Tag Archives: WPLongform

The Getaway

It started out as just another normal day, paper work and moving money around. The things he could do in his sleep, untraceable transactions, his usual financial wizardry.  That was the reason he was so valued by his employers.  He thought it strange when the call came for him to make a drop that afternoon, usually such things had more warning, more planning.  Yet it was not the first time such a thing had happened. Arrangements were quickly made and before long he was being driven to the drop location.

 

On arrival the scene appeared like any other, a quiet ally, at the end sat a slightly rusted, brown Granada housing the recipient of his delivery.  The overflowing dumpsters stuck him as rather cliché, he imagined that if the warehouse doors either side were to open, empty boxes would overflow and a cop show car chase could be reenacted.

 

He instructed his friend and driver Dago to keep the car running, there was no reason for this to take any length of time.  He exited the car and strode purposely toward the old Ford. When he was about halfway there the driver’s side door opened and a burly man in a black duster stepped out, his eyes hidden by mirrored aviators. They met in the middle and each paused about eight feet apart.

 

“Did you complete your assignment?”  He asked

“What do you mean?”  The burly man responded

“Well if I am to pay you, you have to prove that the assignment is complete”.

“Well, it’s complicated,  I’m not sure you’d understand”

“My understanding is irrelevant,  either you have earned your money or you have not”

“Unfortunately my friend”, he said, at the same time removing a silenced 9mm from under his coat, “you are the assignment”.  He raised the gun directly at his head.

“Now hold on a minute, there had to be some mistake”.

“No mistake, I do appreciate you being prompt, I have other things to do today.  I don’t know or care what you did to get on the wrong side of them.  If you want turn around and I’ll do you in the back, a last favor of sorts.”

 

His heart was pounding now, he was desperately trying to ignore the confusion of the situation and come up with a plan, quickly. He tightened his grasp on the handle of the steel briefcase that he still held.  Using the untraceable hundreds in there as a bribe seemed pointless with this gun pointed at his face. There was only one option that he could think of.

He swung the briefcase in the direction of the gun and let go, yelling loudly “you want the money? here’s your freaking money”.

 

The case landed right on target, there was just enough weight in it to knock the gun loose. Pure Animal instinct kicked in, he ran towards him and launched a brutal flurry of punches.  Like a prize fighter sensing an knockout in the late rounds lefts and rights rained down.  Before long the assassins face was a stolen bloody mess, a final gut shot followed by a full blooded uppercut to the jaw sent him flying backwards towards his car.  He lay in a heap on the floor unconscious.

 

He grabbed the gun and the briefcase and headed back to the car and Dago.  “What the heck was that?” Dago exclaimed with genuine concern.

“I have no idea, apparently I was the target, get me to the hotel, quickly, I need to talk to Johnny and figure this out.  They sped off, he didn’t know what to think or who to trust, what had just happened and why?

 

When they arrived at the hotel he left Dago and went to meet Johnny, as usual two rooms down from the number they gave on the phone.  It was safer that way, they were the only two that knew about that arrangement.  When he reached the room Johnny was rattled “dude you’re in deep trouble” he exclaimed “the bosses son is making a move for the family business, he knows how loyal you are to the old man and how you control damn near all the money so he’s going to whack you one way or another”.

“What the heck? That’s insane” he retorted.

“That dumb kid can barely run a pizza parlor never mind the company.  The old man will feed him to the fishes before he’s done”.

 

Just as he said that he heard the voices of maybe three men, familiar voices, walking down the hall way. He got up & checked through the peephole and saw the three of them dressed in coats too heavy for the season walking past their room, he had been half expecting this. A few seconds later they heard a crash as the door two rooms down was kicked in. A few minutes later they walked back down the hall way.

 

“I figured they would have eyes on this place. I’ve got to get out of here” he said

“Take the back stairs, Dago should have some wheels for you by the time you get to the lobby. Be careful, they know you’re here, they’ll be waiting. Get out of town and then make contact with the old man, the old way. We have no way of knowing how many people the kid has sucked into this. Don’t trust anyone who hasn’t been here as long as we have”

“Thanks Johnny, I owe you owe you one” he said softly as he grabbed the keys.

“Don’t even think about it, I could never repay you for what you did…”

 

He left the room and headed the opposite direction on the walkway than the men had gone.

As he reached the bottom of the stairs he saw Dago waiting for him

“I suspected you would come this way” he said with his thick accent. “I have a ride for you but getting through the lobby to it will be sticky, they are all over the place, at least 9 of them”.

“Is there another way?”

“There is a back exit, but you can only get to it through the office. “

“Well, I guess I’ll have to be careful then, where’s the car?”

“Right out front, a police car, trust me, you’ll know it when you see it, it’s just my taste”

 

He smiled & received a coy wink from Dago prior to opening the door to the rear of the lobby. Cautiously he made his way down the narrow hall way to the main lobby, it was thankfully quite busy but he knew he had to be careful. He grabbed a newspaper off the stand at the end of the hallway & smoothly sat on a bench to the side of the lobby. He held the paper up to cover his face while contemplating his escape. Just at that moment the fire alarm went off, he smiled, confident that Dago or Johnny had been involved. This was his opportunity, he stood up & walked quickly towards the front door, head down, but not so fast as to draw attention to him. Just as he crossed the plane of the door, he heard a voice yell “there he is, get him.”

 

There was no time to delay, where was the car? It was now or never, then, as if announced by a chorus of angels he saw it, a silver Porsche 911 with blue lights on the roof and a green hood with the word Polizei written in white. He ran to it & got in the driver’s seat, fumbling the keys slightly he got them in the ignition just as five of them came out of the hotel. He fired up the turbo charged flat six & caught the attention of every one of them, initially they had a look of bemusement but they had their weapons drawn as he floored it in reverse. He made a J-turn and with screeching wheels & he accelerated through a cloud of tire smoke.

Gun shots rang out in the air, a couple grazed the car but caused no serious damage. He hit the lights & siren, he had no intention of stopping for anything, or being stopped. All he knew was that he had to get out of the country, fast & then make contact with the old man. The force of the acceleration pushed him back into his seat, the car twitched, as if the torque was almost too much for it, it felt like it could almost twist the chassis. He struggled to keep the back end from swinging out wildly, the adrenaline coursing through his veins making it unusually difficult to drive, even for an expert like him. The engine growled as the revs rose rapidly & before they knew it he was gone.

As the smoke cleared at hotel and it became clear that they had not lethally hit him, the tall man in the middle of the five let out a scream “Bentley, I’m gonna hunt you down like the dog that you are, you’re a dead man”……………….

 

 

Getting Mugged and Believing the Impossible – The JIBTYI Notes; part 4

 

The book “Jesus is Better Than You Imagined” by Jonathan Merritt was quite the read for me. It stirred my mind and soul like none other. I wrote page after page of notes and as I have a blog, the expanded notes are finding their way here in what I am calling the JIBTYI notes series.

Good Gifts – The JIBTYI Notes; part 1

Slow Down – The JIBTYI Notes; part 2

Limiting the Limitless – The JIBTYI Notes; part 3

In chapter 4 of the book Mr Merritt describes a mission trip to Haiti, a country still desperately reeling from the aftermaths of the dreadful earthquake of 2010. After setting the stage for a desperate broken country beyond hope, a place in while he was robbed, held up at gun point and fear his abduction or worse. He goes on to describe how God is working amongst the people there, where collections of hope are springing up. It is a beautiful picture of how God works, not in the way that humans usually think he should which is from the top down, but God, as always it seems, is working from the bottom up. Which I believe is how a community is really changed, not when the politicians are given more power, but when the people are given hope, independence and skills to care for themselves and each other.

The author quotes the popular scripture “Nothing is impossible with God” and then asks the question has this become a cliché, or do we really believe it? Do we really believe it in desperate situations, in places like Haiti? Or maybe today for Nigeria? Do we believe it when a marriage is crumbling or when health is failing? When describing his own struggles with this subject Jonathan described himself “as an overchurched youth growing up”. Over churched? Is this a real danger? I think it can be.

When your faith becomes a structure of rules, a set of right and wrongs, a judgment system, even though the words make it out to be about God, it has very little or nothing to do with this. This is a line in the sand that I have stumbled on several times over the last 10 years. When I was first saved I walked the “Barbarian way”, the way that God had called me to be, yet over time I felt the need to try and fit in, to assimilate.

Fortunately every time I have gone too far down that road I have heard that still small voice reminding me that this is not what I was saved for. Reading this section stirred thoughts on this, on my desire for the supernatural God, the God of miracles, the God of creation. Not the angry headmaster sitting in the clouds. The real, living supernatural God. Once I get over my preconceived notions, the ideas that modern western society has put on me of what is “normal” and what is “weird”, I find myself craving the “weird” more and more, to see the supernatural, this is probably why I have been so drawn to Bethel church over the last year. Somehow for me they seem to have found the perfect line between true religion and flat out strange, they believe that God is bigger than the world imagines; and so do I.

It’s funny, I truly believe that God can and will do all things, yet at times I forget that; usually when I have been listening to the world instead of my heart and the still small voice. Sometimes though, we have to learn to be ok with Gods plan not being the same as our plan. Sometimes we see things that make perfect sense from our finite perspective yet to God and His infinite perspective they make no sense at all. To quote JIBTYI; “Believing in a God of the impossible is not the same as having a heavenly bellhop who always services my needs on my timetable and according to my specifications”.

In the chapter we are challenged to slow down and look deeper. How do you see things? How do you see people? Do you look inside, do you look into the potential of the creation standing before you? Do you see the possibilities, the positives in people and situations? Or do you just see a bad person, a bad situation? Something that will never change or get better? My natural state is to see the positive, however when I am caught in the business of life, when my soul is in a hurried state, it is still too common for me to return to the mask of negativity that I used to wear. Sometimes the old programming kicks in and I find myself disgusted at myself and the things I have said or thought, regardless of it anyone heard them.

 

At the start of the chapter, the stories of their car being held up at gun point and of being robbed in town brought back memories of the time that I was mugged in Leeds. Memories of the fear of that moment and the feeling of being chastised by the police officer who didn’t understand why I was compliant instead of trying to fight. I remember the fear returning to my life when traveling. Subconsciously it was this fear that helped me make some really bad financial decisions so that I could have a car that I couldn’t afford and then stay in a car when that one was wrecked. At a time when I had just about recovered from high school, this mugging trigged a chain of events that frankly came close to costing me my life on several occasions.

If I recall correctly I was either 18 or 19, it’s something of a blur. I had spent the evening at a friend’s house on the other side of the city to where I lived. To get home I had to catch a bus to the city center and then another bus home from there, it was no big deal, I did it all the time. I had to cross the city center on foot to catch the bus home. I had my headphones on, walkman blasting (probably some homemade mix tape), carrying my case guitar in one and my backpack of gear on me. As I neared my bus stop there was a back street that I regularly walked down and I sensed someone behind me talking. I assumed this person was going to ask me the time and removed my headphones to hear what he was saying. The words were not as I expected; “there is a knife at your back, give me your money if you don’t want to get hurt”.

Well I didn’t have any money, I showed him my wallet to prove it, but while doing that he saw my ATM card. So I was frog marched to the closest ATM machine, all the while feeling a knife prodding my back. All I could think to do was try to pacify the guy, try to reassure him that I’d get him what he wanted and keep him calm. There were 2 things I wanted to avoid, getting stabbed obviously, but also I didn’t want him trying to take my guitar. We got to the ATM and he took all the money it would give me, it wasn’t much, I was on a pitiful salary back then and was not particularly skilled at managing it either.

As quickly as he had come he disappeared into the night. I was scared, shaken and broke, but fortunately physically unharmed and still in possession of my treasured guitar. I don’t recall much of the night after that, I assume I caught the bus home then probably woke up my Dad when I got there to let him know what had happened. I remember my Dad called the police and some afternoon shortly following there was a detective sat in our front room asking me questions. After I had told the story he felt the need to tell me how he would have elbowed the guy in the face and got rid of him. The detective was built like a linebacker, if someone was stupid enough to try and mug him they would probably have expected to get elbowed in the face. At the time I was probably 135 pounds, a skinny average kid. One who had just recovered (sort of) from being on the receiving end of violent bullying at high school. A boy with massive self-esteem challenges, I wasn’t going to stand up for myself, somewhere deep inside I felt that I had no right to stand up for myself. All I did was be scared, to try and protect myself and my guitar the best that I could. I know he didn’t mean to, but that detective added one more weight to the chain I was hauling around, one more person who showed me how I would never get life right or amount to anything, he may have been trying to give guidance, but that is what I received.

Incidentally they caught the mugger a couple of weeks later, he had apparently been on a mugging spree and he was caught red handed. I’m assuming he pleaded guilty as I never heard from the police again (that I remember). I’ve honestly never given much thought to that young man, what desperate situation he found himself in to resort to that. I wonder what he is doing now, I wonder if he has turned his life around or if he is still searching desperately for the answer to a question that he does not know he is asking.

Now within the context of the book or a positive Christian blog post I guess it would be great if I told you that this is when I returned to God, when I felt His protection, but it wasn’t, because I didn’t. This was just another deep wound that added to my brokenness. This was one more thing that I didn’t know how to process that led to me looking to fill the hole in my soul with the ways of the world. This was, with hindsight, the beginning of a chain reaction of self-destruction, of mask developing and coping mechanisms that would be the theme of my early twenties.

Yet, I can look back and believe that I emerged physically unscarred because I was protected. My words did not provoke my attacker, they calmed him down. My core nature came to the fore in that moment, that nature that was given to me by God, and that nature was not aggression, it was peace. My time had not yet come to return to the Father in this world, but He was with me, I know that now.

Priorities, Self-discipline, Time Management & Balance

I wrote a post last week that I did not press called “State of the … err … discipline?”; it was over a thousand words detailing how I came to the realization a while back that I had been living life in cruise control, how I overcame that and how I feared I had been slipping back into it.  I didn’t press it immediately because sometimes I like to let things sit a while and sink in, sometimes I don’t want to go into so much detail in a public forum and sometimes I want to make sure I’m not just talking crap. A mixture of all three of these things has me starting from scratch but with a more expansive and (hopefully) positive look at things.

Self-discipline is something that I’ve struggled with my whole life, or at least that is what I would tell you if you asked me. Yet it is not necessarily discipline that I have struggled with, it is self-discipline when it comes to doing things I don’t enjoy. Take going to the gym for example, I don’t really enjoy it, I know I need to do it, but I don’t enjoy it. With not really enjoying it, when life gets in the way I find it easier to make excuses to avoid the gym than I do say, playing the Playstation.

Sometimes I will then get down on myself for not working out enough, I might gain a few pounds and fear a return to the state I was in a few years ago before I lost 30 pounds. The thing I need to do here is give myself a little more credit. For lack of a better description, when I got that overweight I was not awake, I was not conscious, I am now and as a result I will make the choice to arrest any such slide long before it starts to get out of control. I have to be just as ok with not working out for a few weeks if that is what life requires as I am with forcing myself to work out because that is what my body requires.

Much of adult life, it seems to me, is about figuring out your priorities and managing your time. There are a ton of things I’d like to do with my time, but I only have so much time in a day or week etc. Sometimes things are not going to get done, sometimes I’m going to have to do things I don’t really want to because it is a priority or a necessity in my life. At the same time I need to make time to do the things I enjoy, otherwise the balance of life will be off and I’ll be a miserable person & who wants to be miserable?

So as I sit here considering how I multi-task really well, maybe too well, I have to give myself the credit I didn’t give myself on the post I did not press. I actually do pretty well with maintaining a well-balanced life, I have much better self-discipline than I give myself credit for, it just looks differently for me and my life that it would do for you and your life. So while I could do better, my time is generally (in my opinion) fairly well managed, so yay me!

In order to best manage my time I need to know what my priorities are so what are my priorities? I’m going to try and list them below and see if I can explain roughly why they are where they are and how they correlate:

1: God – He has to be first, not because that is what people tell me, but my experience in life is that when I focus on Him first, everything else is better; I’m a better husband, a batter Dad, a better friend, a better employee & just an all-around better dude. How am I doing with this? Much better than I was; although of all the areas of my life this still needs the most work. I multi-task too much when it comes to God, all good things, but one thing I need to consciously try to make time to do (in place of other non-essential things), is to get still, slow down and just be before God. It is great that I listen to the bible or a sermon while driving to work. It has been life changing to be involved with my men’s group once a week. Leading worship has brought a focus and intimacy to my love of God through music that is difficult to explain. I know I’m doing better with getting God at number one because He is there in my thoughts so much more than He used to be. In fact at times I fear I am trying too much. Sometimes I feel tired, too busy, overwhelmed and what I hear is not so much to stop doing things, but take the time to slow down and be with Him. So that is my plan for the next few months, to consciously try and make sure I am being still with my Father.

2: Family – initially when I started to think about consciously prioritizing my life a few years ago, the thought of not putting my family at the very top was rather uncomfortable. Fortunately God has taught me that the way for me to best serve my family is to put Him first. However, having my family above everything else sets the balance for my life. I have inadvertently allowed my job to take this position at times, hindsight sucks, that is the most ridiculous thing you can do in your life. Let me try to phrase it this way; if you were to die tomorrow realistically how long would it take for your company to replace you? A week, a month, maybe a couple of months? What about your family? The answer is never, maybe your spouse remarries but it won’t be the same and your children will never have their birth parent again. Taking the time to say no to some things (maybe some really good things), in order to feed into your family, to really raise your children, to really love your spouse, is so much more important than working a few extra hours so that report can get done, heck the extra hours that we are sucked into working in America really only serve to line the pockets of the employers who are too cheap to hire enough people to do the work half the time (pet peeve).

3: Work – Ok, so I said don’t get work out of perspective, especially with regards to your family. However, having said that work is still really important, it should be obvious; it is how you provide for your family to survive. In many ways it is how you contribute to society, if you are a believer it is also your main mission field. This is a concept that I have really only just started to grasp and am having a doozy of a time putting into effect, but the seed is sown so it seems that the actuality is inevitable so long as I keep God at number one. As a believer in Christ I am called to a life of honor and integrity, how I conduct myself at work matters, I represent God there, I represent myself there. I need to do my job well, I need to be focused on it, thinking about it I should probably read less twitter & wordpress while I’m there 😉

4: Social – Friendships are important, we were designed to be in community. For me my social life today consists primarily of my men’s group, the beautiful brotherhood that I have been a part of for coming up on 3 years now. My gaming friends, the group of people I’ve hung out with virtually for years  who I love, how accept me for the random set of contradictions that I am. My neighbors, my colleagues and my extended family. Sometimes I don’t want to be social, I just want to hermit myself away and hide in introspection, this does not usually serve me well. As a naturally somewhat introverted person I have to force myself make time to be social, it is good for my soul, it is good for my heart and it is good for my health. How often do you laugh when you are alone? I love to laugh, life is better when you laugh, it is better when you feel loved, when you feel friendships, these are things that do not happen when you are alone, thus to me, a social life needs to be a priority in life.

5: Hobbies – Ok so hiding in introspection also is not necessarily a bad thing either 😉 That is the reason this blog matter to me, this is how I access the subconscious thoughts in my mind. That might sound crazy to you, but one of the side effects of the brokenness that God as healed me from was that I taught myself not to think or for the most part feel, or at least not to think and feel in a way that was readily accessible to my conscious self. I found out last year the writing somehow circumvented this firewall of sorts that I had created. This is why blogging has been of such benefit to me over the past year, it is also the reason that right now I feel a real need to start writing again more consistently. I’m not talking about my poetry, or music, but these types of posts, where I think. Engaging my creative side is different, also something I love to do, but not the primary reason for this blog & I feel that I have got away from that in recent months.

What I was going to say on hobbies is this, it is important to make time to do the things you enjoy, it helps to make life somehow seem more worthwhile. Sometimes your hobbies are things that mix with your family, or your social life, which is great. Other times they are things just for you and whilst not allowing them to be more important that they should be, I feel they are an essential part to a well-balanced life. I usually do ok with this, but there are seasons it seems for everything. Seasons when I write more, seasons when I read more. Seasons when I game more and seasons when I talk more. My music recording has suffered recently but that is because of the opportunity to lead worship once a month, working on trying to do that well has meant that the free time that I would have dedicated to trying to record music has been spent rehearsing. Hopefully as I get more comfortable with singing in public I will find the time to get back to recording. In fact I need to make that more of a priority as I love to do it and also I feel that especially with the song I wrote a long time ago, there is something there that needs to be done now for that broken young man who was too afraid to share his music.

Having said all that, I feel it is really important to keep your hobbies in their right place, sure I’d love to put the work in to become a really great guitar player, but that is not the best use of my time at this moment in my life. I understand that my life is better for being a worse guitar player but a better Dad.

6: Everything else – this is just that, if it doesn’t fall into one of the categories above, it’s probably not that important anyway, do it when you can, I don’t even know would fall in here  as I’m typing this, which probably sums it up.

 

So there you have it, the state of self-discipline in my life is not nearly as bad as I almost told you it was. I have to be ok with not getting everything done that I want to sometimes, just making sure that everything gets done that I need to. I need to give myself a break more often when I start judging myself, I need to quit comparing myself to the outward impression of others. Most of all, I need to remain conscious of my list of priorities and make every effort to live life accordingly. Not because I need a better to do list, but because my life is better when I do. I don’t have life all figured out, but I am way better at it today than I have been at any other point in time and I thank god for that.

Broken male culture – Part 5 – Forgiveness

If knowledge is gained through experience, I should be pretty familiar with the subject of forgiveness. I have had much to be forgiven for in my life time & have also had much to forgive. Some connected, some disconnected but all necessary & all small steps towards what I feel is finally some sort of real mental health, peace & stability. That is not to say I have life figured out, but I am fully connected to the One that does. Nor is it to say I don’t continue to do things out of my stupidity that will not require some form of forgiveness again. Sinning out of brokenness is one thing, sinning out of stupidity is another, connected, just as bad in the eyes of God, yet somehow different. The knowledge that I have made a mistake comes so quickly now, without prompting (or desire to know sometimes), I just know.

I’ve heard it said that this is because once we become a new creation in Christ, sin is no longer our nature, we are no longer sinners by nature. That does not mean we do not sin, but as I’m sure you know, there is that immediate knowledge that comes from inside letting you know you did something that was not good for you to do. A lot of the time it is something that used to bring you pleasure with no remorse, not that same act is contrary to your very nature. This allows me to be in a place to rectify the errors of my ways much quicker than in the past, where it could be many, many days, weeks or even years before I even realized what was causing an issue.

So I suppose this is where I could tell you about how important it is to forgive people, to forgive yourself, to restore relationships, especially a right relationship with the Lord. I could tell you that, but you already know it, deep inside you know it. What I want to do is to look at what exactly forgiveness is, what I know of it & what the bible says about it. Maybe take a little look at why people are so afraid of it. It seems to me that sometimes people become so numb to their constant pain that the thought of a brief, if worse pain, that leads to freedom from pain all together is not a choice that is easily made.

Sometimes you are so numb to the truth, that you think everything is ok, that there is nothing to deal with. This is what happens when we develop coping mechanisms to avoid our pain, we live in these masks, with these lies long enough, that we forget that they are not correct. It is at this point that our core identity becomes based around a lie, our coping mechanisms, our life. We feel like we can handle the mess that is life because, hey that’s just the way life is. The good news however is that life does not have to be that way.

What is forgiveness really? It is not saying something is ok. Forgiveness is like a wound that was once deep but had been allowed to heal. This wound has been treated. Now it is just a scar. Each day you think less and less about the scar. You can look at it and remember something that was once very painful; but as you look at the scar, you know that the wound itself is only a memory. This is forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not about trying to be a nice person, or trying to do the right thing. When we really forgive people, we release any feeling that they owe us for the wrong done. We are the ones to release the wrong.

When I see the wrong done to me by another as their problem, not mine, and my pain as my problem not theirs, I have forgiven. When I forgive I let go of control. When I forgive I let go of blame. When I forgive I choose to not hold you responsible for me and to not hold myself responsible for you.

You say, well that all sounds great, but I can’t do it, I can’t forgive them. Even if I know what it really means, I just can’t do it. Well no, you probably can’t, but through Christ you can. Through the power of His spirit that lives within you, you can, because its not you doing it, it’s Him. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, then my friend, that is where all this begins, if this is on your heart, then right now is the perfect time to confess your sins to Him, and accept Him as your Lord and savior. In the eyes of God, the wages of sin are death. However because He loved you so much, He came to earth, fully human and paid the price for your sins, my sins, anyone who will accept Him, sacrificially in our place. You see, when you experience the love of God your capacity to love others grows. This allows you to forgive the seemingly unforgivable.

Jesus did all this (in covenant) for you (me, everybody). He surrendered his rights & assumed responsibility for our sins. He could have called down an army of 10,000 angels, but instead he made a covenant with us through love.

Not interested? Think life is just fine running along with your anger and bitterness? Did you ever wonder where that anger comes from? Where the resentment comes from? That bitterness that makes the happy moments oh so brief and the rest of life a miserable grind? It comes from unforgiveness. When you have been hurt, when you have been offended, when you have been abused, it is natural to feel pain, anger, resentment etc.

Forgiving people, even the seemingly unforgivable, is not handing a license for someone to hurt you again. Forgiveness is not an agreement between two people, it is a decision of the will to remove the hold that situation had over your life. To let go. A lot of the time it will not be a face to face situation, there is a good chance other person doesn’t even know that you are mad at them that they hurt you. Even if they do, this is not about them, this is about you and you receiving the freedom that God wants for you in your life.

Unforgiveness is like eating rat poison & hoping it will hurt someone else. Don’t listen to anyone that says you should hold a grudge the rest of your life, that message is from the devil. Tell the devil to go to hell, God wants intimacy with you, do not settle for less than friendship with Jesus. If you are so caught up in your pain, you will never get to that place of true intimacy with God.

That right there, the fear of the Lord should be the overriding motivation to forgive others. The fear of the Lord is not the fear of punishment by the Lord, it is the fear or not being with the Lord. The fear of losing His guiding hand, His loving discipline, His unending grace. The fear of not knowing the Lord, is the only fear we should ever carry, not the fear of what will happen if I surrender my anger and resentment for the things that have happened in my past. The fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom.

I said I was going to involve the bible in this didn’t I? Well, here are a few of my favorite verses on forgiveness. Hopefully they will speak to you as they have done to me.

Luke 11:2-4  New International Version (NIV)

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation

 

Luke 17:3-5   New International Version (NIV)

So watch yourselves.

“If your brother or sister[a] sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

Luke 23:32-34 New International Version (NIV)

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

Luke 6:37-38 New International Version (NIV)

Judging Others

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Matthew 18:21-35  New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[a]

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[b] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[c] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

 

 

I really could have just stopped with the Lord’s prayer, forgive us as we forgive others, but I like scripture so I gave you some extras. That says it all though, I’m sure we have all payed the Lords prayer at some point, think about it, we are asking our Father to forgive us, just as we forgive others. If we are withholding forgiveness, then how can we expect to be forgiven?

 

Now, the main focus of this series has been men and what I call broken male culture. However this subject, forgiveness, like much of the rest is completely applicable to all. I just believe that if we could empower men to get past their hurt, to get past their blocked emotions and to start working on getting healthy. Then I think we would see a transformed world.

Can we change the world of broken male culture? I believe so, but it will be slow small steps, one man at a time, I’ll be working on me, with the guiding hand of the Trinity. Hopefully as my light begins to shine ever brighter, it will encourage others to light their lamp. Maybe one day instead of broken male culture, we will be talking about the light of the city of the side of the hill that cannot be ignored.

 

 

 

I’d love to pretend this is all my own work, but much of what I have learned on this subject has come from the below wonderful people

Pastor Toby Slough – the senior pastor at Cross Timbers Community Church

Pastor Alan Smith – from Gateway

Graham Cooke – Brilliant publishing, look him up on youtube & twitter (and probably other places too)

Making Peace With Your Past – a 12 week course I took that was the true genesis of my understanding of forgiveness and what it meant in my life

 

Do Not Cross

The recent sermon series at my church was titled The Power of Everybody. It is no surprise to me that I loved it (I love all the series my church does), but this one particularly spoke to me, and not that there was a doubt, showed me once again why God moved the way He did to get me to a church in a tiny north Texas town.

The concept is simple, Jesus came for everybody & we are all better when we are together in real community. Again, Jesus came for everyone, not just for good people, not just for people who follow all the rules, not just for people who have life figured out. He came for all people.  It seems that so often in western Christianity this is too easily forgotten, where church becomes a country club to separate “us from them”.  That sickens me on so many levels, first because it is just wrong, read the gospels and that is clear. Secondly, if Christianity was about the “good” people, then I would still be lost in a directionless life of sin. I would not sit here typing as a spirit filled baptized believer, forgiven, healed, and walking in freedom. My life and my destiny have been completely changed over the last ten years and my heart cries out for those who are where I was. It is my great desire to help, even in some small way, people to find the gift of grace that I found. One thing is for sure, if God loves me enough to do what He has done for me, then he certainly loves you enough.

Too much of Christianity over the last 2000 years has been manipulated into rules to control people, the work of satan, in order that the message of the gospel is watered down. This is how we have come to the place we are at today where there is so much religion & yet so little real relationship with Christ & so few walking in the freedom of redemption. There are millions of saved believers who do not know the freedom of being released from the bonds of sin. There are even more people who do not know Christ & will not because too many people draw lines through hypocrisy based on the sins of others – breaking news, we all sin & no sin is greater than another, they are all acts against the will of God.

I have met people who quite proudly have told me that they choose not to build relationships with no-Christians, based on flawed logic like “how could you trust them”. Each to their own I supposed, but I have some fundamental issues with this way of thinking. First and foremost, it is about as opposite to the way Jesus lived as you can get, just look at the disciples, a motley crew of people that society had no real use for.

Secondly, if you choose to live this way, you are missing out on relationships with some of the best people you will ever meet. Many of my friends are non-believers, that does not & should not ever get in the way of building a relationship. If you truly want to lead people to Christ, so sow seed etc, then you need to be spending time with people who do not know Christ. The most effective method for leading people to Christ is not to tell them they are wrong! It is to love them through relationships, let them see the light of Christ in your life, be available & if the time ever arises, be ready to share the gospel. Pray about it, when and if the time is right, it will happen, it is not your place to force it, it is your place to be ready to be used when God chooses to use you.

Enter into these relationships with a gentle caution though. You must first be deeply rooted in relationship with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Be transparent but deliberate, Christ in your life must be clear, especially when disclosing how he helps with your struggles. Enjoy these friendships for what they are, but when you need counsel in life, make sure you are getting it from spirit filled people. Go to experts on your situation. If your marriage is struggling, the best person to guide you is probably not someone who is on their third or fourth marriage; it is much more likely to be the person who has been married 30 or 50 years. This is simple wisdom & available to all from God by simply asking for it.

Where do people get the idea from then that it is a good and Christian thing to do to not associate with non-believers? Much of it is caused by fear, unaddressed brokenness that makes people not want to put themselves in a position to be rejected, I get that, I have been there. I pray that people can see that they need help though and that they are not being righteous hiding in their defense mechanisms.

There is another common thing that I have seen though, and that is a small part of the bible used to look like it is instructing exactly the actions that are being used, yet the text is completely out of context. The same way televangelists trick people into giving them money.

Take a look at 2 Timothy 3:1

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Wow, that sums up the early 21st century pretty completely. Of course, it sums up the history of the world pretty well too if you look at it through negative eyes. If you read just this text then you could easily use it as a defense to stay away from people who do not love God.

Now I’m not going to lie to you, Pauline theology gives me tired head, yes he gave us some of the greatest written words in history, but sometimes his overly educated lawyer talk is just over my simple head. So rather than trying to figure this out myself (which would make this an article for 2015) I did a little research. I found an interesting website & the text addressing this specific part of scripture is here http://preceptaustin.org/2_timothy_31-5.htm . There is a lot to it, it seems like a very interesting website, I plan on visiting more.

So back on track, the main part of their research that jumped out at me was this:

Remember the context — Paul is speaking to Timothy who is most likely the pastor of the church at Ephesus and he is instructing him about how to guard the treasure and exhorting him to pass it on to faithful men. In short, the description in 2Ti 3:1-8 is not that of men outside the church but of those inside the church (cp Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28 29 30 3132 – Note especially Paul’s emphasis on the importance of the church leaders in Acts 20:32If you are an elder or pastor, are you imbibing, eating, saturating yourself with and in the Word of His grace that you might recognize and counter wolves in sheep’s clothing in your flock, men who have a form of godliness but lack the power thereof? see Titus 1:9note cp Mt 7:15 16note Mt 7:17 18 19 20note)

 

So when we understand the scripture in this context, then clearly it is not telling Aunt Edith (made up character) to stay away from the bad people at the bingo hall (do they still have them?). Here we have an example of what I believe is deriving a completely literal account from the bible, completely out of context and then allowing it to provide a warped view of how we as Christians are to behave in the world.

Do I believe the bible is completely true and accurate? Yes. However I believe it must be viewed in context. Some of the context of the bible is in the form of poetry, or word pictures to explain how things happened or will happen, the bible is not Gods diary recounting step by step all that happened. It is the user manual for life, Gods living and breathing word, His guideline for how life is designed to work. It is Him speaking directly to you and if you allow Him, He will changed your life through His word, but only when you accept it as His living word, not just a book to be read because you were told that is what “good people” do.

How would Jesus have us deal with people who are not the same as us? Let’s visit the Sermon on the Mount, The Beatitudes, if you want the Cliff Notes for how to make life work you need to go no further than Matthew 5. If we look at this particular piece of the scripture:

 

Matthew 5: 43-44

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ‘But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. 

 

Then clearly we are not to avoid people, how can you love someone if you are avoiding them for not being just like you?

So what can we do about this divisive, exclusive culture that has grown? Good question, I believe like all good things in the Kingdom, it starts small. It starts with building a strong foundation. It starts by Gods people saying enough, we will not draw lines. If Christ can save the murderer on the cross next to him whilst He is being killed for my sins, then I can certainly extend a welcome to those who need it most. Instead of drawing lines of exclusion, we need to draw circles of inclusion. Jesus paid the price for ALL our sins, not just some of them, not just for the nice folks at church, all of them.

To receive his gift of forgiveness through grace, we have to acknowledge our sins, give our lives to Him as God. And then get ready for a new life, one centered in love & one that like it or not will result in life change. The sin that was once so appealing will over time become detestable to you, not because some goody two shoes said you were bad, but because you have been loved through your faults. The result of receiving this kind of love is a changed heart.

Friends, we need to quit trying to fix people, that is God’s work, what we need to do is get people to Jesus & then get the heck out of the way. We are not called to be God, we are called to be one of the folks holding the mat of the paralytic, those four great men whose names are unknown, yet they set the perfect example of how to live a Christ centered life.

The life change offered by the gospel of Christ & relationship with the Holy Trinity is not one that says get it together first, it is one that says come as you are.

You are loved and accepted as you are, once you realize that be prepare to receive it and then get ready to change, because it is inevitable and wonderful. Will everyone be saved? No. Can everyone be saved? Yes. What we need to do is not play a role in deciding who is saved; we need to play a role in making sure everyone knows that the gift of eternal salvation is theirs for the taking, if they will only accept it. So let’s all stop drawing lines that say do not cross & start drawing circles that say come on in, you are included and you are welcome.

May the peace of God rest upon you.

 

 

 

 

A Decidedly Fun Thing I’ll Certainly Do Again

 

So that was it, my cruise journal. I still have a couple of poems yet to publish from on-board, but other than that, this will be my last post relating to this vacation. I learned a lot of things on-board about myself and about how I would like to spend future vacations. I learned that I really enjoyed and benefited from keeping a vacation journal. I shall endeavor to keep one for all future trips and assuming I am still blogging will share those too.

I learned that I prefer smaller cruise ships and that the next cruise we take I would like to be more of a luxury cruise. Something about mega-sizing the ship and going for a younger crowd removes something of what allures me to cruising. I want to feel like I am gatecrashing a lifestyle and a culture that I am normally a not a party to. Yes you can still (I did) have a wonderful vacation on a super-mega-ship, it is just not the experience that I would ideally choose. That is not to say that I won’t vacation on the Magic again, exiting Galveston for a really rather reasonable price has a very big upside. I still got all the rest and relaxation that I wanted, I just would have liked to have felt a little more hoity-toity in the process (if that even makes sense).

I learned that while the flexibility of “any time dining” is wonderful, but, if you have assigned dining, so long as it works out well, that can be even better. We have had this on previous trips and usually you are assigned to a table with other people. This makes for much better dinner conversation opportunities because you are not just reviewing what you have all done together all day, you have the chance to tell stories to people that have not experienced them. However, if you are assigned to a table with people who don’t want to talk, or not with a good wait staff, then anytime dining is the way to go.

The thing that changed this from a really nice vacation but the service was not so much, to this was a great vacation & the people were amazing was relationships. Whether it was that we(I) needed a few days to get to rested enough to where we could enjoy people, or that it took us a few days  to find the people that we could effectively relate to I’m not sure, although I lean towards the latter. Our conversations with our eastern European friends in the dining room, with the English people on the entertainment crew made the vacation vastly more enjoyable. I have to look at this and apply it to life in general, to be fair I have been working on this for a few years now & the change is immense.

Relationships are what can change your life from “is this all there is?” to “life is great”. Sure there are challenges, most of us don’t get to work for fun, we have to work for a living. Yet the time working is not so bad if you build relationships there, just like if you have relationships waiting for you at home & in your recreation time, life is just better. Now these relationships need work, unnourished they will be empty & flounder, but if you work on your relationships. If you chose to build covenant relationships rather than contract relationships, your life will just be better & that makes life much more worth living.

While my vacation gave me much needed & overdue physical & emotional rest & recuperation. There was an unfortunate down side, it had left me feeling spiritually low. I didn’t realize how much until I walked into church the Sunday after we got back, it was a beautifully overwhelming experience. I had happy tears as my spiritual gas tank was immediately filled up. The answer to my life’s purpose is in here somewhere what He will chose to do with that is up to him, I will simply follow (and look forward to more vacations). I need to make sure that on future vacations I make time to stay connected to my source, more than I did on this trip.

Other thoughts? Some people say that I don’t have an accent anymore, however I have come to realize it is because I don’t sound like James Bond, Hugh Grant or Dick van Dyke. I have an accent, faded and slightly Texanized, but I still have my accent (dang it). I have never sounded like any of the aforementioned people, I am from Yorkshire, our accents might not be Hollywood famous, but they are wonderful British accents. I shall decide to ignore people who say I have no accent from now on.

I have no idea why I could not bring myself to dance at the beginning of the week, the terrible music was no excuse, my daughter wanted to dance and I didn’t do it. That could have been a great regret from this week. However it will simply serve as a warning to ensure I don’t get as fried as I was prior to this week. By the end of the week I had danced on stage with my daughter and on the final day (skipped this from the journal) we danced in the atrium several times, slow dancing around the floor shared with some delightful elderly couples, one of which were especially encouraging to my daughter to just keep dancing (her whole life I presume) and gave me that wonderful, knowing look saying that I am not doing too terribly as a Dad. Maybe I should force myself to dance more, before the inhibitions that were removed come back, I guess that’s a thought for a date night in the near future.

What else did I learn? I learned that I cannot read an entire David Foster Wallace book in one week if I have more to do than just read the book. I discovered that while I loved his essays, especially “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”, I do not agree with his assessment of cruising.  My assessment, and if for some random reason I decided to gather my vacation writing into a book its title, would be “A Decidedly Fun Thing I’ll Certainly Do Again

 

IMG_4946

 

 

 

Complete Surrender

This has to be one of my most procrastinated posts yet. Usually when I have an idea of something to write on it just falls out on the paper (or screen). Sometimes if I don’t have time I’ll put the idea in a folder for later but most of the time my blog is an outpouring in a moment.

This started with something that I wrote in my career change post, which I then removed & made into another post. For whatever reason I didn’t post it & now I have been delaying revisiting, realizing that I have been avoiding it I am pressing on because if I don’t it will begin a descent that I am not willing to go on anymore. So here today at lunchtime I re-read, re-worked & added to the original post. The post was originally called ministry, which is a word that to me implies a profession, as you will see I realized that this was more a way of life thing than a profession, hence the changed title, reading this blog on The River walk entry during this process helped with the perception (& title) change.

The other week I thought I was feeling a vaguely familiar call, a call to completely dedicate my life to God & somehow find a way to enter into full time ministry. The week after I heard nothing but how I am not good enough, how the words I use when I’m frustrated in the car speak to how I simply don’t have the character for such a calling. If what I believe is true, if what I have been reading is true, then ever since a thought that can only have come from God appeared & I acknowledged it, I have been under attack from the devil. It has took all week for me to fully acknowledge this.

Which is rather scary, if I am under attacked for a possible call to ministry, then does that mean it really was God? Am I really supposed to somehow try to move towards that? The thought of it both excites & terrifies me, I would love the work, yet can’t think what I might have to offer, let alone what I would have to offer a church or ministry that would justify them compensating me at a level that would not require me to shatter my family’s life. I’m not even sure that I want to work for a church, I have a feeling that it would ruin a lot of nice illusions that I would rather keep. I don’t know, I just don’t know.

That is where I was leading upto Sunday. After a great day on Saturday serving complete strangers doing repairs in a trailer park with my church’s men’s ministry, I was feeling good about life, I did my usual serving efforts on Sunday service & then, by the end of the sermon I was a blubbering wreck. You see, what has been on my heart recently is that the thought of working another 30 years in the freight industry is just unimaginable to me today. I’m fine with plodding through for right now, but really, to be doing this still when I’m in my 40s, or 50s or 60s? Please tell me that won’t happen! It seems that God agrees. So on Sunday I built a bridge & got over myself & I visited the prayer team, then I spent time talking to my wife about things, then I emailed my mens group & asked for their prayers.

Do you know what I received? Love and acceptance from a group of people who see me as significant enough to pray for & care for. I can’t express how much that means to me, I really can’t. You see, for all the healing that has gone on in my life, there is apparently still more to be done. I was at a dead end because I was trying to figure things out by myself, not allowing anyone in & not wanting to bother them with my needs. As ridiculous as that may seem, that is one of the great challenges that come out of my insecurities.

So onto the future. A call to full time ministry? I believe that is what has happened, however, here is the kicker, I am not sure, in fact I am pretty sure, it is not a call to professional ministry. Maybe one day that is where I will be lead, I have no expectations of that, but time will tell. I think the call I was receiving was a call to complete surrender. Something that I have heard for years but if I am honest, never been able to accomplish. You see, while my beliefs are full time, the fruits of my beliefs have been less than that. The thing with complete surrender, with not just allowing Jesus in the car, but letting him drive & me sitting in the back seat, is that it is a completely new way of life. It is not 10 minutes a day reading or praying & a few hours on a weekend in worship & fellowship. It is full time. My ministry is my life, my life needs to be a reflection of Jesus at all times, at home, at work, at play, even driving!

What has happened after I reached out to the people that God has placed in my life has been incredible. I felt an amazing peace that entire week. I also started to see that this year has truly been an explosion of long term prayers being answered. Prayers asking for my true identity to be revealed, for me to be molded into who God wants me to be, not the mess I used to be. For continued & deeper healing from the wounds of my past. Prayers for friendships.  On & on.

The reason why I had to ask for help before I could see these things? I needed to experience that I am not a lone voice in the wilderness. I believed that isolation & alone is who I am at my core, part of my defective nature. I am not alone, I am loved, I am cherished & I am at my best in community & fellowship. Sharing all of who I am with those who love me & need me to be me, to be wholly & unashamedly me.

Now, where does this leave me with my career funk? I think it is Gods way of telling me that it is time to stop asking my job to do what God can only do & start bringing my identity, my true self, the me that God sees, into my job. Does that mean I will be doing the same thing forever? Probably not, does that mean I have the answers? Not at all. Does it mean I will never have a bad day or lose it again? No.

Does it mean that I have understood correctly, again I really don’t know. I don’t know what the future holds, all I know is that it is time for a career change, but not at an environmental or behavioral level, not a capability or belief level, but at a God spoken identity level. My ministry, regardless of my vocation, needs to be based around being the true me at all times & allowing the love of Christ to be expressed through that.

If you have 37 minutes to spare, I cannot recommend this sermon enough, it was a great message, it was not until the end that I realized that I had been feeling like my (18 year) career was oppressing me. It was at that moment that I knew I couldn’t go on the same anymore. It was through that moment that God told me I didn’t have to, even if I am in the same place forever, it will be forever changed because of that Sunday.

 

Some of what I need to be conscious of today is not being in such a hurry for God to fix me & move me onto whatever the next step in His plan for me is. I need to enjoy the journey, I need to stop wanting to do more out of my need to feel significant, I am significant, He is not going to allow me to do more until I am doing it for Him, not for the brokenness that only He can fix. I need to celebrate in my blessings more, start really realizing all that I have in life. If my life is my ministry, it does it a great disservice to be down on something that is so wonderful.

Maybe the upside of taking so long over this post is that I can also share the following week’s message. One of my favorite teachers was visiting, it is an incredible message, but also for me, served like a review of what has been done since 2004 & a reminder to stay connected to the true source .

 

 

 

 

After writing all this earlier today, I then spend the afternoon questioning if I should post this, if I am being too open with the inside of my mind, if my continuous rambling about my faith will drive me & others crazy. I wonder if I am over thinking this whole thing. Should I just get on with life & not worry about things so much, learn how to be satisfied? How has my blog become the gateway to not only thinking so much, but my faith growing so much? The more I think, the more questions I have, the more questions I have the more I am confused, which in turn causes me to think (vicious cycle). The more I discover who I truly am, the more I now have to learn how to live life in this world as the real me, not the me who learnt how to survive in this world with coping mechanisms.

Who am I today even? I am one who will pray for anyone. I am one who now when he blows it in frustration, recognizes it & seeks help from God to change, standing up to the issue to take its power, instead of throwing extra fuel on the fire. I am one who earlier this year admitted to God that I am ok with being thought of as a little strange if it means I get some extra Holy Spirit in me. I am slowly, but surely, beginning to be the me that I was created to be, and that is a good thing.

I think something from the other morning summed me up perfectly. I am the one who was reading the Bible at his desk while listening to Appetite for Destruction (not a thought out moment, it just happened naturally), hoping that when my emails finally stopped downloading my work day would not start with a kick to the proverbial nuts. Guns N Roses & Jesus, that right there, for all its wonderful contention is as good a word picture of me that I can give today.