Such as I have …

I just finished a Facebook exchange with a Talluri Roni Joseph, a pastor in a third world country who cares for orphans.  I have talked to him several times and each conversation leads to an “ask“.  He pleads with me for money to help with the orphans.  This is “pure and undefiled religion” according to James.  I think he may be for real.  I think these orphans may be for real … there certainly are far too many in our broken world.

Each time I tell him that I would donate if he could establish a relationship with a credible organization, through which I could give.  Otherwise I won’t.  I know of too many, relatives even, who have been scammed out of thousands of dollars over the internet.

Today, he told me that God would send me to hell for failing to respond to his need and then he blocked me.  My wife and I have always been involved in organizations like Compassion because we know that what leaves our hands, finds its way into the hands of those who need it most.

I hope God doesn’t sent me to hell for failing this person.

What I forget is that I have no contact with this person and no knowledge of the situation directly.  All that I can say for sure is that there is someone typing back at me from “God knows where“.  

But I still feel bad.

I feel bad because I have so much and others have so little.  Comparatively speaking, I have nothing … nothing to complain about.  I feel bad because I can’t share the biblical testimony of Psalms 37:25, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread.”

I think I have seen that.  Not forsaken spiritually, but seemingly neglected by both God and man.  And I have seen them begging.  As little as my wife and I are doing, we are responding at some level but it seems so minor in the face of such great need.  And I still feel guilty. 

There are people that I see everyday, whose circumstances may not be so stark as the orphaned third world but they need help as well.  Sometimes I am able and other times I find myself a penniless beggar as well. Nothing to give.

Peter and John, going to the temple to pray, encountered a man who went there daily, a regular attendee.  But he wasn’t there to pray.  He was there to beg for money enough to survive.  I am certain that Peter and John must have seen him there before.  Perhaps on other days they had silver and/or gold and likely tossed coins his way.  But this day, they had nothing except a prayer … and they prayed it. 

“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

I wonder if they were as surprised as he was?  I’ve prayed prayers before and then been shocked, even surprised when God answered them.

It is sad when you think that a man could have been coming to the temple, the church, for years, looking for financial help when his greatest need was something else.  It is sad when you think that believers respond financially as though that were the greatest thing that we could do for people.  

If Peter and John were carrying cash that day, what might have happened?  They would have flipped a couple coins his way and nothing would have been different … just like they may have done times before.

Lord help us not to spend our lives trying to deal with issues that are not the main pain.  Help us not to fasten our hopes on the resources and generosity of others when our help comes from You.  Help Talluri Roni Joseph and the orphans that he cares for.

“Such as I have, give I unto thee … “

 

KJ of the Sea

It is a deeply buried embarrassment that I was born on an island where men make their living from the sea and I was such a poor sailor.  It’s not that my stomach was weak … I could hurl with the best of them.  But it impacted so much of my life.  Basketball trips were a recurring nightmare.  Not the game, which I loved but the ferry rides.  There were trips that I spent, entirely on my knees bowed before the porcelain throne.  I couldn’t walk off the boat and recover immediately.  The sickness left the wharf with me too many times.  And to add insult to injury, I moved home after a 42-year hiatus to discover that many Grand Manan fishermen get seasick for their entire fishing career.  They just have the intestinal fortitude to face it … every day.

Somehow they push through their sickness.  I am absolutely in awe of this.  When I am seasick, I am incapacitated.  I just don’t know how a person keeps going when they feel like that.

I simply don’t have what it takes and I offer my unreserved respect to those who persevere like this.

Now my son, KJ is fishing with a dear friend on Grand Manan … thanks Vince.  He gets as sick as I did but he has that extra something that I could never find.  He keeps going.  The real fishermen are not necessarily those who don’t get sick, but those who do and keep on. I would like to have this quality in life in general.

Perhaps I have.

I have pushed through when I have been sick of my job.  I have gotten out of bed on mornings when I have been sick of life in general.  I have faced many parts of life when I have been sick of it.  We think that “getting sick” makes us weaker somehow or that people should never feel as we do.  If life is like the sea most people get sick and keep going.

I have been grateful in the midst of it all.  Grateful to God for His help, for His Mercy, for His Grace.  My life has been most blessed. It is a bit of a paradox because there are extreme sides of life as each of us know it. Today you may struggling to keep it down, to function  as you must and it feels like the brink of your ability to take one more step forward.  Deep down though, you know that you will keep going and do what you must.  Not every day is like this one.  There are times when the winds are gentle and breeze is warm.  There is nothing quite so beautiful as the sights that a person sees on the seas.

I pray for more of those days to come … many more.

I have always loved this poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.  It is a sailor’s poem that just works for all of us.

One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.

Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

Friday Morning

It is a gray Friday morning on Grand Manan.  Hardly a breath of wind to stir the leaves or raise the limp New Brunswick flag that hangs from our back deck … and it is warm already.

The summer has passed as a wisp.  We are awaiting the arrival of some old friends from the youth pastor days in Jamestown, NY.  We’ll have the joy of showing them this beautiful place over the weekend and seeing it once again, for the first time.

I’m shaking off a work trip that robbed me of two Grand Manan days and simultaneously thanking God for the beautiful friends (Bill, Louise & Patti) and family (Karl & Alyssa, Mike, Erin & grandkids) that we have abroad.  They are far too many to mention.

There is a connection that is not geographically challenged, limited or defined.  It is not time bound.  It is the eternal expanse of relationship … the Church at its best … the people of God.  Build walls around it and it becomes something far less.  Define it doctrinally and it dies.  Organize what is organism and and it becomes our idea or notion rather than God’s.

We can’t resist trying to make it our own.  Our shrink-wrapped versions have a shelf life.  God’s Church … His family, lives on regardless of the tide of public opinion, the philosophical flavors of the day, the political curse or blessing.

We can’t attend this family or see it as it is in a particular location.  We are connected as many parts by the One Head, Jesus Christ.  He is the Vision.  He is building His Church.  We are invited as participants, not architects.

This is the Church that I love.

Psalm 151

compassHere We Go Again

(A grateful, abstract reflection for my local spiritual family)

One person’s hardship

Is blessing to another

I wasn’t looking to do this again

You were trying to make sense

Of a broken set of circumstances

In so many ways, we all were lost

We found each other

 

A common journey now

Step by step, moment by moment

Not distracted by a destination

There is such joy in each new discovery

We find that in our lostness we were never alone.

 

Not a single one of us …

When we don’t know where we are going …

He knows.

That’s really all that matters if He calls us to follow

 

“If any man will come AFTER me … “

That’s followership, not leadership

Everything in God’s upside down Kingdom rises and falls on followership.

When we follow we also lead. You can’t follow without leading but you can lead without following.

It is His following that is the issue, not ours.

You see, when we lead we find ourselves where we lost ourselves, floundering around in our brokenness.

So I think I’ll follow Him …

  • Not The Donald …
  • Not the Piper …
  • Not the Hybels and I really like the Hybels …
  • Not the Warren …
  • Not the proven Graham …

You have my ear, my heart, Lord

You call my cadence. I hear the faint sound of a distant drum thundering in my soul.

I know your Voice …

And I have my island family to walk among and with.

Thank YOU!

And thank you CLC!

You’ve Been So Good

 Every time I say these words to God, they sound … strange to me.  I get this picture of an old man patting a young boy on the head. The strange part is that I am the old man and God is the little boy. 

It is as if I am trying to reinforce and encourage God’s good behavior.  I am the one who defines what that is. That is just plain weird. 

Lately You have been behaving very well God. Let’s keep that up.  

My perspective is subconsciously condescending.  In Truth, if He is good at all, He is always good, whether I approve of His behavior or not. 

When I speak of the goodness of God, there is no dissonance.  Our experience of God in life is an experience of His Goodness. In the most difficult of circumstances people experience the goodness of God.  Conversely there are those who have the world by the tail and find only emptiness and fatal despair. 

The disciples of Christ found him present in the storms they faced. They found him in prison cells. They found him among the lepers, the outcasts, the cast-offs. It seems He is most real in those times when circumstances could cause us to question His good behavior. 

Looking back I see it in my own life. When it seemed things were falling apart, they were being remade into a reality that I could never have envisioned. 

Today there are good and difficult circumstances in my life. In all I see His Goodness.  There is nothing else to see. 

Forgive me Lord when I forget my place. Thank you for Your Grace & Mercy. 

What is church?

What Constitutes a Real Church?

There continues to be great confusion today about what a New Testament church is. Richard Jacobson makes an artistic attempt to clear things up a bit in this 4 minute video, employing an analogy of two popular uses for the word "school." Click below. What did you think? Is it a helpful analogy?

Posted by James Paul on Friday, October 23, 2015

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