Church, Death, Depression, faith, relationship

Our Jesus

The perfection of my Father never ceases to amaze me. I’m thankful He is all knowing in the face of my ignorance. He reveals things to me when I need to know them, and if I don’t need to know them I am comfortable in knowing He knows what to do. That just made me think of an old hymn.

Needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Life is exceedingly painful, and I’m not going to say one season of life is harder than another because suffering is suffering, and when a one-up-man is at play it doesn’t serve to relieve the suffering one of pain. That’s not God’s purpose. When you read the book of Job I think you learn a powerful lesson in how we are to respond to any kind of suffering. Most of the time complete silence is order. Being present with the one who is hurting is all that is needed. Holy Spirit reveals to our hearts and minds when words need to be said. Life itself is a teacher, and our filibusters do more harm then good. We get off on some rant of what we think that person should have done in any given experience, but no one knows what they would have done until they go through it. Walk in that person’s shoes, and then if something needs to be said it will be revealed.

Listen from different angles, suspend judgement if life is not at stake, and when you can rationally discuss details then and only then should words come.

My friend Lynn got me to thinking about these things earlier in the week as we sat in her living room. Our mutual friend Landon was a our topic of conversation, and he has built a life and ministry around this very principle. He’d shy away from this kind of spotlight, but nonetheless we are two who have been transformed by his willingness to be moved the way the Spirit has moved him.

We teach each other don’t we? We move each other in the way we listen, speak and sit silently with each other because we have One who came here, and He showed us perfection in being with people.

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Death, Depression, faith, relationship, Women

An Apologetic

Today’s Jesus Calling (June 10) reminded me of a class I had in college. Doug Varnado taught a class called Christian Mind and Devotional Life for 3 hours credit, and it was during that semester that a song really came to light deeply on my heart and mind. Here are the lyrics.

I just want to be where You are dwelling daily in your presence. I don’t want to worship from afar. Draw me near to where You are.

I want to be where You are. Dwelling in your presence. Feasting at Your table. Surrounded by Your glory. In Your presence. That’s where I always want to be.

I just want to be. I just want to be with You.

cropped-cropped-mg_2841.jpgThe suffering servant is a very real reality for billions of Christians. Two of my friends are deeply suffering because their wife and mother have departed this life. An hour hasn’t passed since I found out that I have not thought about both of them. I wrote an entire post in memory of our beloved Bonnie. I went by her beautiful house, but Malcolm was out and about. I texted Malcolm III, and I posted on Facebook respectful comments of my grief for her passing. I knew Bonnie for over half my life, and her love, instruction and presence are impacting me now even in her absence.

Her absence makes my Father’s presence feel even more real, and when my Carey and my daughter were in Chicago I felt a painful void without their physical presence. We are constantly reminded that this life is to be lived by faith, but I am thankful that one day faith will be obsolete because we will gaze into the face of the One who defeated death. I have not concept of that now because I continue to “lose” people I love.

Mac, Bonnie’s husband, is an incredible provider for his family. His smile, unconditional love during the epitome of my depression inspires me now even though he may have no idea it does. I have an inkling into the pain he suffers from the loss of Bonnie from his Facebook posts, but I have no idea the pain he goes to sleep with or the pain he wakes up with without his precious lover near him in the same house.

He is not the first man to lose his wife, and there will be billions more who will experience the same thing, but the pain is real, and I do not glaze over it for anyone.

Two posts are hardly replacement for a life who impacted our eternity, but we draw comfort from the fact she is literally in the presence of our Father.

We long for that because the fallen nature of this world, and the fact that our hearts and strength fail is proof we are not here to stay.

Don’t grow too attached to what you have here, but invest in the things that remind you of God’s presence.

Scripture tells us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added.

That’s easier said, written and quoted, and sometimes impossible to practice because the pull of other things is so deafening and powerful in the face of our human strength. We are not left to our own devices because we have a Helper near and in our hearts and minds.

She/He intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express, and when I’ve been face down in pain I am given strength to rise up because of Her.

My Brother Jesus sweat drops of blood in the garden well before Prozac was discovered, and my Father, who is omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (every where all the time) and omnipotent (all powerful) is closer then the blood in my veins. Satan is not. Is he powerful? Obviously so. Turn on the television. But he is not all powerful. He was created like us, but he chose to reject the Father.

Bonnie did not, and I do not. Choose Him because He chose you (John 3.16).

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Body Image, Books, Death, faith, relationship, Women

True Peace

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I was at Mission Barbeque at Opry Mills last Friday, and when I went into the lavatory there was a picture of Marilyn Monroe over the urinal. I read this book about Marilyn Monroe, and as I wrote this post she came to mind. With all due respect to those who knew her I have to pity her because she never knew true peace. Her worth was found in men, and Hollywood used her the way I use a vacuum cleaner to clean Nashville homes. She allowed it however, and I think our Father’s mercies are upon her now even these plethora of years later as she is not subject to the discarding of Hollywood’s definition of worth. Never let a human being define your worth. Let my Father see you as a unique creation on which He does not fail. Period. 

A sense of humor is important, but there are some subjects within the context of community and more personal relationships when it’s too early to laugh.

I do not need to take myself so seriously that I can’t laugh at myself, but there is a time to take myself seriously as it pertains to overcoming a particular shortcoming or sin.

Coming to grips with the damage done is a very serious matter that I meditate on, but to gravel in guilt and shame is of course straight from the agenda of Satan himself. Satan may not be directly involved, but he doesn’t have to be for it to be grafted into the thinking of a human being.

We’ve always lived in dark times, but the statements created that become beliefs can be overcome.

We are not left alone to our brokenness even when the end is suicide. If someone drags you and a loved one through shit because they took their own life just walk away because you’ll get it on you.

Boundaries are powerful, and God created them for our protection.

That’s why the word propitiation is so powerful in the text. In my paraphrase I take “hilasterion” and phrase it “boundary.” Boundaries cover and protect, and my LORD’s “atoning sacrifice” and “propitiation” is a boundary from destruction, perishing or annihilation. I am forever secure in the presence of my Father even in death.

That is the reason fear is done away with literally. Oh, I have to choose to believe it because He does not force it upon me.

And I believe it, hence all things can become new.

I pray your faith dive to that kind of depth because you can take all the Prozac in the world, and you’ll never have that kind of peace.

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Arts, Church, Death, faith, Women

Bonnie Rose

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I taught 5th and 6th graders at Madison under Bonnie Rose. I got to know Malcolm and Bonnie and Malcolm III there, and now Carey and I are good friends with the Roses. 

This amazing woman is no longer with us, and it saddens me beyond words. Her Malcolm and Malcolm III are hurting deeply because now they have to go to Wilson Boulevard without her.

I think what I loved most about her was her tireless desire to make the gospel attractive. Her talent for art at Wilson Boulevard, Gallatin Road, Franklin Road and Charlotte Avenue displayed the greatest Artist with poise, dignity and beauty. Her hand of artistic expression honed at Lipscomb Academy and Harding University will live on in her absence, but I would not be surprised if our Father is gazing upon her beauty now.

Bonnie Rose was first and foremost a follower of Jesus Christ. She was Mac’s wife, and Malcolm’s mom, and my tears are heavy as I bear some of their grief.

Their generosity and love I will carry with me to my grave, and when I stop by Wilson Boulevard to visit my dear Mac I will forever remember the lady who was with me in my darkest night of the soul. She was not only there in the pit of my depression, but she was present as I “rose” above it in my groaning. I groan now because there are two men in my amazing city who have a void that will never be filled this side of eternity with our Father.

She took conflict as beautifully as she accepted her arthritis, and when I’d sit with her and Malcolm I could never tell she was in constant pain. She’s not in pain anymore, and the only thing the consoles me in this loss is that the smiles I see on Facebook, and the memory of her in my head are real and enduring. She will be one of the ones I will search for when the new Earth is created. Her place now at the right hand of an all loving Father wherever that is is assuredly a place of warmth and not pain that we can only imagine.

She had a plethora of voids in this life I know because we spent hours sharing our hurts with each other, and as the Holy Spirit worked through both Mac and Bonnie I can look upon our relationship with unadulterated love for the hope I express. Her hope is complete now, and her physical pain is no more, and though I have no idea what happens after death I suspect it’s better than here. I’m not ready to leave because I don’t think my time on Earth is through, but I long for the day to be where Bonnie is.

Bonnie was obviously a beautiful lady, but her heart and devotion to God, Malcolm and Malcolm made her beautiful on an entirely different level. She wasn’t out to compete with anyone, and she did not flash her money to shame anyone. Her heart was open because Jesus transformed her life to love the unlovable unconditionally.

We love you Bonnie, and we’ll miss you terribly as it’s already begun, but we know that when we join you “quietly, quickly and gently” that we’ll see your art, share your heart and hum songs of praise that will raise goosebumps on our arms in the presence of the One who conquered death.

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Death, Depression, faith, Prayer

A New Earth

img_0045Beyond sad really does describe a large part of my story. I was always saying goodbye. That’s bound to make anyone sad. I was beyond sad because clinical depression is just that. I have a disclaimer though.

You’re familiar with being happy because it happened, rather then being sad because it’s over. Parents who lose children can only be described as the worst of all possible scenarios, but suffering is suffering, and to classify suffering is not fair to those of us who suffer, and that is all of us.

We hurt. We grieve. We deny, but when we face reality we come to know that the loss is very real. Those like me who are devout believers in Jesus Christ know that He is not only familiar with our suffering, but He intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. No one can hurt for you, but when I practice empathy for a friend who is well into his 80’s who lost a brother 3 years ago I bear his burden.

When we bear the burdens of each other, and rejoice with each other when we achieve success we cross a threshold that the unbelieving world never crosses. Oh, maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to see everybody else fail. There’s nothing new under the sun, and I realize this, but most people worship comfort, and when something stretches their thinking beyond that comfort then they retreat into jealousy, anger and a mindset that refuses to participate.

God works through rich, middle class and poor. God is at work from sunrise to sunset, and when we grow paralyzed with fear God continues to work with or without us. He is not wringing His hands on a celestial throne worried sick about what Donald Trump is thinking, much less saying.

We go about our daily, weekly, monthly and yearly routines as our Father partners with us in advancing His message of love. We think we know what that looks like, but we don’t. We can, and we strive to, but we still fall short, yet He continues to press forward with us.

It’s a tension that will always be a part of this old Earth, but when the new heavens and the new Earth are created sickness and death will be done away with, and I suspect blog posts will not need to end because the author has to go to bed.

The lion will lie down with the lamb, and human beings will be perfect with a perfect Father.

Come soon LORD we pray, and our gratitude for your presence makes all the pain pale in comparison.

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Death, Depression, faith, relationship, Story

Checks and Balances

I’ve been contemplating the system of checks and balances that are in place on this global village. It becomes even smaller as I zero in on this city, but it enlarges when I see the reach my circle of influence connects. I begin with myself circa 2006.

I’m a bulk merchandiser with a Coca-Cola bottling company that has a franchise here in Nashville. I’m already on probation, and I’m about to finish with a big box retailer to head to another to merchandise Coca-Cola products on the shelves. I’ve been working since 4am. It’s 7am. An employee at the first stop rudely tells me we have “product” on a certain aisle. I go over to check it out. It’s not our liquid. I communicate this to the employee, but he tells me I have to clean it up anyway. I asked him why he had to be such an asshole. He threatens me, says he’s going to contact my boss, but there are no fisticuffs. I knew I was about to be fired. I quit before that could happen. I called all the appropriate people, and I returned my company van to the plant.

wpid-1372726029.jpgCalling my wife Carey was the next thing I had to do, and that was the beginning of the hardest check and balance I’ve ever had to live through. I’m still reeling from it. Coming clean with my sin has always been the best protocol for what ails me. I’m fond of saying that I don’t stand to fall before anyone but God, and though that is true I still have to live with consequences that my actions create. That’s part of what the system of checks and balances creates in our world because if there were none we’d have anarchy. That’s why Romans talks about obeying the laws of the land, and why there is somewhat of an order to things in place that keep every last one of us accountable to each other.

When a human being refuses to take responsibility for his or her actions they not only hurt others, but they choose to die a slow agonizing “death” that eventually will lead to a real death. If God is God then there is a right and a wrong, and the things expounded about in the Bible are true, and if we choose to do what we want then consequences will follow. There are many gray areas of life such that Paul dealt with in meat sacrificed to idols, but tension is nothing new for the things we face under the sun. Again, check and balances are essential in our walk some 80 years on this Earth. What has been will be again, and mankind will always need rest, food, shelter, clothing, love and safety. There’s a reason God created Adam and Eve. There’s a reason God continues to pursue us all where we are in life. God brings the people together He wants together at the times He has prescribed for us to be together, and though this might sound like reformed thinking it’s anything but because you cannot argue that God knows in advance what will happen before it happens.

The power of checks and balances isn’t that someone on high in human endeavors wields power for those of us peons below. The power is in the fact that we who are “strong” protect those who are weak, and in my case at the bottling company that we care for those who are sick.

Caring for each other has never been easy because if it was everyone would do it. They do not. Nurses are continually needed, and people want a paycheck without having to work. If you aren’t willing to show up when people need you to show up then don’t expect someone else to show up when you need them. Checks and balances. Matthew 7.12 isn’t just called the Golden Rule because some pastor or theologian decided it was a cool thing to call it. No, it’s called the Golden Rule because when we do to others what we’d have done to us we practice the very essence of what it means to be created in image of God.

John has quite the essay on the relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit. They know each other so well that they long for us to share with each other that kind of knowing. No wonder angels long to look into the ways of humans.

My depression hit rock bottom working for that bottling company. I could not endure one more day in that miserable job. I ripped my wife away from our 2 year old daughter as a stay-at-home mom. It crushed her spirit, and I’m still making up for that right or wrong. God says we are to forgive our enemies 70×7, and though that looks real grand on the written page of an English translation sometimes it seems hard as hell to practice. Before you throw that passage around like a baseball meditate on the context of the situation you want to use it in. Use your frontal lobe to exercise restraint when you want to vomit truth all over someone. You might be right, but being right is what the Pharisees honored above a more loving response. There’s nothing wrong with silence in the presence of someone who is deeply hurting. Do you think God is not communicating in silence? There will always be time for sharing our insight and wisdom, but be oh so careful when you do.

That’s when Job’s friends got into trouble. They had sat with Job for days, maybe weeks or months until anyone said a word.

God is not wringing His hands in desperation if you show up and give someone a hug. You have permission to sit in silence at Starbucks with someone until she is ready to open up.

Love is a complicated fruit of the Spirit, but if we cannot sit still long enough for the Spirit to communicate appropriate action or speech then we might as well worship anarchy.

Checks and balances is not a holy grail. It encompasses the Golden Rule, genuine desire for another’s well being, and a refusal to let evil have the last word.

Last time I checked in Revelation it says that good wins over evil.

I like that.

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Death, Depression, faith, Money, Work

On Earth As It Is In Heaven

315775_2527512111404_1361485281_2865130_1469547271_nI’ve talked about vision before on here, but it’s been especially on my mind lately. My vision has vacillated back and forth from one business model to another, and of course as always there are transitions in personal matters from day-to-day. I separate business from personal because I have a blog connected to Clean Houses dot biz, but once again I write about the challenge it is to separate business and pleasure. I don’t do this because my business gives me a lot of pleasure.

I love brainstorming about my little maid service when I’m not actually cleaning houses. I graduated from Lipscomb in 1995 with a bachelors and in 2002 with a masters, so from 2002-2007 I went through over 10 jobs I was miserable at. I guess really I went through those 10 jobs from 2000-2007. I thoroughly enjoyed my work in grad school because biblical Hebrew and all things Hebrew Bible are appealing to my spirit and intellect. I love Greek and the NT, but Hebrew came alive for me in grad school. And, as Philip Yancey eloquently titled a book, the Hebrew Bible is The Bible That Jesus Read.

I obviously developed a passion for cleaning because I started a business around it, and I haven’t looked back since doing that, but as you know human beings are multi-complex and you can’t just pinpoint one person into one category, hence my passion for biblical Hebrew, small group worship/ministry and residential cleaning.

Work is so important. I suspect that if Jesus came today, and He chose 12 apostles among our contemporaries that they might write about their experiences in the marketplace and amidst the church. That’s just speculation, but God gave me the ability to speculate, so I do. James and John were fishermen. Matthew was a tax collector. Luke was a doctor. My primary calling to be a believer should never collide with my secondary callings. My primary calling is to glorify God as I seek Him in all I do. Scripture says to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto me.

Paul, who used to be Saul, struggled with a thorn in the flesh. We aren’t sure what that exactly was. Some scholars think it was a sight problem because he wrote about the big letters he wrote with. That’s speculation too. It doesn’t matter because the point is that we depend upon God for everything. Our fallen world is the result of man’s desire to do life like a god, but God made us to depend upon completely. When we rejected that, and when we reject it today He does not force Himself upon us, but there are consequences to that choice. There is a progression to life that begins with A and ends with B. Bad things do happen to good people, but our allegiance to the Father is a marked difference for those who are not. I am not saying that bad things do not happen to God believers. They do. The church suffers from the same problems the world does because Satan doesn’t care if you go to church or not. He wants to destroy all 7 billion of us. Jesus came to save all of us, and that’s why I persist in showing those I interact with that I desire to do life the way Jesus has called me to do life. That is my primary calling whether I’m teaching a class at church or cleaning a toilet. That’s what separates me from the infidel who rejects God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Spirit.

My work is significant because it is anointed by a God who made work good. Are there people who are workaholics who worship money and work itself? Yes there are, but they don’t stand to fall before me. No human being stands to fall before me. That’s not why God created me. He created me to clean houses, and give hope to others who fight depression. He’s made me a biblical scholar, but that has taken a back seat to some other things right now. God’s timing is not ours. We think we know what should and should not be done, but many times God has other ideas for us and those we love. We must come to a peace with how God is moving in a life. His timing is always better, and our trust in His omniscience (all-knowing power) must trump all other things. Proverbs 3 says we are not to lean on our own understanding, but in all our ways we are to acknowledge Him because He’s going to make our paths straight. That doesn’t mean as a parent I don’t warn my daughter about a destructive attitude or behavior, but when I know I have an anger management problem I’ve got to work on my desire to be a conduit for gentleness and kindness in her life.

All of us are constantly repenting because sin is a very real thing all Christians deal with. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean we have a yellow brick road all the way to Heaven. It means we become even more of a target for Satan because to say Satan has an anger management problem is to make the understatement of the millenium.

We have our work cut out for us because the days are evil. They aren’t as evil as the days when Rome ruled the earth, but nonetheless there still remains those who reject God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I take a high view of all of Scripture, and I conclude this post with a familiar passage to all Christians.

One day every knee will bow in Heaven and on Earth, and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as LORD.

That will make all our work here worth it.

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