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Christian Blog Self Care

Into the Deep

The prayer room at my seminary dorm was small: just two comfy chairs and a little table framed by a window. A wooden box with a hinged lid sat on the table—a place for people to leave prayer requests on the cards provided. Each card had space at the bottom where you could tell the person you prayed for them.

I sat down in one of the chairs, opened the box and began to pray for each request. The first two were like many I’d seen before. “Please pray for my dad. He has open heart surgery next week.” “My cousin isn’t a Christian. Pray that she will accept Jesus as her Savior.”

I reached into the box for another request and fished out a piece of paper that was folded several times. “This is odd,” I thought, as I flattened out the creases.

What I read sent a shiver up my spine: “My name is Daryl and I want to kill myself.” I impulsively scribbled a message back, “Please don’t. I’m here if you want to talk” I added my first name and room number, refolded the paper and put it back in the box.

Later that evening someone came to my door. I opened up to find a rather disheveled man: about my age, with major bed-head hair, tired eyes and mismatched clothing. He looked like a workaholic telecommuter straight from central casting.

“My name is Daryl,” he said. “I’m the one who wrote the note.”

Cue second shiver up my spine. Since I wasn’t sure when my roommate would return, I suggested we talk out in the foyer. I sat near the end of a long couch, while he stood uneasily across from me, repeating (over and again) his intention to end his life. He also mentioned that he had the means to do so–in his car, which was parked right outside.

This was way more than I’d bargained for, but there was literally no one else around. So I began to talk. I shared scripture verses, stories of survival and positive thoughts, but Daryl was undeterred.

NOTHING helped.

I asked him to wait while I went to get someone, but he refused. He said he would leave if I did. By this time he was clearly agitated: pacing back and forth throwing glances at the front door.

Exasperated and out of options, I got on my knees beside the couch and began to pray out loud. For 15 minutes…30 minutes…45 minutes, I cried out to God: “Heavenly Father, please help Daryl want to live!”

Sometime after the 45 minute mark I felt him sit down on the couch beside me. I looked up. Daryl began to quietly sob. He told me he wouldn’t go through it. Reaching into the pocket of his tattered brown blazer, he pressed something into my hand that brought the third shiver of the day: a single 12 gauge shotgun shell.

At 1 a.m. we parted ways. It turned out he was my next door neighbor who’d just returned to seminary in the past twenty-four hours!

At 8 a.m. that same morning I waited outside the student counselor’s office. Let’s just say I was his most interesting walk-in that day! I told him the whole story. He said he was familiar with Daryl and knew he had just returned to campus. Someone close to him had committed suicide and he was in danger of doing so himself. The counselor had been trying to contact him.

I head back to the dorm, and sure enough, there’s a thick thumb-tacked stack of notes on the message board for Daryl. The next day there’s a message for me. It’s from the counselor. Daryl had been to see him and was returning home. I am to keep the entire matter in confidence.

The only evidence that remained of what happened was my vivid memory and a 12 gauge magnum shotgun shell.

Then Samuel took a stone and placed it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “So far the Lord has helped us.” 1 Samuel 7:12

I soon realized that the shotgun shell represented MY Ebenezer from God–a reminder of His help in my inadequacy. I walked “into the deep” to rescue a man who’d lost his way, but was unable to lead him out.

God intervened and saved us both.

Almost 30 years later, I still have that shotgun shell. It sits in the back of a drawer and I take it out from time to time. Holding it in my hand, I recognize a certain overconfident young man (me) who overestimated his abilities, and then I thank the God who stepped in.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I hope you’re still out there, Daryl— happily alive and middle-aged like me.

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Christian Blog devotional

God Knows You

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Phillip called you.”

John 1:48

I just saw the coolest PBS documentary about Emperor penguins! After marching up to 125 miles across the sea ice, the mother must find her chick among the thousands of others in the colony. That sounds impossible enough, but it gets worse: all the chicks and their dads–who are with them–look EXACTLY alike. To find her husband and their offspring the mother issues a unique call which only her partner can identify.

“When’s mom gonna get here, dad? I’m hungry!”

“My sheep know my voice and they follow me”

John 10:27

Jesus spoke these words in denunciation of a group of Jewish leaders who rejected Him. Basically, He told them, “Guys, the reason you don’t get it is because you don’t got it.”

True believers recognize God’s voice, but can He pick theirs out of a crowd? Of course He can! God is all-knowing and familiar will all of our ways (Psalm 139:3b). He recognizes our needs BEFORE we do, (Matthew 6:8) and knows the secrets of our hearts (Psalm 44:21b).

The concept of being intimately known by our creator is clear. However, what does this look like in real life?

The about-to-be disciple, Nathanael, had never met Jesus. Yet when Christ saw him approaching He said, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” — (John 1:47) Jesus saw much more than a guy sitting under a fig tree–before Phillip called him over. Clearly, the Son of God knew the character qualities of an apparent stranger. This surprised Nathanael enough for him to say, “How do you know me?”

God has this same level of intimate knowledge about each one of us.

I love Romans 8:27 and Romans 8:29. They serve like bookends for one of the most quoted comfort scriptures of all time.

(27) And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

(28) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

(29) For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.

With God we can be ourselves. He knows us anyway!

Categories
Christian Blog vulnerability

Wounded Healer

“Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief.” –(Proverbs 14:13)

We have a picture of a clown in our home that our middle son painted when he was eight years old. It’s a simple watercolor portrait–traced in pencil and then painted with quite a bit of skill for a 2nd grader. Some of the color on the clown’s green eyes ran a bit before it dried, but it only adds to the appeal.

Anyway, I often take my Sunday afternoon nap on the futon that sits against the wall underneath the clown. Last week, I woke up looking at the painting, and noticed something I hadn’t before: the clown is smiling AND crying at the same time. That’s life, I thought–especially right now.

These days, so many moments are both happy and sad at the same time.

‘Tis a bitter sweet existence.

Clarification: I understand that questions of faith have yes or no answers; there’s no maybe in God’s kingdom. But have you ever found yourself saying, along with the father of the boy only Jesus could heal, “I do believe, Lord; help my unbelief?”–(Mark 9:22-25)

Yes, sometimes life in Christ isn’t all fresh water or salt, it can be a brackish in between. But that’s OK, because, according to the apostle Paul, crippled Christians make the best swimmers.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (emphasis mine)

Here’s to the wounded healers!

And Jesus is the biggest one of all. Hebrews chapter four tells us that Christ is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, because, just like us, he experienced the ups and downs of human existence–yet was without sin. That’s why we can come to Him with confidence, knowing He will help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Like the old King James translation says, “Thou hast known my soul in adversities.” – Psalm 31:7b

There’s another place where David says God actually comes closer when times are tough and our hearts are broken. He does this in order to lift our crushed spirits (Psalm 34:18).

After all these years (our son turns 25 today!) it’s time to give the clown painting a name. From now on I’m calling him Wounded Willy. He’s happy (like a clown should be) but he’s also sad (because life ain’t always the circus).

Do you have any life scars? Maybe God could use you as a wounded healer to extend His grace to others.

Yes, you!

Categories
Christian Blog

Answer to the Man

When I started my first job at 16, dad said to me on my way out the door, “Answer to the man.” “What do you mean?”, I asked. “Son, when you’re on the boss’ time, do what he says without complaining.” I took my dad’s advice that day, and it made all the difference.

The Apostle Paul, in prison and facing execution, said something similar to his young apprentice, Timothy.

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer.

2 Timothy 2:3-4

I’ve never been a soldier, but as a teacher on an army post, I rub shoulders with people in the military every day. One thing I’ve noticed is there’s an Army regulation for almost everything a soldier does. I once asked a military friend, “Don’t you think a ten point checklist to park and secure a combat vehicle is a little over-the-top?”

“What I think is irrelevant. I do my job and follow orders. Anything else is an indulgence.”

*SSG McMurtry (Just a cool Hollywood sounding name. Not the real guy’s.)

Impressive. “But what if there aren’t specific orders or regulations for something?,” I asked. “How do you respond?” “That’s when you follow the commander’s intent,” he said.

He explained that, in a combat situation, all written orders are assumed to be fluid. No plan survives intact once there’s contact with the enemy. The commander’s intent is a short statement written in bold print that essentially says, “Whatever happens, this is the most important thing to accomplish.”

VERY impressive. I started looking for commander’s intent statements in the Bible.

I found Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians, who were living under intense persecution.

Whatever happens, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.

Philippians 1:27

And Jesus’ charge to His earliest followers:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

Matthew 28:19

Answering to the man (God) can be challenging. If there was only an app called FaceofGodBook, with those little red numbers over the icon–you know, messages from heaven?

However, we do have the Bible, and we know what Jesus did, and we also have the Holy Spirit. And that’s enough to know the Commander’s intent.

Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

Hooah!

Categories
Christian Blog honesty

Talking Face to Face Versus Facebook

Photo by Jopwell on Pexels.com

Confession: I used to spend an inordinate amount of time on Facebook. But I didn’t even realize when too much was enough–until my wife said, “David, you’re on your phone ALL the time!” So I checked my usage. Sure enough, I spent an average of 2 hours 20 minutes every day–on Facebook alone!

I ended up deactivating, and then deleting my account.

Yes, there were withdrawal symptoms, but after about a week I stopped constantly checking my phone for those little red numbers. FOMO was eclipsed by FOMU–Fear Of Messing Up.

Being off Facebook has been a mixed blessing. We’ve missed a few funerals; yep, it was on Facebook, and we don’t take the newspaper. It’s also harder to keep up with some of our family members.

But here’s something on the positive side: being off FB has encouraged me to have more face to face conversations–especially with people who aren’t exactly like me.

And when someone is right in front of you, you benefit from tone of voice, facial expressions, and other non-verbal cues to help prevent misunderstandings. Plus, unlike when I was on social media, I’m not as tempted to quickly (and often inappropriately) respond to a perceived slight.

The Original Social Validation Feedback Loop

The Christian love (agape) found in the early church was deep and purposeful. (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37). Such mutual benevolent concern is hard to find in cyberspace, where interactions are often superficial and impulsive.

When Christ Himself was asked about the greatest commandment, He responded, Love God first, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:28-31) Loving your neighbor was not a recent rule, (Leviticus 19:18) but by the time of the New Testament, most folks held a rather narrow view. Jesus challenges this thought with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).

He makes it crystal clear that any person in need is our neighbor.

On FB, my ‘neighbors’ tended to be people who were a lot like me; there’s nothing wrong with that, but it felt like an echo chamber. It just wasn’t a good place for me to try to live by the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12).

I simply share my story, and am not judging you. Facebook took up too much of my life, so I quit. Perhaps you’re stronger and can handle it.

God’s best to you.

Categories
Christian Blog vulnerability

Dog Gone It!

Photo by David Fanatan on Unsplash

We have a dog in our neighborhood that’s a fence jumper. Every so often, even with the gate shut, he just appears in the backyard. He’s friendly enough, but we worry what might happen if he gets in when our two little dogs are out.

We thought we had the problem solved. Our super-athletic trespasser liked to jump the one section of our fence that was four feet tall, so we replaced it with a six foot wooden privacy fence. We now have a tall fence around our whole backyard. “That should do it,” I told my wife.

But wouldn’t you know, one day we looked out and there he was: standing on the back patio laughing at himself in the window. What kind of dog gets over a six foot privacy fence?!

This has to be yet another metaphor for life. We build fences around our circumstances to control them. And then, when something breaches our puny perimeter, we build better ones.

Yet sometimes, no matter how hard we try, IT still happens. They make LifeProof cases for phones, but not for the human condition. And when something jumps the ‘fence’ and laughs at itself in the window, it’s easy to feel violated, unsafe and unsure about the future.

Enter God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, who most certainly understands humans.

He became one.

Psalm 139 makes it crystal clear: the Lord knows more about you and me than all the data mining companies of Silicon Valley combined!

As it turns out, He’s a fence builder too.

You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.

Psalm 139:5

King David doesn’t mention sideways, but surely the Almighty has that covered as well.😀🙏

From the sounds of Psalm 139, and other similar scriptures, God never looks in on one of His children and says, “Well, would you look at that?!”

So friend, can we agree that whatever we’re facing right now—be it good, bad or ugly—God saw it coming and knows what to do about it?

His Word is His bond.


Here are a few go-to promises I turn to when I’m ‘on the fence’ about God’s protection and provision:

“What shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)

Please share your favorite scripture about God’s watch-care over us, if you’d like.


For another story about setting boundaries, that also involves an uninvited animal on our property, please see “Cat”astrophe.

Categories
Christian Blog forgiveness

Weeds Are Flowers Too

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”

A.A. Milne

If the guys on my dorm hallway at seminary had been the twelve disciples, then *Sean Fitzpatrick would have been Peter. Too say that ‘Surly Sean,’ as he was known, was rough around the edges is putting it kindly. Brash, quick tempered and occasionally foul-mouthed, he was far from the typical divinity student.
Sean looked like a shorter version of Tom Selleck, from the show Magnum P.I.–right down to the shorts and Hawaiian shirt. And just like the character on television, he was always ready with a playful insult.

I asked one of the other guys on the hall, “What’s with this dude?!” My friend told me that Sean came to seminary after his father died of a heart attack while they were on a hunting trip. The grieving young man was adrift, so his pastor suggested he come cross-country to attend seminary–thinking it might help the healing process. But Sean only lasted one semester; training to be a pastor was NOT his calling. This was no surprise to the rest of us.

Nevertheless, as I got to know my fractious neighbor, I realized he was a true brother in Christ who just happened to come from a different place than I did. Sean told me of growing up in Philadelphia, where Irish kids like him walked down the middle of the street to avoid being mugged. It was unimaginable, to a small town boy like me, who grew up where people seldom locked their doors.

We lost touch after he left seminary, but something told me Sean was back in Philly. So three years later, I looked him up. He was married and a recent father to a baby daughter. I reminded him that the last time we’d talked he insulted me. I won’t repeat what he said–this is a G-rated blog–but to him, these were terms of endearment. However, three years later, he couldn’t believe he’d talked to me like that! Clearly, Surly had sweetened. He even thanked me for being a good friend during a tough time in his life.

There are lots of ‘Seans’ out there, people who aren’t exactly like you or me, people who are hurting. And God loves them too. Remember one of the nicknames Jesus’ enemies gave Him? They called him a ‘Friend of Sinners’ (Matthew 7:43).

When Sean showed up at a seminary, he was like Zacchaeus in the Bible, up in a tree looking for Jesus. But most of us pious would be pastors avoided him, because we thought weeds aren’t really flowers. We were wrong.

For the son of man came to seek and save the lost.

Luke 19:10

*not his real name.

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Christian Blog Uncategorized

What was that, God?

Photo by Alireza Attari on Unsplash

I once heard a story about a little boy who misheard part of the Lord’s Prayer. Where it says, “forgive us our trespasses,” he thought the people at church were saying, “forgive us our trash baskets.”

There’s actually a term for this. According to Dictionary.com, a word or phrase resulting from a mishearing of another word or phrase is called a mondegreen. In many cases, the misinterpretation gives the original phrase a new meaning. Like in the song, Purple Haze, when Jimmy Hendrix sings, “Scuse me while I kiss the sky,” but the listener hears, “Scuse me while I kiss this guy.”

I wonder, do mondegreens sometimes happen when God speaks to us? After all, He doesn’t think or work the same way we do (Isaiah 55:9), so it stands to reason that His instructions could easily be lost in translation.

God: “You have enough stuff.”
Me: “I need a new truck!”

Or maybe we clearly hear what God says, but creatively interpret the meaning. This mistake cost Saul his kingdom, in 1 Samuel chapter 13, when he offered up burnt offerings to God as a stand-in for the prophet Samuel.

Something like this happened to me the year I turned forty, but not with such dire results. I clearly heard the Holy Spirit say, “It’s time to get the music started.” I interpreted this to mean that I needed to begin a Christian concert ministry, record albums, and pitch my songs to Nashville publishers. To me, it was all or nothing–throwing the entirety of God’s resources up in the air at once.

But the Lord had something else in mind. He opened a door for my wife and me to share music in nursing homes and assisted living centers, making seniors feel better by singing their favorite hymns. My own gospel songs never made it to Nashville, but they still touched people–a few at a time. I know, because they told me so. Clearly, God’s plan to, “get the music started,” meant something more like passing out a bag of nickels one at time, rather than my grandiose ideas.

So that’s my, “What was that, God?” story.

Have you ever misheard God or misinterpreted what He said to you? If so, please share. I’d love to hear about it.

https://davidsdailydose.org/2020/09/05/what-was-that-god/

Categories
change Christian Blog

Surfing Uncertainty

“Reality: what a concept!”

Robin Williams

About ten years ago, a severe ice storm crippled our area. Widespread power outages left many without electricity for days. Those without backup generators, that was most of us, were forced to adjust to reality–finding alternative sources for modern conveniences.

Not surprisingly, the people who coped best during this time were those who grew up in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Many of them spent their childhood creating things at home that the rest of us think only come from a store.

For example, during the power outage, my neighbors (a couple in their 80’s) simply put their perishable food items in a box on their back porch. The temperature didn’t rise above 30 degrees for a week, so they were good. Why didn’t I think of that? Another older couple had no heat, so they warmed up a cast iron skillet on their gas stove top to create a radiator!

When in a crisis, it’s a good idea to consult someone who has survived a few. Actor Alan Alda, 84–of T.V. show M*A*S*H fame–was recently asked in an interview how optimistic he was for his children and grandchildren’s future. Here’s what he told AARP magazine:

“With the world changing so rapidly, there’s no point in being optimistic or pessimistic about anything. You’ve just got to surf uncertainty, because it’s all we get.”

Alan Alda

Wow, that’s a wise way to look at life! But how do you surf uncertainty? Does this idea come with lessons?

We need only look to scripture for the answer.


Think of all the famous Bible heroes who successfully dealt with difficult circumstances. Many of these are mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11, the Hall of Faith. These ladies and gentlemen surfed uncertainty, just as Alan Alda advises, and we know HOW they did it.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (emphasis mine)

We see this scripture in live action when the apostle Peter went surfing with Jesus–well, kinda sorta (Matthew 14:22-31). Remember the story? Peter walked on the water to meet Christ, but started to sink when he realized he was riding a huge wave; he took his eyes off Jesus and almost whiped-out. But, just for a moment, our fisherman friend was surfing–with God!

The world only offers two options: sink or swim. But when we fix our eyes on Jesus, we can walk on the top with Him.

Surf’s Up!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

https://davidsdailydose.org/2020/08/29/god-surfing/

Categories
Christian Blog courage

The Source of Her Strength

“Picnic” by pigpogm is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In a recent Our Daily Bread devotional, Deep Rooted Faith, Xochitl Dixon tells the story of a 600 year old oak tree that stood next to a church in New Jersey. The tree had survived many storms (including several hurricanes) due to its extensive root system. It’s deep vertical taproot supplied strength and nourishment, while it’s horizontal roots spread beyond the tree’s canopy. Says Dixon, “Most of the life-giving growth occurred beneath the surface.”


My mom and dad were happily married for 49 years. Like many of their generation, my father made most of the decisions. He did the driving, arranged for major purchases, etc. The majority of the time, my mother deferred to him.

When dad died in 2007, the rest of the family wondered how mom would fare. Would she wilt under the strain of making ALL the decisions?

We shouldn’t have worried. After a period of adjustment, my mother began to blossom. She painted her bedroom sunflower yellow, learned to use the riding lawn mower, and traded the family van for a cute little SUV.

For nearly 50 years she let my father lead, yet all the while her tenacious fortitude was just beneath the surface. The secret of her strength was her deep roots in God. Mom was not overt in sharing her Christian faith, but the source of her strength was obvious to all who knew her. And when the time came for her to join my father in heaven, she did not seem to be afraid.

A few months after my mother died, I picked up her favorite Bible. Tucked within the pages was one of her “taproot” scriptures–written on a 3″ x 5″ card in her perfect penmanship.

What is one of your tap root scriptures? Please share, if you’d like.

Here’s one of mine:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)