Monday, October 21, 2013

Crazy little talks with Jesus

Sometimes I get messages from God.  I don't hear thunder or trumpets or Orson Welles or anything like that.  What I get is what I feel or perceive as an intention. The best way to describe it is what I personally feel or think before I turn my own thoughts into words or speech. Only it’s not me. It’s His intention. But because it’s “pre words,” I can usually put it into words and communicate it.

As I said in an earlier post, I asked God in prayer about my current financial situation and He said it would be all right.  This was one of those intentions.  Well, it's been a few months since that and my financial situation has gotten more dire, as I also said in the previous post.

Despite this, I chose to participate in another Kairos ministry to prisoners this past weekend (and I will share more with you on the weekend itself in another post).  During the weekend, God put this worry out of my mind, but once the weekend was over it came roaring back in the form of a dream where I accidentally find out my father owes someone $100,000.

Frightened awake by this thought, I decided to pray about the money woes, in part because I didn’t want to get up at 5:00 AM after having to get up at 5:00 AM for the last several days.  So I prayed to God, thanking him for the Kairos weekend and for letting me know that it was going to be all right, and then asking him to guide me as to what I am supposed to do about the money.

And all God said to me was “I got this,” like He was the Rock in an action movie getting ready to fight one guy so that the rest of the team could complete the mission.  It was supremely funny and a bit bewildering because I generally think that one needs to take some sort of action in order to rectify one's situation.

But God is God and he wants me to sit tight and watch him work.  So much like catching a film with Dwayne Johnson, I'll just sit back and see what happens next.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Do I believe?

It's early in the morning for me and I am not asleep. God has been very good to me. He's blessed me with very good health for the vast majority of my life. He hasn't asked many hard things from me. And he's given me lots materially. I am not a rich man, but I have more than I need and more than I owe. However, this morning I'm having trouble going back to sleep.

The reason for that is this: I own a second home, an investment property.  It is a duplex that I rent out, on one side to my own niece.  It is a large home I bought for a decent price.  And the income from this home has helped me get by during this time while my girlfriend has been out of work.  It's been good to me and good for me.  Only now, there is a problem.

Somehow during the buying process nobody told me the roof would need replacing in the first five years.  The way I did the purchase and the financing, I could have easily replaced the roof and had a more than manageable payment for the mortgage.  But that's water under the bridge.  The roof needs replacing now and will cost me a considerable sum.  And the bank yesterday told me I had insufficient value in the house to borrow against it what I need to fix the roof.

There is a solution to this.  What it is, I don't know.  But there is one.  However, I am saying to myself this morning if I believed, truly believed, the promise from God in my heart of hearts, I'd be able to go back to sleep this morning instead of sitting here typing this instead.

However, I think the little voice in my head is wrong.  I believe I do believe.  I have prayed about my financial situation and I got a message from God that it was going to be all right.  I believed it when I got it, I believed it when it looked like I was going to be able to get a loan to replace the roof.  And I believe it now.

My conclusion is that my trepidation this morning comes from being human and not knowing the answer.  Back when I thought I would borrow against what I thought the value of the house was, this issue with the roof was not a problem but an annoyance.  And I was okay with it.  But not knowing the answer has sewn seeds of fear and doubt in my heart.  But they will not take root.  I will not let them.

Back when I first tried to buy this house, there were struggles and setbacks.  It looked like a lot of time and effort that was going to be wasted.  But I believed and I persevered and it eventually came through for me in a better deal than I imagined.  And, as I said, it has seen me through a rough time financially right now.

This seems to always happen: right when I am on the edge of doing something really good, I hit a devastating setback.  It's as if God is asking the question "How much do you really want it?  How much do you really believe?  How much do you really trust me?"  And that's a choice.  So even though this morning I am not sleeping, I choose to believe that God will deliver me as he has promised he would.

Stay tuned.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Good bye to my uncle

My uncle (mother's sister's husband) passed away and I am very sad about it. Although he and I were not close, he meant a lot to me, more than I believe my family ever knew.

I used to spend a week in the summers as a kid at my aunt and uncle’s house, hanging out with my cousin Wayne. I got to observe my uncle on an everyday basis. He was always calm, always honest, firm when he needed to be, and loving.

What my young mind found fascinating, however, was that he wore a necktie to work. My immediate family was very blue collar in nature. People who wore ties to work were people on television as far as I was concerned. And yet here was someone in my family that had a job that wasn’t entirely physical labor. I didn’t have to exhaust myself every day as my father did just to provide for myself and my family. My uncle was proof.

My uncle was always understanding of me in a time where I felt nobody else understood me. He always seemed to know what to say to me to get me to calm down or to get me to stop pitying myself and think.

And he always seemed to be concerned with my salvation. My uncle loved God deeply and it showed in everything he did. My favorite memory of him was singing a hymn at vacation bible school one summer as he was gathering my cousin and myself to go back to his home. He sang well and with a faith that was palpable. I would like to think he would be proud of this journey I am on. Now I'll never know

My uncle became a symbol to me, of who and what I could be. If there is anyone aside my own father I have patterned myself and my life after, it’s him. The sad and stupid part about this is that even though I have told many people about what he meant to me, I never told him.

I wear a necktie to work every day (except casual Friday) even though my employer does not require it because it reminds me of him. And I am sure he would not want me to be sad right now, even though I am. He faced the death of my cousin optimistically, knowing that my cousin was going to be with the Lord. And I am sure that’s where he is headed too.

Rest in peace.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Above my pay grade

My old girlfriend, Stella, was an agnostic heading to atheist, primarily because she was hung up on the age old question "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Although I have been plagued by other questions the average agnostic asks themselves, for some reason this has never been one.

However, I have a tendency to try to solve other people's questions I don't myself ask. For instance, I found an answer to "What is a Higher Power if you're an atheist?" for someone in Adult Children of Alcoholics. So I asked myself this one and then went to the Bible, because I have found most biblical questions have biblical answers. And I was struck by this:

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."

I usually refer to this answer as "It's above my pay grade."

Now I never did share this with Stella, because I know her answer would have been some combination of "Why is God so vain that He has to show He's God?" or "Why can't He reveal himself without bad things happening?"

My answer would have been that you cannot know good without knowing bad. But she would have had an answer for that, too. I am a firm believer that when someone his bound and determined to believe (or disbelieve) something, you do yourself no favors by getting between them and their object of affection. I could tell that she had already fallen in "love" with being agnostic, so I let it go.

However, I am now reading a book which I think might have been persuasive to her. It's called The Shack and it goes at this question head on. So if my answer isn't enough for you, try the book. I think you'll be glad you did.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Three people

I have had on my mind and heart three people, all of which I believe I have a "mission from God" about that I have had to handle three different ways.

The first is my girlfriend, called Kathy at my other blog and thus here as well. I believe that I am supposed to bring her toward an active spiritual life. I don't think it was coincidence that she came into my life just as her brother was dying and just as I was going on my Emmaus walk. She has had a tenuous odd relationship with religion and so I think God needs someone who will approach it unconventionally. Right now she does not attend church with me unless we go to see a mutual friend sing. This friend is a gospel singer. However this friend does about one Sunday a month that's drivable, so at least she gets some exposure.

The next is a woman I will call Patricia. She is a friend of Kathy's brother. She is an alcoholic and has been surrounded by people who reinforce that in her. Earlier in her life she lost custody of a baby due to her alcoholism and she is in danger of losing her present one for the same way. God has been telling me that I need to get her here, away from her alcoholic environment and where she could be active friends with Kathy. But I don't know how I can reach out to her. I'm barely more than just some guy to her. I am friends with her on Facebook and I guess I'll start there.

The last one is a woman I will call Donna. She is the apparently ex-wife of a man I worked with. I now work with her. He appears to no longer be employed by my company and appears not to be working at all. I have put these pieces together from searching on the Internet. But how do you even get into a discussion so personal as "Are you divorced and what happened to your husband?" And yet I feel that I should. I will pray about it, but unlike Patricia, I have no idea even where to start.

I still think I need to be blinded on the road to Damascus instead of on missions from God, but again, if God can use Saul, I guess he can use me to. Any thoughts about any of this are welcome. Thanks.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

The cheese that goes crunch

One part of my journey as an active Christian has been to take part in a program called Kairos, which ministers to inmates. While this has been something on my heart for a long time, it's not something I did anything about because I was what I told the men in Pender Correctional was called a Cheetos Christian. That is someone who does sincerely believe in Jesus Christ and that He is the Son of God, etc. but who "ministers" to people by sitting on the couch watching television and eating Cheetos.

How the walk to Emmaus put me on the road to Damascus is by pretty much forcing me to be an active Christian. I am naturally both shy and introverted, but God wants what He wants, and so He's put things in my path, opportunities for ministry like Kairos, that have forced me off the couch.

This has been difficult for me and I am fighting to get back some of my me time. But I am being an obedient servant and going out into the world and ministering. But at least one positive for me of it is I have orange fingers far less often.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Celebrate!

If you followed me here from my other blog, this is old news, but for the rest, I am an adult child of an alcoholic. That is not just a fact, it is a group of people with a syndrome just as debilitating and seemingly intractable as alcoholism itself. Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA) / Adult Children Anonymous (ACA) is a 12 Step group in the same vein as Alcoholics Anonymous designed to help the ACoA individual get past these personally destructive behaviors.

One of the things stressed by the group is acting against our isolationist tendencies by attending in person meetings. Well, there are no in person meetings anywhere near where I live, not specifically for ACA at any rate. Turns out though that on my aforementioned Walk to Emmaus I met a recovering alcoholic and addict I shall call John who attended a 12 Step meeting in my town that actually included addictions to alcohol, addictions to narcotics and other drugs, overeating, gambling, co-dependency, and other problems that have 12 Step groups established. It's called Celebrate Recovery and it is religious based.

As I was going to see him after the walk as a courtesy anyway since his church was a mere handful of blocks from my home (God doesn't leave me much excuse to get out of stuff), I decided to attend the meeting.  It was very interesting. It added biblical elements to the 12 Step approach, which is not entirely out of line as the original AA had religious underpinnings itself.  It starts with the Serenity Prayer, but uses the full text of it rather than the truncation that is more commonly known.

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference,

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will,
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
Amen.
—Reinhold Niebuhr

It is then conducted not dissimilar to other, less religion-specific 12 Step groups, except that being religious based, there is also singing and passing of the hat.  Being of different problems has made the sharing, the portion of the event where you talk about your attempts to work through and apply the 12 steps, less specifically instructive than the ones I attended and now conduct for the on line ACA group.  However there is a love and a shared sense of struggle there that is wonderful.

It has become, in many ways, my favorite model for church itself.  Sometimes at Sunday service, I feel judged by those around me.  It is probably more in my head than in reality, but even at the casual service that I attend, I do feel like someone is giving me the stink eye for not being dressed up enough for the Lord, meaning not as dressed up as they believe is appropriate.  At Celebrate Recovery everyone knows everyone there is a sinner and admits it; none of us would be there if we weren't.  It's strictly about supporting each other and believing in the Lord.  And I like that.

If you'd like to know more about Celebrate Recovery, check out the movie Home Run, in theaters mid April of 2013.