Sunday, November 9, 2014
So what was it? The answer was God taking me off by myself to spend time in His Woodshed of Grace and Truth (John 1:14). In the awesomeness of His healing Presence in those more than sacred moments, God brought me face to face with three critical issues in which I needed to embrace His perspective, not my conclusions, no matter the source of those conclusions. Years of dealing with struggling saints...so often struggling against they know not what, but with angst of spirit creating a constant sense of inner dissatisfaction...taught me that relief from this burden of soul weariness comes hard. But if it does not come, enjoying our freedom in Christ will be a distant dream.
First, though raised in a home full of love, God's love for me with no strings attached was only a theological concept, not a practical, practiced truth. Then God exposed to me a plague ravaging saints serving around the world - we operate in our sphere of service in a PBA mode. Performance Based Acceptance, which being interpreted means we consciously or unconsciously believe God is pleased with us and loves us to the degree we function (jumping through certain pre-set hoops) and are "successful' or acceptedly spiritual as measured by some standard pit on us by our parents, church, organization, our particular Christian culture, or even ourselves. That brought me to the third issue needing God's perspective; The church I pastored was not mine. It was His, period. He would build it, not me. If He wanted to burn it down, He would. And He did not need my permission. He, in His purposes, could split it wide open, or cause it to burst at its' proverbial seams to the point this Mississippi KISS person could not handle it. It was His church, not mine.
So, from that point on, when people would ask, "How's the church doing", usually thinking bodies, bucks, and buildings, my response was - Heaven will tell. For the true issues are not the Big 3, but the spiritual dynamics taking place in hearts which should be experiencing personal encounters with the living God who comes to us as a no strings attached lover and with His adequacy for a life well lived, not PBA demands. I threw off the yoke of PBA and embraced His love. God's gentle touch affirmed me as "I am what I am by the grace of God, and His grace was not wasted on me." (I Cor. 15:10). God's pit delivering words were; "Mick, you are not omni-competent, omni-gifted, or omni-anything. Live with it. Be you, Mick. You'll be surprised how I can use an earthen vessel".
That week left me a free man. From people's expectations, pressure to perform, counterfeit crosses, and Satan's condemnation shouted full voiced from self, saints, even society. But until Heaven calls my name, the days ahead, though overflowing with His no strings attached love, must be driven by raw obedience to His commands (and they are not hard to be borne). Because for me, when a brother shakes my hand and asks, "How're ya'll doing?" the answer - in truth - is not "fine" but "Heaven will tell."
Not because I have to (PBA), but because I yearn for it (no strings attached love), I want what Heaven tells about this earthen vessel to please Him.
Thursday, October 2, 2014
I'm a Psalm 71 man. That's one Psalm above the threescore and ten normal life span Psalm 90 speaks of. I'm way past that, a walking witness to my sweet wife's care and good cooking. More so a reflection of the care and excessive goodness God poured into my life. And grace is indeed "in spite of."
Mom went to glory at 57. Dad followed six months later at 63 (Fifty years ago). On his way to work My brother stopped, as he did each morning, for a cup of coffee, to read his Bible, and feed the birds. Must be an experience to go to MacDonalds and wind up in Heaven. Golden arches for sure. He was 57. Billie, my sister, made the three score and ten, barely. So I'm living on pure grace. Thankfully.
This "old person" Psalm nails it. Verse 17; "Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds." For me, imperfectly? Yes. With stammering tongue and unclean lips? Most certainly. And from this position of ancient-dom, with clearer vision of what matters in life, with regrets washed in the blood of my Savior, and His Word more solidified and treasured in my heart through the gentle teaching of the Holy Spirit - these days are sweetly wonderful. Heaven and home nearer, people you love, the Body of Christ, hugs and warm handshakes, smiles, sun rises, God-crafted sunsets, meaningful moments with my sweet heart, 'Hi Dad' kisses and 'I love you' from our offspring and their progeny, and moments alone in His presence awaiting His voice....man, life is rich.
BUT...it ain't over til the overweight lady sings! So Psalm 71 lays it on us oldsters who find bad mouthing the following generations a spirit deadening delight. Harkening back to the "good old days" we forget they were formerly known as "these trying times". Here's our oldster mandate - Verse 18; "Even though I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, TILL I DECLARE YOUR POWER TO THE NEXT GENERATION AND YOUR MIGHT TO ALL WHO ARE TO COME".
So thanks, Carson, for turning 16. You are a reminder that as long as I have breath our Psalm 71 Mandate - to show His power and might - is still in effect. The power of His word and presence to change me into His image; power to receive and give love because the Holy Spirit pours God's love into my heart; and the power of a sound mind to live in my reality. And God weighed in on us oldster's side in II Tim. 1:7 - a word for us. "For God did not give us the spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and a sound mind". That promise did not end when I went on Social Security.
Those of us who've walked a long path of life, experiencing the Psalm 71 goodness of God, have a Mandate to be "Might" men and women demonstrating in word, deed, and attitude (critical) that God is mighty to save and no matter what life threw at us, we stood "strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man" (Eph. 3:16). So...off our "Let the younger generation do it" duffs, Psalm 71-ers.
There's a job to be done.
The BBQ - worthy. The Drummer, now a young man - proud of him. The Mandate - doable even in ancient-dom!
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Our God of broken hearts (nigh-ing Himself to those in such lonely personal agony - Ps. 34:18) and collector of tears in our bottle of remembered weeping (Ps, 56:8), must be doing double duty in our chaotic, hurtful, dangerous world. We shake our heads in unbelief at man's inhumanity to man and from the comfort and safety of our homes experience short-lived twinges in our hearts for those poor souls "over there". On Facebook we'll decry the lack of U.S.A. leadership to do something to curb the gruesome onslaught of evil in our world and pin our hope on the next election. Wrong hope pinning place.
Collective broken hearts and bottled tears are all individual and unique to God. Like mine are to me. Tears from these aged eyes, bottled by my Loving Heavenly Father, flowed from multiple walks through the valley of the shadow of death (not mine..haven't noticed me in the B'ham News obits yet), disturbed relationships, and those moments of total helplessness to change a pain, whatever it was. And I'm humbled God loves me enough to also bottle those tears brought on by those moments of self realization - good ones and bad ones. The point is, the pain of a broken heart hurts so deeply because it is mine as it is yours. And we are not to judge the worthiness of the broken heart in another, or its' cause. That's God's business. He's the bottle keeper and "nigh to the broken hearted" One.
Older age hopefully brings deeper, more intimate awareness of God's grace in hurting moments. But all He can be to the broken hearted is on the table for every one. A banquet table at that. Looking back, and more so now as the distance to the Gates of Heaven shortens, tears captured in my bottle are not for me, but for my children and grand children. Not that they are breaking my heart. Far from it. They are a source of joy. I love the way they love life, love each other, and love our Lord. But life has not offered them freedom from their personal heart issues, painful ones at times. And old dad and granddad, aware of their challenges, reminds God my bottle is not yet full. Heart felt tear times come because the dynamics of their lives - their dreams, their hopes, their relationships, their love - are anchored deep within this old heart. When a dream is shattered, a hope deferred, a relationship awry, a love un-given, and I see the hurt and tears, then....bottle and nigh time.
But the heart smile comes when those tear moments fade in the beauty of God's love and care showing up in their lives, most often communicated in a shoulder to cry on, loving arms surrounding them, but also found in the honesty and strength of heart His Presence offers...a truth and experience uncatchable, only Spirit taught.
In that "bottle" Psalm, David's says of God, "You have delivered my feet from falling that I may walk before God in the light of the living." The One who bottles our tears offers strength for the day...even a tear filled day. In Psalm 34 where He promises to be "nigh to those of a broken heart", David also takes a stab at his own position of power when he wrote, "The young lions do lack and suffer hunger but those who wait upon the Lord shall not want any good thing."
Some heart needs only God can meet. Broken heartedness is one of them. Is it possible that in Heaven when God wipes away all tears from our eyes , He will sit us on His divine lap, take our bottle of tears He treasured for us to remember, pour them out before His Throne of Grace, and say to us, "My child, I knew the cause of every one of those tears. I shared your broken heart?"
Talk about a smile from ear to ear...and a hug of "nigh-ness" like you've never known!!!
Thursday, June 26, 2014
The moment brought to mind Is. 30:15
"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it."
Quietness? Honestly, I am probably more at ease with myself as a stump grinder...digging up roots of the past that regularly dump emotional or spiritual needle like clutter on my deck of life. Or better yet, lowering the sure blade of stump grinding truth to the roots of bitterness (Heb. 12:15) or anger so evident (to me) in others. It's sort of like there is this Christian life mandate, "Don't just sit there, do something!" True, faith without works is dead. But works without the sure confidence born out of moments of quietness and trust are sheer effort...the stuff of burn out, defection, loss of our first love, and unhealthy introspection. If our adequacy is of Him, then some Him time is not an option.
Back before the earth's crust hardened - my Seminary days - a well known evangelist spoke in chapel. His call was for us students to take our noses out of our books and "get our shirt tails on fire" witnessing to the teeming masses without Christ. The next day the chapel speaker was an older professor who had walked with God deeply for years. With a voice of dignity and heart he said; "Gentlemen, I want to speak to you today on the matter of 'The flaming heart versus the burning shirt tail.'"
God's word to His people was that quietness and trust produces strength.
Stump grinding time...most certainly. Porch time...absolutely essential. It is the spiritual porch time that sanctifies back yard stump grinding.
So, to survive, the porch awaits me, the coffee hot, the Book alive, the moments...priceless.
Monday, May 19, 2014
But these four men, Larry, Hal, Mike, and Jack (L to R), all former students of ours when we taught at French Camp Academy in MS from 1960-63, along with a notable group of others from that era, brought into sharp focus the truth that when your past catches up with your present it can be an experience of pure, living grace. These men and women - whom we knew as teenagers with all those dynamics plus being subjected to our feeble teaching attempts - who have experienced the good stuff of life and gut level challenges of the deepest sort, brought a dynamic of grace to that gathering that left a permanent heart smile in my sweetie and me. Obviously God planted truth in some good soil. The fruit it there. The level of care for each other - even though fifty one years later - was indeed impressive. To all of us who've been there, FCA is a special place. Most of all, special people. Grace will do that to a person.
I learned a powerful leadership lesson at FCA. Dr. Sam Patterson, the President - and like few leaders who've crossed our path in fifty four years of ministry - operated from the premise he had no kingdom to protect. More than that, in our efforts to impact those young lives, his word to us was, "What can I do to make you successful?" A Godly man of pure grace.
We arrived at FCA fresh out of Seminary, two years newly married with two (no comments) precious little girls, and broke. Mr. Pat (his honored name) asked me to go to Greenwood to speak in the Presbyterian church for him. He claimed he had other obligations that Sunday. Here's the kicker. Mr. Pat stayed home that day. He had me go because he knew what the honorarium would be. With the tiny trailer loaded with our few belongings evidencing our financial state, Mr. Pat graced us by sending me...an unknown to speak for him. That $100 (remember this is 1960) is indelibly etched in my bank of "ah ha" moments. That's why Mr. Pat sent me. Grace lived. Grace touching lives. Mick, go and do likewise.
Our time at the recent FCA reunion was memorable. Thanks, all you fellow FCA-ers of those days. God enabled you to survive us well. His grace has not failed in you. As the Apostle Paul said of himself in I Cor. 15:11, "God's grace was not wasted on me." Indeed.
It is O.K. for your past to catch up with you. As long as grace comes with it.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
As a Bryan alumni and former Board member, this is my perspective...
I bleed Bryan. From the first day I stepped (1951) on that physically pitiful (except for the Chapel and the view) campus, I loved the place. Christmas break my first year was extended because a defunct boiler needed to be replaced. I hated it..returned early much to the angst of the Dean. Why??? The people. To me Bryan has always been about special people. I’ve been sleeping with one of those special people for almost 56 years and carry a heap of love received and given, sourced in that beloved bunch.
Leadership was not perfect, never is, but 63 years connection with Bryan as a student and then as an involved alumni and Board member does make some lasting impressions, even on us aged ones as it relates to such matters. So allow me a walk down memory lane. Before you turn me off as an out-of-touch ancient, I am not a “back when I was your age” grandpa.The only indisputable fact about back when I was your age is that I was years younger than I am now. In the Lord Jesus, my best days are yet ahead.
The dominate trait of Bryan life over these years, to me, was the idea that we were all in this together. I recall an evening meal in the nail studded ceiling of the dining hall. Spiritual food only - Scripture and prayer - our student feeble attempt to ease the financial crunch of the college. Dr. Rudd’s leadership took the college through those very difficult, but to me, unforgettable years with a Godly humility found in few. In it together…most certainly.
Dr, Mercer brought bounce, zip, creativity, a PR ability with names and faces second to none, and that unforgettable moment of SACS accreditation. Indeed an “in it together” effort. His untimely death brought Ken Hanna to walk Bryan through critical financial times. Financial exigency was declared by the Board. Draconian cuts had to be made. Lives were uprooted and we grieved. I recall faculty offering to cut their salaries so a colleague would not be released. Painful, but still undergirded by a sense of “we’re in this together.”
Then the fire…an “in it together” experience of profound impact beyond Bryan.
Don’t misread me. Not all perfect by any means. And many of you may read your particular time at Bryan differently. But I sat in enough Board meetings, witnessing with almost unbelief the powerful commitment on the part of those underpaid faculty, to appreciate the fact God had blessed Bryan with some choice people, in faculty and staff as well as those who give Bryan validity for its existence….all those students who walked the halls of Bryan. Somewhere in these last years “in it all together” has been lost.
Here’s one man’s perspective on today at Bryan.
Every functioning entity is both an organization and an organism. An organism has life. For Bryan, that must be life born of God or we are a fraud. It is an organization for the effective accomplishment of the purpose of the organism -see the Bryan mission statement. But the organism aspect must drive the organizational factor. Which means people are the most important focus…the only entity God takes to His heaven. But…whether church, school, mission organization… at some point the organizational element can become the driving force, and that’s where many Christian organism/organizations mess it up.
A Christian organization/organism must have Godly goals. But the process of reaching those goals must be Godly as well. The clearest indication of the Godliness of the process is how the organization treats the people involved in reaching those goals.
As a retired Board member, as a man who holds Bryan in his heart, and as an alum, these were and are issues which concern me. They rise or fall on leadership. And so I pray.
In His Grip,
Saturday, February 22, 2014
In the process of teaching him to obey the command to "come" when called, he ran out the length of his leash at full speed which naturally brought him up short with a choking jerk. A desperate yelp, then with terror in his little eyes, and blinding puppy speed, flew back to his master, landing full force in my arms....and staying there until his puppy trauma faded.
Somewhere I've read, (Ps. 46) "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble." That's us to Gibby. But I could not help but compare my "refuge" use of God to Gibby.
He wants to venture out, but insists I always be within his eyesight. If he loses sight of me, he panics, and with little feet hardly touching the ground flies back to the spot where he last saw me. I'm always there.
And with God I venture away. God hangs in there for me, faithfully awaiting my return. I've learned that if I cannot see God, returning to the point where I parted company with Him is critical to His presence in my life again.
Gibby, like us, will learn obedience. Won't be all pleasant for him. But it is necessary for him if he is to be safe and protected. By now this aged one should have obedience down pat. Hardly. Hebrews 12 has it correct. God's discipline of his children, not necessarily pleasant, afterwards yields the "peaceful fruit of righteousness". It puts everything back into right relationships...with God, myself, and others. Or at least it is supposed to, according to the Word. Even the Lord Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered (Heb. 5:8)...a concept I have difficulty wrapping my mind around.
I love Gibby. He is a joy to me. I know God loves me. I want to be a delight to Him. Simple obedience is critical to the process.
Monday, February 3, 2014
No saint though, just real and free of the scourge blighting much of the Western church where "niceness" equals "Christian". Matthew 15 records an encounter of Jesus with "nice" folks who possessed more Biblical knowledge than most of us, people whose traditions outweighed Biblical obedience. Jesus surveyed that crowd of safety first, live by their unwritten rules, bound by their spiritual culture (which they knew was THE way) and said, "That which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination to God," Not saying unless you are weird you aren't spiritual. But those few folks free of the shackles of performance based acceptance and not stuffed in the theological/procedural box of how you must do the Christian life, are a spiritual breathe of fresh air to me. And not easily forgotten.
Oswald Chambers has a word for it: RECKLESS ABANDONMENT TO JESUS CHRIST.
Been enriched by a number of such "old acquaintances." More than that, challenged, made to realize how comfortable a manageable Christian life can be. Stirred. Thank you, you unforgotten friends. Your wide place in my life is missed.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Now here's where God showed up. Handy TV and Appliance Store to the rescue. A phone call indicated availability of both freezer and delivery that afternoon. But there was a prior issue...footing the bill for a costly item not in our limited budget.
Two days before Old Brownie kicked the bucket we received a hefty check from a travel coverage (if you go down in a plane crash,etc), ten bucks a month, JC Penny Insurance policy. The amount of the check was more than we put into the policy. Another episode of God showing Himself faithful to us, the first show up of God on our behalf in this scenario. Then Saturday delivery...the next show. But it gets better. Two hefty African American brothers delivered the freezer. They were Brothers...believing, knowledgeable, on fire brothers. The fellowship quickly hit the more than common level. Last scene: standing in a circle, arms around shoulders, praying God's goodness on each other. Couldn't get much better than that.
Old Brownie, your demise "done us good".
Friday, January 10, 2014
With Adam and Eve the love of God literally covered their sin. Innocent, helpless sheep paid the price for that covering. For God's love to cover our disobedience - both in terms of needing One who could bridge that eternal gap between sinful man and a Holy God, and covering for sins we followers of Christ find so easily beset us - demanded The Lamb of God be sacrificed. Love - bloodied, bruised, despised, rejected, nailed to a cross - provided that Lamb for us. "God so loved the world..." And I am eternally grateful.
Then God comes along in His Word and lays on His people His standard for how we are to love in the here and now. "We love Him because He first (in every way) loved us." "Beloved, if God so loved us then we ought also to love one another." "...If you do not love your brother whom you have seen, how can you love God whom you have not seen?" (Read I John ...full of love). We don't get off easily. God knew He was pushing our buttons in holding us to His standard. Walking wounded dot the Christian landscape where His followers failed miserably in the love department because that standard was not practical or too tough (our cop-out). But hang on...He's not telling us He requires we get the warm fuzzies over every weird character flying the Believer Banner, or the pure pagan.
Here's a simple biblical and practical love lesson liveable by any of us. You love God by loving people. You serve God by serving people. Again, warm fuzzies are not the issue. Giving even a cup of cold water in Jesus' name is. Anyone can live that love. Even us.
God knew (Mick especially) we were not wired for the spectacular or awesome in our corner of His Kingdom. But people...that's our turn on. And hosting three MK college students headed back to Texas was just a cup of cold water....in Jesus' name. We are privileged to do a lot of that. Funny thing...we were the refreshed ones. Thanks, Rochelle, Nathan, and Daniel. Our prayer in our unspectacular, awesomeless, niche in His Kingdom is that God senses our love for Him in our feeble attempts to love people practically, and that He finds our service for Him acceptable as we seek to serve Him with our cups of cold water - simple things like accommodations, Martha's touch in the kitchen, a place to crash or spend R & R time, a listening ear and heart, or a word of encouragement.
Love God by loving people. Serve God by serving people. Anyone can do that. And an overseas, distant land, strange people experience is not required.
Thursday, January 2, 2014
Enjoyment of life's "good things" ought to mark us who have found in our Lord the ultimate "good thing".
Enjoyment is not sinful. It is expected of us on God's part. Otherwise we're wasting His "richly".