Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rationalization or Hardness of Heart?

I had not thought starting out that daily journaling would provide some of the thoughts I would like to share on my blog. But then I'm not sure I thought about the content much at all - so that is fine. I had thought earlier of sharing my goals for the year (aka New Years Resolutions but without all the usual expectations of failure). Perhaps I still should. Making a public declaration kind of forces your hand...

Scripture: Mark 6:52
For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.

Observation:I am sure there are many things that cause our hearts to be hardened. The reference here is to one of Jesus’ miracles, this time feeding 5,000 men (plus women & children) with only 5 loaves and 2 fish. In verse 37 of this chapter after Jesus tells them “You give them something to eat.”, they respond in a way I can understand and relate to; “Are you serious?”. Of course I can relate, I mean if Jesus said that to me, how would I react – how do I react? Are there 5,000 homeless people in the Denver area? Almost certainly the number is significantly higher than that.

A friend wrote in her blog yesterday:

I am not a church building hater. Actually, I have always dreamed of a building packed with clothes. So many clothes that you have to sit on them just to fit in the sanctuary. A kitchen with a hot meal always ready, not a trendy coffee shop. A food pantry opened 24/7. Beds and showers for those who need it. I have held on to this vision for 18 years.


I have a vision where the CHURCH takes care of those in need instead of the government. I have a vision of children being able to break the cycle of poverty. I have the vision where if someone is cold, hungry or wet then believers will step in and provide. I have a vision where churches stop putting their money into planting more flowers or repaving their perfect parking lot and invest the money into people instead.

This is quite a challenge – and not just lofty words, this is a young woman who has been in the trenches serving God amongst the unloved and disenfranchised people in her community and further afield most of her life. I think I felt compelled to capture this because it illustrates the point not because it is my point.

My point is simply that doubting God, not trusting in Him hardens my heart.

It doesn’t really matter what God is asking me or anyone else to do. It might involve the homeless, it might be the poor, it might be orphans, it might be unreached people in a far away land or a thousand other things. If we doubt what He tells us to do, if we don’t trust Him to have our back on this then our heart becomes hardened. He not us is how these things that are so immense, so overpowering, so much bigger than ourselves can get done, but do we really believe that – do I really believe that?

I see this in myself and others – I just never recognized it as hardness of heart. I think the preferred term is rationalization…

Application:I feel a burden for the poor or homeless. I don’t know why that gets me more than anything else but I’m pretty sure it is something God has put in me, not just white suburban middle class guilt. So the question is then how will this make a difference in my life? For me I think it must be to figure out exactly what this burden means – it has to mean something more tangible than doing the odd small thing here and there – things that are well within myself and MY capability to accomplish. What should I be doing that I need to rely on God to accomplish?

Prayer:Lord, at the risk of being told something I am not comfortable with, I want to open my heart to You to know more clearly what it is that You want me to be doing. And with that, the strength and courage to trust in You and pursue it.

To be clear and ensure no one who recognizes the photo above thinks it is a message about Jesus with no tangible evidence to back it up, this is the Denver Rescue Mission - a group of people with an incredible ministry to the poor and homeless.
Denver Rescue Mission

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

God Meeting Our Needs Is A Blessing

Scripture: Leviticus 26:3-4
“If you walk in my statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.

It would be easy to package these verses up and claim that doing what God commands and following His rules will result in blessing. And that would be true, however I think sometimes we equate blessing with something extra – something special – something perhaps more than we deserve. What jumps out at me from this passage is that we will indeed receive a blessing. God meeting our needs is a blessing.

This can play out in several ways as described in following verses; “Your threshing shall last till the time of vintage…”; “I will give peace in the land”; “make you fruitful, multiply you”; “My soul shall not abhor you” (forgiveness); and perhaps most importantly, “I will walk among you”.

This is not “name it and claim it”, just God wanting us to be whole, and many of these blessings are not material things at all.

Lord, help me firstly to follow you – to obey you. Lord in this fallen world, many do not have all they need, and yet you have blessed me already with more than I need which is certainly more than I deserve. Help me to be thankful for what I have, and not to waste my time or desires on something more. Rather help me to share that blessing with others in need – especially those who need to know what it is like to walk with you.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Part 3 - Friends for Life or "BFF"

I mentioned our retreat at Winter Park in my last post. Ron Widdifield was an elder at Believers and he and his wife Pat were the adult supervision for the weekend. As it was a church group retreat, there needed to be some spirituality so Ron had a short time sharing some of his life learnings with us. He said something that I think is profound in that it’s truth has been evident ever since. It was in my words something along the lines of,

“These times and the strong friendships you build in your 20’s are so very important as these perhaps more than any others will be some of the closest friends throughout your life”

Not only have these words stuck with me for nearly 20 years, so too have many of the friends I made during those years. Living in many different places from that time to now has led to amazing opportunities to make new friends. It also adds the challenge of keeping up with them as you move on. Some stay closer than others for a bunch of different reasons. I think how much time you invest in one another has a fair bit to do with it, and that can happen in a short span of time. That doesn’t make some of those you feel like you have drifted away from less significant. Geography can have a lot to do with it. We also move through different phases of life – right now we are in the surviving teenagers phase – well it’s not all that bad. And then there is time…

I mentioned Todd Lansing in my last post. Todd and I were part of a group of guys who met weekly to share a meal, what God was teaching us and what was going on in our lives so as to hold each other accountable. Dennis Farmer who I also mentioned was in that group. You have to be committed to growing as a Godly man to be in a setting like that with your father in law! We also played basketball together, sometimes pick-up games and for one season with others I mentioned, Frank Muehlbauer and Jim Tisdall and other guys they knew. We went camping with the extended Farmer family where fishing and trail bike riding filled days in remote parts of the Rockies. I mentioned skiing and we also had some seasons of mixed volleyball with others from church. I mentioned a cute girl before – she also played volleyball, although I do remember her little sister Jenny was quite a good player – she could jump higher than I could, and she’s not even 5 feet tall! Todd was the obvious choice to be my best man when the time came for that.

It’s funny the snapshots you remember before you start a deeper relationship with someone. There was the baseball episode I mentioned last post. I remember a rather animated and very loud game of Taboo at the Winter Park retreat. I remember her looking quite stunning, complete with a hat at her brother, Jason’s wedding. There was volleyball of course, and then the time she stole (she might use the word relocated) my motorbike. I think a defining moment however was a long conversation we had at a young adults get together at Frank Muehlbauer’s place. I was actually dating someone else at the time and so it was a really open conversation with no real agenda. I couldn’t tell you what we talked about, but I remember thinking as I drove home that night that this “young girl” (it’s OK – she thought I was “old”) was a person of substance.

I also mentioned Robyn Parker. I hired Robyn initially as a receptionist but it was a small company and her ability and other changes allowed her to assume the role of office manager. Most of those early years Robyn was a single mother. I remember the harrowing times as her youngest Justin struggled with an illness for a long time that no one could diagnose. I remember helping repair the door to her trailer home after her ex busted it down. I remember having pizza nights about once a week and watching some TV show I can’t begin to recollect with her and the kids. I remember her trying to pair me up with some friends, and so as a good friend, it made sense that Robyn was the first person I told when I finally asked that cute girl out – and then took her over to meet her, eat pizza and pay no attention whatsoever to that TV show!

Todd had known Joy and her family for years. Although married, he and Denise were regulars in the young adults group at church; after all it was about being young adults, not being single and looking for that to change. I had been in Denver a little over 2 ½ years and known Joy pretty much the whole time when I decided I would like to ask her out. After a regular Saturday morning men’s group meeting at Mark Reeds place I decided to broach the idea of asking Joy out with Todd. Todd and I have always valued that strong friendship allows you to speak forthrightly to one another, so I didn’t let it deter me one bit that he told me something to the effect that “Joy was way out of my league”. I mean at face value, he was probably right, but from my perspective, I didn’t have a lot to lose.

The idea of asking a beautiful lady out is easy, but turning into reality can be a little more challenging. Oddly, it was not so much a fear of rejection, but concern that it could change the nature of our friendship which I had come to enjoy and value. I think I must have started dialing her number at least a dozen times before mustering the courage to punch in the whole thing. After chatting for a while about nothing I found a way to throw in the invitation to go to Oktoberfest. Not your typical first date with a nice young lady from church, but I’m Australian; I enjoy beer and I don’t apologize for that.

Now would you guess something as simple as a few beers, a bratwurst and a stroll around Larimer Square would turn into a 12 hour marathon? I think it may be fair to assume we had the longest first date in history. It started with a birthday celebration for Joy’s niece Carrie. I don’t think I had met her brother Jeff before – probably necessary that I know he worked in a local county sheriff’s police force. As I knew half of Joy’s family (she is one of 8 kids) this was not to intimidating. Then we got to go downtown. Joy likes beer too – definitely a plus I figured. Followed this with dinner at 240 Union – then (and maybe still) an outstanding seafood restaurant. We wrapped up the evening late with coffee at a Perkins (its still “our Perkins”) restaurant – I think we must have talked for a couple of hours and the next day was a work day – but who cared. Between dinner and coffee there was one other event. If a family birthday was not likely to be a little overwhelming on your first date, try going to a Dionne Warwick concert (yes Dionne Warwick) with Joys mother AND her grandmother. Yes she was definitely worth it!

And as if September 20, 1992 wasn’t noteworthy enough based on it being our first date, it was also the first game in Brett Favre’s remarkable streak of games played in the NFL. It’s probably a special day for him too.