Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Blast From the Past: A Fresh Set of Footprints

This was first posted on August 12, 2010.

A few years ago Melvin Bray wrote this piece that was published in theooze.com. It's titled "Footprints...A Brand New Dance." Enjoy.

One night I had a dream. It was a strange dream because although I was in it, I could at the same time see myself and Jesus walking down an uncertain road leading just over the horizon. As I stood astonished, looking at myself, I noticed that I looked winded as I walked along, barely catching my breath. Curious as to why, I took my eyes off the walkers and peered back down the way from whence they had come.

The sight that met my eyes is quite difficult to describe. From where I stood the ground dropped back steep down a jagged path. The drop was so great and sheer that it made my stomach queasy just looking. I staggered, stumbled and would have fallen if my guide had not reached out to steady me.

I gained my composure and looked closer at the path Jesus and I had taken. The ground was loose like gravel, and I wondered how one could have kept his footing. Not to mention there were mud puddles and brier patches along the way and low hanging limbs that feign reached out to offer a hand but looked as if they would snap under the slightest weight. The ground was so moist I could see the footprints we had left along our journey. For most of the way Jesus’ footprints went along steady, sure, consistent (I could tell they were His by their size). Mine, on the other hand, zigzagged, stopped, back-peddled and even turned around on occasion.

As we went along my ability to follow His lead appeared to improve, which was a good thing because it was just about then that the path narrowed and the road steepened. To add to the perils of our path the rocks perched high above seemed to rain down sporadically. For a while I could barely discern my footsteps because they overlay His. Where He stepped, I stepped in sync on up the mountain, until it seemed the road grew most treacherous at which point it appeared that my steps were all over the place. There were starts and stops and circles and deep gashes every which way in the soft earth. I wondered, "What could I have been doing?"

It was then that I turned to my guide to satisfy my wonder. “What on earth happened?” I asked. “We were getting along pretty well—I was growing in Him, as well I should—then it looks like I lost my mind. And it looks as if I would have killed us both if He hadn’t regained control.”

My Guide looked at me and said, “Don’t be deceived by what your eyes think they see or what your head thinks it knows about the way our journey should unfold. As long as I am with you, I am always in control. Speak to your heart; it knows the truth. Did ever you desire anything other than to walk with me? Then don’t think it strange that sometimes the Way leads off the usual path. What happened, you ask, when our steps seem uncertain? It was there we DANCED!”

Friday, March 13, 2015

My Prayer

Abba Father, let your name be glorified in us, in our work and play, in what we say and do, in our relationships with our brothers and sisters.

Your kingdom is a kingdom of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation, a kingdom of healing and wholeness. Let that kingdom come to our relationships as it is in heaven. Your will is that your children be one. Let that will be done in us as in heaven.

Give us each day what we need. Give us sustenance, grace, and faith.

Forgive us our sins, against you and against others. Help us to forgive those who sin against us, as many times as is necessary.

Don't let us give in to the temptation to build ourselves up at the expense of others, to prove that we are right and others are wrong, to hold grudges. Deliver us from evil.

Help us to remember that it is your kingdom, your power, and your glory forever and ever.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Church Signs: 10 to 1

There is a church that I pass on a regular basis these days. For the past couple of months they have had this message on their sign: "It is easier to preach 10 sermons than to live 1." Since I see this message just about every day, I have had plenty of time to think about it.

One of the charges brought against Christians is that we are a bunch of hypocrites. And to some degree that is true. Many humans are hypocritical in certain areas of their lives. Even though those of us who follow Jesus sometimes have a hard time living out what we say we believe. So, this message causes me to think about my own actions. Do they match up with my words, or would Jesus say, "Do what Fred says, but don't do what he does?"

When I teach others to love their neighbors, do I ignore the needs I see in my neighborhood or city? When I tell folks to lay down their lives for others, does my own love only go as far as my schedule and comfort? When I teach that Jesus calls us to go to that brother or sister who has something against is and get it settled even before we come to worship, do I sit back and wait for them to make the first move?

When I proclaim our freedom in Christ, do I, by my actions, tell people they have to follow Jesus the way I do and put certain expectations on them? When I teach others to forgive, do I secretly harbor resentment? When I tell others to trust God, do I run ahead and try to fix things my own way?

Since I have the privilege of teaching and discipling others, these are things that I have to keep in mind at all times. Actually, I think all of us who follow Jesus should be careful that what we do matches up with what we teach, because we are all teaching if we are proclaiming the gospel. It should never be said that we are hypocrites!

God help us to live out our beliefs in our day to day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

World Vision Wednesday

Reading is a vital skill. World Vision and Literacy Boost are teaming up to provide community reading programs that are improving literacy around the world. Check this out to find out more.

Monday, March 2, 2015

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

So sang the nuns in The Sound of Music. There was a certain young woman at the convent who posed a problem. The nuns there hadn't seen anyone like Maria, and they just didn't know what to do with her. I believe that many churches have a similar problem.

Years ago, most women in churches were married, planning to be married, or living at home in an intact family with a father present. The landscape looks a lot different now than it did back in the "good old days." There are liable to be a number of young single women on their own, single mothers, and divorced or widowed women.

In what are termed egalitarian churches, this may not be as big a problem. In patriarchal or complementarian churches and denominations however, there is the potential for major problems. My purpose is not to enter into the debate on the role of women in the church. I am simply proposing something that may help alleviate some problems in those churches that have male leadership.

Complementarian churches believe that men are to be in leadership roles, both in the family and in the church. Husbands are the head of their wives and fathers are the head of their families, and those roles are necessary in the church's ministry. The husbands and fathers represent and speak for their wives and children.

What happens with a divorced woman or a young woman whose father is not in the picture? I believe this is when churches don't know what to do. If an issue comes up, who speaks on behalf of these women who don't have a "head?" Unfortunately, there may be no one, therefore leaving a void which helps no one. I fear that in many churches these folks are left out and have no one to look out for their best interest.

There is a possible solution. This is probably not new to some of you, and there are churches who are taking steps to solve this problem. While a church that has official male leadership does not want to ordain females, mature, godly women can minister in de facto leadership roles. There are many woman in churches who have shepherding (pastoring) gifts that can be exercised for the good of the body. These gifts can be used to be a guide and voice for those who don't have someone in a traditional role to look out for them.

I am convinced that the gifts God gives to his daughters can be used in churches who do not ordain women. The gifts are not offices. They are given to help the body grow. I believe that there is no good reason why these gifts shouldn't be utilized. Now I know that there are some who believe that women should only work in the nursery or teach little children. If that is the case, there's not a whole lot I can say to convince you.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

World Vision Wednesday

If you are looking for a devotional study for this Lenten season, World Vision has one here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

1000? Really?

I guess this is a milestone of sorts. This is my 1000th post on this blog. When I began this back in December of 2007, I had no idea I would still be writing a little over four years later. Some of you may be wondering why I'm still sharing the sometimes random stuff that rolls around in my brain. Probably because I can? Actually, I keep on because I hope that something I put on here will help, encourage, or challenge someone.

Since that winter day in 2007, the path of my life has taken a few twists and turns. Jan and I left one church, became involved in a couple of church plants (one fizzled and one blew up). I was done with the whole idea of church for a while. Then three years ago, God brought us to a church community that we have grown to love and see as family.

The journey has gone through wide open, sunny spaces and deep dark woods. I have been in a cave and come out again. I have learned over and over to trust the loving heart of my Father, and I have become more amazed at his unfathomable love for me. In the past couple of years, we have added two members to our family with the marriages of our two children.

In June, I lost a job and immediately gained a gig helping to take care of my father-in-law. That continues to this day, but I will have to be getting a regular job in the near future. I am trusting God to provide in his timing, as he always has.

Where this road takes me in the next four years is one of those unknowns. I am sure it will wind through forests, wide open spaces, and valleys. Maybe I'll crank out another thousand posts. We'll see. Thank you to all of you who have been with me on part of this trip. I hope that y'all (as we say here in the sunny South) will continue to travel along with me. It should be interesting.