Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lost

I have come to seek and to save that which is lost. ~ Jesus, Gospel of Luke

Jesus' main mission was to rescue and redeem everything that was lost in the crisis of the Garden of Eden. At Eden all became lost. Creation's first couple lost their innocence and the immediate presence of their Creator. A catastrophe of that magnitude may distract us from realizing that much more than innocence and relationship was lost. ALL was lost. Every created thing spiraled into a tailspin of devolution. Literally, in a blink, everything turned on itself - and all within its reach. Nothing was forever safe.

Jesus' announcement that he came to seek out and save lost things is one of the grandest statements in the Scripture. Revealing that His plans for us are good and not evil. His Plan is to turn failure into success, and He will stay on task until that which He began is finished.

God alone is able to save and restore ALL that is lost, and He must. Our soul is vast enough for a dwelling place for God himself, and that's far more territory than we can cover. Unfortunately - to use metaphor - we go into our interior like a rescue team with no map or compass believing we can recover what is lost. Relying on instincts, survival techniques, and training with no spiritual foundation we get even more dizzy in our attempt to find ourself. Navigating the labyrinth of God's dwelling results in scrambling up slippery slopes, wading through muck and mire, and the thorns and brambles of a futile search that leave long, red, painful wounds on our already bruised soul.

We keep trying to find our way independent of God, because even though lost - not all the journey is intolerable. We humans are a determined lot, and we find ways to temporarily free ourselves from the tangled vines of our emotional jungle. From time to time the hungry insects, and the vicious briers of our wanderings give way to forests of towering pine trees, and momentarily the oppressive sense of being lost finds respite. Briefly, the trail feels like a comfortable walk on a soft carpet of fallen quills. Optimism returns. A renewed strength to enjoy the adventure inspires us to keep searching.

But that haunting remains. So much is lost and still un-recovered . . .

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The River

This time my muse was River, by Garth Brooks. Melancholy was piqued and that compelled me to write. Journaling is one of the ways God leads me back to joy and a sense of well-being. I was returning from my second trip to the neurologist, and wanted to pull to the shoulder of Interstate 77 and pen my thoughts about dreams.

Listening to Garth's lyrics raised the question, "Do dreamers carry the dream - or - Do dreams carry the dreamer." Trying to speak for everyone is almost always a mistake, but I don't know how anyone can live without a dream to carry them, or without carrying a dream - be they whimsical, futuristic, or even broken and thwarted.

Brook's metaphors are insightful and they resonate . . .

Summers mean that I get to spend a few days living on a river in Maine. Many times its churning currents have carried me and my dreams from northern points downstream to the south. Sometimes the vessel that carried me was a black wetsuit. Fins, a snorkel, and mask allowed me to navigate, breathe, and see the boulder strewn underside of the river. Bouncing off underwater obstacles, or getting swirled onto the gravely shore was a real possibility.

Most times a kayak kept me gliding across the river's surface. Either way - and regardless the vessel - to explore the Penobscot's hidden beauty you have to struggle against its collaboration with gravity. Propulsion through its tea-colored water with webbed feet, or digging paddles into its liquid skin are my only options to discover its secrets unless I have no higher goal than to drift, releasing my will to the river's single purpose - to make its way as quickly as it can to the Atlantic Ocean.

Striking sceneries, romantic imaginations, and mystical sensations are for those who break away from the main flow, but nature's sentries - fallen logs, sand bars, and branches that claw at all who enter - guard the entrance to meandering cuts and coves shy to reveal their beauty.

Never once have I met someone exploring those hard to get to places . . .

You know a dream is like a river
Ever changin' as it flows

And a dreamer's just a vessel

That must follow where it goes

Trying to learn from what's behind you

And never knowing what's in store

Makes each day a constant battle

Just to stay between the shores...

And
I will sail my vessel 'Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky

I'll never reach my destination

If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry

Too many times we stand aside

And let the waters slip away

'Til what we put off 'til tomorrow

Has now become today

So don't you sit upon the shoreline

And say you're satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids

And dare to dance the tide...

(Chorus)

There's bound to be rough waters
And I know I'll take some falls
But with the good Lord as my captain

I can make it through them all...

Yes
I will sail my vessel 'Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky

I'll never reach my destination

If I never try

So I will sail my vessel 'Til the river runs dry

(The River, by Garth Brooks)


I choose to be a dreamer . . . To learn from what's behind me . . . Not to fear what's in store. Not one who lets the waters slip by . . . I choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance the tides. Not pretend I am satisfied . . . I can make it through it all. I will not let my river run dry. I will carry dreams . . . dreams will carry me. I know the Dream Giver . . .

Sunday, February 7, 2010

He Didn't Wait

Saturday night we listened to our youngest son, Josh, play and sing. A week ago he was asked to open for a band that would play at The Loft in Columbus, GA. As only Josh could do, he put together a band and rocked the joint. Song after song, he was applauded with gusto. To our surprise there were probably twenty or more of our friends who came out to see the show, and about seventy-five friends of Josh's that squeezed into the venue where people stood shoulder to shoulder. Several hundred music lovers came and went throughout the evening.

All of our kids are ridiculously talented, but Josh is our Renaissance Man. He has a wide range of interests and talents, and everything he puts his hand and mind to he does it at a high level of competency. He is an impressive young man. Josh has played and sang at the Loft before. We have heard him practice, but we had never heard him perform.

For his finale, Josh introduced a song by saying, "I want to dedicate this song, Requiem of a Good Man, to my father. As one of the lines says, 'He was a good man, but he is gone.' Well my father is still alive and he is here tonight. He is the man back there with really white hair." He pointed me out and introduced Sandy. Josh belted out the song, and the applauds kept coming.

Requiem of a Good Man

Well he stomped with his feet
And he clapped with his hands
He summoned all of his joy when he laughed
It suffered all of his joy when he cried

And sometimes when he got into talking
Man he could rattle on and on
He was a good man and now he's gone

Well in war he was a tiger
When it was over like a dove
He summoned all of his strength in the climb
It suffered all of his strength in the fall

And sometimes when he got into fighting
Man he could fight with you all day long
He was a good man and now he's gone

He put his trust in a higher power
He held his power like a holy grail
He summoned all of his faith in the lifting
It suffered all of his faith to fail

His heart was stronger than a heavy metal bullet
And that's why I dedicate this song
He was a good man and now he's gone

His heart was stronger than a heavy metal bullet
And that's why I dedicate this song
He was a good man and now he's gone

There was a time when I thought I had lost Josh. Alienated for many years, we walked around the elephant in the middle of the room. Like so many young men, his greatest and most grievous wounds had come from his father. In spite of the fact that I pursued the purposes of the God of the Scriptures, as the leader of our household I didn't always get it right. My spirit was willing, but my flesh was weak. My intentions were good, but at critical times my methods were grossly flawed. Mistakenly, I put my standing before the churches I led ahead of my standing before my family. Always, always, always a colossal blunder.

Around the year 2005, during a ten day fast, I believed that God gave me encouragement that our relationship would be restored, and we would Enjoy the Adventure together. Of all places, encouragement came from the very last words of the Old Testament; a passage unlikely to be seen scrawled on a placard as an evangelistic appeal during a nationally televised sporting event, or on Tim Tebow's eye black. Obscure and ancient, the promise comes from God through the prophet Malachi. Surrounded by two hard shelled warnings lies a pearl of hope I believed was the promise of a future restoration.

I will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers. Malachi 4:6

It happened - a God thing. Bleeding has stopped. Wounds are closing. Debris we once stumbled over and barriers we could not see over are gone. Never have Josh's heart and my heart been so closely linked. Now we enjoy a relationship that far exceeds all I asked and prayed for.

Listening to the lyrics and the beautiful voice of my son, I thought of how blessed I am that Josh honored and blessed me in such an unlikely setting. He could have waited to eulogize me.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dream - Believe - Inspire

Be joyful and give thanks. ~ The Apostle Paul

For the time being I only have the use of my right hand and arm (I have an appointment with a neurologist tomorrow), but I prevailed and assembled the dining table and four chairs we purchased at IKEA. The table is tall, has a black finish, and is made of rubber wood. Bar stools with bench-like seats take the place of standard height chairs. Cool!

To say we have down-sized our domicile is an understatement of the first order. Our home in Georgia is situated on a large lot surrounded by mature pines and flowering shrubs. Within its brown brick walls there is over 3,000 square feet of living space, an attached two car garage, hardwood floors, ceramic tile, vaulted ceilings, two fire places, chandeliers, four bedrooms, 3 full baths, large patio, and landscaped yard. Our floor plan was designed for entertainment, and new faces and feet crossed the threshold of our front door during our entire stay there.

Our new digs - an apartment with not quite 1,200 square feet - is on the first floor and overlooks a pond. Two bedrooms, two full baths, a living room with unobstructed views of an oblong pond, and a small dining area is now our home. We love it. It feels really good, and we are having an absolute blast giving the interior an eclectic look. Our bikes are part of the decor - they are hanging on our wall!

The build-out of our first Planet Fitness is underway. In many ways life has come full circle. As a very young man, 23 years of age, I began church planting. That meant starting from scratch. No buildings. No staff. Scant resources. Only a dream and a rock solid belief that something yet unseen would come to fruition. That inspired us and inspired others and led to many a great adventure. During those days I was a key leader in eight different church construction projects. Three times I acted as the general contractor. Looking back, I can see that in those years of my spiritual formation the stage was set for a non-typical, but exciting journey.

Now I am in the secular workplace, and once again on the ground level. Still dreaming. Still believing, and still inspired by visions of a better future. Soon I will be the point man as we begin retrofitting an unfinished building for our first Planet Fitness Club. No staff, but we do have the blessing of a steady income! In the days ahead I will be interacting with thousands of people on a weekly basis; by observation and conversation I will learn the stories of many of those yet nameless and faceless persons. My life, as it is so defined, will impact theirs. Their life, as so defined, will speak into mine. It's all good!

I believe, as the Old Testament sages did, that everyone's life plays an important part in a grand drama. There's is one of purpose. Antagonists and protagonists, and seemingly disconnected fragments, mystically synthesize to reveal their destiny. Madness and gladness, confusion and clarity, blessings and brokenness are ours. Divine and the dark characters take center stage. Some are but subplots. In the end we learn that there was a purpose for every event under the sun. All the chaos and beauty that takes place between our two most epic events - our birth and our death - tell others of our tale and adventure.

On the wall of our tiny dining area are three weathered signs. Dream. Believe. Inspire. Dream, believe, and inspire. There is always more. Now. Beyond the veil.