Love This Mess, Again

qtq80-rndbgQ

I love sharing the art of the people at Ridge Church! Yesterday after one of our services, Alex Bruse approached me and said, “I wrote a poem out of your message today.”  So without delay, here’s the work Alex submitted from yesterday’s message.

I hid that treasure beyond your reach,
Or so I thought.
Deep within my chest I hid it with long lies
That walk circles around your ears
And chase your thoughts from the question
“What have you done?”
Or so I thought.
I hid it for my lusting eyes.
I hid it for my salivating, greedy palms,
For my destructive passion,
For my angry dissatisfaction,
Rotting sanity,
And sinking identity.
And as my legs submerge lower under my own fears,
As my knees buckle under the weight of this pride,
I cling tighter to what I hid.
Because letting go would be admitting something,
But I don’t know what that is yet.
Easier?
Yes, it would be easier to let you in behind these bars,
I would breathe you in
And light would soak into the wounds.
The darkness would be confused
And would flee from my lungs.
It would cry out of my ears,
Leap from my shoulders,
And fall from eyelashes.
My knees would be relieved from their shaking,
My mouth from this thirst,
And my mind,
Behind my eyes,
My heart from behind my chest,
Would leak out from the binding, drowning, suffocating
Lies I tied around them
And I would find rest.
But, I can’t get enough breath.
I can’t get enough strength
So I can’t get enough courage
To simply put the air behind vocal chords
To whisper out the words of what I’ve done.
So there you stare,
Refusing to leave.
Your shadow kissing your feet
As you stand in the insults I left piled around your ankles
That I rehearse into the crying mirrored image at night.
And here I stand,
Slowly dying,
My soul shaking in the skin of my starving desire for simply
No more fear.
I hid that treasure beyond your reach,
Or so I thought.
But you still found a way to love this mess,
Again.

Wonder

qtq80-WlvMW6

by wesley hicks

It was not very long ago that my family and I went to watch Disney on Ice.  We have two children under the age of 3 and our daughter, Mercy 2 ½ years old, is infatuated with Disney.  As we sat there in the coliseum I watched the faces of my children more than I watched the actual skaters.  Maybe you can relate to this point.  

What I saw struck an emotion, mental, and spiritual chord in my life and I simply have not been able to separate from dwelling on the experience.  As I watched Mercy’s face each time a new princess came out, or each time a song from Frozen began to play I noticed something peculiar.  I noticed the look of absolute wonder on her face.  Wonder that led to smiles, joy, and greater yet delight.  I noticed as she smiled and would dance in excitement of what was happening in front of her.  I noticed her bobbing her head and singing along with the symphony made of the voices of children as the songs were being performed.  I noticed Wonder in the eyes of a child.  

Wonder.

What struck me deepest was as I saw her in the depths of wonder, as her dad that held her as she smiled, that provided the means to enjoy this moment of Wonder, I could not help but be overwhelmed in joy.  It really resonated with me spiritually. Yes, I had a spiritual experience at Disney on Ice.  

I couldn’t help but think about the creation God has placed us in and placed before us.  I can’t help but think about the amazing creativity of God.  In and throughout the universe the stars and galaxies in sheer volume alone is mesmerizing.  Take the time to look at images on NASA and one is amazed in wonder and the beauty and detail in every single image (Psalms 19:1).  Think about the depths of the oceans, and the design of creatures that have yet to be seen or will never even be seen.  He made those special and we may not even ever see them.  Think about that.  It makes me just sit and Wonder in awe of Him.

What if, how seeing Mercy’s delight in what I was able to sit in front of her was a lesson?  What if God is glorified, and magnified when we recognize the amazing, awe-inspiring things He has set before us and it leads us to experience Awe and Wonder at the works of His hands?  What if we took the time to look in Wonder at these things set before us and just embraced the Maker in simple amazement?  I believe that would be glorifying to Him.  I believe not only does that please Him but it stirs within our hearts a deeper desire and passion for more of Him.  It elevates Him in our hearts, minds, and souls.  What if every moment of Wonder was a catalyst to worship?  I believe it can be, and should be.  I believe that I can sit on my porch and watch the sun rise and be captivated by His beauty in the detail of a single day’s sunrise.

What about you?  What makes you Wonder at His creativity?  What stirs within you amazement?  What brings worship and delight in your heart?  Do that.  Do it today.  Let your entire being be stirred to delight and glorify Him by the Wonder that He gave you in whatever it is.  Be a worshipper today.

Disney on Ice….I did not expect to leave there with a heart captivated in worship.  But when I saw the delight and wonder on their faces, I could not help but wonder and delight in the God that gave them to me.  He reminded me then of how amazing He is and He used Disney on Ice to energize my heart.  

Wow. Wonder.

Faith and Works

qtq80-7ytzxm

by wesley hicks

Do you remember the club for steering wheels?  It was a theft prevention tool that you would put on the steering wheel to prevent someone from jacking your ride while it was parked.  The was this young man that was driving around an old timer and each time they would stop the old timer made the young man put the club on the steering wheel.  The club was a bit tedious to put on but nonetheless the young man put on the club.  Every single stop, the club had to be put on.  To the store, the club, to the gas station, the club, to the park, the club, until one day they went to a friend’s home.  The young man parked and the old timer said, the club, but the young man said, we are parked directly in front of the living room window, and the yard is gated in.  Aren’t you a man of faith?  Yes, said the old timer.  Then can’t we just not put the club on?  The old timer said, the club. 

Moral to the story, having faith does not excuse us from taking action toward preventing what would be stolen from us. 

James 2:14, 17, 26 English Standard Version (ESV)

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?….. 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

This matters in our recovery.  Think about this, what is it that you are recovering from?  What is it that has robbed you?  Do you believe that Jesus wants more for you?  The answer is without question YES, however it doesn’t mean that we have no part in the action.

Drugs or alcohol robbed you for far too long?  Set up boundaries to prevent you from access to easy cash.  Change your PPTs.  Stop hanging at a dealer’s house.  Have people in your life that are triggers?  Drop them, you aren’t Jesus and they are not going to meet Him through your active addiction.

Sexual integrity issues robbing you of true intimacy in relationships and filling you with guilt and shame?  Put down the smartphone, get an accountability app.  Give your wife/husband your passwords and unlimited access to your phone.  Move the computer to a common room.  STOP Facebook stalking people of the opposite sex to satisfy yourself. 

Relational pains robbed you?  Make a list of requirements for future relationships.  Stop treating people the way you have been treated and start treating people according to God’s design.  You will not have healthier relationships until you begin to interact with people in a healthier way.  You can believe that Jesus is going to change your life and put healthier relationships in you path.  And he may even do that, but you will NOT experience the intimacy and joy it can bring if you keep acting like a turd.  Healthier people don’t play with turds, children turds play with turds.  You will either have relationships that are immature or toxic at best.

Our actions apart from heart transformation can help us temporarily, but when we partner our part with faith in Him then we will experience lasting change that will not only lead us in personal recovery but also in external impact.  We will not only begin to see the hope in our own lives but we will see our lives overflowing with impact in the lives with others.

Faith without works is dead, and works without faith is temporary.  Faith with works glorifies God, changes our lives, and transforms the people around us.  Faith and works.  No excuses.

Unequally Yoked

shutterstock_339405083

by tara gibson

The Bible tells us we shouldn’t be unequally yoked, the reference is in regards to partnering with non-believers.  Many pastors, teachers, counselors and mentors use this term in marriage. Have you heard this term? Do you comprehend this term? A yoke is farming equipment used to put two large animals together at the neck so that they can pull equally and do their “job” more sufficiently and equally.
So…you’re married.  Maybe you didn’t comprehend this statement when you decided to marry, maybe you or your spouse weren’t believers when you married.  Maybe you married because you thought it was the right thing to do at the time.  Either way you are proverbially tied at the neck with another human being.  Somedays the work seems even things are going fine and moving right along. Other days it may seem if you are dragging that sorry piece of deadweight behind you while you are lunging forward vowing to get the task ahead of you done all by your self! Or quite possibly you are being the dead weight and your spouse is snarling and stomping trying to get you to see that you’re not pulling your weight and how it leaves all the responsibility on them.
In these times of frustration how are you as a Christian supposed to handle these things?  This is where we have to turn to our pocket field guide (The Bible) and hit our knees seeking how God would have you handle these things.  A “WWJD” type of moment for the lack of better words.
Do you think Jesus would handle it by throwing out passive aggressive comments? Stomping your feet and pouting? Screaming at the top of your lungs about the sorry job as a parent, spouse or friend your partner has done? I’m gonna go with…PROBABLY NOT!
All though these are the natural defaults that our human nature embrace, this is not the way Jesus wants us to handle this, and after all is said and done isn’t HIM we are aiming to please?!
There are many many scriptures that back me up in this but there are a few things that have to happen before those words matter. First you have to believe those words.  You have to believe those words were written to you, for you, and about you, even when things seem unfair or that Gods’s promises aren’t coming in the time frame you would like.
Second you have to put them into action, which is easy when things are going smoothly, but what about when your spouse isn’t meeting an expectation that you have? Is it so easy to put the meek, mild, forgiving, mercy, holding of the tongue, and grace into action when you want to throat punch the other person? NOT AT ALL! But in order to reap the harvest of peace, and joy you have to sow those seeds even in the hard times. Sometimes this takes more than you have in you, that’s the moments you have to train yourself to lean in closer to God and tap into HIS strength.
Use the difficult parts of your marriage to grow you closer to God, learn HIS ways, reflect HIS character.
You disqualify yourself when you react to a situation rather than lifting it up to God in prayer. He will show you the  way to respond to rather than react to something that angers you.
Here are a few scriptures that may help with this training.  I would love to hear any that are “go to”
Scriptures for you when you feel a throw down coming on.  Remember these words are not going to make sense to your friends that are non-believers, they are going to tell you to “get what you deserve”and they will be glad to join you a verbal bashing of your spouse, don’t fall into that trap.
 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Rom8:25
 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Eccl 7:8
 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Prv 26:4
 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 2Tim 2:23
 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, Jas 1:19
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13‬:‭4-7‬ NIV)

Dead Calm

91jutauskamh2yjb1c4a_img_9284

by rusty sampson

I once watched a pirate movie (arghhhh!!!!!!) in which a pirate ship became involved in a battle with a much bigger and heavier gunned ship.  To make matters worse there was a hurricane force storm bearing down on them from the opposite direction.  The captain of the pirate ship was faced with certain death for him and his crew if he stood and fought, and near certain death if he fled into the storm, counting on the other ship to not follow.  Deciding that some chance, no matter how small, was better than no chance, he directed his crew to turn the ship and plunge into the storm. A day later, the captain and his crew emerged from the other side of the storm.  The enemy had fled the storm.  They were battered and bruised, but saved.

However, the story did not end there. As the celebration began to die down, the captain noticed something different in the air.  It was easy to miss at first. It was…..nothing. There was not even a hint of a breeze.  The wind, which the ship depended on for moving through the water, was calm.  Lulls in the wind were certainly not unusual on the ocean, but this seemed different. And different it was. The “nothing” lasted for days, then for weeks.  The wind was “dead calm.”

As the calm persisted, food and water rations were cut, then cut again and again.  What had seemed like a blessing of escaping death not once but twice, had turned into another, albeit different type of fight for survival.  One in which the foe was invisible and seemingly impossible to fight.  The captain and crew, who had trained for years and fought countless battles now clung to life by a thread. Isolated. Helpless.

After weeks of dead calm, the breeze slowly returned and the crew (most of them) were spared. Thanks to the script writers, the pirates lived to battle another day. Arghhhh!!!!!

I share this story, because I have recently realized that I am in the middle of a “dead calm” period in my life.  In the last ten years I have seen my share of battles.  First, a five year battle that my late wife Kay waged with breast cancer.  (God rewarded her faithfulness with calling her to spend eternity with him in heaven, where I’m sure she is rocking it out singing and dancing and praising Jesus!)  Then I battled through adjusting to a “new normal.”  Fighting through depression and loneliness and isolation.  Then a year and half ago, my doctor informed me that I had cancer.  Another battle, which I emerged from, battered and bruised but I survived.  It was then that the “dead calm” started.  I wasn’t as weary or observant as the captain in the movie.  You see, I didn’t notice the nothing. It didn’t get my attention.  It wasn’t a ship bearing down on me with bigger guns.  It wasn’t a storm with howling winds and lashing waves.  It was….nothing.  And for the last year, it has quietly sucked the life out of me.

I don’t know how long I would have gone without recognizing the situation if it had not been for Pastor Bobby asking a question.  He asked the lead team members a simple question – “What have you learned this week?”  This is the kind of question that I love, because I love learning!!!  But I suddenly realized that my answer was – nothing.  I had gone from reading 26 books a year to having only completed one or two books this year.  I wasn’t currently reading books, blog posts, or anything.  I wasn’t listening to podcasts to try to learn.  I wasn’t even listening to a lot of the messages at the Ridge. (Sorry Bobby!)   But it didn’t stop there.  As I took a look at my daily life, I wasn’t spending ANY real time with the Father.  When I looked at my days, I realized I had just one goal in mind.  Get through the day.  Survive. I was in a state of…nothing….a dead calm.  

What makes this even more baffling is this all happened while I am living a blessed life.  I have a great job (actually 3 great jobs).  I am far from being monetarily wealthy, but my needs and a good deal of my wants are met.  I have an amazing daughter. I am dating a wonderful lady. I am blessed with amazing friends.  I have good health. I absolutely love my church family and love serving at the Ridge.

So this brings us to two questions. 1. How did this happen? And, 2. What now?

  1. How did this happen?   It happened because I turned my attention to me instead of the Father.  I got so wrapped up in my own circumstances, that I lost focus on what is important.  God did not create me to focus on me, he created me to focus on my relationship with him, and to serve him and to love others.
  2. What now?   Just like the writers of the pirate movie decided to spare the captain and his crew by sending a gentle breeze, the Father has decided to send me a breeze.  A nudge in form of a simple question, that set me back in motion.

I have a long way to go. Just like the pirate ship, I have drifted way off course and it won’t be a quick way back.  I know it will take time. A lot of time with the Father.  Seeking the direction He wants me to go as he breathes his breath into the sails of my life.  I am ready to be out of the “dead calm.”   You are welcome to join me on this part of my journey.