Yes, each of their lives a beautiful song to God’s glory.  The world will continue to lie, but we know that the world is a liar.  Gina and I will do our best to raise them in the light for as long as we have their lives to keep.

"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."
-John 16:33

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. This is true holiness."
Philippians: 4:8

So off to school my lovely children, off into the world you go.  You have God and God has you.
God on Katie!
God on Kelsey!
God on your children too!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

somewhere out there

Mark & Brook jam at Skylight after the wedding. Sept 1, 1990
Back in 1986-87, I met Mark Edward Stephens.  I was sitting in the break room during classes at the Art Institute where I struck up a conversation with one of the music institute students.  Mark was a big friendly fellow.  We were both Christians, both enjoyed singing/songwriting, both trying to get a foothold on life.  I was in my late twenties and Mark was in his early thirties.  We connected.

I met Mark during a spiritually hard time.  I was disconnected because I had allowed other folk to affect my Christian walk.  Sure I was wounded, but looking back I know that I made the choice to distance myself from God.  Atlanta to me was a worldly jungle.  I told Mark that I needed to connect and he said that he too needed to find some fellowship.  We decided to venture out Sunday mornings together and find a church. 

After all that driving around I never found a church, but I did find good fellowship in my new friend.  We got together on several occasions and worked on songs.  Once he asked me over to his his apartment and we hung out throughout the night and hammered out a song 'Little Davids'.  I wish I remembered all the words.  All that plays in my head now is just the chorus.

Little Davids everywhere
if you love me
if you care
then feed my sheep
-feed my sheep

As always, I'd churn out the rhythm and sing the melody.  My more talented guitarist friend would lace the song with lead guitar and add harmony.  It was a good night.  Our talks would go on for hours upon hours.  We were so very different, but our lives where on the same chord at that moment.  He was a good friend.

Mark once came to stay with me one weekend after I moved back to Gadsden.  I was renting an apartment on Walnut Street at the time.  He brought his guitar and we spent most of the time talking or playing.

The last time I saw Mark was at my wedding.  He drove from Atlanta to attend.  I only got a chance that day to thank him for coming and give him a hug.  Mark hung around after the rice and got to know Brook a little.  He went to Skylight and jammed a little with my brother.

I lost contact with Mark not long afterward.  I often wondered what happened to my old friend.  I once tried calling various Atlanta Christian radio stations asking if they knew him, but no one would respond.  Have a rather common name, I gave up with the exception of occasional online searches.

A few days ago I was Googling his name, trying different combinations.  I finally typed in Mark+Stephens+Atlanta+Radio and found his
obituary.  I don't know why I keep doing this to myself.

I'm sorry Mark for losing touch with you.  You were a good friend.  I know we'll meet again.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I'm not dead yet.

Here's another re-post (February 22, 2006) from my old tripod blog.  I still hear the same.  I still feel the same about it.

Now Playing: plenty of kingdom work to go around

I've heard statements and comments from various folks over the months in which I have disagreed. No big deal mind you because ruffled feathers can easily be put back into place. A few days ago I was talking to a brother who said he didn't agree with something he had heard. He repeated the very same thing that I had been thinking. I thought to myself, "Hrm, it's not just me then."

There have been comments that God is on a certain person within the church or that God is on a certain age group. That the older ones should step aside (that it's not our time anymore) and make way for a younger anointed few. I think it's a silly notion.

Funny thing, I feel God saying, "Hey David, I want to use you today...I am anointing this and am being glorified when you do that." Look at me, I am a 50-something, overweight, and odd looking character and YET God still chooses to put his hand on me and deem me useful enough for kingdom business.

Anyone who draws close to God will be embraced by their Heavenly Father. The only reason some people aren't used dramatically are because they do not offer themselves to be used dramatically. God has uniquely designed each of us to glorify Him in our own way. Anyone desiring to be filled completely must empty themselves completely. The less selfish and self absorbed we become, the more He can and will use us.

God never put anyone out to pasture. He never discards a loved one. He just eventually takes 'em home. Last week Gina was at a nursing home and an old man there ministered to her. He was a sweet old Godly man with Alzheimer's disease and his outlook on life and servant spirit blessed Gina.

Truth is, there is plenty of room here, plenty of work to be done for the old and young alike. No one should stand in the way of anyone and no one should be held back. The workers are few. Move in Him and He will be on and with you.

The only special generation I see today is the one fading in the rear view mirror. We each view things from the lens of our short life span. If there is a greater generation among us, then it was the one that came before us. The generation that was earmarked not for their talent and abilities but rather for their quiet sacrifices.

As for the younger generation...God be on you. You've got the energy, less battle scars, and a lot of passion. It's a beautiful thing.

May God bless ALL of you. Go spread His aroma around by living out His love in your day today.