Friday, September 24, 2021

Flow

Flow

Let the waters flow out or you will implode or explode. Recent conversations with Prince Harry of Wales identified how unexpected grief can totally overwhelm all systems and cause breakdown. This process can bring anger and shock along with fear as well as the body, mind and spirit being overcome. C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed referenced grief as feeling like fear. He was talking about the cancer caused death of his beloved friend and wife Joy. In the photo above, taken by my cousin and landscape photographer, Douglas F. Frank, the water is escaping or flowing out over the lava rocks in a Pacific Ocean grotto.

The cave-like rocky hollow concentrates the waves as the tide rises. Have you stood on a beach as the tide rises? Has your blanket ever been unexpectantly overtaken by the rising waters? I certainly remember a beautiful night in college when several fraternity brothers and I hit the Jersey Shore for the day. We ended the adventure by lying on the beach staring upwards into the incredible beauty of the stars. We were gruffly wakened by a rogue wave running over us sometime after midnight. Grief is like that. It can ambush and trigger us to very uncomfortable places. It is part of a process with steps that need to be traveled to redefine or reframe the loss of a loved one.

One of the difficult aspects of grief is the disabling of normal coping mechanisms. We cannot function with clarity and memory as usual. Our senses are both dulled and enhanced at the same time, rushing in and out like waves.

People who want to help but personally have not experienced the messiness of mourning will say and ask dumb or inappropriate amenities. Unfortunately it can be like the splash of cold water when we need a hot cup of tea. I recall leading a ministry called Griefshare with the moniker, Turning Mourning into Joy. Several attendees were angered at the thought of ever being joyful again. It just seemed an affront and a cruel thought early in their grief.

Can you see the dark rocks in the grotto photo, unscaleable and harsh? Our souls feel like this in mourning. We cannot crawl out and feel right. We can’t take a run and have the endorphins refresh, or a glass of wine relax us. Normal coping mechanisms are not very useful.

But God is there with us; He never left. He speaks truth and love in His words of comfort through Paul saying, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer” (2 Corinthians 1:2-6). These words are about a God who comforts us in the trial, trouble and valley pain.

Don’t hold the water in, let it out through prayer, other godly people or journaling. It is true that exercise can be helpful, but your mind may play tricks on your way. God’s living word is sharper than a two-edged sword, cutting us to our marrow. The pain will be gain, because God’s word does not return void. For like the rain it falls and refreshes, cleaning the wounds for healing. Oh yes, go to the ocean shore and hear the rush and feel the spray. Listen as Elijah to the whispers and even roars from God. He is still speaking.




Friday, September 17, 2021

Flock


Flock

Do you flock together? Is it for safety, or to be part of the in crowd? Do you migrate with your flock? Do you stay with the flock because you are of one body, the church?
“Then Jesus told them, ‘“This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’” (Matthew 26:31). Have you scattered or are you equivocating about Jesus, the Word under the increasingly harsh criticism of the world?

Jesus predicted that His disciples would fall away from Him when He was struck down on the cross. It is true, just as the Israelites had been scattered in the Diaspora by cruel leaders exploiting and enslaving them. Some say this scattering is good as the word of God is spread out. It is a little like the 3000+ denominations we have established. Some say it is good because at least the word gets out. I believe that for the most part new denominations were formed by men who wanted control over the flock or wanted their own flock. It in my opinion they were caused often by the selfishness and arrogance of man working to persuade and control, sometimes for good purposes, sometimes not. Political decision-making is common in national church meetings that attract fringe voters. But Paul said of the church, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:4-5). Jesus wanted one body, the church universal as the Apostle’s Creed speaks. He meant for us to be believers together in thought, word and deed, meeting in separate places around the world. We are to uphold biblical truths uncompromisingly. Now we meet in separate places excluding those who do not think like us or compromising to be inclusive. What a sad separation from Jesus’ plan. Who do we think we are? Where did we get this extra-biblical call to change the perfect plan of God?

On the night of His arrest and false imprisonment the religious ones who wanted control and were threatened by the way, the truth and the light, made assurances that He would be killed. Yet on the third day He rose from the grave to new life and ascended to His throne in heaven. Here He rules and reigns and He will return soon.

I am part of the flock which hears and by His Spirit tries to heed the voice of Jesus. He will separate the sheep and goats, the believers from the herd. There are false teachers who try to sneak into the sheep pen to deceive and lead astray. Our nation is full of them today. In fact, Christian teachers are shunned and being pushed out wherever possible. It seems our country has moved from the Post-Christian era to the Anti-Christian one in only a couple of decades.

Historians speak of the fall of societies saying that they last a maximum of 250 years. We have outlived our lifespan unless there is a Christian renewal and restoration. But this requires repentance, a turning around and revival.  It can happen, but it is unlikely with the animus and anger that pridefully exists in our country. The greatest division since the Civil War is here, even with bloodshed beginning and being paid for by radical fringe elements. Revival starts with each of us. Search your heart and know who is God. We must live uncompromised lives through the gospel, in the fruit of the Spirit. This is a giving and serving life, modeling Christ.

Sheep are not stupid; they follow a shepherd. And the Christian Shepherd is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus. He has risen and is returning soon to rule and reign and bring wrath upon non-believers. There is still time for all of us to change. God is returning soon to take His sheep with Him to heaven, the Rapture spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 4:18.


So, the rant has been written. Yes, I am upset that our country has seemingly thrown out our founding principles, based on the Bible and Judeo-Christian theology, based on the constitution.  The constitution is not a culturally changing manifesto to open thinkers. It is established on the Rock on purpose. Tolerance of a harsh and intemperate thinking that excludes Christianity cannot be tolerated. We are not to be legalistic, but caring and standing on principles of compassion in God’s power.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Whiter Than Snow


Whiter Than Snow

Whiter than snow is a metaphor for God’s light. In the beginning out of the darkness God said, “Let there be light and there was light.”’ God saw that the light was good and He separated it from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness He called “night”’ (Genesis 1:4-6). Throughout Scripture God uses this descriptive language to divide 24-hour days, and also to divide good from evil. He saw that His creation was good in the beginning, but things changed. After the original sin, darkness came into the world. Satan is epitomized as dark and evil, God is light and good. Sin is dark and righteousness is light. It’s a pretty simple concept. Yet it takes God to change this for, “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). The incarnation of Jesus into the world was prophesied 700 years before by Isaiah saying, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).

God had to send His Son Jesus into the world to change things. Jesus said,I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”’ (John 8:12).  This is the gospel of light, life and truth. We all need to be changed for there is sin in the world and in each one of us, no matter how good you try to be. ‘“Come now, let us settle the matter,”’ says the Lord. ‘“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool”’ (Isaiah 1:18). How does this happen? By believing in the One that God sent to redeem us from our sins because we cannot bridge the gap by ourselves. You see sin is death and there is no one good, not one. God is the only good One. We need to come to a place where we see the light. Even Thomas, one of his original disciples did not believe it until he put his hands in Jesus’ wounds when he said, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Shortly before this Jesus had said to His disciples, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

Believing in Jesus as Lord changes and transforms us from darkness into light. Our sins are forgiven if we confess them as David did writing of his conversion in Psalm 51 saying, “Surely I was sinful from birth…Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:5,7). This personification is a clear contrast that we can understand. Notice the photo above taken by my cousin Douglas F. Frank, a landscape photographer. The dark and light from tree to snow is a clear divide.  The dark tree for me is the tree of Calvary on which Jesus was crucified. The rocks are Golgotha’s stark landscape. The snow is the light of His resurrection morning, the angels and the empty tomb. In this resurrection light we are changed from dark to light in His redeeming light. He paid the debts we owed and redeemed us through His death.  We become the light of the world as well Jesus said. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).


This is why the light came into the world, that we might reflect Him to those who do not know.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Desert Life


Desert Life
Have you tried to hike in the desert sand dunes? They give way, causing considerable effort in make any forward progress. Our footprints in the sand disappear with the changing winds as if we were not there at all. There is nothing to block the scorching sun. The ripples created by the blowing sand are like the sea.
No wonder the hot sun can play tricks with someone traveling through the desert seeing mirages. Moreover, the suns rays on constant shifting sands also can create images that conger up shapes like a serpent or a moray eel swimming over the dunes. Or they can appear as an oasis of refreshment. Don’t be deceived, but have the attitude of Christ Jesus to see the best in all appearances, even when there is darkness and not light.

Does your mind play tricks on you? Do you imagine seeing things that are not there? Do you imagine good or evil in another person’s perspective? What are the motivations of another’s heart?

I struggle when I do not know a person. I want to know them, as they are created in God’s image and likeness. I especially wonder when someone I see daily at work does not talk or express opinions or reveal their own philosophy or theology about any circumstance we encounter in our ministry as chaplains. I have trouble trusting someone like this. Yet, if I don’t know them I cannot judge them. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). This Scripture is frequently quoted when speaking of giving financially, but it has a broader spiritual meaning applying to all things of the heart. Scripture says that we should offer each other from our hearts cheerfully.

In relationships each ought to think the best of another for it is for God to judge the motivation of the heart. Psalm 44 says that, “He knows the secrets of the heart.”  You cannot hide from God; there are not secrets. The Apostle Paul tells the Romans, “As much as it depends upon you, if it is at all possible, be at peace with all people” (Romans 12:18). This is not always easy and God gives us an out so to speak by saying that with some relationships peace is just not possible. He alone can know what a person is thinking or whom they are serving. We are to Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people” (Ephesians 6:7). We are to move and work without fear for, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love(1 John 4:18).

As a hospital chaplain I serve many people who fear their illness or upcoming treatment. I believe these emotions are normal, but can be unhealthy and create barriers to healing. We are to be encouragers and comforters for patients in crisis or fear. Our conversations can lead to helpful discussions of spiritual things that bring hope or peace toward healing of body, mind and spirit. Perhaps the most frequent subjects are pain, fear, doubt, and hope. Sharing these encounters with fellow chaplains on an intimate basis is part of our enhancing the quality of care as well as our mutual and individual skill building in serving our patients and their families. Deserts in relationships can create an environment where learning is stifled and coordination of care is risked.

The atmosphere in our work and hearts should be that of Christ Jesus who gifted us with His hidden “treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2). These riches should work themselves out in all relations, “putting on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another as Christ forgave you” (Colossians 3:12-13 NKJV). 

God is “doing a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19 NKJV). May our desert times be full of springs and not serpent-like or selfish design.