God tells us to do things less because the thing needs doing and more because we need to do it.
In the Visitor Shed, Camp C, Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, Louisiana, God is meeting needs this weekend. Some men needed a good meal; needed to know that God loved them; needed to forgive and know they are forgiven; needed to know that someone outside of Angola knows they are alive and cares about them. Others needed to be needed; needed to be used by God; needed to see that God is alive and operating in the lives of men, needed to know that they are truly blessed in their lives and that others are loving God and doing His will in circumstances beyond their comprehension . God is meeting all those needs.
OC reminds us today that “dreaming about a thing in order to do it properly is right; but dreaming about it when we should be doing it is wrong. When we are getting into contact with God in order to find out what He wants, dreaming is right; but when we are inclined to spend our time in dreaming over what we have been told to do, it is a bad thing and God’s blessing is never on it. God’s initiative is always in the nature of a stab
against this kind of dreaming, the stab that bids us “neither sit nor stand but go.”
God is working in that Visitor Shed because a few stopped dreaming and started obeying. And His work in them and his blessing for them far exceed the blessings given to those whom the former dreamers were called to serve.
There is dreaming in every life. There are planted dreams about seeing God work and being part of His plan. There are also physical and spiritual needs throughout the world that are daily going unmet because there is too much dreaming and not enough obeying.
Stop dreaming and start obeying and
On the first night of a Kairos, it’s kind of just a question of putting one foot in front of the other. It reminds me of my old days in the military. Everything was “hurry up and wait.” Everyone is eager to get started but not much really happens on the first night. It really is just getting things set up, introductions, and a couple of meditations and night prayer. It’s loading up cookies and food. Checking into the hotel. Lot’s of sitting around and waiting. Drudgery. But God takes even these basic things, these necessary non-dramatic steps. Even when we think nothing is happening yet. It is. “When the Lord does a thing through us, He always transfigures it.”
Although last night we had really not done anything. There was an incredible sense of anticipation and excitement in the room. There was a oft repeated theme of “I’m here to see what God is going to do.” And a strong sense of certainty that He is going to do something good.
He already has. We have so many cookies that we are plotting to pass out cookies to the entire camp, not just the participants. There is tragedy too as the Chaplain is focused on the suicide of one of the correctional officers. We are unlikely to see much of him as he takes care of business connected with that loss.
Our biggest danger at this point is the tendency to believe that we are really doing something more than being used empty vessels. Pray that the good beginning will continue and that drudgery will continue to be transformed. If this is soul sucking drudgery, I can’t wait for the good stuff.
I was concerned that because of today’s topic, I would be suffering despair today for the first time in my life. After all my life seems to be a continuous example of whatever Oswald talks about on any given day. However, after reading OC’s definition of “despair” I really should not have been concerned. For OC despair comes when we realize that we have not done that which we had a magnificent opportunity to do. Been there done that. I have had much opportunity to despair in my life. My missed opportunities are too numerous to mention.
As an example, OC uses the disciples’ failure to stay awake and pray while Jesus was asking His Father to let the cup pass from Him. Certainly that was an opportunity for despair. But I guess what has kept me from despair is the Lord’s wonderful response to Peter’s three fold denial of Him. He three times asked Peter if He loved and Him and instructed Him to feed His sheep. As many times as we miss opportunities, it seems God always provides new opportunities to proclaim and act out our love for Him. Depression may haunt me; but His endless love and opportunities to serve Him keeps me from despair.
Today is a great example as I head toward Angola and another Kairos. I know He will use me if I will just empty myself; but much more I know I will be blessed more than any inmate by what will happen. Although there have been many times I have failed to take advantage of opportunity; this time I am not.
Most folks are at a loss as to why I go to Angola repeatedly. This question of despair is a small part of it. At Angola I get to know men most of whom face the rest of their lives in prison with almost no chance of release and such men live joyful and productive lives because of Jesus. To be used in any small way to add even one more man to the list of the joyful in the world’s largest prison church is a privilege beyond description.
Despair? I think not… Rather I am greatly blessed.
Last night I was depressed. I know it’s not cool to admit that one gets depressed; but I do and not infrequently. Finally I gave into the “spiritual” urging to quit obsessing and to go take a bath.
It is my habit to read OC’s devotional for the next day before going to bed and so after the bath I did that. The title jumped off the page at me, “The Initiative against Depression.” Since I began doing the Nick’s Walk at the beginning of the year, it has been amazing how often the OC devotional has a direct relationship to my life.
As is often the case OC had some helpful thoughts. “A human being is capable of depression, otherwise there would be no capacity for exaltation.” There is consolation in knowing that depression is normal for a human. I have always been suspicious of those who deny depression. Now I know that such persons are either liars or they are incapable of exaltation. I’m not sure which would be worse.
It is also comforting to know that my urging to take a bath was probably a word from God. As OC points out the angel told a depressed Elijah to get up and eat. Apparently the spiritual cure for depression is to do the most natural simple thing.
I guess I was no longer depressed until I noticed that tomorrow’s devotional topic is “The Initiative against Despair.” I sure hope the pattern of the devotional being directly related to my life, doesn’t hold true tomorrow. Pray for me.
I suspect someone you know had a little too much Mardi Gras and may be a bit depressed and maybe in need of a bath this morning. Love ’em like Jesus and admit you might sometimes be depressed. Go take a bath and
Do you ever listen to yourself? I was at the One Nation Under God meeting last night. The crowd was slim and we were commenting that there was lots of competition. Monday night is prayer night at Amana so some folks were there. It was also the night of the Mardi Gras Queen’s parade and maybe some folks were there. I commented, and this is what I am referring to which I ask if you ever listen to yourself, “I hide for Mardi Gras and Halloween.” I got some knowing nods.
Today OC talks about spiritual initiative and “rising from the dead.” I don’t participate in Mardi Gras and Halloween because something in my spirit restrains me. But I haven’t really said anything to others. They seem to be so into it. It seems so important to them, such a large part of their lives, especially this year when the Mardi Gras celebration is an extension of the post Super Bowl party. They’re having so much fun. So I am silent and I hide.
I feel an urging to “arise from the dead” on this issue so I listen to OC: “All initiative is not inspired. A man may say to you – “Buck up, take your disinclination by the throat, throw it overboard, and walk out into the thing!” That is ordinary human initiative. But when the Spirit of God comes in and says, in effect, “Buck up,” we find that the initiative is inspired…God does not give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome.
Is there something you feel drawn to do? Are you considering if that initiative is God inspired? Maybe it’s time to make a move.
I find the day after Mardi Gras the former revelers are thinking, “Maybe all I did yesterday wasn’t such a good idea.” Maybe that’s the time to rise from the dead and say something. Pray for me.
Rise from the dead and
There is no question that we have some responsibility for others. In fact we often don’t comprehend the breath of our responsibility. We are clearly called to be witnesses. But we are not merely witnesses on those all too rare occasions when we discuss our walk with others. Every moment of our lives we are witnessing. Any slip on our part, every trip on our walk impacts others. OC describes this as a willingness to “spend every ounce of nervous energy, of mental, moral and spiritual energy we have for Jesus Christ? That is the meaning of a witness in God’s sense of the word. It takes time, be patient with yourself. God has left us on the earth – what for? To be saved and sanctified? No, to be at it for Him. Am I willing to be broken bread and poured out wine for Him?”
Knowing what a mess we were when He saved us, it is not surprising that we would obsess on “being better.” That is not the call. In fact, it is through our imperfect that He is seen. Through our brokenness that He shines through. Our song should not be, “Look at how good I am” but rather “see how I am; yet He loved me and saved me and uses me today.”
Said another way, “Keeping our brother is our only reason for hanging around.” “My life as a worker is the way I say “thank you” to God for His unspeakable salvation.”
Focus today on how your ever action impacts others. Like a rock dropping in quiet waters the ripples move endlessly.
Be a messanger of His love and grace today and
OC’s word for today is pretty straight forward. When we find ourselves in the dark, we need to listen. Our hearing is so much keener in the dark. Our imagination is heightened. Remember as a kid the imaginings that led to visions of monsters under the bed or spiders crawling about in the dark. Perhaps God places us in spiritual darkness because of a similar increased awareness that makes it easier for us to hear Him. Sadly when things seem dark, we often don’t believe He’s around so we aren’t listening.
Another reason for listening in the dark is that talking in the dark is such a bad idea. We are not in a comfortable and secure place in the dark and our words are often unwise and hurtful when spoken from the dark. When we feel we are in a spiritually dark place and don’t feel God around our words are not likely to give comfort; they are more likely to spread doom and fear.
Finally, a dark place is not always a bad place to be. When we find ourselves in the dark, it’s likely that God has something important to say to us. When in the dark, we learn about Him and about ourselves. And those are very good things.
If you find yourself in a dark place today, know that you are loved and the dawn is coming. Listen, learn and
I like to listen to the broadcast of basketball games while at the games. I like to listen to audiobooks practically all the time. When I’m not listening to audiobooks, I’m listening to music. Unless, of course, I’m listening to a phone call. One of my favorite accessories on my new truck is the plug that let’s me connect my iphone with the speaker system in the truck. I am listening obsessed. I went to buy new ear pods (that’s what they call them now) at Walmart this week and was greeted by a sea of choices in all colors. Seems I’m not the only one obsessed with listening. Next time you’re out and about check out how many folks are walking or driving around with something stuck in their ear.
Why this obsession? I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with wanting to control what comes into our minds. There is so much noise out there. We want what we want. My iphone has a “genius” feature. It learns what kind of music I like and it plays what it thinks I want to hear. It is scary accurate.
With God, we feel we are truly spiritual if we spend a few minutes each day, tuned into His channel and listening for His voice. OC reminds us “If I am united with Jesus Christ, I hear God, by the devotion of hearing all the time. A lily, or a tree, or a servant of God, may convey God’s message to me. What hinders me from hearing is that I am taken up with other things. It is not that I will not hear God, but I am not devoted in the right place. I am devoted to things, to service, to convictions, and God may say what He likes but I do not hear Him.”
We are nosy about the ones we love. We are interested in every aspect of their lives. I often have to hold back on my questionings less I appear to be evading private matters in the lives of my beloveds. That’s how our God is. He is interested in every moment of our lives and wants to speak into our lives at all times.
Can we put our ear pods on the God station always and listen and