Worthless

The mind is often our worst enemy

-It’s about midnigDepressionht on a Saturday and I am sitting in the living room of our duplex in Billings MT. My stepfather—a 6’8” truck driver, former bull rider and cowboy—comes home drunk, nothing unusual there. For some reason my mother is not there, I think she was out looking for him— again. He walks in and stops at my chair, towering over me he commences to berate me; “Look at you, just sitting there watching TV, you’re worthless and lazy, you have always been worthless and lazy and you’ll never amount to anything.”

I was barely 16, going to school, working part time cleaning a clothing store in the evenings and often working on a ranch during the weekends but that didn’t matter— I was worthless and lazy—and for some reason, in my heart I believed it. Perhaps because I had heard exactly the same thing for five years from my former stepfather.

A couple of years later after leaving home and school to go into Job Corps where I would learn the construction trades I would get a visit from another Father. Around midnight as I was lying in bed on a Saturday night in a dorm room surrounded by other snoring guys about my age, far from home and family —I was having a melt-down. I don’t even know why, extreme cabin feve
r in the midst of one of the worst winters on record, fear of the future and my own ability to face it? Looking back with a little more understanding and wisdom I know now that I was most likely in the grips of depression, an ailment that runs strong in my family.

But this time the Father who showed up had a different tone. I couldn’t see him, he wasn’t towering over me with whiskey on his breath, he was just a presence of love and peace so strong that I could feel it. I was having a close encounter with the Lord himself who revealed to me in the anxiousness of a dark winter night in the mountains outside of Anaconda—his love for me. Suddenly my childhood long, unending longing for a loving fulltime father, to be a real part of my life was gone, and I realized that I did have a Father who loved me and was proud of me.

It finally started to sink in that what my real Dad and my mother had been telling me was true, that I was a good person, and though it would take many more years for that to really sink in and bring me to a place of real healing— on this night in Anaconda, far from all of my family, the anxiousness that was consuming me as I was sinking into the death grip of depression and codependency was gone as my heavenly Father whispered to my heart that he was there for me, and would always be.

I heard him because I had cried out in desperation and opened my heart to hear. I had received Jesus years earlier but now I had accepted my adoption into the family of God, and though it would be a few years before I started hanging around with the Lord’s family in a church, at least now I knew who my true father was and that he loved me and was there for me in my darkest hours, not to berate me but to comfort me, to let me know that I was someone worth loving.

This realization is peace—this is happiness.

16Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?

17 Unless the Lord had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy. Ps 94

Though this psalm starts with a need for deliverance from enemies, the focus of the psalm soon shifts to a song of thanksgiving for deliverance from inner demons so to speak. The writer (David) felt himself slipping into darkness, even the darkness of death— perhaps literally—as he feared the arrow of an enemy could find him at any moment as he was living as a refugee from the King and then as a King with many enemies who would like to see him gone— or the death like silence of a heart that has given in to total despair.

I believe David felt himself slipping into a despair from which death may even have been seen as a relief, a desperate and undesirable relief especially in light of the fact that the Hebrew notion of the grave before the doors of heaven were opened by Jesus, was a place below the earth, hades, where the dead waited for the resurrection, totally cut off from the living.

A heart that feared it was on a slippery slope of no return to the silence of death was an anxious heart indeed while at the same time an anxious heart that longed for the silence of death was a heart that was already in a kind of living death, either way, it is a bad place to be— it is a place with no love.

An anxious heart, a heart of despair, a heart that either fears or longs for death is a heart that has no love. David is plainly thanking the Lord here for delivering him from a heart issue. His heart was hurting, his heart was empty, his heart was about to give in and give up. It was perhaps a despair that was brought on by the relentless persecution of his enemies, but the real enemy soon became his own mind.

Then he receives consolation, and what is that consolation? The love of the Lord.

I believe the heart, the soul, the mind and the spirit are intricately
woven together in such complexity that only God can unravel and bring health and it is only by his word and by his Holy Spirit that we can even begin to understand it, and only through him that the damage that this fallen world and the sinfulness of the human heart has inflicted on it.

Love is the answer

We need love, we were created to be loved, and to give love. A heart that does not perceive itself as having love will not last for long, at least not in any kind of sustainable form. The ultimate deceit and victory of the enemy of our souls is convincing us that we are unloved— that we are unlovable—and that even God does not love us. He delights in isolating the human heart from any and all love but ultimately the love of God because then he has succeeded in not just destroying our lives, but also our eternal souls.

But rest assured, you Father loves you and he has a plan for you—A plan to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future. —Jeremiah 29:11

Look to him, he is waiting, he understands— he really does.

 

You can be happy

Attitude

-Happiness is something we all strive for, something we all long for, yet for all the attention being happy has garnered as a pursuit of mankind as it has been for eons, it has remained frustratingly illusive and even indefinable and unattainable to most no matter their station in life. It can’t be bought, stolen or forced—you can’t take it away from someone and they cannot give it to you.

Happiness can be very subjective and as fickle as the wind. This is because happiness is a state of mind, it is something we choose.

Going through Yellowstone park a couple weeks ago I was reminded of the words I learned as a child in the 60’s; Words of a great 20th century poet and singer of songs:

You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd.

You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd. 

You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd. 

But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to.

All you gotta do is set your mind to it, knuckle down buckle down, do it, do it, do it!

These words of wisdom are from the same man who also wrote the profound words: “I wish I had your good luck charm and you had a do-whaka-do-whaka-do-whaka-do, whaka-do.”Roger Miller

You can be happy, if you’ve a mind to. Obviously this is kind of a silly song but it is certainly sound principle. We choose our own attitudes and our attitude affects everything we do and everyone around us. Attitude is the greatest determiner of happiness there is. Our attitudes touch our very spirit and determine our reception to the blessings of God.

24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. Numbers 14

A Spirit of worship

Years ago— I will never forget this because it really rang true and gave me hope when one of my children, was giving me my first grey hairs, as she was struggling to find her way in the world—a good friend at our church, Jennifer, told Donna and I as we were talking about the challenges of raising teenagers, something which we helped each other do—she said: You know what? “I wouldn’t worry too much about Cally, Cally will be all right, she will always overcome, because she has a spirit of worship. I can see it in her”

This encouraged us greatly because we knew it was true. I had never thought about it this way—as a spirit—but it made sense. Our spirit is who we truly are deep inside, who we will always be, the part of us created in the image of God, and if that spirit has a love for worship then it is a spirit of worship.

Worship not an end in itself but it is merely a symptom, if you will, of just loving to be in the presence of a loving God, so a person with a spirit of worship is a person who has discovered that the vehicle to bring you into that presence, the place where you can be blessed, be safe, be strengthened—is by closing your eyes, shutting out the world and singing a song of praise to the God of the universe with the knowledge that he hears you and is pleased with you for coming to him.

A spirit, a heart, an attitude- one in the same? I believe so. A spirit of worship is one that acknowledges the Lord, one that recognizes the goodness, the possibilities, the truth of God’s goodness, his power, love and hand in our presence. That is a happy person who can overcome, who can see in the light of eternity and will be blessed.

Jesus said, the Father seeks those who will worship him in spirit and in truth.

If you listen and obey, make the right professions at the right time, see the world through the eyes of the promises of God, learn to have a spirit of worship—then you will overcome the giants in the land and enter into your blessing—just as Caleb did. That is a spirit that is free, that is truly happy.

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8

Freedom from fear of judgement, fear of failure, fear of condemnation and inadequacy, all things Jesus took away on the cross, those are all ours if we trust his word, look to him for our deliverance from whatever troubles us, even if all we can do is worship him in the middle of the storm— we will have a soul at peace, a spirit that is free, and that is happiness.

It’s not always easy— trust me I know,—but you can be happy if you’ve a mind to.

 

Heart Treasures

 

-Making Memories- Hyellowstone-national-parkere’s a word for you parents with young children; don’t get so hung up on the challenges and frustrations of trying to shape young irrational, stubborn and impatient minds and souls that you miss out on the potential significance of want is happening right now. Don’t stress because your plans and fantasy of perfect children being raised by perfect parents in a home full of fun and educational crafts, fresh baked cookies, butterfly catching and smiling singing children who take naps on que and wake up ready for their piano lessons haven’t come to fruition.

Watch Mary Poppins, the Sound of Music, laugh hysterically, and then go treasure the fact that you have real children who have a strong will, a desire to get really dirty and want to rule the world starting with your house, because God has entrusted you to shape them into a force that will affect their world and advance the kingdom of God and you have no idea how you just being there with them every day— challenging them, correcting them, wiping their noses and just keeping them from killing one another—is going to affect their lives for eternity.

They won’t remember the times you didn’t flit into the dining wearing your apron and high heels carrying a pan full of made from scratch oatmeal cookies as they were practicing their spelling. But they will remember that you were there and you allowed them to be kids without allowing them to play in the street, jump off the roof with a garbage bag for a parachute, get a tattoo of the Ninja turtles when they were twelve or pierce their little sister’s ears for her with an ice pick and a potato.

They will remember that you cared enough to be there for them and have the struggles that allowed them to live to adulthood largely unscathed. And if you managed to instill some mental snapshots into their hearts of the good times you had as a family— then you have really excelled as a parent because these have become heart treasures, touchstones, that they will carry for eternity.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:51

 

I didn’t write a blog last week because Donna and I had taken the weekend off to head to a place where we have created a full album in our hearts of mental snapshots— treasured memories; Yellowstone Park— just a short drive from where we live. Yellowstone is a place that indeed brings back many great memories and reminds me that life is an adventure worth living, a fight worth having.

So last Saturday Donna and I stopped at Canyon village in the Park for lunch. We waited for and got a seat at the very busy lunch counter in the café there.

Across the counter from us was a family of six. Parents with three young girls ages 8, 10 and 12 I’m guessing, and a little boy about 6. I don’t know where they were from but they weren’t speaking English, I couldn’t hear them well enough to even guess, they looked maybe the Mediterranean or even middle eastern.

What I could see though was that they had 4 beautiful children who were enjoying themselves playing with a bag of polished stones and other trinkets they had probably just bought in the gift shop next door as they waited for their lunch. This brought back many memories of taking our own daughters through the park, the fun times and all the challenges that go with that.

Suddenly the challenges presented themselves to this family as the little boy starting getting angry and causing a commotion. I saw the mother sitting next to him give her husband a “Do something with your son look.” Soon he was sitting next to the boy who was starting to throw a fit, pointing at his sisters and demanding something. His father tried to quietly diffuse the situation and apparently thought he had succeeded because he went back to his own stool leaving the little boy pouting with his arms crossed.

Suddenly he very resolutely announced something to his parents and quick as a wink he slid of the stool and stormed off under the divider and into the very busy store adjacent to the lunch counter. His mother looked at her husband for just a second with a mixed look of shock, anger and fear and took off running to fetch the boy on a mission, dragging him back screaming to the counter where he sat and pouted some more—but stayed put.

While all this was going on I was also watching the girls, I could tell because I know kids, that they were still having fun. They were in the park having the adventure of a lifetime and they knew their little brother would get over whatever was troubling him soon enough. Soon they all had their American cheese burgers and life went on.

Donna looked at me at the point where the mother was running after the boy into the crowd with a what is going on look and I said: I can’t understand what they’re saying but it seems as though the girls had something the little boy didn’t and he was bound and determined to go and get it—some things are universal.

All of this brought back memory after memory and I just wanted to go over to this shell shocked couple and say; “Cherish this day, this is a day your kids will remember for the rest of their lives and in years to come you will look back and say, wow, that was a special trip, I’m sure glad we did that.” And this stress of trying to herd little kids through a crowded tourist haven will be long forgotten. I was wishing I had one of my books— Hope For Families— on me to give them but they probably wouldn’t have been able to read it anyway. But I stayed put, and I didn’t talk to them, I try not to be a creeper and they didn’t need me—they were doing it, they were having an adventure and they were making heart treasures.

You see, it’s not being perfect, it’s not the money you spend or the grandeur of the adventure, it’s just being together. Taking the time, making the effort to be there, to make memories, to build monuments. Everyone in that family is going to remember something different from that trip but they are all going to remember it and I’ll bet someday they will bring their own kids there and then their hearts will be full when the memories come flooding back and they see their own kids making new memories of their own, adding to your treasures and the heart gets fuller and fuller just knowing that you are helping the next generation find their own heart treasures.

Don’t get so busy just trying to live that you neglect making memories. You will never have this day to live over again, you cannot redo your children’s childhood and you cannot add treasures to a heart that you don’t make time for.

You have to be intentional about finding your treasures, they don’t always just happen. It doesn’t have to be Yellowstone, it can be the city park, a favorite camping or picnic spot. An activity like fishing, bowling, riding, playing games, all of the above— you name it. The point is, be there, be intentional and treasure the times you have while always looking for opportunity to make more.

And realize that the kids in Mary Poppins and the Sound of Music had full time nannies raising them so they probably grew up to be spoiled neurotic adults who resented their parents for not raising them themselves—just a theory.

 

 

We Speak the Language

Say what?-

So, last week1944423809_jackie_chan_wtf_face_i16_answer_9_xlarge a project manager/estimator from our Construction firm and I are standing with an architect and a structural engineer looking at the steel roof structure of the church addition I am in charge of building in Miles City. The architect and engineer are debating the need for additional bracing on the steel tresses to restore the integrity of the structure for both lateral movement and snow deflection because some of the X-braces had to be removed in order to accommodate the duct work which had to be installed above the level of the suspended ceiling grid.

I needed to be involved in this conversation because I, as the project superintendent, am responsible for making happen whatever they decide was needed, and I wanted to make sure I understood the intent of the bracing, the method of application, and placement while using my years of experience to have intelligent input on what was obviously
a let’s make this up as we go along scenario on their part, which is what much of construction and post planning stage field engineering is.

Did any of you find that hard to follow? If you did it may be because you don’t speak the language. As is often the case─ and I know all of you can relate to this─ I found myself in a position where I had to put on my specialized hat and speak a language I wouldn’t use everywhere, or anywhere, else. I was using a jargon particular to this circumstance─ technical terms that communicate things only people with similar knowledge and experience understand yet require in order to A: understand you, and B: take you seriously in your position as the one to get it done.

It can be intimidating, and used to be— but I have been doing it long enough now that I am confident and at ease when having these conversations with people who have letters after their names, I speak the language.

So, Monday I am going to use a 110 wire feed with .30 wire to place ¼ fillet weld on the butts and intersections of the 1x1x1/16 angle I am adding as x-bracing in the first bay to create a box from which to stabilize all the other tresses that are connected by horizontal bracing already welded to the bottom cords.

You got that right? Many of you— not so much. I wonder if that’s the way a lot of the world feels when we talk to them about our faith or when they hear us talking to one another. Most of the world doesn’t speak Christian E’s, they don’t understand our language. What is sin anyway, sancti-what? Rapture, tithe, redemption, holiness, Old testament, New testament, epistle, gospel— sounds like a bunch of gobbly-gook to most of the world, the world we all live in.

In the world

There is an often used saying in the church, that we are “In the world but not of it” This comes largely from the words of Jesus in John 17 as he is praying for his disciples just before his arrest: 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 

Indeed, in the world—citizens and occupants of a world that was created for us by a loving God that has become corrupt and evil beyond description—but not of the world, for we have been redeemed, the ransom paid to save us from the ravishes of this world and the penalty to come for those who submitted to the powers of darkness that now dominate this world while refusing the truth and redemption freely offered to them by the creator.

I believe we go a long way towards fulfilling the great commission, towards honestly representing the Kingdom of Heaven so that others may choose to be saved from the despair of this world and judgement to come —on the perpetrators of that despair— by being open, honest and sincere. Being yourself while remembering who you are; a loved child of God who was created in his image and by him in a way that makes you unlike any other human being that has ever lived.

You are uniquely made —from the complexity of the DNA that makes you unique physiologically— to the spirit which gives your life and makes you cognizant of where and who you are in the universe while at the same time causing you to ask the questions as you try to understand more and more of the nature of that place.

No other creature in all of creation does that, we are unique, you are unique—truly created in the image of God. So you are inherently good. If we embrace the person who God created us to be while recognizing and shunning the corruption that creeps in from the evil influences of this fallen world, we can truly make a difference in this world─ In the world but not of it; the world needs us, people also created in his image, woefully deceived and misled need us, we need to learn to speak their language.  -Right?

Actually that was a trick question. All of us already speak several languages of this world, we just don’t realize it or recognize the importance and advantage of it, at least not for the Kingdom.

 Go where God leads you, preach the gospel he gives you to those in your world. We all have access to a world that few other believers may occupy, where even fewer believers are willing to occupy, let alone preach in. We all speak different languages and by that I don’t mean foreign languages, I mean that we can relate to people in certain circles, where we are comfortable, where we have had experience’s, where people don’t look at us and say, “Where are you from?”

Worry less about where you should or could go and look at those before you who are asking the questions; “What is it all for? Am I loved? Do I have a purpose? Can you tell me, can anyone tell me, I don’t understand!” Those questions are coming from your neighbors, your coworkers, your family… your children. You speak their language like no one else can, give them hope.

15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. John 17

That’s why you were sent into this world. You have a purpose.

Be there, don’t give up.

 

You Are Not a Bad Person

The Runaway Tractor- IMG_0580

Several years ago in the middle of haying season my lovely and capable wife offered to take a day off from work and bale the hay I had knocked down in the big field opposite the house on the other side of the big coulee.  I was all for this as I had to work the next day and often about the time I got home a quick evening thunderstorm would put a quick end to my own baling plans.

So I gave her a quick refresher course on running the baler and the old Farmall tractor we would use to pull it.  I went to work the next day expecting to come home and find a field full of beautiful square bales.

I came home to see only the first one or two outside rows baled and the baler sitting idle in the field with no tractor in site.  Bewildered I walked to the door of the house and was met by Donna.  I said, “What happened, where’s the tractor?”  She responded Dad’s at the hospital and the tractor’s in the dump!”  While I was trying to figure out why and how they got the tractor to the dump and what that had to do with Ralph being at the hospital she starting explaining to me that the throttle linkage on the tractor had come loose and not knowing what to do she walked back to the house and called her dad.

Her dad had recently had a couple of TI’s, or mini strokes, and so was not supposed to be driving anymore or running farm equipment.  This of course did not set to well with this nearly 80-year-old rancher who had worked hard all his life and it was a constant fight to keep him out from behind the wheel.  But Donna’s mom offered to bring him out so he could take a look, after all it was his equipment.

So Margie, Donna’s mom drove Ralph out and they went over into the field. He determined he needed to bring the tractor back to the house where it could be worked on.  Since it could not go any faster than an idle no one raised any real objections when he said he would drive it back over to the house.

So they unhooked it from the bailer and away they went, Ralph putting along on the tractor and Margie following in their car.  Donna decided she was going to go check the mail and would meet them back at the house. About half way across the field Ralph stopped the tractor and got off to go and tell Margie something, we never did find out what it was.  As he started walking toward the car Margie yelled at him that the tractor was starting to roll─ it had slowly started rolling backward down the progressively steeper hill toward the big coulee.

Amazingly, Ralph still had enough pep in him to catch the tractor and he managed to get his feet up onto the draw bar on the back end and grab the back of the seat as the tractor started picking up speed as the hill got steeper and steeper. Before he could pull himself up into the seat where he could grab the wheel and step on the brake, the tractor was suddenly plunging backward into a very steep ravine at the bottom edge of the field.

So here’s Ralph hanging on for dear life on the downhill end of a runaway tractor standing just inches off the ground, between two wheels as tall as he is, as it plunges into and through a ravine using him as the spearhead to plow a path through a thicket of very thorny wild plumb trees and just as thorny wild roses, to end up in a bottom full of broken glass and rusted metal and mattress springs.  This coulee—more of a steep ravine off the bigger coulee—had been used years ago by the Helfrick’s─ the original homesteaders─ as a garbage dump.

The tractor crashed through the tangle of brush—which probably kept it from flipping over on top of him—and slammed into the opposite bank at the bottom of the ravine slamming Ralph to the ground before running up over him, the tool bar smashing him into the debris on the ground as it rolled a few feet up the bank before finally coming to rest on top of Ralph.

Finding himself lying flat on his back looking up at the plug in the oil pan on the belly of the tractor and smack between the wheels of the still running tractor, Ralph was able to crawl out on his hands and knees through the broken glass and rusty remnants of tin cans─ bruised, scraped and scratched from head to toe.

Just after Ralph’s spectacular last runaway tractor ride Donna came back from the mail box and saw the car sitting empty in the middle of the field with the door open and no one around.  Donna’s frantic Mom had chased Ralph right into the ravine on foot and that’s where Donna found her. Between them they managed to get Ralph out of that overgrown tangled mess. They loaded him up into the car and hauled him to the emergency room.  He was bruised everywhere and missing a few layers of skin here and there but otherwise he was OK.

 

3 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. Is 42:3

We used to have to argue with my Father in Law about driving and running equipment, until the day he ended up in that coulee and almost killed himself. We didn’t have to argue with him any more after that, his wounds did all the talking that was necessary, and we didn’t have to keep jabbing his bruises to make sure he didn’t forget.

When a person has been battered and bruised by bad decisions they don’t need more bruises, they don’t need their bruises pointed out, they need a safe place to heal and they need to be shown how to avoid future bruises without being made to feel like a fool.

Each and every one of us of knows what it feels like to mess up, because we have all messed up. Each one of us knows what it’s like to be judged and condemned and what it feels like to get kicked around.

We are called to love people into wholeness, it’s called grace, we need to do more than receive it, we need to extend it, we all get hurt, we all get derailed at times, that doesn’t nullify God’s love for us.

If you are hurting- Jesus wants to heal you, because he loves you.  Ralph was just trying to save his tractor, a split second decision, a reflex, an attempt to regain control, and suddenly he found himself totally out of control and all he could do is ride it out. I can just imagine the feeling and the fear as he desperately tried to get back into that driver’s seat knowing he was about to go off the edge into the pit, likely to be pinned there under a ton of steel and rubber.

Was it a bad decision? Yes, was he foolish? No, just reacting, trying to do the right thing, probably not the first time but this time it got away from him. Did he deserve what he got? No, and no one thought or insinuated that he did. He knew he messed up but he survived and he learned from it, add so did the rest of us. I know I will never jump onto the rear end of a backwards rolling tractor.

He was black and blue and purple and green for a while but he actually healed up quite nicely.

Maybe you have gotten into a fix that has caused you a lot of grief. Maybe you have jumped onto a runaway tractor thinking to save someone or fix something, turns out you did it the wrong way or it wasn’t appreciated by someone you really care about, now you are ashamed and scorned. Maybe you latched onto something thinking you could control it and suddenly it is controlling you and threatening to destroy you, to pile drive you right into the dump and leave you for broken.

You don’t have to stay there; you don’t deserve to stay there. Listen to this; you are not a bad person, you ae created in the image of God and you have a good heart and that’s what Jesus sees, things have just gotten away from you, you made bad decisions in the heat of the moment, or a well thought out plan didn’t work out and the more you tried to fix it the worse it got and now it seems hopeless. It’s not, Jesus can fix it, Jesus loves you, he wants to pull you out of the dump, to dust you off, to heal you, and set you back in the driver’s seat with a new appreciation for his directions as he guides you to safe places; places where you can help others to avoid or get out of runaway situations.

Your scars are a testimony and a proof of his power and love, share them, show them─ and be healed.

 

It’s Hard.

dualing dinosaursIt’s hard to not grow weary of the fight. It’s hard to be faithful, at least faithful as we see it, you know what I mean? To maintain a mindset that is set on the Lord and the things of the Lord, to keep our eyes on Jesus. It’s hard to not get discouraged and not give in to the notion that we must have missed it somewhere, that all our struggle is for naught. It’s hard to be the responsible parent, the loving supportive spouse, the story book endings always seem to be for someone else.

It’s hard because we know what it is supposed to be, what it can be if Jesus is kept the center of all, if the world had not chosen to turn away from God and choose its own path. We know because we have that knowledge planted in our hearts, it is alive in us through the holy Spirit, we have tasted the Kingdom and it is ours but we are still stuck in this one where the Devil still runs roughshod- apparently laughing with glee, as we all struggle with; “Why? Why is it so hard?” -Or maybe it’s just me.

Feeling discouraged a few weeks ago I was praying on my way home from Miles City: “Lord, it seems I have so many promises that have yet to be fulfilled, it’s getting harder and harder to keep trusting the promises, and the struggle to be godly never seems to get easier. Have you given up on me?”

And the Lord answered;

If you don’t give up on me, I won’t give up on you.

Back in 2003 I was doing a job at the Billings water treatment plant. Long story short, one of the things we had to do was to fill a couple of 5 foot square holes in a 2-foot thick concrete wall in the lower level of the pump station to accommodate the new pumps that would draw water from the Yellowstone River. So we drilled holes in the perimeter of the openings for rebar dowels and tied the rebar into place, formed up both sides of the opening leaving a small opening in the top of one side for the concrete to be placed via a concrete pump.

The only way to get the hose from the pump truck into the form was by dropping it down the 30’ deep shaft on the river side of the walls after pulling the hose through the front and rear doors of the pump house. As usual we are on a tight schedule and we have to get this done and get the new pumps on line for the city.

So I schedule concrete for mid-afternoon, the soonest we can be ready. The trucks arrive and we got the 4” rubber hose from the pump truck dragged through the building and down the shaft and start pumping concrete. I had an older hand named Dennis helping me wrestle the hose down in the shaft and to run the vibrator.

Dennis was a good hand and reliable but not a real ball of fire. I used to tease him, “Dennis, you’re not very fast but you sure are slow!” He knew I liked him and always chuckled when I told him that. I liked Dennis because he mostly just kept his head down, his mouth shut and did his job.

Up above I had another hand whom we’ll call Benny. Benny was a good hand, a hard worker and got stuff done but he was ornery and liked to grumble a lot and never stopped talking, mostly about all his concrete expertise.

So we’re filling the hole with concrete. I had to really wet it up to get it to pump through 80’ or so of hose and you know what happens when you add water to concrete? It knocks down the air content. We had a spec that said we had to have a certain amount of air in the concrete and an inspector who never gave an inch on anything and I had told the batch plant to make sure there was good air in the mix.

When the first form was about two thirds of the way full I got word from the tester that the air content was a percentage point or two off so I was forced to reject the load and had no choice but to pull the hose, now very heavy with concrete, out of the shaft, back through the building, pull off the form and clean the freshly placed concrete out of the opening we were trying to fill.

This of course did not make anyone, especially me, very happy. Apparently I said a bad word or two in the process of yelling instructions up to the folks above and arguing with the truck driver while Dennis and I were frantically trying to pull the forms and dig all the mud out of the hole before it set up, because, yes, it is hard to be godly all the time in the construction world.

It was about 4:30 or so by this point the end of a hard day and we just wanted to be done but I was grateful that Dennis had stayed to help me as we ended up digging the concrete out with our bare hands from around the rebar in the hole, having to get every last bit so that it wouldn’t contaminate the rebar when we re-poured it the next day.

It took a while but we got it all cleaned out and scrubbed off the rebar with a wire brush and ready to try again the next day.

I say I was glad Dennis was there because Benny had deserted us. I had called up for him to help and was informed by the pump truck driver that he had left. What!? We’re not done, who does he think he is?

The next day he simply said; “Hey, it was quitting time.” I heard him tell someone some time later that he knew “If things are bad enough for Dan to start cussing, it’s time to leave.” I try not to cuss and I usually don’t, but as I told Donna, sometimes shucky darn just doesn’t cut it in the world of construction where yes, try as I might, it is hard to always be godly. But at the end of the day, the job has to be done, happy or mad, easy or frustrating, is irrelevant. Quitting time comes when the job is finished.

So, who is the real concrete hand here? The one who spend all day telling stories about what a great concrete hand he was yet left before the job was done, or the quiet slow one who was as dependable as the sunrise and stayed till the job was finished no matter how unpleasant it might be? Guess who was still with me a couple of months later when I only need one helper.

At the end of the day, it is not who talked the best game, it’s who is still there, the ones left standing.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Tim 4:8

 

Things will go wrong and yes, it’s hard, and can be frustratingly difficult but it’s not about being perfect and always having a sunny attitude; it’s about being there. The true church will prevail, and the true father, the true mother is the one who is there for their family- no matter how hard- it’s worth it.

 

Pray in the Spirit at all times

-In light of what has been happening lately from the corruption of Washington DC where those who have power can get away with anything and lying has become a virtue- to the streprayerets of Dallas where those sworn to protect us are gunned down while protecting those who were there to protest the injustices of those in other states as the tension between races which we had largely left behind decades ago are again being fanned to an out of control inferno I just have to set aside my usual feel good family blog and ask the hard question? What are we to do church?

Remember who we are, and pray. Our God is still in control and our God hears our cries, we are not orphans and we are not alone. Here is a promise only those who love him will understand; Jesus is here, and Jesus is coming.

15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:15-18

I will come to you. And that is exactly what he did and continues to do, he did not leave us as orphans but lives with us and in us by way of the Holy Spirit.  Receiving Jesus isn’t just an expression; being born again isn’t just a catch phrase adopted by the evangelical church to make themselves sound special, it is a real, literal, thing. The Holy Spirit really does come into us and our own dead spirit is born again and made new through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ.  We now have the Holy Spirit of God living in us where once there was a spirit that was dead because of the sin that separated us from the life that can only come from God.

But, that is a radical idea in this materialistic world where all roads lead to Heaven if there even is one; or worse – this is even a radical idea amongst a lot of religious traditions who teach that we have to work our way into God’s grace, that we just kind of morph into Christians by learning the right verses and taking part in the right ceremonies.  Or that we just need to get more good stuff on the scale to offset the bad on the other side of the scale— tipping the scale in the right direction by our deeds and prayers.

People who teach or live this way believe that this life is completely devoid of God’s power except to inflict punishment on those who dare to do anything that is deemed wrong by those who know better, deemed unforgivable by those who can quote every “thou shalt not” found in the Bible and haven’t cracked a smile since the Carter administration. Those who teach salvation by works or the law are devoid of all joy and hope— They have no patience; they have no peace and they offer only criticism and rebuke.

Don’t spit on me and tell me it’s raining, don’t throw half the fruits of the Holy Spirit out the window, Love, Joy, Peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and tell me your saved, that you love Jesus!  If you are truly Spirit led, Spirit filled, or even truly born again you will be radically different, you will not be defeated no matter what happens because you have a life inside of you that cannot be defeated, cannot be quenched— you have a joy that is not dependent on your surroundings, it comes from the inside, from the Holy Spirit of God.  It is the peace that passes all understanding and it comes with power, the power of love, the love of God within us, around us, and it needs to emanate from us.

And that is why we need to keep praying in the Spirit, only praying in the Spirit can release the power of the Spirit to build up the faith that will ensure our joy, that will protect us from those that would steal our victory. In this day and age, we need all that power we can get, we need to pray prayers that will change this world, that will protect our hearts and keep us moving in the joy of our salvation in spite of the evil that surrounds us.

You can take my right to speak my mind, my right to worship, you can take my ability to defend myself and my right to say no to that which my Bible teaches me is harmful or wrong; you can take my freedom and even my life but you can never take my Joy, you can never take my peace because my true freedom and my everlasting life comes from Jesus and I have the inexpressible and incomprehensible joy of living in the victory and power of his Kingdom today.

When Jesus said he was bringing the Kingdom of heaven, “Behold the Kingdom is at hand!” He did not fail, that kingdom is right here right now in the hearts of all who love him for he has come to us and made his home in us.

Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. John 14:23

That is forever and it has survived wars, fallen empires, concentration camps, beheadings and it will certainly survive corrupt politicians and Supreme Court decisions, terrorists, snipers and
riots. And if we truly believe that it will also overcome and outlast whatever the enemy comes up with next until we either reclaim this land for Jesus, or we are standing before the great white throne where the only thing left is that Kingdom and the books which declare who it was that believed unto life in the promise of his word, the word made alive by his Spirit.

On that day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And the books will be opened and everyone who was not found written in the Lamb’s book of life will be cast into the lake of fire. It would behoove you to start talking to God before that day, to make the most of this day and to seek and earnestly desire all the power we can get from the Lord who saves us as we fight to survive the here and now and to touch as many lives as we can before it’s too late.

We have to stand strong and we have to stand together and don’t let anyone talk you out of all that the Holy Spirit has for you. Jude, one of Jesus’ brothers wrote to the early Christians:

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.  Jude 1:17-21

Stay strong, Jesus loves you- yes you, and so do I.