Passive Acceptance

While we may initially think “passive” is a synonym of weak, it really is a deeply vulnerable, intimate word when it is ascribed to ourselves and how we are designed.

Mary passively accepted the message from the angel when he told her she was to deliver the Christ.  Knowing all the ridicule, rumors and relational stress it would cause, she, in all her clarity passively accepted.  Luke 1:38 says, ““I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”

Then we have Jonah, Moses, Judas and many others who did quite the opposite.  If you read through the story of Mary there is a serene strength that cradles a rarely recognized comfort.  She was quiet enough to hear, wise enough to listen and courageous enough to passively accept what was happening.  Her choice was so instant, so smooth and so filled with commitment, you hardly even realize she had a choice.  Sometimes I think this is what made her so special, what made her the ideal carrier of the one who would rescue us, the one who penetrated enemy camp to capture what was rightfully his.

Back to the other guys.

Jonah 1:1-3 says, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.  But Jonah ran away”.  Jonah was quiet enough to hear, wise enough to listen but refused to accept.  He actively rejected what was happening.  The verses that follow demonstrate that he is anything but at peace.

Exodus 3:10,” So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”  Moses was quiet enough to hear, wise enough to listen but refused to accept.  Moses gets into a debate with his creator.  It reminds me of a battle between a parent and a defiant, insecure child.  The next batch of text is filled with Moses trying to find the loophole in his creators request.  And the creators themed responses are simply “Do you remember who I am?”  Finally because of Moses’ tantrummed rejection, God brings in Moses’ brother Aaron to help.

Judas’ self-consumed rejection is by far one of the most daunting examples of what a lack of acceptance can result in.

It starts with his unprotected mind.

Mathew 26:14-16 “Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot —went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.”

The story continues once his mind has been awakened and his mental fortress have been rebuilt

Mathew 27 3:5 says, “Judas, the one who betrayed him, realized that Jesus was doomed. Overcome with remorse, he gave back the thirty silver coins to the high priests, saying, “I’ve sinned. I’ve betrayed an innocent man.”  They said, “What do we care? That’s your problem!”  Judas threw the silver coins into the Temple and left. Then he went out and hung himself.”

Judas was no different than his fellow disciples.  A creature created in the image of the creator, stolen by the accuser.  The difference was in his response.  I think sometimes we like to think of Judas as the bad guy.  The one that gave Christ to those who would mutilate him over the next few days.  But he wasn’t.  He was a creature created in the image of his creator who believed the lie laced thoughts that were so gently placed into his mind by the thief of all that is good.  Judas violently rejected and that choice resulted in him taking the very breathe his creator gave to him.

We will never cease having challenges, struggles, tragedies or lose.  I wonder how it would affect our joy and connection with the holy spirit if we stopped praying for specific things to go specific ways…or for specific things not to happen or not happen….and just prayed for his will to be done and that we may be content with whatever that is.  To pray that we may be quiet enough to hear, wise enough to listen and courageous enough to passively accept what our creator allows to occur.  I love how Paul describes this way of living in the moment.  Philippians 4:11.  “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Him…who gives.

A strength, a peace, that far outweighs anything at all can only come from the one who created it.  Because only he knows what we need, fully.  And the only way we can experience that peace, that strength to be stable when all else isn’t, is to be quiet enough to hear, wise enough to listen and courageous enough to passively accept whatever he delivers or allows to enter our moments.

 

 

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The Bleeding

Paul had a “thorn”.  Not sure what it was.  Frankly, the specific knife that was repetitively cutting him was not the point of him sharing.  He says in 2 Corinthians 7-10, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 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. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When my son was three years old and his sister was two, they were playing on a kiddy pool in our back yard.  I recall the day very clearly.  It was about 85 degrees out, completely clear sky, the sun had that penetrating heat that can tend to blanket you in you remain still too long.  My wife was examining her flowers, I was putting together some outdoor chairs.  The day was peaceful and quiet.  Then, out of nowhere, a high pitched, curdling scream followed by pulsating crying invaded my ears.  I looked up and literally watched the inch and a half cut on her head swell before my eyes.  It was nasty.  Blood and swelling on her forehead, tears of shock running down her cheeks and a scream from the far corner of the yard, “Call 911!”.  Now, we didn’t have to call 911, but we did need to scoop her up, bring her inside and clean and bandage the wound.  It was probably a week before she stopped feeling the pain.  A week of “Daddy, my head hurts”, “Mommy does it look any better?”  She was aware of her wound almost moment by moment for that week.  She looked to us for comfort, tenderness, dressing changes and simple care.

Paul’s thorn existed to keep him focused on his need.  To limit the amount of time he felt capable and satisfied with himself alone.  To continually remind him of his need for Jesus, our savior.  I don’t think my daughter recalls the event all.  There is a light scar that remains on her forehead, but the only time she is “awake” to it may be a passing glance in the mirror from time to time.  Besides that random reminder, it has no affect on her on a daily, moment by moment basis.  It’s simply a thought she can recall if it’s triggered.

I don’t ever want my bleeding to stop.  I don’t want healed wounds.  I want them raw, sensitive.  If God heals a wound in me I desperately pray there is another that surfaces immediately, so there is no suspension of the painful awareness of my need for him.  The discomfort of the the bleeding is far outweighed by the continual communion with Christ that it reveals.

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The Silent Killer

It sneaks up right next to you.  It becomes your unwanted partner, unknowingly.  And you can’t see it coming.  Discontentment is only recognizable when it’s activated.  And the only time it’s activated is when you’re “awake” to it.  It’s presence is murderous.  It mutilates relationships, families and the simple gifts in life.  Genesis 3:6-7 states, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”  Discontentment set the future of the human race down an unintended path.  A path that required a plan.

A savior.  A love and peace like no other.

The more I live and the more I read the scriptures I am more and more convinced that contentment is the only door to God’s peace, the peace that he has for each one of us.  There is no other perspective, no other way of living that allows to give us that gift the way he intends.

There was a man named Ananias.  He was one of the disciples in Acts who sold his land to help those in need.  Acts 4:32-35 says, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.”

It’s in the next chapter we see the fruit of Ananias’ discontent.  Acts 5:1-6 reads. “Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself (i.e., not content with what he had), but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.  Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”  When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.”

There is a powerful lesson in that story.  Begin discontent leads to death.  Not necessarily physical death like Ananias’, but spiritual, mental and emotional death.  When we allow our spirit to become discontent, we shut that “door” to God’s peace.  We lock him out.  I never understood this before, and am by no means always content, but I have had enough experiences to prove that regardless of what we have, what we don’t have, what is happening, what happened, or what may happen, the only way to live the life God has orchestrated for us is to be content with…whatever we have, little or much.  Anything over and above breath is bonus.  I love my wife and children more than I can describe, but I also know that if they were to vanish, I could be at peace because I get absolutely everything I need from him.  True peace is not situational.  Experiencing pain, discomfort, illness, loss or utter agony doesn’t block that peace.  In fact, many times we need those things to awaken us enough so we can see our true need for that peace.

I have said many times through my life that I just can’t find peace.  That things are just too hard.  In Romans Paul talks about access to that peace.  To that wholeness that Christ brough us so many years ago.  Romans 8:35-39 explains, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. ”No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

He tells us right there.  That peace, that all-encompassing blanket can always be wrapped around us, always.  It never has to leave, it never has to move, regardless of what s going on.  But we are human.  We know many things but unless we are actively thinking about them they are not in action in our lives.  We need to practice the discipline of being “awake” each moment to Christ.

Philippians 4:4-9 tells us to, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

So how do we stay awake to that peace?

Paul tells us how in Philippians 4:11-13 “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Contentment.

When we are content in Jesus, we quickly realize we have not a thing but him.  And truly, that absence of everything but him reveals how he sustains us.  All things tarnish, vanish or die.  I think Paul really understood this.  Many of Christ’s disciples didn’t, or at least they were not “awake” very often.  Simple and easy are not the same thing.  This truth is simple.  Activating it takes practice, lots of practice, but it gets easier everyday.  I have a picture in our home that says “Gratefulness makes what we have enough.”  It’s a reminder every time I see it that I need to stay “awake”.

What I have, and what I hope you have or find soon is Jesus.  In the words of Metallica “Nothing else matters.”  Pure contentment in Christ is the only thing that provides us with anything of value and is the only way to the “peace that makes no sense” (Philippians 4:7).

 

 

 

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The Walk

It’s mid September here in Minnesota. The air is cooling, the sun is setting earlier and there was a noticeable nip in the air when I emerged from my front door around noon. I was working from home that day and decided instead of going for a run I would just take a nice long walk with our toy poodle named Titus. Yes, he weighs nine pounds and his name is Titus. As soon as he saw me pick up my running shoes he knew exactly what it meant. He was getting out of the house to explore any and every smell he could. So as soon as our feet hit the driveway any slack that was in the leash immediately vanished. Now, he is only nine pounds so even though he was trying to pull me with all his might, he couldn’t go any farther than the length of the leash. He was limited.

We get about half way through the walk and he has peed on roughly five bushes. So in dog terms, we are doing pretty good. All of a sudden he jerked forward and the leash came off of his collar. I could tell that he felt the tension disappear because he stopped immediately. His little black head cocked and turned to the left. He gave me this look that said “I know you know what’s best, but there’s “stuff” out there I have to see. So he bolted. Through the neighbor’s yard, around to the back, then the front and then off to the next house to do the same. I finally caught up with him a few houses down. When I spotted him he was headed down a path that lead to the woods. Our eyes met and he stopped. I gave him “the look” and he just stared at me. Our eyes were locked on one another. He hunched down and as I got closer he rolled onto his back in typical dog submission pose. Titus then graciously let me place the leash back on his collar.

I know that it’s always best to stay near to Christ, no matter how tempting the sights, sounds and feelings are. The key difference between Titus and I and Christ and his children is that Christ does not restrain us. He let’s us walk next to him. There is no leash law for those that love Jesus. We have a choice, every second of every day to either walk closely or stomp our feet in rebellion and pride and stay five feet ahead of him like a teenager at the mall with his Mom. We can remain connected to him so we are safe or we can run wild into the woods believing that the excitement there will be worth the disconnection. Every believer in Christ experiences these moments, sometimes in the same hour!

But what we can be assured of is that Christ always slows down to wait for us when we leave. Whether it be a few feet or whether are hopelessly lost in the woods. He never leaves. Our true lives dependent on that relationship. Without it, we have no connection to our creator, thus no connection to life as it was intended to be lived. John tells us in his fifteenth chapter that Jesus said, ”I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” We can be healthy both physically and mentally. We can have enough money, food and work. We can have deep personal relationships with a spouse, family and friends. We can have all of these without knowing Jesus. We are wired for them. But they will falter. They will fail. The glimpse of life they show will fade quickly. It won’t last. Unless we know we need to stay next to him on our walk, nothing we will do, no matter how good, pure and decent will last.

We all run away from time to time. That’s obvious. Even people who don’t know Jesus know they are not perfect. We all explore things we know we shouldn’t. We all have those moments of thinking “It will be different this time” or “I know it’s not right, but I want it anyway.” Those moments of consequence-dimentia arrive frequently. The difference is that when we finally wake, we know that we simply need to look up and stand next to him again. He asks no questions. He is our ever-forgiving, always-loving, never-changing bridge to our creator. And things aren’t going to get better. We will never stop cocking our heads to the left and running off. Why? Because we are dependant. We “need”. We cannot give ourselves anything of substance or value. While running off can hurt, I am grateful for the hurt, because those are the moments in life where we can smell Christ next to us. Where we can see the deep colors of his eyes and the firmness of his hand around ours as he slowly lifts us up to our feet. Today I am grateful for my never-ending failures, my consequence-dementia and my stumbling. They keep me next to him.

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We Have To Recognize Our Dependence

We get hungry, so we eat. We are tired so we stop what we are doing and lay down. We miss our friends or family so we connect with them. When gas prices fluctuate we respond positively or negatively because we depend on that fuel to get us where we need to go. When I was growing up I needed my parents. Whether I liked it or not, I depended on them for nearly everything. As I grew I needed my Mom and Dad a bit less but my dependence didn’t decrease: it simply changed focus. I needed my teachers to educate me, police to protect me, the city to produce clean water. We are always dependent. From our basic needs like food and water, to our emotional need for people, touch, conversation and exercise. There isn’t anything in this world that we don’t receive. As you read this sentence you are dependent, every second on your SA node. Your SA node reminds your heart to beat. Our lives dependent on a source to deliver what we need and that source knows what we need or you would not be reading this.

We are dependent on our environment to sustain our life. Without trees, we have no oxygen. Without the sun the precise distance from the earth we would either burn or freeze. We can’t live more than a few days without water, our bodies will literally turn off. Now some of you may not believe in Jesus or the Bible, and that’s cool. That’s where you are right now. I hope you don’t let that deter you from entering into this. This site is designed to peel the scab away and see the issue as it truly is. It’s not complicated, it doesn’t require a deep intellect or a master’s degree. Just that you are human. Nothing healthy, pure and whole in this world is complicated…nothing. It is always simple. We don’t need years of counseling or specialized treatment programs. We need to see what the problem is, realize and accept the solution and experience transformation through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

After severe depression and a suicide attempt in 2011, I was on a van ride to a treatment program in StillWater MN. I was speaking with the driver and he was explaining the program philosophy to me. He spoke about how I would learn about thought and consciousness and a few other things that I defensively blocked as Middle Eastern emptiness. But I do vividly remember the following words very clearly. “When you get there, give it a chance. It will seem way too simple, but it works.” He was right. It was at Cedar Ridge where God gave me awareness of how he designed his children to function, even in a broken world. My heart is for you to learn that he has given us the instruments to orchestrate the life he intended us to live. God has given you one thing you have complete power over…this moment.

Don’t waste it.

We are all in different places in life. Some of you are reading this and just found out you’re going to be a father. Or that you just received that promotion, or praise God, she actually said “yes”. Others of you are in hospitals, just buried you spouse or child, in jail or completely overburdened with life. Whether you’re in a moment of grief or gratitude, for your life to be lived out fully, you must realize that you give yourself nothing. You are not the source of anything. You are a dependent creature with a creator.

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The Deep Wound We All Carrry

We all have one. Most of us are aware of what it is, some of us are just aware that “it’s” there. It scabs over enough most of the time to not become irritated and obviously painful to us. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t constantly attempting to soothe it. When you are alone, when it’s just you and the silence, you can sense it, if your honest with yourself. It’s a vulnerability like no other. So much of the time, when we begin to feel it, we retreat and we retreat quickly. Why? Because like most wounds, it’s sensitive, fragile and trying to get back to the way it was created before the accident that caused it rose up.

Some of us received our wound from a parent, a friend, a passing comment from an elementary school teacher or any number of other innocent sources. It’s almost as if we each have a specific vulnerability deep within us that gets triggered. And once it’s triggered we feel it, and we feel it deeply. From our head to our toes we feel every ounce of it. At first, and maybe for many years we “feel” it when certain events or words pull at the delicate emotional scab. I discovered mine when I was 34 years old. ”Your not capable.” This wound, for me is deep, it’s down to the bone with nerves exposed. It’s been with me for decades. I’m not sure what triggered it; what event, word or experience finely allowed my soul to be inflicted. And frankly, it’s makes no difference. I can’t change it. Knowing what, when, who or why is completely in-actionable. It has no power, force or value whatsoever for the present. What matters is that I know it’s there and I makes wise choices out of that awareness. Today I received a comment on a piece of work I did. It’s was from a wonderful, kind colleague. I scored a bit lower than I desired on something and as soon as I read her comments why, which were very appropriate, I immediately felt a rush of feelings. It was like those cold January mornings in Minnesota when you walk out that door and every part of your body gets pummeled with -20 degree air. Those feelings included fear, tenseness, uncertainty, doubt, depression and hopelessness. They rushed from my core to my face and feet in milliseconds. What I know now is that all those feelings have been solidified over years of patterned responses. I have spend so much time unknowingly practicing this, all the while having no idea the damage I was causing myself. What drove those feelings was a constructive remark aimed to better me that somehow connected itself to that wound. As soon as those words entered my mind, they tore at the scab just enough to let it bleed for awhile. Having the blessing of knowing I control what I think was the tool to combat that attack. While simple, it’s not always easy. But really, anything that is truly important in this life is simple. We do not have to reach a certain point intellectually or socially in order to finally experience true living. In fact, most young children experience more “life” that most adults.

Your wound may be different. Yours may be about your looks, your gifts, skills or the way you talk. But we all have one. And there is only one answer to this dilemma. There is only one way to allow healing to pour through that wound for the rest of your days. The answer is to know the healer and the way of healthy thinking. We know we are dependent creatures, if we think about it, it cannot be argued any other way. We “need”. As weird as it sounds, I wouldn’t trade that fateful night night that ended me up in the ICU for anything. Why? Because I realized through it that I was created to “need”. Whether or not I liked that fact had no impact on its truth. We need people, relationships and most importantly, the giver of all things, because without him, nothing else is. Living in each moment, and only in that moment is the way we were designed to live; to truly experience life. There is no getting around it. The option to ignore that truth is there, but if you make that choice, then the sad truth is that you simply miss most of life. We all have a wound, and while I am grateful to know what mine is, I want it. I don’t want a scar, I want a wound. I need it. It’s existence is a painfully constant reminder to me of my “need” for knowing the creator, Jesus Christ.

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