Unsightly Hairs

Warning: The content of this post may be offensive to some.

While shaving this a.m. I was taken aback by an over one-inch long hair growing from my ear lobe. How had this gnarly, black strand grown to such degree without my notice?

I know what invasive ear canal hair can be like as one ages; and, I make it’s removal a part of my grooming each morning. Yet, this one had obviously missed my attention for days.

I’ll admit that a lot has been going on in my life, but to miss something this noticeable?
My wife, when asked, was so kind as to declare she had not noticed and thus perhaps neither had others.

You know where I am going I trust? Just as something this distasteful can occur without notice, so I suppose may the blind spots in our life; however, with much more serious repercussions.

Just the point of my prayers these last few weeks. Lord, remove the maverick hairs of my soul; re-wire this mind, condition this aspiring sage for further impact and maturity.

After removing the hair with one quick stroke of the razor, my morning dilemma was over. Though such quick remedy is often not the case for long neglected character flaws or ill-gotten leadership behaviors, we can still take heart in God’s commitment to our full redemption and His eye for excellence, as He daily grooms our souls.

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Rewiring

I may have just experienced one of the most bizarre moments in my life, the onset of something called Transient Global Amnesia. I am told it is an unexplained catch-all for a stroke like moment that leaves no physical challenges other than a black hole of less than 24 hours, now being reconstructed from feedback from those nearby at the onset. As intriguing as that may sound, that is not what this posting is about and is absolutely not about sympathy. Rather, the opportunity to encourage and to share what I believe to have been a bizarre spiritual moment that happens to fit the definition of the medical terminology referenced as TGA.

Peter mentioned something similar in I Peter 4:12-13, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

Perhaps such was the case for this Christ follower? If so, let’s call this post simply my rejoicing, and the transparency more about helping others than protecting my image, for I am told that some find it difficult to “walk out of the woods” that occur post episode.

The bizarre thing to me has been the nature of my prayers these past few months, that is, that the Lord would somehow rewire my brain. Yes, physically removing the collective damage that comes from the blows of a fully engaged life. Let’s move on.

For context, I must reference a message delivered recently at W-S First. During his talk, the speaker referenced terms I had used as chapter headings in a recent draft for a book which I felt best described my life journey. The words were Winning, Warring and Wounding; his lecture expanded the alliteration to include “wiring.” Implied is the long term toil on one’s life as he or she matures. It should be fairly obvious, at least to adults, the reality that life has its times when wins come easy, yet there are equal times when in order to win, there seems a need for more significant energy output; physically, mentally and yes at times, spiritually.

Those familiar with the spiritual sometimes categorize these laborious moments as spiritual warfare. A text is often cited among Christians from Matthew 11:12, “the violent take it by force.” Yes, there have been moments when the only way through seems to be forceful prayer, even utterances and groanings not understandable even to the prayer…praying in the Spirit.

Such has been the case many times in my life; so, upon hearing the aforementioned teaching, I began to pray that God would re-wire my mind, removing the impairments that could offend others or lessen the impact of my future life as an elder. Is this possible? Why not, given that Lazarus was dead for four days, his cerebral matter perhaps liquid by then? Yet, we read of his conversation at a gathering shortly after his resurrection; and shall I mention the Lord’s more brutal passing and miraculous recovery? I thought I might be foolish, not to pray toward that end.

Thus my prayers began some weeks back, of necessity at times, given the full life I seem to be leading, and on top of that, preparing for my first grandchild later this month. Friday, following a couple coaching conversations, I returned from my office with some apparent symptoms that caused my daughter pause, such as asking the same questions repeatedly. Though I don’t recall it, I apparently recommended that she take me to the fine hospital now located so close to our home in Clemmons, and from there, a rushed trip by ambulance to Forsyth Hospital, during which, I vaguely recall counting the bridges as we hurriedly moved up I-40 toward the emergency room. Fortunately, I was not the stroke victim previously diagnosed, and I a grateful to God.

Slowing down will be good for me given the approaching birth of John Luther; and, I am rejoicing and trusting that those around me, who have long noticed my blind spots, will see constructive change. I’m looking forward to a bright future, given that physicians have assured me through MRI’s, EKG’s, neurological interviews and the like, that no damage was evident and TGA seldom occurs twice. Yes, I have even ordered a new license plate, an excuse to replace the long overdue, MAY-R. It will read, REWIRED.

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Deep in my Bones

This morning I realized just how long it had been since I had processed my thoughts as a part of my daily devotional routine. As I read through the word annually, certain moments seem to come to life in parallel ways with my own. Such were the results in today’s a.m. read in the third chapter of Ezra.

There has been a growing sense of need for renewal in my spirit, long overdue after being held captive by so many distractions due to my many ventures both political and professional. There is something about captivity that creates hunger for days where spiritual liberty and abundant harvest seemed more evident.

This chapter follows the authorization of Cyrus, King of Persia, to return and rebuild the Temple, lost from these captive lives for then over 70 years. Many were alive, who once knew the beauty of Solomon’s temple, and holding residual intensity deep in their bones as a memory of miraculous God visited worship moments. There was something about being home, having their own dirt once more under their feet, in their case, Jerusalem.

Their response to this proclamation by the King, accompanied by an abundant inventory of silver, gold, money, artisans, food, drink and even cedar logs was to first build an altar, catching up on their pent up need for praise, sacrifice and ritual, traditions that lay dormant for the most part in Babylon, by then, under control of Persia.

Eventually, they laid the foundation for a new temple, at which point the Elders wept aloud and the new generation shouted for joy, creating a noise heard far away! This is where my interest piqued.

Were the Elders simply overwhelmed by the reality that what they had thought lost was somehow now sovereignly recovered? The younger perhaps thrilled with a fresh vision of God, heretofore only dreamed of, but never actually touched upon, except in their context-less interpretation as they listened to the tired stories of “the good ole days”, while growing up among the elders in their providential captivity.

Can you sense where I am going? We seem to be sitting on a similar and sovereign divide between two generations, the older offering only stories and a failed paradigm for church that is no longer attractive enough for the Next’ers to even support; yet, there is something so deep in the bones of the aging that they are unwilling to relinquish the old, in hopes that one day what they have experienced, even built this once thriving nation upon, will in some way be revived.

The younger generation is excited by more than their music and lights, equally desiring a meaningful “God” experience, finding a new release of their smothered spirits. Naive of the pain that this sort of counter culture stand will eventually cost them, yet, with that innocence, energy for celebration and renewal, so necessary to bring about deep transformation.

I sense that we are there again, on the cusp of a sovereign renewal, just as history has repeatedly chronicled, about every 500 years.

Excited to the bone!

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The Fourth

Today I am tempted to avoid the contemplative call that seems to be there every morning, often with a new thought that I need to struggle through. This morning was exceptionally difficult. It’s the Fourth of July, when social media is filled with astonishing photos of wind driven flags, the Statue of Liberty and quotes promoting nationalism and liberty.

One such quote:
“To be born free is a gift.
To remain free is a struggle.
To die free is a duty.”

We Americans are serious about Liberty, yet the passion that called men to such Liberty was much more than capitalism and free enterprise, though holding awesome outcomes for many when balanced with philanthropy. Yet at times, one must admit that our incarnate lust entangles us, spotting our history with brutal wars and such madness as slavery.

Surely this gift of liberty was of spiritual essence for men are seldom long bounded by their own morality; otherwise the joy of success would not be repeatedly tainted by greed and true freedom so rare upon this earth, given this great American experiment in democracy.

Though varying in their spiritual understanding, there was a sense of an Omnipotent Being guiding the wisdom of our Founders and encouraging their risk, even unto death.

This morning after a couple hours of moving from the local news, Facebook, scriptures and numerous cups of coffee, it seemed appropriate to open a new book for the rest of the morning. This would be my second book by Barbara Brown Taylor, entitled Learning to Walk In The Dark, I ventured no further than her first quote and first scripture passage before this compelling urge to write, to think out loud, gripped me once more.

“There is a tendency for us to flee from the wild silence and the wild dark, to pack up our gods and hunker down behind city walls, to turn the gods into idols, to kowtow before them and approach their precincts only in official robes of office. And when we are in the temples, then who will hear the voice crying in the wilderness? Who will hear the reed shaken by the wind?” - Chet Raymo, The Soul of the Night

Ironically, in my scripture readings I had just finished the prayer offered by Solomon in II Chronicles 6-7, upon the dedication of the temple so long desired by and prepared for by his father, David.

These days, I seem to have outgrown the simple stories that placate American Christians, perhaps anesthetizing them from otherwise available opportunities for intimate relationship with the Almighty. Yes, the very One that enabled this freedom we now celebrate most passionately on this day.

Surely, we have cause to celebrate and responsibility to be grateful, but I often wonder if we have chosen religion and nationalism over a relationship with this powerful Being who knows the number of our hairs, each of us by name and so desires to be known as “Friend.”

One of the articles read as well this a.m. was a pastor’s lament over the diminishing numbers of Gen-Xers leaving the institutional church. His bottom line was that 20-30 year olds don’t need hipper pastors, louder music or better lighting shows, but a powerful encounter with the God we profess.

BTW, that passage that compelled me to write:

“I will give you the treasures of darkness and the riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.”
Isaiah 45:3

If you’ll excuse me, I’ll get back to the treasure: Intimacy with God in a place called America!

So blessed & grateful!

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Until the full number…

I have not been able to escape a thought that I have carried for some time now, as I have worked and lived with people of various faiths both within and without American Christianity. Last evening this was so affirmed in my spirit as I listened to Stuart Greaves of the Senior Leadership Team of the International House of Prayer–Kansas City share his thoughts on Romans 11; particularly 11:25-27.

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

And this is[b] my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.” NIV

And this translation from NIRV:

“Brothers and sisters, here is a mystery I want you to understand. It will keep you from being proud. Part of Israel has refused to obey God. That will continue until the full number of non-Jews has entered God’s kingdom, then….”

Wow!

Is there a mystery at work that exceeds our understanding, is the turmoil and division both in the Middle East and in our own nation, a phenomenal mystery that we have all so misread, whether Jew, Gentile or Muslim; and regardless of our ethnicity?

I just finished reading The River by Michael Neale, a convincing story of a sage river guide as he unpacked the mystery of God in his life. If God can write stories as powerful as we individuals profess, should that same powerful Being not also be capable of crafting a story for the nations?

Is the seed of Israel God’s only goal or is that story simply a basis for a larger story that has as its intent all nations, not only Israel but every non-Jew. Now that’s intense!

This morning, as I was playing around on a Saturday with my Facebook Peeps,some who are church professionals, I was entertained though somewhat painful by way of their horror stories of small church skirmishes. Then came a post on group dynamics…the difference in our individual behaviors when silo-ed in groups. I found that quite interesting given what was already percolating in my spirit.

I wonder if the major religions of this world have caused our behavior over time to so be modified that we hardly recognize each other as children of the One, when we observe our behaviors in groups; versus, when we are simply loving each other for who we are.

Just thinking out loud?

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On Becoming a Sage

Had to clean up the format somewhat, but this post from 2002 which I found while reviewing journal notes, is not bad stuff though somewhat under developed:

On Becoming a Sage

Survival
Born of flesh (entry into this world)
Reborn of Spirit (entry into the Kingdom)
Maintenance (self development)
Challenge of one’s spirit by the Spirit
Ramping up/organizing for possible change/positioning
Preparation of mind, body, soul (wholeness)
Managing Self-talk (whats written on your window by others)
Preservation of spirit despite self-talk
Pediatrics of the Faith
Capacity Building/Leading change
Developing your following

Principals of Creativity

There is a sequence to creativity:
Genesis- some point of beginning in Christ
Evolution & Transformation- growing in grace
Destiny- positioning for impact & purpose

Knowing God is more important than vision or strategy; both vision and strategy come out of relationship with God.

You have the same creative element in you as God, if you are in Him (Walking in the Spirit).

Creativity supersedes your knowledge and personal capacity, yet can be limited by your obedience to His principles.

You cannot imitate the acts of God, must be God flowing through you (Not by might nor by power, but by my spirit). Not a matter of name and claim, or brag and bag, but authentic flow of spirit and prophetic work if it is to be a sustainable work.

Production of His promises requires His participation. (Awesome Creation = His promise and His participation).

His creation through you will bear your uniqueness. God is committed to your uniqueness. Scriptures God-breathed yet bear the marking of each writer. (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John).

You must step into your uniqueness, what God ordained to do through you is found only in you. What is not being done that you must do, can only be recognized by you. Step into what is not being done, don’t wait for others to approve, just be wise and gentle in the way you do it.

Stepping into the impossible is often messy, yet often better to create a mess than to wait for others to do what they cannot even see needs to be done. Counsel is often necessary to get a sense of direction, but usually better serves to prepare others for your own uniqueness.

Tendency is to wait until we see something that everyone else is comfortable with and then claim that, though it falls miserably short of what God had originally planned to do through you.

God often wants you to speak something that no one else has even thought of nor could conceive.

Not just pointing out others shortcomings, that’s called an arm chair quarterback!

Not waiting until there is no risk! Anyone can provide a solution for which resources are readily available. God likeness is creating solutions even before resources are known to exist.

Several types of capital:
Financial- your connect with the economy of earth, most easily lost.
Personal/social- your relationship and network with people, most easily damaged
Mental- your intellect & thought life, often the least protected.
Spiritual- your relationship with God, least cultivated
The last three far exceed the value of the first.

We must simply bring the thought, the resolve, to vision and words (faith expressed); God takes that to provision and works, the solution (substance possessed). Hebrews 11:1.

Creativity begins with a thought. Enemy’s objective is to contaminate our thoughts, for it is in our thoughts that we connect with the creativity of God. If we can connect with His creativity, that creativity will germinate its own resources.

People are usually the conduit for provision. Every healthy & whole person has a bent for benevolence. Philanthropy is the love of life. People simply need to be connected with their dream and their passion to be persuaded.

Creativity is the source of passion; passion is the seed of persuasion.

Often moving toward your dream will require you to step out before anyone even “gets it.” Stepping out often requires risk and uncertainty. It is in paying these dues of uncertainly, the “dumb tax”, that we learn to receive from God and have significant impact on people.

John Bost 2002

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Is the truth hidden in the white space?

I have given too much time to this thing called religion not to continue, my life so enriched by the numerous God moments enjoyed. When I share life with others, as I did a group of men on Wednesday night, I know that mine has been a privileged life.

Of course, when you live life on the edge, you occasionally slip over. In my case, each time the Lord has bailed me out, at least over time.

In that bailing out process, one learns to separate any ego from the concept of righteousness, question religious dogma (“a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true” [Wikipedia]), and grow in the awareness that there is a Supreme being who for some reason cares about our lives at an individual level. That is amazing and that “finding out” is what I believe Jesus meant when he suggested that we might “have life and have it more abundantly.”

As I sink deeper into this thing called aging, with a growing awareness that comes from the above described experience, truth becomes the only priority. The one element of my life that has always led me there is my daily read through scriptures, and the follow-up that comes, as I then layer life with those learnings.

This morning, as I continued to read the Biblical version of Israel’s history through the lens of Jesus’ life principles, Solomon’s actions cause me to believe more than ever in a caring and highly relational God, who patiently stewards our lives through the well-meant error of our ways.

From a nation obviously favored by the Almighty, yet fully human in their passion and pride, we see a lineage being shaped first by their desire for a King, then God’s attempt to reframe that in David, and now a tainted but fully engaged King who both desires to follow God, but is well into the spectacular. Fashioning a temple that screams splendor, he attempts to glorify God with architecture and appease God with sacrifices: “and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted.” (I Kings 8:5 NIV).

I have to wonder how much of this was God shepherding a wayward nation, while carefully recording their efforts in a way that later, men of similar DNA like myself, could learn the lessons that escaped them?

Upon completion of the Temple, the famed Ark of the Covenant was returned to a place of religious reverence. Here is where the “white space” screams: “The priests then brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and overshadowed the ark and its carrying poles. These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place in front of the inner sanctuary, but not from outside the Holy Place; and they are still there today. There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb…” I Kings 8:6-9 NIV).

This wooden box was designed by Moses, perhaps to symbolize humanity, dipped in Gold, then symbolic of a Divine covering, yet hollow, except for God’s principles. Does this not describe what all seek for but few find in architecture.

Are our churches more the ambition of Solomon, while the encounters with Christ that so many describe, more representative of the true spiritual experience God had planned when that hollow box was first detailed. Just as Moses “tabernacled” with God, is it possible that Christ now “tabernacles” with us; literally dwells within us, His Word written in the hollow places of our hearts rather than on tablets of stone; our lives then covered with divinity and grace, and held in a spectacular reverence by this awesome Creator of the galaxies?

I am in awe!

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