A True Hope

From Isaiah 50-60

For you are aware of our many rebellious deeds,
and our sins testify against us;
indeed, we are aware of our rebellious deeds;
we know our sins all too well.

The Lord watches and is displeased,
for there is no justice.
The Lord Intervenes
He sees there is no advocate;

he is shocked that no one intervenes.

Foreigners will rebuild your walls;
their kings will serve you.
Even though I struck you down in my anger,
I will restore my favor and have compassion on you
.

The spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has chosen me.
He has commissioned me to encourage the poor,
to help the brokenhearted,
to decree the release of captives,
and the freeing of prisoners,

You will be called by a new name
that the Lord himself will give you.
You will be a majestic crown in the hand of the Lord,
a royal turban in the hand of your God.
You will no longer be called, “Abandoned,”
and your land will no longer be called “Desolate.”
Indeed, you will be called “My Delight is in Her,”
and your land “Married.”

The face of a suffering child

“To look into the face of a suffering child is to see the depth of humanity and the heart of God.”

This is a timely quote as I read through the book Fields of the Fatherless. The world is full of children, families, and men and women with no hope… without even a hope for hope.

I heard the words above in a video I saw today. It’s graphically realistic.

My Jericho

This weekend I head off to Indiana Outpost Boot Camp. This will be my second trip to this men’s retreat; I think the last time I went was two years ago. I was in the middle of discovering a lot of new things about myself as a man, husband, and child of God. I filled a journal with thoughts, words cried out to God, and words I heard back from Him (a very new experience for me – listening doesn’t come easy). My eyes were opened to passions on my heart I didn’t know existed, and that I couldn’t even talk about the first time they really hit me. Since that time, life has been different. I won’t say I’ve chosen the “red pill” (or was it blue?) every day, but my eyes have been opened. I know there’s more out there than I can see. I know I have a purpose, a battle to be part of, and brothers to grow with. I know that my relationship with my wife is more than just a partnership, more than just 2 people living in the same house who are occasionally in love, and more than a hopeful mess of emotions, hurt feelings, and highs and lows.

As I drove towards the retreat last time, I was considering this concept of “advance words” going into the weekend. Looking for a theme that God might have for me, something he wanted be on the back of my heart the whole time. I found it as I was about to leave Morgan County. As I drove into the little town of Morgantown, I saw this sign… “Welcome to Morgantown, home of the Braves.” That was it. BRAVE. I was venturing into something brand new. I was nervous, frightened, and totally in the dark as to what I was going into. I had very little expectations, and I liked that. But my nature is to maintain control and keep myself containable, if not fully contained. I had to let that go. I had to be BRAVE. And so it went. I pulled in, met the guys of my little platoon, and immersed myself in the experience. It was a blast.

This year as I go into this, God’s been opening my eyes to some walls I’ve built up in my life (or that have been built up around me with the help of others). Things like that “maintaining control” thing, having a managable sphere of influence (also known as my little bubble), and more or less, maintaining a comfort level with my life. I live in the country, but still maintain most of my life in the town I grew up in. I know a few people out here, but have very little opportunity to reach out to them or even know how to because my life is still so “under control.” The same things pop up in my life related to food, related to exercise, related to work. I like that comfortable medium between healthy and “easy.” That comfort level between “able to endure” and truly strong. Emotionally. Spiritually. Physically. It’s all over the map, and as I go into this weekend, I think that wall is the one to keep on my heart.

I want to see it fall. I want to see the city inside become vulnerable. I want to see God’s life flood into the places I’ve held back.

And so… Jericho. Jericho was not defeated through strength or might, intelligence or cunning. It was defeated by obedience, faith, and the power of God. Obedience to some rather simple things, actually… but also rather mundane, to be honest. Walk around the wall every day for a week? Yeah, right. I’d rather bust down the gate or die trying… or maybe just find a way around the city.

So where must I obey? Where must I step up, do what I know I’m to do, and trust God to do the rest? Well, for starters, I’ve got to show up. I was really hoping to go with at least one close friend I’ve developed in the past year, but that wound up not working out. For completely legit reasons, it just can’t hapen. And so I begin to doubt. “Maybe I should wait until next spring when we can go?” “Maybe I should have tried harder to bring someone with me?” “Maybe I should just take the weekend and go camping for a night by myself.”… “NO,” I hear. “GO.” And so I will – and this time, I won’t drive past the entrance and have to come back out of fear. 🙂

What else… find comfort. That’s a big one. It’s time to find the balance between being comfortable with where I am and where I feel God is leading us in the future, but also being comfortable with not knowing where those things are… to just be comfortable being me. Living in my own skin.

Another… build strength. I’ve never been much for commitment when it comes to strength, or even losing excess baggage. I can do it on a plan, but I’ve never found the reason for me that is going to take me from where I am to where I need to be. Not a plan. Not a diet. Not even a fear of something I might have to face if I didn’t change. I want a reason to eat right, exercise right, and, in general I guess, just live for something. A way to fit the day to day parts of life into that bigger picture. To be in the Matrix but not part of the Matrix. To be in the world, but not of it.

So that’s my Jericho. That’s the wall I choose to march around, around, and around this week, expecting God to show up.

I can’t wait for the command to SHOUT.

Afterthought… I went for a run between the cornfields tonight and found a creek with a big tree that had fallen across it. I decided to cross it. Then I decided to try a different way. Then I thought about giving up. Then I made up my mind that I was going to do it, in my strength and skill or not. So I walked, shimmied, and crawled across… and as I now think about Jericho, I wonder if that was my Jordan River crossing, and this blog post is my pile of rocks to look back on and See What God Does.

A dog tale

Yesterday we loaded up the kiddo and were headed to Plainfield to drop Colton off at Grandma’s so that Erin and I could go to the Kenny Chesney concert downtown, which we didn’t expect to get out of until 11 or 12PM, so Colton was going to have his first “overnighter” at Grandma’s house. Not 1/2 mile down the road, however, the day goes very sour. A small dog, what breed I’m not sure, darts out of a ditch right in front of our car. Erin yells, but it’s already too late. Thump… maybe even Thump Thump, I’m not sure. But it was a definate hit. Oh no. Oh no.

So we turn around and go back to check on him. He’s gone. There’s a pool of blood around his back end, eyes are open, no movement… Oh no. At least he didn’t suffer. So I move him off to the side of the road, and then we decide to go to the nearest house and see if it’s their dog. They’re not home. So we go to the next house, which was on the same driveway, and it’s actually the mother of the owner. She completely understanding… sad, but understanding. I ask her if she’d like me to leave it there or move it, and she says let’s put it in the barn so the owner family doesn’t have to find it laying on the side of the road. So she goes and gets the golf cart, and I go and get the dog. She takes him back to the barn, and we head off back into our world. I don’t think Colton even had a clue what happened, and that was good. Living on a state road ourselves, you know you need to be prepared for these occurances, but you really just can’t.

So we go on to see Kenny, another guy, Miranda, Sugarland, and Montgomery Gentry. Good concert – definately the longest I’ve ever been to, though! Started at 4 and got out at 11, and home around 1, thanks to traffic. I head out to take care of the horses for the night, and when I come in, Erin says, “Chet, you need to listen to the answering machine.”

“Why, what’s wrong?”

“Just listen.”

Ok… I can take it. It’s the guy who’s dog we hit. My heart sinks as the memory comes back:

“Yeah my name is Jeff B___, had the little accident with the dog today, I was just calling to thank you for helping out; a lot of people wouldn’t have done that. If you want to give me a call, he is uh, he’s still alive. We took him to the animal hospital. He’s got a pretty good chance of surviving; no broken bones or anything. My mom said you were kind of concerned, and I appreicate you helping out, and looks like he’s going to be ok, if he makes it through the next day or two. Thanks again for helping out.”

Wow. Still alive? No broken bones? Wow. Was I thinking of just leaving on the side of the road a few hours ago? How glad I am that we didn’t (Thanks Erin). The dog is alive. The dog doesn’t even have a stinkin’ broken bone!

So I called the people back today and spoke to the wife. She’s all thankful and everything and fills me in a little more on the dog. He must have gone into shocked or been knocked out, because according to the animal hospital, all he had was a bloody nose and a laceration on his hind end. No broken bones. No internal injuries. If you’d have seen the blood you’d have thought that alone would have killed him. But no. And then she tells me how they found out he was still alive.

The woman comes home after work, around noon (maybe 1/2 to 1 hour after the accident). She goes to the barn to see the dog, which the man’s mother left on the golf cart in the barn. She walks in, and there’s Franky, sitting on the cart, looking at her. What kind of reaction would that cuase? Laughter? Freaked out? A little of both? Wow. I just don’t know. I’m just so glad we stepped in and did what was right. It was a little awkward. A little painful. Even if it doesn’t “work out” this way next time, it’s one of those reminders. Doing the right thing is not based on circumstances. It’s not based on whether or not someone saw what happened, or if you can even do anything about it.

Anyways, that’s my story… another rock thrown on the pile.

Playing with Fonts

I’m developing some online signs for a client of mine, and playing around with fonts. Kinda cool, though I’d blog it here. If you’d like your own sign, visit www.enoveltysigns.com!

 

Andalus
Angsana New
AngsanaUPC
Arabic Typesetting
Arial
Arial Black
Batang
BatangChe
Browallia New
BrowalliaUPC
Bulldozer
Calibri
Cambria
Cambria Math
Candara
Cheboygan
Comic Sans MS
Consolas
Constantia
Corbel
Cordia New
CordiaUPC
Courier New
DaunPenh
David
DFKai-SB
DilleniaUPC
DokChampa
Dotum
DotumChe
Estrangelo Edessa
EucrosiaUPC
Euphemia
FangSong
Franklin Gothic Medium
FrankRuehl
FreesiaUPC
Gautami
Georgia
Gisha
Gulim
GulimChe
Gungsuh
GungsuhChe
Impact
IrisUPC
Iskoola Pota
JasmineUPC
Jellyka – Estrya’s Handwriting
KaiTi
Kalinga
Kartika
KodchiangUPC
Latha
Leelawadee
Levenim MT
LilyUPC
Lucida Console
Lucida Sans Unicode
Malgun Gothic
Mangal
Marlett
Meiryo
Microsoft Himalaya
Microsoft JhengHei
Microsoft Sans Serif
Microsoft Uighur
Microsoft YaHei
Microsoft Yi Baiti
MingLiU
MingLiU-ExtB
MingLiU_HKSCS
MingLiU_HKSCS-ExtB
Miriam
Miriam Fixed
Mongolian Baiti
MoolBoran
MS Gothic
MS Mincho
MS PGothic
MS PMincho
MS UI Gothic
MT Extra
MV Boli
Narkisim
NSimSun
Nyala
Palatino Linotype
Plantagenet Cherokee
PMingLiU
PMingLiU-ExtB
Raavi
Rod
Segoe Print
Segoe Script
Segoe UI
Shruti
SimHei
Simplified Arabic
Simplified Arabic Fixed
SimSun
SimSun-ExtB
Sylfaen
Symbol
Tahoma
Times New Ro
man
Traditional Arabic
Trebuchet MS
Tunga
Verdana
Vrinda
Webdings
Wingdings

There is ALWAYS Hope

I’m reading through the book of Isaiah right now with the Daily Audio Bible. One of the longest books of the Bible, and often, it seems, one of the driest. So much cursing. So much prophesy. But what I’m hearing today… there is always hope. Not a hope that everything will get better. Not a hope that one day our circumstances will get better. Not even a hope that the people around us will change. A hope, a promise, that God Will Intervene. That He Will Step In. In the midst of the deepest darkness, where there is no way out, even by scratching, crawling, or sacrificing our very lives to escape, He will show up for His children.

Like this passage in Isaiah 27, in the midst of curses, curses, curses, and sin, sin, sin:

For the fortified city will be deserted,
pastures abandoned and forsaken like a wilderness.
Calves will graze there,
and there they will spread out and strip its branches.

When its branches dry out, they will be broken off.
Women will come and make fires with them,
for they are not a people with understanding.
Therefore their Maker will not have compassion on them,
and their Creator will not be gracious to them.

On that day
the LORD will thresh grain from the Euphrates River
as far as the Wadi of Egypt,
and you Israelites will be gathered one by one.

On that day
a great trumpet will be blown,
and those lost in the land of Assyria will come,
as well as those dispersed in the land of Egypt;
and they will worship the LORD
at Jerusalem on the holy mountain.

On That Day. When things are at their worst. When cities are deserted, when the pastures have become wilderness, at the very time the people are not being treated with compassion or grace by their Maker… On That Day, The Lord will step in. He will gather his people together, one, by, one. He picks me up from the mud. He drags you out of the pit. He holds the hand of that man/woman over there and walks her home.

This passage went well with what I read in Galatians today as well:

Is the law therefore contrary to God’s promises? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly be by the law.

and

[The Law] was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come.

Were it not for the Law, for God setting some standards that no man could ever achieve, we would be without hope. Because we’d know God’s standard, but could never live up to it. But God, in his infinite plan, already had a plan to give us the life He knows we need, long for, and desire. The law was added… until the Seed… would come. Jesus.

Father, I thank you so much for your infinite plan. For your foreknowledge, compassion, and even judgement. For without those things we would truly be without hope. We’d be lost in our own resourcefulness, in our own failures, and in our own guilt. I‘d be lost. I’d have nowhere to turn. These feelings of uselessness, inadequacy, bitterness, and failure would rule me. But they do not have to. The only rule they have is what I give them. You have paid the price for me to be pure. While the New Testamant and the New Covenant and the new Way actually raise the standard of purity (Ephesians 5, for example), the point is finally brought home that we can’t do anything about it on our own. We need a mediator. We need someone to stand in the gap for us, to stand before us, to take our charges upon Him, and to say, “I’ve got this.” I’ve bought you. I’ve ransomed you.

And then, and this is the sweetest part, Jesus steps aside, after standing in our place of judgement. The father looks down on me. I see the warm smile curving on his lips. He looks at me as his eyes gleam. “I know you,” He says. “I love you.  You are my child. Welcome home.”

Father, let me live like that. Let me live in the reality that I am bought with a price, that my sins do not hold me captive, and that I am free to become the man you’ve made me to be. Mature my faith and cause growth in my life, in my family, in my church, in my circle of influence… wherever I go, may I carry the banner of the Kingdom proudly. Not hiding behind it as a shield, but raising it high as a standard. As a sign to those around me – in front of, behind, or beside – that we are on the move. That we are fighting together, a worthy battle, and every soul we “capture” is welcomed home, just as we were.

Thank you, Jesus…

I heard a song last night at a church service that hit home with me. In the midst of doubts about myself and uncertainties, even compounded by knowing several of my friends are facing similar and even more perilous fights, even in the midst of that, where it’s easy to lose hope. I heard these words. And they reminded me…. There is ALWAYS hope.

I stand accused, there’s a list a mile long
Of all my sins, of everything that I’ve done wrong
I’m so ashamed, there’s nowhere left for me to hidethis is the day,
I must answer for my life
My fate is in the Judges hands,
But then he turns to me and say’s

I know you, I love you
I gave my life, to save you
Love paid the price for mercy
My verdict, Not guilty

The Glare of Christ

I was walking out to my barn last night with a small lighter, as I was going to burn some trash. Now that it’s getting dark earlier, it was dark out already (or maybe it was dark because it was already 11:00 PM?), and I decided to see how much “light” I could get from that little lighter. So I flicked it on, and what do I see? NOTHING. In fact, the dim object I COULD make out before are suddently pitch black, as the glare of that little lighter overpowers any other source of light that my eyes are trying to pick up. All I can see is the fire. I can’t even see my hand holding it.

Then I tried something. I put my hand in between my eyes and the lighter to shield them from the intense glare of the flame. And in an instant, the ground lit up. For probably 20 feet all around me, I could see the ground, make out objects again, and easily make my way where I needed to go, and even find something dropped on the ground. But if I didn’t have that hand in the way of my eyes, the flame simply overpowered the light I actually “needed,” even though that flame was the single source OF that light.

So what’s to learn here, if anything? I’m thinking about the gospel, about Jesus, and about the Light we so often attribute to him. I did a quick lookup of the uses of the word in the New Testament, and here’s some of what I found (I found it here):

  • Matthew 4:16: The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
  • Matthew 5:14: Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
  • Matthew 5:15: Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
  • Matthew 5:16: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
  • Luke 8:16: No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light.
  • Luke 15:8: Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
  • John 1:8: He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
  • John 8:12: Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
  • John 9:5: As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
  • John 12:46: I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
  • Acts 22:6: And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:5: Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
  • 1 John 1:5: This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

So Jesus is The Light, we are lesser lights, and we have light to share. Some of those who experienced Jesus directly were physically blinded by His light. We, on the other hand, are instructed to set our light out there for others to see, and to be led by. Perhaps the lesson, then, is that while Jesus truly is that light that finally illuminates a life and brings one out of darkness, it often takes some lesser lights such as ourselves, and our reflection of Christ, to show the way. Otherwise those who need Christ might be overwhelmed by his direct presence, by the sheer magnitude of God’s Word and all that He’s done for us, and even the scope of His plan, and how it goes far beyond our understanding.

And perhaps there’s something to be said about kind of “shielding” our own eyes as we walk through this life. If we’re constantly staring at Jesus, will our eyes pick up the little objects along our path? Or, now that we have a relationship with Him and have had our lives set back in order and been given direction, do we find a way to “use” that light for what it’s intended (illumination) instead of just how fantastic it is to stare at?

Something to think about, and to let roll around in my heart.