You Were Planned for God’s Pleasure: Throwback Thursday

I had last Sunday off and I planned to worship at the Reformed church in Interlaken. But Caleb got sick, so I stayed home with him. My worship experience was holding him in my lap, watching the Veggie Tales movie “Jonah”. He cuddled up to me, reaching his hand up and stroking my face. Occasionally, he would look up with a big grin on his face and snuggle up to my chest. Not a word was said, we simply enjoyed each other’s company. He didn’t have to do anything. Just be himself – with me. It was great, I took delight in his presence.

God delights in our presence. We were made to please God – not in what we do, but in who we are. The simply truth is –

God created us to share His love with us and for us to show our love for Him.

God shares his love with us throughout our lives. And God wants us to show our love for Him no matter where we are or what we do. The Bible says, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do it for the glory of God.” We were made to please God and the surest way to please God is to build a relationship with God in Jesus Christ.

This relationship can begin anytime, anywhere. Someone came up to my wife last week, eager to share the good news that last Saturday night, she asked Jesus into her life. She was visiting a friend and the Spirit led her to open her heart to him as her Lord and Savior. Her walk with Christ has begun.

One of the first places she was led in her walk with Christ was to worship. Worship within a faith family is an essential place for us to be if we are to grow in our relationship with our Savior.

Often people confuse what worship is all about. As we prepare for worship, we need to keep this one thing in mind –

The most important thing is not how we worship, but who we worship.

How easy it is to forget this. Many churches (we’ve even been one of them) have battled over how we worship – whether to be silent or talk, what songs we sing, how much Scripture to read and who should read it, where to sit, stand, or move. So many things. In the midst of these debates we lose sight of the one thing we most need to be focused on if our worship is to please God. We come here not to please ourselves, but to praise God – to come to know Jesus Christ and become more like Him. Christ didn’t insist on having things his way. He sacrificed his own needs and desire so that others might be saved.

I think we’ve come a long way in following Christ’s example. The other day a man who is new to our church shared with me that he’s been going through a lot in his life. He said the one thing he can count on each week is coming to church and finding a spiritual haven here – a place where he can hear God’s word and be strengthened to face the week. The Holy Spirit is speaking through our worship and I have no doubt God is pleased each time we are able to focus not on what we are getting out of worship, but what we are putting into it.

The most important thing is not how we worship, but who we worship. We worship the one true God we come to know in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the truth we find in God’s Word.

2 year old praising God with Chris Tomlin Our God/ Let you're children watch this; and their reaction.

Despair by Matthew Pullar: Delight in Disorder Tuesday

God, my soul is thick with dread

And muted tears,

Sinking deeper with every step I tread

And losing feeble years

In silence.

 

Heavy drags the weight of days

Pulling me under,

And still you swamp me with all of your waves

And deafen with thunder

Yet say nothing.

 

I look up to your sky to find

There some escape;

Instead the clouds encompass all my mind,

A heavy cloak, a cape

But no flight.

 

To you I call all day, all night,

My spirit splayed;

The dead cry with me, yet they have no sight

To see your grace displayed

And do not dream.

 

My eyes veiled from what you have done,

Already close to death,

I follow you into oblivion

With weak and fading breath

And thinning faith.

 

Darkness is my closest friend;

Still I pray,

For, with no resolution and no end,

You may yet mend the fray

And bring in day…

~ “Despair” by Matthew Pullar (After George Herbert’s “Deniall”)

Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. For a signed copy, directly from the author, write to me — tony@awaywithwordsforyou.com .

God Provides

tonyroberts64:

Thanks to Melissa Presser for inviting me to write a guest post. Check it out at “Work for the Cause, Not the Applause.”

Originally posted on Work for the Cause not the Applause :

Several weeks back, I had a call for guest posts and I have had such a wonderful number of people respond ! Tony from A way with words and I have been talking for some time now about guest posting for each other. I was so thrilled to see God had moved Tony to share a piece on my blog, and I think it is brilliant! Please enjoy Tony’s words and don’t forget to visit him. You can check out his story here

When my wife and I were first married, we had a very low-income. She was a graduate student and I was the pastor of a very small country church. The first year of our marriage, we did a budget (without factoring in a tithe) and found our expenses exceeded our income. How could we possibly add to our expenses a 10% tithe? But we felt convicted…

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Scattered Words: A Collaborative Poem

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Written by Tony Roberts and Hastywords

I keep tripping over words
Scattered upon the floor
Words left screaming
As you walked out the door

You kept on walking. Walking.
I was left with a mess of scattered words.
Screaming silently into the night.
Unseen, unheard.

Broken lines of conveyance
Strung like paper streamers
Litter my entire atmosphere
Begging me to listen, to understand

But how can I understand what I can’t accept?
How can I purify my polluted world?
What am I to make of pointless paper?
Who will mend what is broken?

With a pen emptied of all its ink
I set every single page on fire
I will let the wind carry the ashes
Silencing your phantom voice, forevermore.

Crooked Places, Pressing On, Seeking Abundance, Sunshine, Troubled Mind: Friday Featured Followers

Crooked Places Straight: Encouragement, Hope, Love, Healing & Hugs in the Form of Words.

Pressing On Toward the Goal: Thoughts on Faith, Family, and Life in General.

Seeking the Abundance: because every day is filled with enough.

Almighty God is My Sunshine: Christ is the Truth, the Way, and the Life.

My Troubled Mind

Sometimes following your heart means losing your mind

Do Justice, Love Kindness, and Walk Humbly: Throwback Thursday

The following reflection is based on Micah 6.1-8.

The trial of God vs. the people is brought to order. The mountains, the surrounding hills are selected as the jury. The earth, the Promised Land, serves as judge. The question: “Who has been faithful to the covenant?” God speaks first,

 “O my people, what have I done to you?

In what have I wearied you?

Answer me!”

We can almost hear the prolonged silence as God waits for some word of explanation. But there is none. The people have taken advantage of God’s blessings. They have relied on his powerful presence to liberate them, to guide them, to rescue them, and now that they are safe in the Promised Land just want him to go away. They are eager to flex their muscles of independence and God’s presence reminds them they did not in fact pick themselves up by their bootstraps.

It’s hard to understand how people can be so callous toward God, but we can see it in the world today. I’ve known people who have been rescued from what should have been fatal accidents turn away from God’s protective hand and jump right back into risky and careless behavior. I’ve known people who were lifted out of extreme poverty buy into the myth that they were self-achievers and fail to give credit to God, from whom all blessings flow. I’ve known people who were once lost in life be guided by angelic messages from God, only to later scoff at the prospect and walk right back into the fog of a confused world.

All of us are vulnerable to the indictment that we have forgotten what God has done for us. If you were asked, point blank, what has God done for you in your life, how would you respond? Would you have something to say or would you, like the people of Israel, leave God waiting in agonizing silence.

The people have abandoned God. Their silence is an admission of this. Evidence is then introduced that God has remained faithful to the covenant. God has freed the people from slavery in Egypt. God, through Moses, Miriam & Aaron, has guided the people through the wilderness. As they entered the Promised Land, God shielded them from their enemies, turning human curses into divine blessings. These are just a sampling of saving acts, but God chooses to rest his case.

  1. 6 represents a shift in the proceedings.

 “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?”

Micah, speaking on behalf of the people seems to be plea-bargaining. How can we restore our relationship with you, Lord? What will it cost us to make amends? The people had grown accustomed to paying for their sins through ritual offerings-calves, rams, precious oil. Some of their neighbors had even gone so far as offer up human sacrifices to appease their gods. Micah raises the radical question of the Lord, “Is this what you want from us? Will this remove the stain of our sin, restore our relationship, give us a fresh start?”

Israel has a problem. The guilty stain of sin will not be washed away by ritual sacrifice. While these were a part of the worship life of Israel, they were little more than temporary measures which reminded the people all was not right.

As God’s mouthpiece, Micah says clearly in verse 8 that such sacrifices are not what the Lord is looking for.

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

The people, we, have without a doubt, sinned. We sin when we fail to appreciate God’s blessings in our lives. We violate our covenant with God when we take advantage of God’s faithfulness. When we refuse to respond with faith, we are digging ourselves deeper into a dark pit of despair and destruction.

God shows us the way out. Jesus Christ is the Way. Jesus shows us how to do justice. In his life, he cared deeply for all persons. He responded particularly to the cries of those others wanted to silence or ignore—lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, those possessed by demons. Jesus saw in the eyes of each person he met a human being struggling with sin. Those who refused to acknowledge their sin were turned off by his refusal to play favorites, but those who had hit rock bottom were able to receive his healing forgiveness. Jesus shows us how to do justice.

Jesus also shows us how to love kindness. This is not to say Jesus simply wore a pasted smile like an extended firm handshake. The word translated here “kindness” implies loyalty and faithfulness. It is doing the most loving thing, even for those you don’t like, even when you don’t feel like it. Jesus says we are to take this even to the extent of loving our enemies, of sacrificing our own comfort so that we can serve brothers and sisters in Christ, even when we think they don’t deserve it. Jesus demonstrates this when he puts Judas, the one who would eventually betray him, in charge of the treasury for his ministry. He shows this most clearly by his willingness to endure humiliation, torture, and even death on a cross, so that we might have new life in Christ.

Finally, Jesus shows us how to walk humbly with God. Jesus was in constant communication with God. He was always talking to “Abba”, talking about the “Father”. His walk with God was not an effort to exert greater influence over others. He did not seek power or privilege from God. Instead, he sought guidance, strength and courage to do the difficult tasks he was called to do. The humility of Jesus allowed him to stay focused on his mission. He was not distracted to mount a popular uprising. He did not garner support for himself in order to be lifted up out of the harsh realities of life. He kept doing what he had been called to do, just when he was called to do it. He resisted the many temptations of fame by walking with God daily, humbly, growing in faith and love.

While none of us can fully follow the faith of Jesus in this life, we are inspired by the Spirit of Christ to faithfully do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. Our world cries out for such faithfulness.

Love Kindness Do Justice Walk Humbly (1)

Hurting and Healing Pain

The past week I have experienced some of the greatest pain of my life.

The story begins some weeks back when I offered to be a “human guinea pig” for my brother-in-law Dan to freshen up on his skills as a sonographer. He gave me an abdominal ultrasound. When he came to my right side, he said, “What’s this? It looks like you’ve got a gall stone.” His professor concurred that indeed it was a stone. She assured me that it might not ever give me a problem, or I could have an attack that day. I didn’t like my odds.

Sure enough, not two weeks later, I began having abdominal pain. At first I thought it was my imagination — that the suggestion implanted in my brain was causing me to create a pseudo-gall stone attack. But it kept getting worse, moving into my back and chest. I described the pain to my brother-in-law and he encouraged me to go to the emergency room.

By the time we got to the ER, I was in agonizing pain. It hurt to stand. It hurt to sit. It hurt to lay down. I was taken back to an examining room and, after taking my vitals, they set up an IV and began giving me a strong pain killer. But not before the pain cause me to vomit an extremely vile substance that stunk to the high heavens. Finally, after the medication was administered, my pain was relieved.

They wheeled me down for a CT Scan and soon the physician’s assistant came back with his diagnosis. According to him, I did have a 2 cm stone in the neck of my gall bladder but he believed the pain was caused by pneumonia. He prescribed an anti-biotic as well as some pain relievers and sent me on my way, with the recommendation to schedule an appointment with my primary care giver as soon as possible and explore the prospect of surgery to remove my gall bladder.

With the help of medication, the pain mostly subsided. I saw my primary doctor and her assessment was unclear about the pneumonia, but she definitely recommended I see a surgeon about removing my gall bladder. I was able to get in the next day (praise God!)

The surgeon — who was such a fast talker I could only understand about every other word — poo-pooed the notion that I even had pneumonia and blamed my pain entirely on the stone. He scheduled me for surgery in just three days (yesterday, in fact). Again, thanks be to God.

Not wanting to be on medication any more than I had to be, I weaned myself of my pain pills and experienced no ill effects. Surgery yesterday went very well (they were able to do a laparoscopic). I woke up in some pain — mostly discomfort — which they were managing with IV meds. After I became more stable, I was sent home — again with fairly strong pain medication.

It’s now been about 15 hours since my surgery and I have been in a great deal of pain and discomfort. The nice thing, though, is that I know it is healing pain rather than just hurting pain. I can endure this because my body is being made stronger.

I thank God for the marvels of modern medicine, the skills of medical providers, and for giving me advance warning. I now have to commit to healthier eating, a balanced schedule, and a good level of activity. With God’s help, I’ll make it.

[Note: To view a laparoscopic gall bladder removal, click on the following video —

Being Led: Delight in Disorder Tuesday

 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

he leadeth me beside the still waters. (Psalm 23:1-2, KJV)

To put it crassly, my family of origin was crazy. I dealt with the craziness by becoming a psychiatric patient. My sister dealt with it by becoming a psychiatric nurse.

One of the programs she has worked for was known as a Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT). Her job essentially entails getting people like me to do things that are good for them but that they’d rather not do. Things like:

  • take medications regularly (even when they’re enjoying a manic high).
  • ask for help for services from people who are either annoyed by or afraid of them.
  • get out in public when they’d much rather stay inside where they feel much safer.

Now, I don’t want to suggest that my sister is God but, like God, she has to “shepherd” in such ways that soothe troubled spirits (beside still waters) and produce nourishing results (lie down in green pastures). As a person with bipolar, I know I can be a pretty stubborn sheep and, as the Psalmist later contends, I need the firmness of a rod and staff (metaphorically, if not physically) to bring comfort. Like God, my sister pursues people like me with “goodness and mercy” for as long as she can hoping and praying that they’ll turn around and seek good health and well-being themselves.

Then and only then can we rest secure that we will “dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23:6) When we internalize God’s good law, when it is written in our hearts, we can function on a daily basis for our own good and for the glory of God.

Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. For a signed copy, directly from the author, write to me — tony@awaywithwordsforyou.com .

Forgiveness, Hard Times, Cinderella, Music, and Healthy Eating: Mental Health Monday

Forgiveness Sunday and Healing” (At the Intersection of Orthodox and Crazy)

     Today, the train from “normal time” to Great and Holy Pascha and the Resurrection of Christ left the station.  My mental state in the days between the advent of the Lenten Triodion and the start of Lent itself has been very ragged.  The experiences that, depending on one’s viewpoint, could be classed either as hallucinations or as spiritual visions, have increased in this time, and have brought with them a conviction that my mind is not trustworthy — and that in truth, not one of us has a trustworthy mind  — my only advantage is  having diagnoses that ensure that I don’t get above myself.

When Hard Times Refine Us” (Fetzer Sisters)

Not a week goes by after my last blog post before my mom calls…to tell me that she quit her job. Not fired- quit. (This is the first job she’s had after being unemployed for the past four years.) I don’t get any more details than that until about a week later, as she went into an emotional tailspin, with recurring phonecalls throughout the week telling me about how people are breaking into her home- again, asking if my sister or I are doing it, and if not, if we know who is. This is the ongoing reality of my mom’s mental illness- one step forward, followed closely by two (…or three or four) steps back.

Cinderella Syndrome” (Volatile Stability)

I made a promise with myself to look out the window before I took any bottles of pills in my hands. I caught the first rays of the sun peeking over the horizon, as a new day dawned. Across the street I saw a couple, holding hands. Down the road there was a young man who fell off his bicycle because he’d been too busy watching a pretty girl on the opposite side of the road, so he ended up crashing into a lamp-post.

And I laughed.

The Power of Music” (BPDVagabond)

I find myself going through phases. Sometimes I want to listen to nothing but the melancholy music that makes me feel a little less alone in the world. The ‘sad bastard’ music as one of my friends so affectionately refers.

Other days I want nothing more than to rage out hardcore and rock out to the general musings of one Taylor Swift.

I am not ashamed to admit my musical tastes. I enjoy a great song if it presents to me a smattering of incredibly inspiring word poetry. But I can also appreciate the surprisingly subtle nuances awakened by a good old fashioned dubstep remix.

Why Healthy Eating is not a Mental Illness” (Nourished and New)

Imagine you are out to dinner with a friend and you are really craving a nice, big salad–Greek salad to be exact (my favorite).  You can’t wait to dive in because  you are starving but before you take your first bite, your friend looks right at you in dismay and says, “Oh my gosh!  you chose a salad?! I can’t believe it.  You are always eating healthy.  Are you sure you aren’t mentally ill?”

Okay, so odds are about 99.999% that a friend will NOT say this (at least not to your face).  But according to some doctors, eating healthy IS a mental illness.  Check out  this article that I recently came across.

The Death of God Revisited

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

God did many wondrous and mysterious things

Blessing a people to bless others

Delivering them from slavery to a Promised Land.

Rescuing them from self-destruction

Showing them mercy from everlasting to everlasting.

Then, some time ago, God died.

It might have been by the pen of Frederich Nietzsche,

Or in the ovens of Auschwitz.

Or on the tongue of Dr. Matthews, in the Spring of 1983

Who taught me that theology was no longer the study of God,

But the exploration of what it means to be human.

When I was young, God was very much alive.

Spewing fire and brimstone from the pulpit

Of the First Mount Pleasant Baptist church.

Kneeling beside me when I asked Jesus to come into my heart.

Holding me tight on nights I would hear my parents screaming at each other,

Softly whispering to me – “I am with you always.”

When I read Elie Wiesel’s Night

The gallows scene where the young boy hangs there –

His tongue hanging out, swollen and bluish,

One man asks, “For God’s sake, where is God?”

Eliezar says to himself,

This is where – hanging here from this gallows…”

 

I thought of Jesus hanging on the cross,

Instead of sympathy, he received scorn.

If you are the son of God, save yourself and us.”

Instead, Jesus looked up to heaven and said,

“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.

Then God died.

And though he came back to life three days later,

We killed him again.  And again.  And again.

At the pen of pompous philosophers,

In the gas chambers, the killing fields, the executioner’s chair

On the tongues of tenured teachers.

But the voice of God keeps calling out to us

From beyond the pages of the obituaries

(in His best Mark Twain voice) –

“The news of my untimely departure,

Though much celebrated,

Has been grossly exaggerated.”

Elevator