A Change of Heart

Change. An unrelenting force to which, the universe and our belief is constantly relinquishing too.

Green lights change to red.  High tides change to low. Our once great and perfect plan has now been changed into a short afterthought, due to this perpetual changing of our own minds.

When I think about it, I am reminded of what it needs. All change needs a catalyst. Change, by nature, distils and stirs up. It can stir our hearts or stir our aggression.

Though, isn’t it what we are constantly asking God for in some form or fashion? Don’t we pray for change? ‘God change our hearts, change or minds, change our perspective. Change the world, for the better. Change the evil to good, and the change the lost to found.’

But when God actually changes things, we look at him like Fear, from the movie “Inside Out” scrambling around breathing into a paper bag, thinking “Ahh! What the heck did you just do, you maniac!” (At least I do.)

However, the truth is everything changes. Whether we chose to believe it or not. Change has stimulated rebellions and has silenced retributions. But what makes change so annoying is its need to be answered.

Change demands a response.

It is a push that either requires us pull or to push back. Change almost seems to be like a vibrating cell phone you are given the option to answer, where you can enter into an unknown conversation with an unknown caller. Or the option to let ring, knowing that change just might keep relentlessly trying to call you back.

I recently re-read the passage of Daniel and the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6).

It is a passage full of change. Full of the option to respond. (To which we will only scratch the surface.)

To paraphrase: Daniel, one of the 3 high appointed men to King Darius, seemed to be close friends with the King. Daniel was a man after Gods own heart and would constantly pray to God. However, his other advisories didn’t take to him too well, and therefore had him thrown into a Lion’s den through a new decree issued by the King and because of Daniel’s continual prayers to God.

“10 But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.”

The Law changed. However, Daniel responded by not changing his devotion to God.

His appointment changed. Daniel responded by his faith not changing.

And the King responded to this change too.  

Perhaps, it was Daniel’s response to change that caused the King to respond the way he did when he saw his friend was still alive:

25 Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world:
‘Peace and prosperity to you!
26 ‘I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel.
For he is the living God,
    and he will endure forever.
His kingdom will never be destroyed,
    and his rule will never end.’”

His rule will never change.

How do we respond to God after he has responded to us?

I recently saw “Captain America: Civil War,” and I don’t want to spoil anything, but there is an incredible quote that says:

“Compromise where you can. Where you can't, don't. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say 'No, YOU move'.”

I pray we will respond to God’s change through faithfulness. Because the lion’s mouths are shut.

Because truthfully, change is one the greatest gifts a Follower of Christ can remember. Because it is our remembrance that people can change. That Saul was turned to Paul. That doubting Thomas believed. That broken people are saved. That this pain that once was is no longer.

Change is a new beginning. And it is not as different from hope as we once thought. 

Would You Like to Be Well?

John 5:1-6
Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”

Jesus returns to Jerusalem, to people covering the different porches. All of whom are sick, all of whom are ill. Of all the people on all the porches, Jesus walks up to this one particular man. He asks him a simple question. A question we will here Jesus continue to ask people in the New Testament. A question that he asks us: Would you like to get well?

Would you like to get well?

Think about the areas of your life that are filled with the most pain. Think about the places where you feel incomplete. The thing that when you think about it, it makes your head throb, and your heart swell. The areas that make you angry and discouraged. Those piercing thoughts that have continually been prying in your ears.

Would you like to get well?

Imagine Jesus walks up to you and asks you this. Would you like to be rid of these pains? Of these hurts? Of these broken relationships? Of these sorrows? Would you like to be well? I think most of us would automatically say, "Yes."... At least this is what I would say:

“YES OF COURSE! YOU THINK I WANT TO STAY THIS WAY FOR ANOTHER THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS?!”

But this is not how the man responds. The sick man instead says this:

“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

The man says he can’t. He can’t. He doesn’t believe that he can get well again.

When I realized this, my heart hurt for the man. And the more I thought about how he answered Jesus' question, the more I realized the man doesn’t really answer it… The man says that he can’t get to the part of the pool where the healing happens? He believes he can’t get well because he can’t get to this one part, in this one pool. It’s not that he doesn’t want to be healed. It is that he has convinced himself that he can’t be.

What have you convinced yourself of? Have you convinced yourself you cannot be well again? Have you tried to heal yourself? Have you tried to get to this one part of ‘the pool’ over and over again, expecting different results? This is the definition of insanity. Don’t persuaded yourself to believe that your pains cannot be healed, because the way that you imagine them being healed is impossible. Maybe, our pain is not the only problem, maybe it is our imagination, as well. Because Jesus literally blows his expectations and imagination out of the water:

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”
Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”
But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”
“Who said such a thing as that?" they demanded. 

Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk. You don’t need ‘the pool.’ You don’t need whatever it is you convinced yourself that you need, in order to be well. What we need is an encounter with Jesus. Would you like to be well? Because you can be. Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk.

Stand up. Pick up your mat. Walk. Three separate motions. Three things God calls us to do. We could unpack them all day, so let’s try and condense it.

Stand Up. You have everything you need to get up where you are at. This is a choice that only the man can make. And he cannot make it if he is still focused on his own way of healing. Can you imagine what the other x amount of people on the porches see? If we are willing, God is calling us to stand up, and stand up with him.

Pick up your Mat. This is the part I was always confused by. If I was laying on this mat for thirty-eight years, there ain’t no way I want to bring that with me! It would remind me of my sickness. It would remind me of a time when I was weak? But this is one of the most crucial things Jesus will ever ask of us. Because this man’s mat is his testimony.

His mat is his verification. His mat is his story.  How do the Jewish leaders know that Jesus has healed him? Because he was carrying his mat. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”

The only way the Jewish leaders would know it was Jesus, is if the man carries his mat. And so too, we must pick up ours.

Our mats, our pasts, our references to salvation, our evidences of glory, or our stories of God, whatever you would like to call it. We must carry them with us as we go. Which leads us to our last part.

Walk. Do the very thing that you could not do without God. Walk. Walk with and walk amongst the crowds. Walk toward the Temple, which is where we find the man next.

And because, it is only when you walk, that you make yourself available to ask others the question: Would you like to get well?

John 5:1-12

Woven & Spun

 

Have you ever thought about how everything, right now, in this very moment is spinning?

There is a constant revolving gumption entwined in the universe. From the earths unending turn, to its orbit, to the moon's motion around us, to the sun around the galaxy, and even the galaxy around other unseen forces. (Which I am sure a physicist, could tell you much more about.) This is occurring on a subatomic level, as well. Our atoms are filled with electrons that chase after each other. Even our own voices are simply oscillations.

Doesn't it make you dizzy?

Why so much spinning? Why so much back and forth? Why must it all come back right to where it was before? And if everything is prone to spin, does that mean we must too. (No - not to literately stand up and spin in circles.)

I mean with our feelings, our thoughts, our progress, and quite simply - our lives.

I thought success was about incline. I thought it was about being better every day, - and perhaps it still is. Maybe, it is not a question of what we do, but how we do it?

I do think that we were born to spin. We were born to go crazy sometimes, and born to be in confusion. Maybe it's because lines cannot ever really be concentric, however - circles can.

Maybe we spin, not so that we can lose time, but instead gain it. So that we don't go too far off course. So that we always have a center and another force to follow. So that we can return home. So that we can reach the end of a day and start again the next day. So that we can learn from repetition. So that we can find a second chance. So that we can continually come to a place of consistency, in an inconsistent manner.

This also leads me to believe something else. That perhaps Psalms 96 is not a coincidence.

You see, David begins this praise by calling us to join in with him. He calls us to sing with him a new song - and then he calls everything else to do so as well:

"Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!" - Psalm 96:11

To some it may seem like just another Psalm. Just another cry. Just another praise, from a glad people.

Though, I wonder if there is more?

What makes me ponder and believe there is a little bit more to the praising of all creation, is the word used for rejoice here. Yes, there is a derivative you find when you read between the lines. The Hebrew word used for 'Rejoice,' there is GUWL, which means: To spin. And spin uncontrollably.

Hmm. What a thought. To spin. And to spin uncontrollably. A truly undignified creation, if you ask me.

To Spin. To Rejoice. To Spin. To Rejoice. To think that if this is true, and that if David is right, then 'to spin' and 'to worship' are both intertwined and woven together. Meaning that the earth does rejoice. That everything else does too. Because - as I was reminded before - everything, right now, in this very moment is spinning.

But what makes it so convincing is the truth about spinning.

Sometimes I have the tendency to base a spinning circle off of its curvature. However, a circle is only truly a circle due to its center. That unseen force that instructs its focus inward. That constant point of reference. That point that has allowed all the other points to follow it completely around to its ending destination, which is now its new beginning, and which has now created circumference. A circle. We are all living in circles.

Which, when I think about that concept, it brings me back to Moses, as he spoke to God on Mount Sinai:

"But Moses protested to God, 'Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?'

God answered, 'I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.'" - Exodus 3:11-12

"At this very mountain." At. This. Very. Mountain. God did something absurd.

The only way Moses would know God is God, is to follow God. To follow him all the way around, and all the way back, and to watch himself do what only he could to with God at the center.

God drew a circle with Moses.

And God told Moses to spin.

God told him to spin. To spin, just like the rest of the creation.

He asked him to 'rejoice.' And to rejoice with his life.

What does that even mean for us? Quite frankly I don’t know, but I am constantly comforted and drawn back to it, creating a paradox in my spinning mind.

So, wherever you are, whoever you are, and whatever you are doing currently. Be comforted by your spinning mind, your repetitive confusion or your habitual living. Sometimes, we go through the motions. Sometime we live in the circles of God’s momentum. Sometimes we live like compasses turning. Sometimes, we live in a perpetual back and forth. However - take comfort, because the entire universe is in similar motion. The entire sequence of creation does the same thing too. And it is all worshiping God through it.

So we must do the same, as well.

We must just praise God alongside his creation and in his wonder. We can follow our center. We can whirl and rejoice.

Because everything, right now, in this very moment is spinning. 

I Should of Built the Boat.

 

I am not a sailor, nor anything close to it, but I have this secret fascination with sailboats, and ancient ships.  I often find my self googling pointless things that are related to them.

And the more I thought about it, the more I began to ask my self, "What is a ship's purpose?"

For the longest time I presumed that a ships purpose was to float. However, the more I deliberate the more I found that this can not be true.  Floating is the means by which the boat can complete it's purpose. Because a boats purpose is that of any vehicle, to take ___ from point 'A' to point 'B'. A ships purpose is to carry, and to hold. To safely give and to bring back. To discover and to shield it's travelers from the raging sea, as it presses on toward its location. 

It sounds pretty basic. However, I realized that for most of my life I have lived under the assumption that a ships purpose is to just float. Isn't that such a shame. To think that my ship would have just been sitting there tied to a post only floating for the past 19 years. Stuck, in the simple sways of its rope's radius. Though, the ship will still face storms, it will have been for nothing, because the ship will have always been next to the safety of a dock. Just floating. 

Could it be possible that we live like this too? We live just trying to float, thinking that this was our purpose. Thinking, that if we are capable to float on water, then we are capable to be called a ship. That floating is enough. That just to look as if we are like all the other ships, is fit enough for us to be called, 'our purpose.' Because though we look as if we are about to take on the ocean, we will never moving a muscle from our pier.

This surly cannot be our purpose. 

The other night I had a terrible nightmare that the world was going through chaos, as if it was about to breathe it's last. People were running up and down the street chasing the winds roar, while the rain burrowed into the earth. And as I was running too. I was amongst them running and running looking for something. And in the midst of my running, I stopped. I stopped in the middle of the road and looked up at the crackling light sparking across the deep grey sky. I knew in that moment that God was telling me to build a boat. Built a boat? 

Who was I Noah? Build a boat. I thought that this couldn't be true. That He couldn't be right. I mean, it was already raining. What good would it do? Plus, I have not the slightest idea how to build a boat. So, I ran in fear. I ran like one more fool among fools. I felt now more so like Jonah, 'hiding' from my purpose.

The dream continued, and some how I found myself in my own home, which was filled with strangers. I walked to the back of my house and look at the sky from my porch. I saw that it was now a dark black slated color. Darker than anything I had ever seen, but it was only in a circular splotch. Yes, it was only a large section of clouds. This darkened patch looked like God had dropped a cloud in the sky like a black splotch of paint.

And in a second.

The thunder screamed and the dark cloud dropped into the earth, the center falling first, like a giant water balloon colliding with the ground. And suddenly the water began rushing into to the house like a raging river, whose rapids quickened, while the water grew higher and higher. It thrashed and bellowed into the home leaving less and less room between the top of water and the bottom of the ceiling, until it finally swept away my kitchen table so that slammed into my legs. 

The last thing I remember thinking is in my dream is, "I should of built the boat. I should of built the boat."

And now this is my fear. Lord, I hope I build your boat. 

I hope that I don't live my life like my 'dream self.' I hope that in reality - I am better. I hope that I can recognize God's presence, which has been their all along. Waving and yelling from the clouds. I hope that I am not just one more fool running around pretending that I can refuse the call of God. I hope that when the floods come, I will have acted more like Noah. That I will have already built the boat. And that I will not simply let it just float around in the harbor, taunted by the waters edge.

And  I hope more than anything, that my last thought will never ever be, 'I should have build the boat.' But instead, 'Yes, my God must surly be here.' 

Because if I were given the option to listen to the maker of the boat, or the maker of the entire ocean, the maker of the ocean would win every time. 

"Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, 'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!'" - Genesis 28:16

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Scripture Reading:

Psalm 77:1-20 (The Message) 

I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might,
    I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens.

I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord;
    my life was an open wound that wouldn’t heal.
When friends said, “Everything will turn out all right,”
    I didn’t believe a word they said.
I remember God—and shake my head.
    I bow my head—then wring my hands.
I’m awake all night—not a wink of sleep;
    I can’t even say what’s bothering me.
I go over the days one by one,
    I ponder the years gone by.
I strum my lute all through the night,
    wondering how to get my life together.

Will the Lord walk off and leave us for good?
    Will he never smile again?
Is his love worn threadbare?
    Has his salvation promise burned out?
Has God forgotten his manners?
    Has he angrily stalked off and left us?
“Just my luck,” I said. “The High God goes out of business
    just the moment I need him.”

Once again I’ll go over what God has done,
    lay out on the table the ancient wonders;
I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished,
    and give a long, loving look at your acts.

O God! Your way is holy!
    No god is great like God!
You’re the God who makes things happen;
    you showed everyone what you can do—
You pulled your people out of the worst kind of trouble,
    rescued the children of Jacob and Joseph.

Ocean saw you in action, God,
    saw you and trembled with fear;
    Deep Ocean was scared to death.
Clouds belched buckets of rain,
    Sky exploded with thunder,
    your arrows flashing this way and that.
From Whirlwind came your thundering voice,
    Lightning exposed the world,
    Earth reeled and rocked.
You strode right through Ocean,
    walked straight through roaring Ocean,
    but nobody saw you come or go.

Hidden in the hands of Moses and Aaron,
You led your people like a flock of sheep.