In His Image

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There is a theme in freedom that it must be declared before it is achieved. American’s celebrate July 4 as Independence day but is it actually when our  forefathers declared independence which did not come until the Treaty of Paris in 1783 and after a great cost was paid between those points in time.

When Moses tells Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, he is essentially declaring their independence but there’s all sorts of activity that occurs before they are actually free from Egyptian rule.  And after freedom from Egypt is obtained, there is so much more they go through to learn how to live free.  It was easy to understand what it would be like to be free from Egypt but not so easy to know what it would be like to be free to serve God as His people – forty years in the wilderness and then all that effort to secure the promised land, which never really fully occurred.

The Israelites were told by God to celebrate a ritual every 50 years called Jubilee. It was a year for freedom where each person was to set slaves free, to free their brothers and sisters from any debts, to return to the freedom to God alone and his economy – but they never celebrated Jubilee.

Jesus walked into his home-town church near the beginning of his ministry and reads from the prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

then after reading this, he tells them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”. He is literally declaring Jubilee and the response of his nearest friends and neighbors who had known him all his life is rejection – to the point of not only driving him out of town, but also trying to throw him off a cliff. Wow!  Freedom is an explosive topic.

It is strange though – that Jesus, who has the power to secure instantly the freedom he wants only declares it.  Why is this? When the American forefathers declared independence, they invited all Americans into the drama to gain freedom.  Jesus invites us into the drama to gain freedom too – not from an external power but to his internal reality in our lives.

In believing that his spirit has become one with our own and living in pursuit of this incarnational reality, we also find the freedom from seeming external realities.  We can’t control our world externally but the freedom Jesus brings cannot be taken away if we don’t allow it.  It is treasure where moth and rust do not destroy, not in heaven only, but in our hearts where the King of Heaven already resides for those who’ve allowed him in.

This is all nice to say but hard to do.  Every moment here, our humanity, our world and God’s enemies try to point us to the scenes around us as evidence of the futility of loving God and others.   David said in the Psalm – speaking of Jesus prophetically:

You were forged a strong scepter by God of Zion;
now rule, though surrounded by enemies! Psalms 110:2 Message

When Jesus makes us free, we are free indeed!  It is not just a declaration.  It is real freedom – we are truly like him, sons and daughters of God, princes and princesses.  We get confused and think this must mean later since we are still being told we are slaves because we are still surrounded by enemies. But who we are is not dictated by where we are.  We need to learn to ignore the temporary things of this world and keep our eyes on the son of God indwelling our life.   We, with him, are noble children of the King of all kings, God Most High.  So what if we are surrounded by enemies. We are free!

  • Do you believe you are really FREE?  If you don’t, whose voice are you listening to?
  • Can you see that Christianity is more about our NOBLE Identity than the cheap religious substitute of morality?
  • If you aren’t free, who are you enslaved to?  Who can stand against God?
  • Consider writing your own declaration of independence in agreement with Jesus.


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But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Matthew 6:33

Before you read this post, you may want to first look up the word first.  See what I did!? I used first in the context of time which I suspect is our first inclination. (puns intended)

If you did look it up, you noticed it could apply to order, rank, importance or other items, things, preferences. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that our Lord was not saying first seek the kingdom of God – now that you’ve done that, go, eat, drink, be merry. 

I think the idea he is getting to is closer to primary or essential or foundational.   If you do that thing, all the other things will occur and will make sense.  But don’t expect that to be true the other way around.  Everything that comes after fits on that foundation or framework.  But the various pieces won’t hold together on their own.

Putting the kingdom of God first makes sense considering that the son of God is the speaker – but what does that mean?  Clearly he is not saying, seek to get past this life to heaven as he intentionally left us here. – see John 17:15,18

A clue may be found in the many Gospel references that the kingdom of God is at hand or has come near. It is Jesus that was at hand and available to men and he alone enables us to enter the kingdom of God.    But he is not out there somewhere to seek.  He is here, at hand.  Our seeking is not outward – to find a place in the world – but inward to find him who placed the world into the universe making a place for his life in us and therefore a place for everything else in our world to fit is a way that makes sense.

As we grasp that Jesus is our very life and how that makes all the other stuff in our life come together, we realize there really was no life beforehand. We realize who we really are as a son or daughter of God in Christ – and this is real freedom and real life abundant.

Taken all together, our seeking first first of the kingdom of God is seeking who we really are – by asking the only one who really knows to reveal it to us.  Seek you first – by asking him who knew you first before the foundations of the world.  It is the height of arrogance to assume you could know yourself any other way or that you could construct a better you than God has designed – yet that is exactly what we are doing if we aren’t seeking him first to find out who we really are.

  • Are you still seeking success rather than God.
  • Have you realized that seeking freedom from something is seeking success? What would happen if we sought him first and let him free us?
  • James said, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives” (James 4:3) What wrong motives do you have? Can you see that this are not seeking God first?  What would happen if you swapped motives.
  • When you seek God about who you are in Christ, what are you hearing him tell you? Hint: you are my child!  I love you. what you do or have is completely secondary to that.  I will always love you.

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Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

Ps 119:36-37

Bob Segar pines in his song, Roll Me Away:

Stood alone on a mountain top,
starin’ out at the Great Divide
I could go east, I could go west,
it was all up to me to decide

In this case, his song is about escapism from the complexity, pain, and frustration of life and his freedom is riding off into the sunset on a motorcycle alone – escaping responsibility and abandoning any relationship that would tie him down. 

I like the picture of standing above the noise of the day – looking east and west and choosing.  That is God’s gift and power to mankind – to choose.  The psalmist here continues to focus on that choice but instead of leaving it to himself to decide – he continues to cry out to God to turn his eyes to God’s purpose – away from the worthless things.

Segar wants to escape from responsibility – the typical passivity of man, that which is displayed by Adam in the garden when he fails to step between Eve and the serpent.  One of the techniques used in sales closes is choice – do you want A or B – focusing the customer on only two choices when the available ones are more infinite and the ones he is offering may not even be the crucial ones.  In Segar’s song, there is simply oppression to the East and freedom to the West – but the Apostle Paul says in Phil 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  He exercises freedom from this decision – “do I follow Christ or not” and translates them to “do I follow Christ by serving in this world or by serving him in the next”  – he does not offer the choice of not following. 

As a Christian, we have Christ – period.  So our choices are simple.  How will we serve him and honor him today?  We can turn away from him, but we can’t lose him.  So we are free to get beyond this escapism and serve him wholeheartedly because he is our life.

I like this image of climbing above the noise of it all and being able to decide – our quiet times with God are a great way to do that.  When we come before God in his word and look up and see from his perspective – we gain clarity over the thousands of noisy choices below.  There is all type of talk now days about the choice overload that people must swim in each day – and the insufficiency of training to enable us to deal with that.  But most of those choices are marketing lies – “do you want 42″ or a 46″ HDTV?”  When we have been up on the mountain with God and have seen Jesus transfigured as our very life and heard God’s voice – the choices of selfish worldly gain become less. 

Still, we have to be careful even here.  We have the tendency to immediately translate this experience into the creation of an alter just as the disciples wanted to do for Jesus.  This doesn’t mean we should avoid serving, just avoid needless alters or traditions as substitutes for the true Christ.  God is trying to show us we can relax and be his children – that he has done this – that Christ IS. He is revealing him in us, as us – so we can simply worship in all things and overcome the tyranny of self. 

There is another picture on a mountain that I like – that of our Lord as Satan tempts him.  In Matthew 4, Satan tempts Jesus from a mountain top offering him all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would worship him.   Jesus in his response surrenders choice to the will of God.  He does not consider “do I or don’t I” because “it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” 

Segar muses that he will find freedom but his choice of escapism will only find a meaningless and wasted life.  Our Lord surrenders his choice to God’s will knowing there is the freedom in worshipping God and serving him.

Paul says in Phil 3:8-9, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”  When we surrender our choice for God’s will, we become free of worthless things and gain Christ.

Father, set my eyes on you – make me single-minded on you.  Amen.

My son, Jeremy, and I visited John Brown university a few years ago. The walls of their arts center have different quotes written in a variety of typefaces.  It is an unexpectedly interesting effect.  As you come in the main doors, one of the first quotes you see is. “In the beginning, God created…

I’d never really separated this part of the sentence from the rest, as you might when doing a grammar lesson.  God (noun) created (verb) the heavens and the earth (object).  We and all creation are the objects of God’s energy in creation.  

In the beginning, God created…  Independent of the object of his creation – us – God is a creator. God is the creator.  We could simplify further.

In the beginning, God… He is the beginning and end.

But later we see that “God created man in his own image“.  If God is a creator and he created us in his image, then what does that say about us and our inheritance from Him. 

Are we not supposed to create our lives for his glory?

We should love creatively and live creatively longing for the shadow creativity that we possess to showcase the glory or God in us and to lift us up to where we see him face-to-face for eternity.

We can’t do this alone though. We are created in his image to bear his spirit.  When we let his love and his life abide in us, then and only then can his creative love and life flow out of our existence giving it eternal purpose and value.

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train2Living in Hutto, one can’t help but experience the joy of trains – to the point that joy ceases to be the experience.  Since the town is divided by railroad tracks, encountering trains is pretty much a daily occurrence.  The audio tracks, pun intended, play their rap every quarter hour for those who live close enough.  Paul Simon recorded a song with the refrain, “Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance. Everybody thinks it’s true”.  I’m not quite sure what he meant by everybody thinks it’s true but I can assure you that whatever he meant, it is not true that everybody loves the sound of a train, even in the distance.

It was this very thought that tunneled into my mind along with the train that accompanied it at about two this morning as I was having trouble sleeping.  We are fortunate to be far enough away as to not notice the sound most of the time but lying awake in the quiet sleeping house is not one of those times. 

train1I begin to think about what nuisance these trains were as the sound of the train invaded my consciousness. There is no station here in Hutto.  They are not delivering or picking up cargo or passengers.  There is no partnership with the city.  Trains push through town bringing traffic to a halt and interrupting life with noise, yet they give nothing to the town. If you know anything about the railroad, you will know that they have huge power to do whatever they want – they are not under city, county or state jurisdiction.   There are many crossing improvements that the railroad could make for this town of 20,000 that has the same number of crossings that it did when it only had 600.  While the tide of trains through town is regular and frequent, improvements are slow to roll into town if they come at all.

Then I got to thinking that people are like this in many ways.  Unless the people we encounter become passengers on our train, provide cargo we care about or are meeting us at one of our scheduled stops, we are usually just rolling through.  In our busyness, we are moving too fast to stop, we have our schedule to keep, and I’ll be gone 500 miles when the day is done.  I think we all understand this reality and we don’t think about it much.  

Perhaps this phenomenon is a necessity of life, which by nature has a point of origin and a point of destination and the rails in between cannot help but be travelled each and every day.  Occasionally we lament just like Steve Goodman did – “Half way home, we’ll be there by morning.… And all the towns and people seem to fade into a bad dream.…this train’s got the disappearing railroad blues”.  We come to these places in the night and wonder about the switches in the tracks we didn’t take, knowing we are half way home and watching the rail fade away seemingly faster with each hour heading down to the sea and the morning light.  Perhaps, we don’t think about it much because we just can’t bear it and we’re maybe a little scared of that final termination point. So we clear our minds and drop into the tunnel of sleep that emerges into bright daylight, the stoking up of engines, and a new day’s journey where the noise and heat of the rails overcome those quiet evening thoughts.

We certainly cannot be God and know each and every passenger, visit every town, haul all cargo. We must choose.  In some sense, we don’t even really do that.  We are more like passengers riding this rail for the first time knowing very little about where the rail will take us or what the odyssey will bring.  Yet most of us act as if we are in complete control and like we own the railroad. We’d be wise to talk to those who had gone before us and even more so to the conductor who is always singing his song for us again hoping we will refrain from our assumed control of his job and would instead enjoy the ride and the interactions that come to us.

Perhaps our difficulty stems from our preoccupation with trying to run the railroad of our life when we are really only passengers.  Jesus clearly had a purpose and was focused on it yet every interaction along the path was savored and given attention.  He said things like – I only do what my Father tells me to do. So, if he found that God had put him alone at a well with a Samaritan woman – he demonstrated God’s love to her. If the Pharisees setup a trap for him by exploiting an adulterous woman, he loved them both enough to rescue them from the error of their ways without condemning either of them for their treachery. If a Centurion’s daughter needed healing, he would heal her while encouraging this “heathen” that he was actually a man of faith and simultaneously helping the assumed faithful realize their need for His faith.

If anyone’s track of life was well predicted, it was our Lord’s.  There are over 300 prophecies concerning Jesus that he fulfilled.  He was clearly aware of these too for he told men such as John the Baptist to perform actions they thought unnecessary for Jesus – because “it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness”.  Jesus knew God’s vision for His life and was totally focused on it yet able to say in the same prayer both, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”, and, “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.”  Purpose and people always went hand-in-hand with him.

Perhaps, if we will rest from “working on the railroad…all the live-long day”, we could realize that these interactions with other passengers is our primary work.  We aren’t meant to “work on the railroad…just to pass the time away.  We are passengers with a purpose on a specific track, on a specific run, on a specific train.  We can rest in our work when we let God do his, when we avoid lamenting about those tracks and trains we can’t ride and when we instead embrace in love those he has given us as we ride the rail of our life.  Jesus was known for the way his love impacted other people and the life he lost, trusting God to raise him up.  If we will be his disciples, we will have to give up our life to make time for Jesus to impact the lives of other people through us. Faith is trusting God that is we lose our life, he will resurrect us.  This is what it is to deny ourselves daily, pick up our cross and follow Jesus.

As I wrote this, the rumble and ruckus of another train builds as it comes from the distance soon to diminish in the dark of the night on the other side of our town.  The whistle blows to warn passengers it is crossing our path and for us, these are the only interactions.  But for those riding the train, I hope there is much more as the expedition continues. 

Lord, help me to rest in the joy of being a passenger on the train you have put me on.  Keep me from wasting too much time staring out the window into the darkness or the whizzing-by world of wishful thinking. Help me trust you who knows the tracks and the course and the power of the engines of my life – that you have all that worked out and I can add nothing to it.  Help me to enjoy the freedom you’ve given me in your rest in Jesus – to enjoy the companionship of the fellow passengers you’ve given me on this unique voyage of my life.  Help me bring you glory in the awesome work of my life, living in Christ and loving and encouraging those you’ve given to me.  Dear friends, get ready, there’s a train a coming, You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board. Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.

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train2Living in Hutto, one can’t help but experience the joy of trains – to the point that joy ceases to be the experience.  Since the town is divided by railroad tracks, encountering trains is pretty much a daily occurrence.  The audio tracks, pun intended, play their rap every quarter hour for those who live close enough.  Paul Simon recorded a song with the refrain, “Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance. Everybody thinks it’s true”.  I’m not quite sure what he meant by everybody thinks it’s true but I can assure you that whatever he meant, it is not true that everybody loves the sound of a train, even in the distance.

It was this very thought that tunneled into my mind along with the train that accompanied it at about two this morning as I was having trouble sleeping.  We are fortunate to be far enough away as to not notice the sound most of the time but lying awake in the quiet sleeping house is not one of those times. 

train1I begin to think about what nuisance these trains were as the sound of the train invaded my consciousness. There is no station here in Hutto.  They are not delivering or picking up cargo or passengers.  There is no partnership with the city.  Trains push through town bringing traffic to a halt and interrupting life with noise, yet they give nothing to the town. If you know anything about the railroad, you will know that they have huge power to do whatever they want – they are not under city, county or state jurisdiction.   There are many crossing improvements that the railroad could make for this town of 20,000 that has the same number of crossings that it did when it only had 600.  While the tide of trains through town is regular and frequent, improvements are slow to roll into town if they come at all.

Then I got to thinking that people are like this in many ways.  Unless the people we encounter become passengers on our train, provide cargo we care about or are meeting us at one of our scheduled stops, we are usually just rolling through.  In our busyness, we are moving too fast to stop, we have our schedule to keep, and I’ll be gone 500 miles when the day is done.  I think we all understand this reality and we don’t think about it much.  

Perhaps this phenomenon is a necessity of life, which by nature has a point of origin and a point of destination and the rails in between cannot help but be travelled each and every day.  Occasionally we lament just like Steve Goodman did – “Half way home, we’ll be there by morning.… And all the towns and people seem to fade into a bad dream.…this train’s got the disappearing railroad blues”.  We come to these places in the night and wonder about the switches in the tracks we didn’t take, knowing we are half way home and watching the rail fade away seemingly faster with each hour heading down to the sea and the morning light.  Perhaps, we don’t think about it much because we just can’t bear it and we’re maybe a little scared of that final termination point. So we clear our minds and drop into the tunnel of sleep that emerges into bright daylight, the stoking up of engines, and a new day’s journey where the noise and heat of the rails overcome those quiet evening thoughts.

We certainly cannot be God and know each and every passenger, visit every town, haul all cargo. We must choose.  In some sense, we don’t even really do that.  We are more like passengers riding this rail for the first time knowing very little about where the rail will take us or what the odyssey will bring.  Yet most of us act as if we are in complete control and like we own the railroad. We’d be wise to talk to those who had gone before us and even more so to the conductor who is always singing his song for us again hoping we will refrain from our assumed control of his job and would instead enjoy the ride and the interactions that come to us.

Perhaps our difficulty stems from our preoccupation with trying to run the railroad of our life when we are really only passengers.  Jesus clearly had a purpose and was focused on it yet every interaction along the path was savored and given attention.  He said things like – I only do what my Father tells me to do. So, if he found that God had put him alone at a well with a Samaritan woman – he demonstrated God’s love to her. If the Pharisees setup a trap for him by exploiting an adulterous woman, he loved them both enough to rescue them from the error of their ways without condemning either of them for their treachery. If a Centurion’s daughter needed healing, he would heal her while encouraging this “heathen” that he was actually a man of faith and simultaneously helping the assumed faithful realize their need for His faith.

If anyone’s track of life was well predicted, it was our Lord’s.  There are over 300 prophecies concerning Jesus that he fulfilled.  He was clearly aware of these too for he told men such as John the Baptist to perform actions they thought unnecessary for Jesus – because “it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness”.  Jesus knew God’s vision for His life and was totally focused on it yet able to say in the same prayer both, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”, and, “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.”  Purpose and people always went hand-in-hand with him.

Perhaps, if we will rest from “working on the railroad…all the live-long day”, we could realize that these interactions with other passengers is our primary work.  We aren’t meant to “work on the railroad…just to pass the time away.  We are passengers with a purpose on a specific track, on a specific run, on a specific train.  We can rest in our work when we let God do his, when we avoid lamenting about those tracks and trains we can’t ride and when we instead embrace in love those he has given us as we ride the rail of our life.  Jesus was known for the way his love impacted other people and the life he lost, trusting God to raise him up.  If we will be his disciples, we will have to give up our life to make time for Jesus to impact the lives of other people through us. Faith is trusting God that is we lose our life, he will resurrect us.  This is what it is to deny ourselves daily, pick up our cross and follow Jesus.

As I wrote this, the rumble and ruckus of another train builds as it comes from the distance soon to diminish in the dark of the night on the other side of our town.  The whistle blows to warn passengers it is crossing our path and for us, these are the only interactions.  But for those riding the train, I hope there is much more as the expedition continues. 

Lord, help me to rest in the joy of being a passenger on the train you have put me on.  Keep me from wasting too much time staring out the window into the darkness or the whizzing-by world of wishful thinking. Help me trust you who knows the tracks and the course and the power of the engines of my life – that you have all that worked out and I can add nothing to it.  Help me to enjoy the freedom you’ve given me in your rest in Jesus – to enjoy the companionship of the fellow passengers you’ve given me on this unique voyage of my life.  Help me bring you glory in the awesome work of my life, living in Christ and loving and encouraging those you’ve given to me.  Dear friends, get ready, there’s a train a coming, You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board. Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.

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Getting back into the swing of things after the holidays is a bit daunting – trying to recall the next steps on projects that I had let slip into the back corner in the basement of my mind.  This year, I think I put a few sacks of dirt on top of them too.  But it is good to begin to re-establish some routine – especially where the children are concerned.

The routines I most missed by the intrusion of the holidays were the weekly gatherings with friends that keep me going.  So I was excited that our weekly fellowship kicked off again this evening with dinner at the Texan Café in Hutto. I decided this afternoon to also invite all my new Facebook friends to this upcoming event with my old friends in hopes of enticing a few of them to join us.

Hutto’s festive but rural downtown area is a relaxing place to meet friends for comfort food and cozy conversation.  How many scenes in scripture center around Jesus breaking bread with his friends or even sinners?  Food and fellowship are meant to go together. Some of the best desserts in the region with a great cup of hot coffee make for a perfect finish.  The blackberry cobbler is heavenly except for the seeds getting stuck in your teeth.  How blessed to meet again in this new year with the friends we’ve been parted from during the holidays and to have friends from my Facebook invite show up as well.

20080219-hbu-dragon-fly-004-crop

As we met tonight discussing our holiday activities, resolutions for the new year, current trials and blessings, I was struck by the reality of the presence of Christ amongst us.  One of our friends shared an insight about his holiday connections on Facebook.  He told us how sad he was to discover that most of the old friends from his Catholic school growing up now claim to be atheist in their profiles.  Religion is so bereft of life. 

But religion is not what we at the Texan Café tonight share.  We know Jesus Christ who loved us and gave himself for us.  He has become our very life so we are not just friends as we sup, but true brothers and sisters – children of the Most High, God – and we call him Father.  Because of this, I have a real place, a true family, and significance in all of my life.  I do not have to look for miracles or significance – it is right here with me in the midst of this family of mine, eating at the Texan Café in Hutto of all places.  What we share in this single moment connects us with each other and God for all eternity.

A few nights ago, an old friend of mine that I’ve known for 30 years and who now lives in Arizona opened a chat session with me on Facebook.  We talked for awhile about activities, jobs, family, kids – all the stuff you need to know to catch up when you haven’t visited for many years.  This dear friend has been on my heart many times in my life.  Her journey has had more harsh terrain than most of us.  When I first knew her, we were only kids and, while religion was some small part of our upbringing, we did not know Christ.

Later in my life, God blessed me to reveal his son in me and I have been walking with him now for about 25 years.  Suddenly, in the midst of discussing thirty years of disconnected life, my Arizona friend confided that she is seeking to know God and asks me if I would be willing to provide some guidance. We discussed it for a bit, chatting back and forth, sharing the confusion of our religious heritage compared to the peace, freedom, love, and joy that are available in Christ Jesus.  I shared with her the awe and acceptance I felt when I read the words of Jesus discovering he loved sinners while the only groups he was ever harsh with were the pride-filled, ultra religious who kept men from having relationship with God.

After making some recommendations for her and we agreeing to continue our discussion later, I went to bed praising God for this shared moment and praying for my friend.  Tonight, as I sat and broke bread with my local friends, I came away even more urgently pleading with God for this woman.  Many of the people at dinner tonight have had very difficult roads in life too.  Some are going through them now – but they have something my Arizona friend does not have.  They have fellowship with our Father and with brothers and sisters.  They also carry with them the gift of the secret things of God – that Jesus Christ has been resurrected in them as their very life.

I pray that this gift – this new, eternal life and family will soon reside in the heart of my long-loved Arizona friend.  I pray that anyone reading this blog who lives in the shadow life deprived and longing for true relationship, significance, joy and peace will accept this gift as well.  If we never get a chance to meet for comfort food and cozy conversation at the Texan Café in Hutto, I hope we can meet as brother and sisters at our Lord’s banquet table eternally basking in the glory of our Father who loves us.  There, religion and all other confusions have long been forgotten.  And on that day, if we want it, I think perhaps we might even have blackberry cobbler that doesn’t leave seeds stuck in our teeth.

Take a moment and comment – let me know what you think about this entry: the good, the bad, the ugly.

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Getting back into the swing of things after the holidays is a bit daunting – trying to recall the next steps on projects that I had let slip into the back corner in the basement of my mind.  This year, I think I put a few sacks of dirt on top of them too.  But it is good to begin to re-establish some routine – especially where the children are concerned.

The routines I most missed by the intrusion of the holidays were the weekly gatherings with friends that keep me going.  So I was excited that our weekly fellowship kicked off again this evening with dinner at the Texan Café in Hutto. I decided this afternoon to also invite all my new Facebook friends to this upcoming event with my old friends in hopes of enticing a few of them to join us.

Hutto’s festive but rural downtown area is a relaxing place to meet friends for comfort food and cozy conversation.  How many scenes in scripture center around Jesus breaking bread with his friends or even sinners?  Food and fellowship are meant to go together. Some of the best desserts in the region with a great cup of hot coffee make for a perfect finish.  The blackberry cobbler is heavenly except for the seeds getting stuck in your teeth.  How blessed to meet again in this new year with the friends we’ve been parted from during the holidays and to have friends from my Facebook invite show up as well.

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As we met tonight discussing our holiday activities, resolutions for the new year, current trials and blessings, I was struck by the reality of the presence of Christ amongst us.  One of our friends shared an insight about his holiday connections on Facebook.  He told us how sad he was to discover that most of the old friends from his Catholic school growing up now claim to be atheist in their profiles.  Religion is so bereft of life. 

But religion is not what we at the Texan Café tonight share.  We know Jesus Christ who loved us and gave himself for us.  He has become our very life so we are not just friends as we sup, but true brothers and sisters – children of the Most High, God – and we call him Father.  Because of this, I have a real place, a true family, and significance in all of my life.  I do not have to look for miracles or significance – it is right here with me in the midst of this family of mine, eating at the Texan Café in Hutto of all places.  What we share in this single moment connects us with each other and God for all eternity.

A few nights ago, an old friend of mine that I’ve known for 30 years and who now lives in Arizona opened a chat session with me on Facebook.  We talked for awhile about activities, jobs, family, kids – all the stuff you need to know to catch up when you haven’t visited for many years.  This dear friend has been on my heart many times in my life.  Her journey has had more harsh terrain than most of us.  When I first knew her, we were only kids and, while religion was some small part of our upbringing, we did not know Christ.

Later in my life, God blessed me to reveal his son in me and I have been walking with him now for about 25 years.  Suddenly, in the midst of discussing thirty years of disconnected life, my Arizona friend confided that she is seeking to know God and asks me if I would be willing to provide some guidance. We discussed it for a bit, chatting back and forth, sharing the confusion of our religious heritage compared to the peace, freedom, love, and joy that are available in Christ Jesus.  I shared with her the awe and acceptance I felt when I read the words of Jesus discovering he loved sinners while the only groups he was ever harsh with were the pride-filled, ultra religious who kept men from having relationship with God.

After making some recommendations for her and we agreeing to continue our discussion later, I went to bed praising God for this shared moment and praying for my friend.  Tonight, as I sat and broke bread with my local friends, I came away even more urgently pleading with God for this woman.  Many of the people at dinner tonight have had very difficult roads in life too.  Some are going through them now – but they have something my Arizona friend does not have.  They have fellowship with our Father and with brothers and sisters.  They also carry with them the gift of the secret things of God – that Jesus Christ has been resurrected in them as their very life.

I pray that this gift – this new, eternal life and family will soon reside in the heart of my long-loved Arizona friend.  I pray that anyone reading this blog who lives in the shadow life deprived and longing for true relationship, significance, joy and peace will accept this gift as well.  If we never get a chance to meet for comfort food and cozy conversation at the Texan Café in Hutto, I hope we can meet as brother and sisters at our Lord’s banquet table eternally basking in the glory of our Father who loves us.  There, religion and all other confusions have long been forgotten.  And on that day, if we want it, I think perhaps we might even have blackberry cobbler that doesn’t leave seeds stuck in our teeth.

Take a moment and comment – let me know what you think about this entry: the good, the bad, the ugly.

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Lost Maples Cafe, Utopia, TXGod worked six days to create the world and on the seventh day, he rested.

I’m sitting in a quaint cafe in the remote town of Utopia, Tx having breakfast and chatting with friends online while listening to all the locals. It is restful — for me. The waitresses here on the other hand, maybe not so much.

 

The Moutain HomesteadWe are visiting Cammi’s sister and her husband in their recently completed home that sits on the side of a mountain. They built it themselves over the last five years and I mean THEY built it themselves. The place is beautiful and the scene from their porch is heavenly. It is amazingly restful. But behind this rest, are thousands of hours of focused activity. And even though it is mostly complete, the reality is that it will require ongoing work to maintain.

Work and rest are so intertwined. Indeed, how can we perceive rest without understanding work – rest from what? We think of rest as passive as an opposite to work but maybe that is a misunderstanding.

In the beginning, God created… He was working, busy with creation. Then he rested – which we frequently call recreation – which is to say re-creation, which means to create again or anew. Land set aside for renewal has very active processes going on even though no crop is generated that year.

Rest is not passive but very active. Without the work of rest, renewal and recreation, the soil of our soul will become spent and worthless – and we will produce a diminishing return with our lives.

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I love integration – taking different things and making them work together. So I just setup Facebook a few days ago which is a cool ways to connect with your friends – even integrate some of your interests – happenings, etc. Now, I find that I can integrate my “Viewed Mercies” blog. Very cool.

In my experience, God is always doing this in my life – taking skills, experiences, and relationships that developed in one context and integrating them together in new and exciting ways.

For instance, in 2008, God took various relationships with friends from work, boy scouting, church and well as skills from FPU training, work, etc. to integrate into helping radically impact a struggling family – what’s more, is a whole bunch of other things are beginning to be integrated together from that experience. It is miraculous and exhilerating.

So, what will he re-create and integrate in 2009. On facebook, I have reconnected with some long lost friends, I have connected some interesting people with interesting ideas – including some of my own that have been waiting in the wings. All this in a few days leading up to New Years Eve. I pray God blesses you all with eyes wide open to the awesome purpose and journey of your life in 2009. I’d love to hear from you on what he shows you and does with your wonderful lives.

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