My Wife Attacked Me With Scissors

She really did. I guess if I were to tell “her” side of the story, she was trimming hair around my ears (which makes her a saint… again, her side of the story).

Well, whichever side you believe, there was blood. Lots of it. I didn’t even feel it when she nicked my ear. It was like something out of a Mel Brooks movie. Way too much blood for such a tiny incident. It was so over the top ridiculous, I was scared to sneeze.

We tried cleaning and holding tissues to it. I gave it a good 15 minutes of holding things to it, applying pressure, etc. and figured it was good enough to jump in the shower.

When drying off, I must of grazed my ear with the towel as it was half full of blood. I cleaned it up again and tried peroxide, bandaids, tissues, weird head angles. For about 45 minutes, the blood flowed.

What started as a laughing matter began to concern me a little. We also had a clock ticking against us, we had to leave the house in 3 minutes at this point.

I started to panic. My wife was helping to try and figure out new ways of stopping the bleeding and every time she would come back in the room I would exclaim in exasperation that the bleeding hadn’t stopped yet. Each time the pitch of my voice would get higher and higher as worry and fear began to settle in.

With 3 minutes to go, I was pacing and panicked, and out of ideas. She really is a saint. She kept checking on me, trying new things, and coming up with new ideas. Finally she stopped in front of me, put her hand over my ear and began to pray.

If I’m honest, it felt silly. A tiny little nick that didn’t hurt… at worst a mild inconvenience of being late. And here we were engaging the Lord and creator of the universe.

While she poured out a heartfelt and sincere prayer, I’m thinking, “hey, I know you are dealing with wars, plagues, starving people, riots, diseases, and the devil, but if you could put all that aside for a second I’ve got this ear thing…”

What is sad to me is that I’ll be the first person to tell anyone else that no problem is too small for God. He wants to know our fears, concerns, crushes, frustrations. He is our brother and our friend. But when it comes to my own mess, I just can’t seem to get on board with it. We do the same thing in the other direction. We claim overwhelmingly that no problem is too big for God… except for what I’m dealing with right now.

Not only did I fail to follow my own advice, which I know to be true, it also never occurred to me to pray at all. Why? On multiple levels I failed. This is why psychologists can’t diagnose themselves. It’s why we can’t use ourselves as references, and it’s why mirrors are the cruelest inventions in the world.

We can’t accurately see inward. Our eyes only see in one direction. This is one of many reason why we have a church. A community of believers to help each other remember the small stuff, withstand the big stuff and to pray through all of it.

The last little bit may make some feel uncomfortable. My ear stopped bleeding. Immediately. Not even a little dried up bubble where the clot formed. There was no clot. It just stopped and dry clean skin remained. No wound. No scab. Like it never happened.

For myself, I have two questions, and I hope my lapse in judgement will help to serve as a good example for you.

1. Why didn’t I pray first?

2. Why not bring EVERYTHING before God? I firmly believe He wants us to.

For you, I have one question. Do you believe God can heal us here, now, and today? If not, ask yourself why you pray at all. Examine your prayers. Dig into the scriptures. I know an awful lot of people who pray everyday for God to be with sick, be with doctors, give comfort, etc. if you don’t believe God has power in this world, why are you praying those prayers? The very prayers Jesus taught us to pray.

“Give us bread, deliver us from evil, forgive our trespasses”. Those are actions that we request God to make in a world that we believe God is bound to be action less in. If He has the power to “guide guard and direct us” as so many of us have prayed verbatim… He has the power to remove a mass, reduce a fever, clean a blood stream, and even stop an ear from bleeding.

Or do we really believe that God can change the hearts and minds of mankind, but he can’t heal hearts and brains? Did your God flunk out of medical school and settle for bachelor’s in psychology?

I’m thankful to a God that forgives me over and over and over again. I’m thankful for His patience while I pray as a last resort when He intended it to be my first. And I’m thankful that He cares about me enough to care about what I care about, even if it would make most of us shrug.

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Did you lose it… or Earn it?

I’ve lost weight before. I ate what I wanted, didn’t bother to exercise and when I stepped on the scale found a nice surprise. Metabolism? Extra inadvertent steps? Who knows, but this is lost weight. I’ve lost my keys too. It took as much effort and planning to lose my keys as it did to lose the weight. And in this case, ‘lose’ is the correct verb for both incidents.

I have also worked hard, suffered, sacrificed, and REMOVED weight from my body. Intentionally. This weight wasn’t lost, it was systematically and forcefully removed. It wasn’t happenstance. It wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t a question mark as I approached the scale each day. I earned my health.

Hopefully you realize the difference isn’t simply semantical. Many of us are content to lose. And even after sloth, we find pride when we do.  ‘Look at that, I lost 3 pounds after that stomach virus! Woot!

Compare this way of thinking with your relationship with God. Of course we have to say right off the bat that we don’t “earn” anything with God.  But we do have responsibilities to keep the relationship going.  And often, we take the same approach as we do with weight loss.  We focus on what we can lose.

We can be passive and just watch the loss happen.  We can be a pew warmer in our church lives.  Never engaging, never connecting, never growing.  We can prioritize private reading and prayer time last in our lives (often getting neglected in favor of more exciting things like TV, internet, or the latest I-Device).

We can live for the weekends and then waste those as well.  And then we hit a high note.  We get something right, possibly by accident, or just circumstances that line up in our favor.  And we proudly exclaim, ‘look at that!  I lead a prayer, or I really helped that person, etc.. ‘  We puff up and feel like we have really accomplished something when we didn’t really do anything at all.

I fear many of us know the spiritual rut of complacency.  And the walls are lined with lies about how well we are doing when the scales just keep shouting out, “obese!”.  We are meant to pursue Jesus the same way we intentionally and specifically remove weight.  We go after Him.  We drop high calorie friends and cut out fatty habits.  We dive into the word, we wrap our minutes all throughout the day with prayer.

We don’t just happen to bump into Jesus and make a good impression… we chase Him down.  We cannonball into the baptismal and come out dripping with the Savior and His desires for our life.  Can you feel the difference?  One approach says, whatever will happen will happen as long as I don’t have to do much.  The other says, I am loved by God, and that is how I will be known.  I will carry my cross and follow Him.  I will look like Him.  I will be blessed and forgiven by Him.  I will not wait for the right moment or the right lighting or the right song, or the right circumstances… I will go now.  Because now is the only moment I have any say over.

I didn’t earn Him.  He was a gift.  But I refused to let Him pass me by.  I accept.

 

Who is Driving This Thing?

When I was very young my grandad let me drive his boat. It was pretty simple. A throttle that went up or down (fast or slow), and a steering wheel that turned in circles ( left or right. )

I can see how he might have logically deduced that even a young boy couldn’t mess that up. As soon as he said, “gently push the throttle up”, all logic was gone (several hundred feet behind us to be more precise).

I was learning how my logic was flawed as well. I knew boats to go through the water, but had no clue that at high speeds they violently bounced on the waves. I also had no idea that the front of the boat would raise up out of the water so much that I couldn’t even begin to see in front of us.

With zero visibility and the boat bouncing out of control, I wasn’t sure what to do. Without sight, I didn’t know whether safety was to the left or right. Without wisdom and experience, the thought to pull the throttle back never entered my mind.  I only knew one thing from my lesson with grandad… push the throttle forward. And that is all I did.

I feel like I’ve done this in other areas of my life.  When God whispers, go forth, I run out of control before He can even finish the instructions.  He knows the destination, I don’t.  And even when blinded by obstruction and ignorance I can’t speed up fast enough into unknown territory.  My life is bouncing off the waves and a tiny boy is at the wheel randomly throwing the steering wheel back and forth.

There are several things the enemy doesn’t want us to know.  First, we can slow down.  Even stop.  It’s not only OK, its preferred to have things in order with the Father before running out.  Second, We aren’t on the boat alone.  My grandad didn’t wait for me to ask for help.  Fearing for his life and mine, he took things back under control.  Help is one prayer away.  Third, this isn’t a maiden voyage.  Our Savior went before us and He left instructions.

Often when life gets out of control I shake my fists at the sky while I’ve locked the throttle in at full speed.  Much like my exercise bike, its only use these days is to hang assorted laundry on.  God has given us the throttle and the steering wheel.  And He beckons us to follow Him through safe waters.

Two days, No Hope

For two days we had no hope.

For two days we had no Savior.

For two days our king was gone and the kingdom He promised with Him.

For two days the healer was dead.

For two days there was confusion, weeping, and mourning.

For two days sinners in need of salvation were devastated and lost.

For two days believers hid in fear and quaked with uncertainty.

For two days evil laughed, mocked, and taunted.

For two days our Messiah and Lord was a man in a tomb.

Can you imagine the range of emotions?  Witnessing miracles, hearing stories, laying eyes on this man who is so different.  The heart tugs, the stomach produces butterflies, and you just can’t shake the urge to follow this man.  What He claims is absurd, but what He accomplishes is even crazier.  The dead are rising, the sick are healed, and the powers of the world want to stop Him.  It all lines up and you start to believe.  Not just that He can open blind eyes or get rid of a nasty cough… but that He is who He says He is.

Can you imagine Letting go of logic and letting your heart take over to what you know to be true?  To allow yourself to feel the freedom of FINALLY receiving a just and kind king?  He isn’t corrupt, He isn’t selfish, He isn’t greedy.  He doesn’t desire power and He doesn’t want wealth… your wealth.  Unlike any ruler before Him.  As this becomes your new truth you envision life with grace, peace, and happiness.  You don’t know fully how it will all work out, but you have seen His power.

Who could stop a man that raises the dead?  Who would want to?  You have backed the wrong horse before, but not this time… not with this man.  You sell possessions, you get the family together, you make life changing decisions because that is what followers are called to do.  And just when everything couldn’t be better… it all falls apart.  How could someone with that much power die?  Just like that, He is gone.  For two days, He is dead and buried and in the eyes of man, all that He promised is buried in the dirt with a man, who was either going to be as great as He claimed, but killed before He could do so… or He was just a fraud.

Either way, now your life is in shambles.  You put everything into the promises of this man.  You put your faith and hope in this man.  And you watched them bury this man.  I can’t comprehend the thoughts racing through their minds.  We know they mourned.  We know some were scared and hid.  But how do they come back from that?  He WAS their hope.  Now they have none.

I catch myself living life like this.  Grumpy in traffic, angry at online interactions, furious with horrible customer service.  Bad days at work, kids make bad choices, food tastes bad.  I can choose to make life as frustrating, horrible sounding, and pointless as I want to.  Some days I feel lonely, sad, and like everything in the world is out to get me.  I covet parts of my past while abhorring other parts of it.  I fall in ruts, or sometimes cannonball into them with steadfast determination.  And at the end of the day I just sit back and feel sorry for myself.  Like I have no choice.  Like I have no hope.

On the third day, something happened.  For us, we know the story, but they hadn’t documented it quite yet.  It started as a rustling of guards.  I’m sure there was finger pointing and great defenses laid out as to why it wasn’t their fault.  Then rumors started spreading and dreary eyes started to open.  Rumors turned to sightings and wobbly legs began to stand.   When all the pieces were put together and the full story told there was praise, worship, rejoicing.  Hallelujah!  He arose!  It was all true.  It IS all true.  It will all be true.  Now there is hope again.

From the third day on, there will always be hope.

From the third day on, we have a Savior.

From the third day on, we have a King, a kingdom to look forward to, and salvation to complete the story.

Lets be third day on, Christians.  The evil one celebrated for two days… lets not give him any more than that.  When the lies start to spread and you begin to feel tired, burdened, sad, alone, empty… remember day three.  The stone was rolled away.  The tomb was empty.  The tomb is empty.  The throne is not.  Praise God for day three, let us never again live like our ancestors did in days one and two.  We have the hope.  We have a Savior.  He is coming back.

Let’s Make a Deal

The cost of discipleship.  Yes we are asked to give up everything to follow God.  But what is our, ‘everything’?  Money that crumbles over time.  Habits that when properly understood only actually make our lives worse while living them.  Passing acquaintances.  What value do our baubles and achievements have once we pass?  So, in exchange for our garbage… our leftover trash that has no true value, God gave His Son… and promised everything holy and eternal to follow.  Our ‘everything’ in exchange for God’s.

If that doesn’t seem quite right its because evil is in the middle of it all.  Satan whispers, in an attempt for you.  He doesn’t want your everything.  He knows its value and has no desire for it.  He doesn’t need your allegiance, he doesn’t want your respect.  You don’t even have to acknowledge him.  What he wants is you.  More importantly, he wants you to not take God’s deal.  There is a half truth here, he will even acknowledge you don’t really have anything to offer.  With Satan, you can keep your money, your friends, your status… for a time.  Like God, he doesn’t want your junk.  He wants you.  And all you have to do is to ignore God’s offer and take the mystery deal behind door number 2.

That’s it.  Just step away from God and the biggest zonk in eternity awaits.  It takes no effort.  Just speak the words, neigh, just think them.  Say, “I don’t want God’s deal” and you won’t be forced to take it at all.  Instead door number 2 and all it’s potential earthly (temporary) trinkets await.

When we don’t properly reflect on God’s sacrifice and promises to us, we allow room for all the theatrics the evil one can muster.  His stage is set with lights, music, smoke, and the promise of something greater… That lie is only appealing when we forget what we already have in a Savior.  In truth, God doesn’t really want our garbage either… He just wants us to approach Him without it.  That was His deal.  If we can come to Him without the world’s refuse surrounding us, then we were worth everything He gave up to get to us.  When we aren’t burdened by the world, we are free for the Savior’s embrace.

Disciple vs. Punishment vs. Teaching

We are told to make disciples.  Matthew 28:19 says, “Go, and make disciples”.  Pretty nifty segue, huh?

I’ve always learned that to disciple is to teach.  And there is a stark contrast between teaching and punishing.  Punishment is typically more about anger, revenge and control.  The lesson gathered is usually the wrong lesson.  It’s about interactions with the punisher more than it is about a greater life issue.

For example, if a child spills a cup and gets yelled at, they are more likely to learn that the parents are angry people that need to be avoided.  A more timid personality could develop (or a more defiant one).  It’s likely that the lesson of ‘be more careful’ or ‘pay attention’, etc. is not deposited correctly when punishment is used.

And the whole goal of disciplining is to teach.  When used in the Bible, there is typically the disciple and the follower.  So you aren’t just teaching, you are leading.  They aren’t just trying to learn one or two things, they are trying to be just like you.  which begins to answer the most important question… why not just use the word, ‘teach’?  When one word defines another, why not just use the other word?

The word, ‘teach’ is in the Bible, but it doesn’t make sense where ‘disciple’ is used.  Part of being a disciple is being a leader.  Not all teachers are good leaders.  They have the facts but not the heart.  Even more important is what we are teaching and how we are teaching it.  Lets start with the what.

If I wanted to learn math, I would find a math teacher.  If I wanted to learn about cars, I would find a mechanic (also a teacher).  Schools teach.  They provide knowledge.  If I want to learn about God, I can also go to a school.  There are many factual details to be learned that can come from book and scholar.  But what if I want to become a Christian?

Being a Christian requires and is defined by a personal relationship with God.  This isn’t taught.  You can’t test your way into heaven.  This is shown.  Personally.  Through example, testimony, lifestyle choices, prayer, discipline… aha, that word again.  Discipline.  Discipline is not just used to teach, its used to inform upon souls the most precious things of this world.  The most important things.

And how is this done?  With love.  The greatest command.  Screaming on internet forums or arguing on social media has yielded 0 positive results.  I don’t have to look that number up.  No one has come to Christ by being judged, ridiculed, and punished by ‘church-folk’.  But they do take note when they see people loving others.  Sharing food, clothes, shelter… just like Jesus said He would judge us by (Matt 25:44).

I don’t feel like this is a particularly revelatory message.  But I also find I don’t adequately work to separate the different meanings of those words we use all the time. Without putting much thought into it we could likely argue that punishment, discipline, and teaching are fairly synonymous.  But what vast differences they carry when you consider the mission, the message, and the method.

You might note that the disciples were followers of Jesus.  Many will assume a disciple is a follower and that is true.  But only in regards to whom we are following.  And this is exactly why disciples are leaders.  We are on the way to Jesus.  And He commanded we bring others with us.  We are leaders, in that, we are on the right path to salvation.

We are leading with a message that transcends book knowledge (more like a way of live, a way of eternal life) and we present the message with love.  This is discipline.  This is to be a disciple.  This is what God wants more of.  “Go and make disciples of  all nations”.

Bo Knows Sports. Do We Know God?

 

Bo Jackson was often idolized for being an All-Star athlete in two sports at the same time.  But that praise doesn’t give adequate justice.  He wasn’t just a pro bowl running back, he was two completely different positions worth of athlete on the field at the same time using up only one roster slot.  Let me explain that a bit.

Most teams now employ running back rotations.  While not entirely new, their purpose is different than it used to be.  One running back will be fast, agile, and as a result, usually smaller.  Their job is to get open with their speed and avoid getting tackled with their flexibility.  They look for huge chunks of yardage and the ever popular screen play.  These guys generally have good hands too and will take short passes in the hopes of turning them into something much bigger.

They are hard to catch, but easy to tackle, which is a problem.  So in comes RB2.  The big guy.  His sole purpose is to punch in through a wall of defenders and give everything he’s got to gain just one or two yards.  Usually you see him on the goal line.  When EVERYONE knows you are going to run the ball, it goes to the guy who won’t go down easy.  He needs to be able to knock defenders backwards and drag a rookie or two for a few extra yards.  So desperate for that one yard, some teams have even given the ball to their biggest lineman hoping he can penetrate the defenders with sheer power and adrenaline.

Bo was both.  Watch that video.  We often don’t see it these days… a running back finding open field and outrunning the safety who had an advantageous angle on him?  Unheard of.  And this same guy with all that speed knocked some of the most feared linebackers and defensive ends on their rumps with his raw power.  Who can say they outran Deion Sanders and knocked down Brian Bosworth?

Sadly, his career(s) ended with a single tackle.  Listen to the commentary on why this simple looking tackle took a beast out of commission… “If he had been a less powerful athlete, he would have been fine.”   His extra power, his extra speed, his superb ability… that is what doomed him?  Whether you agree with that expert opinion or not, lets table the medical condition of “extra awesome” for a moment.

Isn’t that true for Christians?  Why was Paul in prison?  He was close to Jesus.  Why was John the Baptist beheaded?  He was a significant part of the plan.  Why did Peter deny Him?  He knew the price of following in the footsteps of Jesus… and he wasn’t willing to pay it just then.

If you train, study, and commit you can become very good.  If you train, study, and commit in the areas God has blessed you in… you will appear otherworldly to your peers.  If you apply that training, knowledge, and experience in your gifting to God, you will become the target.  You will be tackled from behind.  Let’s change that line from the commentator a bit.  What if Bo wasn’t giving it his all?  What if he was tired?  What if he just wanted to put in the minimum effort?  I imagine he would have went down easy as well.

They think it was his momentum coupled with his strength.  When he felt the enemy around him, he didn’t give up.  When they started to wrap him up he said, ‘I’m not letting you get my legs’.  He pulled them with his strength.  He kept trying to run.  It was the act of giving everything you have even when things start to go wrong.  If he had conceded to the tackle, he may have just gone on and performed many more jaw dropping, spectacular plays.  But he simply refused.  He would not go down on someone else’s terms.

Do we?  Do we give it all we have?  When adversity shows up, do we lean to the sidelines yielding the drama of the tackle?  Do we just fall down when something bad touches us? Are we content with just a first down?  Is making the team enough?  Are we happy with status quo?  Or do you yearn to keep moving, to keep pushing, to keep pulling, to stay on your feet, to knock back adversity, to pummel oppression, to de-cleat turmoil in your life?

I idolize Bo as an athlete, not because of his stats.  Some of his stats, when seen all alone, didn’t look that great.  It was how he accomplished those numbers.  It was in the time frame with shortened seasons.  It was with integrity.  It was with determination.  He didn’t just score touchdowns… He refused to let the enemy have a say in the outcome of his goals.  He didn’t care if you were a 300 pound lineman, an all-world linebacker, or an epic safety… (or all 3).  If you stood in his way, you better had prepared harder and been gifted more because he was willing to empty his tank to get to the destination.

Can we say the same?  With God behind us, blessing us, Biblically prepared, prayed for, do we dig in and give absolutely everything we have against the enemy in this world?  Or, when he lays a hand on us, does punting sound like a good idea?  “I can do all things through Christ“.  Is it that we don’t really believe the word, “ALL”?  Do we read that and think God made a mistake by putting that in the Bible?  Do we think the Greek translation really meant, ‘I can do reasonable things…’?  Or… is it the last part?

Are we not in Christ?  Are we not ‘through’ Him?  Is He even invited to our efforts?  If we lived out our faith the same way Bo chased down miraculous catches on the baseball field, if we prayed with the same vigor that Bo plowed through defenders on the football field, if we chose to keep running even when we were inevitably stopped… we could show the world why its so important to run the race we cannot win.

Putting on the name of Christ is like getting handed the football.  11 skilled professionals will hunt you down and do everything they can to not only stop you, but to take what is yours.  What is better than a tackle?  A forced fumble.  A defensive touchdown.  Fantasy football players want nothing more than the rare sack, fumble, TD that can happen in a single play.  If you are a believer without a team, I pray you find one quick.  You need prayer warriors, defenders in the faith, and if nothing else, shoulders to cry on and keep you upright.

God’s church is His team and we need that to win.  We have to hobble off the field when attacks don’t go so well and that is much easier with the help of some other players.  That tackle is coming.  That moment when Satan goes for the jugular against those that oppose him.  God has armed us, prepared us, and gifted us for that moment.  Will we leave skills unused?  Will we leave gas in the tank?  Will we go down easy, pull up, look back?

 

We Can’t be Obedient if We Aren’t Rebelling

To be obedient to God, we must become disobedient to our previous way of living.

We have to rebel against the life of self satisfaction.

We have to reject the tendencies to serve worldly desires and systems.

We have to sin against our former gods.  (wealth, reputation, status, legacy, etc)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die”.  Death to our old way of things.  Death through baptism.  Death to our lives centering the universe.  Death to an old law.  Death to prison.  Death to loss and pain.

We can’t take on the new without properly burying the old.  If we truly nailed our sins to the cross and watched them breath their last, we can burst up from the depths of the waters a new creation by and from God.  An obedient servant.  Dripping with the holy waters of salvation met with loving freedom and creation.

Then we can follow the Man.  The one who said “you are forgiven”.  The Man that walked on water and raised the dead… yet came to give up His own life.  The definition of power and majesty who decided to yield to frail men with evil agendas.  The leader who brought a plan with me in mind and then said, “it is finished”.

Obedience.  Following a God who stooped to the level of humanity, so that we could enter the kingdom of a Fatherly deity.  He became like us so we could be made like Him.  And now, we choose to obey, not because we have to, not because the rules say so, not because we promised or feel guilty… but because it’s the most exciting thing we can imagine.  I get to follow God.  I get to walk in the footsteps of the greatest sacrifice ever made.  I can see the path to follow and treading between its borders is the most wonderful form of worship and praise I can give.

To obey is not to say, “I guess so”.  To submit one’s will is to jump up shouting… “there is no other way!  This is how life is meant to be!”  Psalm 119:97 says, “Oh how I love your law!  It is my meditation all the day.”  A huge portion of that chapter addresses how wonderful the law is.  Not as a book of decrees or a hierarchy to submit to, but as a loving and protecting testament to the relationship between God and man.

Obedience is an honor and privilege.  It is true freedom.  We take off a heavy burden and put on a loving and light one.  A burden that is tremendously unbearable when people try and resist it.  A burden that is graciously easy, when willfully followed.

Obedient to the one who created us to be eternally happy.  We are crafted to sit at the thrown with God.  How can we fight the natural way of things?  The enemy is near.  It is he who deserves our disobedience.  It is he we are to die to.  Whomever we do not die to, we will live eternally with.

Turn that Frown Upside-Out

In Genesis 40 we learn about the cupbearer and the baker.  They upset the king and were tossed into prison.

I can’t be sure what the conditions were like there, but the ESV uses 3 different words to describe the event.  Prison, confined, custody.  None of those sound extremely pleasant to me.  I only point this out because we know Joseph had favor in all things, including with the captain of the guard who put him in charge of the other prisoners.

While this might be an improvement for Joseph (over the other prisoners), 3 things still remain.  He is in prison.  He is confined.  And he is captive.  We get a small window into his desire to leave when he interprets the dreams of the cupbearer and baker.  He asks them to remember him and speak to the king on his behalf so he can be removed from this place.

But before we get to the dream interpretations, one other line stands out.  How long were they in prison?  “They continued for some time in custody”.  I don’t know what the social etiquette for “some time” was back in the day, but this clearly is more than a few nights.  I get the impression that each of the 3 men were settled into their roles and had formed a bit of a relationship.

After both of the King’s officers had a dream and were “troubled” by it.  Joseph immediately noticed.  And he felt compelled to ask about it.  So he walks in, addresses his fellow inmates and asks, “Why are your faces downcast today?”.

Why are your faces downcast today?

In prison… he asks those incarcerated with him… one of whom we find out is essentially on death row, (he dies at the hands of the king 3 days later, per his dream).  This further tells me this isn’t likely a minimum security scenario.  This “prison” is where he put the man who was accused of advancing on the wife of the king and an officer that was killed instead of released.

And after a lengthy stay in jail, a dream that doesn’t make sense changes the demeanor of not one, but two of the prisoners.  Was it because Joseph took such great care of these men that they didn’t have anything else to worry about?  They obviously slept since they entered the REM levels of sleep and had memorable dreams.  I’m guessing they had beds and blankets.

In my mind this all points to Joseph, who while wrongfully imprisoned (for actually doing the right thing, but being accused of the opposite) decided to make the best of the situation.  It sounds to me like he created an environment that was extremely hospitable and easily livable.  The men under his care weren’t scrounging for food, freezing in corners, or fearing the guards.  They were sleeping, dreaming, and sharing their experiences with one another.

While much of this is speculative, he took enough care, that a downcast face in his ward was something that concerned him.  (again…. IN PRISON!).

Does this sound right to you?  Isn’t it considered rude to ask certain things in certain situations?  Can we actually ask:

The prisoner why he is sad?

The hospital patient why she is worried?

The accident victim what could be wrong?

The outcast why they look lonely?

The mourner what is bothering them?

You can when your purpose for living isn’t tied to this world.  When you have a relationship with God and you go about His business, its much easier to understand why Paul found contentment in prison as well.

What can we complain about today?  Traffic.  Responsibilities.  Money.  Relationships.  Health.  Jobs.  Churches.  Politics.  I’m sure, if we brainstormed, we could come up with a few hundred things.  All of those things are prisons.  Each of them has only power in this world, and only the power we allow them to have.

Our friends might not be bold enough, so its a task left up to us.  Spend some time in the mirror each day and ask… what do we have to be upset about?  What could worry us?  What could deter us from the cross?  In light of what Jesus has done for us… how could our faces possibly be downcast?

We can turn that frown upside down fairly easily when good things happen to us here and now.  Joseph turned his inside out by focusing on good things to come.  Eternal things.  They made all circumstances currently endured null and void.  With the hindsight of Jesus, we can do both.

 

It’s All in the Name

We received a new foster child that will be in our care until the parents sort out a few issues.  In this case he has a great relationship with his parents, so calling us mom and dad is not an option.  With all the stress, frustration, and fear that the child is going through, we have our own issues.  The bigger things matter to us as well, but sometimes the logistics can feel pretty important.

What should he call us?  It’s been a week and 99% of the time he shouts, “Hey guys!” when he wants our attention.  I really don’t care what I’m called, but in an effort to help teach respect for others I’ve really tried to reinforce, Mr. Barry.  It hasn’t landed.  It’s not a battle I’ve really chosen to fight, but he hasn’t grasped the name anyway.

There are multiple anecdotes where he has asked for “the other lady that lives here”, “the person downstairs”, or any other descriptor that fits his recent memory of us.  While playing ball, he decided to make everything into a race.  Of course, with his energy and his rules, he won.  That night at dinner he calmly said, “hey slowpoke, it’s time for dinner!”.  He then used the term later in the evening as well.  Not with a smirk or grin, but just in passing to identify me.

It took a week, but I now have a name.  It’s slowpoke.  Had I known… I might have run a little faster and tried a little harder in the races that preceded it.

We often give ourselves our own names. Sometimes we let the world identify us. They call us mistakes and we listen. They call us loser and almost prophetically we make it so. They call us failure and we wallow in it.  These terms are often handed out with as much forethought as our foster child used.  Spur of the moment with a notable smidge of perceived truth.  And we wrap ourselves in it and display in shame for the world to see.

Broken.  Lost.  Poor.  Uneducated.  Simple.  Sinner.  Trash.  Some of these terms come about innocently enough.  They are never intended to carry such poisonous barbs.  But the wrong person overheard, or we were just trying to be funny, or we simply didn’t think before speaking.  What a lesson we could learn in how we treat each other.  But some of them are more hurtful.  More intentional.  In our current social climate we toss out such hate and slander.  Bigot, racist, hateful, evil, monster, …

I’d like to say we don’t have to accept the names given to us by others.  And its true that we don’t.  But, I also know how psychologically difficult it is to shed the perceptions of the masses once that hook sinks into our hearts.  But what does carry great weight, and what should lift those unnecessary burdens off of us, is that we are promised a new name.

Listen to just a very tiny list of only a fraction of the names that belong to God:  Healer, Savior, I Am, Lord, God, Almighty, Truth, Light… Father.

The God of many, many names…. one of which is our Father, has a new name for us.  Each of us.  It’s not a title or a credential.  It’s not our profession and it doesn’t relate to our social status.  It’s a unique, handpicked name just for you.

May I encourage you to live for THAT name.  To let only God define who you are.  To proudly stand against all the sinners who throw that useless tag at you… because you know that Jesus wore that tag on the cross.  It’s been spent.  It’s over.  You are no longer that person.  That name, the old one, has been ripped off and burned in fire.  You will be called something new.  From the lips of your heavenly Father, you will be called it.  Just for you.  Set aside.  Set apart.  Special.  Fashioned with love.  Solely for you.

Just like the tried and true ‘kick-me’ sign, Satan has attached to us something that doesn’t belong.  We can ignore that temptation and brush it off knowing the full truth.  Or we can accept that lie and bend under the weight as the world accepts his faulty claims.  As always, its our choice.