Lent Or Liberty?

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)

I know of no better scriptural affirmation than this to use at any time – as a reminder of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – especially during Lent (if that happens to be a tradition you observe). Another is, “ If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

The question is, are you free and do you know you are free? Do you know the magnitude and completeness of what this implies, child of God? Might you need to ponder and prayerfully explore this through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, to see where it takes you – so you can comprehend and apprehend your new reality provided in Jesus?

“… Christ Jesus hath made me free” means it’s done. It is finished! It’s here, now, present! We are invited to walk here and now in the freedom for which Christ has made us free. And if it is not now here, then it is nowhere!

Many observe Lent by trying to give up things or improve themselves in order to try to please God. Any attempts at “self improvement” are a thing of the past. Why? Because you cannot improve on something that no longer exists, for the Scripture is clear: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20).

So how is it that anyone is led to believe that giving up things for Lent can improve a self that has actually been crucified and is no more? Truth be told there is no such thing as self improvement. Especially since, six weeks later after Easter, the old self rises up like the zombie it is and picks up right where it left off, for there can be no so called self improvement that lasts. It lives its guilt ridden life as it always did – outside the gift of God’s infinite grace in Christ Jesus.

What the self improvement works of Lent amount to for the most part (sorry if the following offends you, but maybe a little shock factor is in order?) is like digging up a rotten corpse, putting flowers around it, spraying perfume on it, pretending it’s alive… and then offering it to God! This is actually an attempt to substitute our own works as replacement for the full Grace of the Passion of our Lord. It slaps away the Hand of God offering His gift of new life in a new creation where His righteousness dwells and reigns, through His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.

I lay the responsibility for this misleading practice at the feet of a “church” which has never taught the fulness of Grace according to the Scripture – that “… of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” (John 1:16) Instead devotees are encouraged to add their own attempts and efforts at self righteousness to the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to add the practice of rituals and other “required” observances to “contribute” to their salvation.

The good news is that all the while an entirely new life has already been provided and bestowed, wherein we have been restored to our Father by, in, and through Christ Jesus. Yet this is missed because once more we’ve been derailed by attempts at works righteousness and self improvement, which Scripture clearly teaches us is “… an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6) No “self improvement” program, even with mind over matter mental trickery, can do a thing about that! “That” was appointed to die, and so it has in Christ Jesus.

All we must do is receive this gift of Grace! “…as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12) Then we live in this new reality by the power of the Holy Spirit, “for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:14)

So, which part of that fulness that He provides for us do we think we can add to by our efforts?

Have you received Him with His transforming infinite grace, or are you still trying to supplant Him with your own attempts at self improvement? If you choose His offer then, “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:11) Herein is the faith of of the Son of God.

For truly, “It is finished!”

PS: Deleted the artwork for this one. Shooting for a better design to post separately.

The Practice of Blessing

Blessing Practice.png

It’s that time of year again. Some people “Bah, humbug!” during the whole time when ’tis the season to be jolly. The insights that follow are for that person, as well as the one who’s habitually “hum bugging” about something or someone. Been there, done that. Still working on it. Preaching to the “inner choir”! Here are some things I’ve discovered about the practice of blessing life, situations, and people that may help you.

At the outset – if it bothers you, bless it. And keep on blessing. Blessing is very creative…

If that person annoys you, don’t criticize or complain; choose instead to bless him or her. And keep on blessing.

If that situation never seems to change, stop complaining about it, railing against it, or cursing it. Just bless it. And keep on blessing.

The reason “it” is still here is because you resist it, and whatever you resist will persist – You put out resistance, it’s what you get back! You are planting seeds of resistance, and a sure harvest you will get. Everything will resist you! Often rather speedily. It’s “the law” of sowing and reaping in action – in a very common form: whining, complaining, gossiping, micromanaging, control freaking… Back out of its way by a choice to change the response to blessing whatever you’re reacting to, and let it pass through.

Keep on blessing! Things will change.

Things may arrive on the scene repeatedly, and you may wonder, “Why does this keep happening to me? Why does this person have to be in my space? Why will no one listen to me?” Did you ever consider that your “litany” of grievances is a form of resisting. It is a negative thought-prayer that works against you. So whatever you’re resisting is persisting. And so it shall – until you learn to bless.

Did you ever consider that “it” may be waiting for your blessing instead of your resistance, so it can go its way, and you can move on too? Otherwise you are stuck in your conundrum.

The blessing response is not natural, no. It’s supernatural! Blessing what we don’t like or what displeases us is God in action working through us.

Could the unpleasant and the annoying be your “Teacher” trying to reveal that life would be better if your responses were different? Consistently. If God is omnipresent, then He is here in this situation or this person. It may be His best disguise.

Otherwise, keep on responding as you always have – complaining, fussing, fuming, being resentful – and you’ll always get what you always got.

It’s up to you.

Christ often asked, “Do you want to be healed?” In order for that to happen, for example, He asked the man beside the pool (John 5:6) to do something different than he’d done before, different than he’d responded to his situation in decades! He had to break the pattern of doing what he’d always done. It may seem like an unreasonable request, but with God all things are possible. It may even have sounded like this: “Stop bemoaning your situation and waiting for someone to do something for you. Now – get up! Pick up that bed you’ve been lying on! And walk out of here!” He couldn’t see that he had the power within himself to change things, so he was in a sense living a lie. Jesus had to get him to see he could get up and walk.

So even learning to bless – rather than criticize and constantly complain – is possible with God! That is if you want to be healed of a critical spirit. Stop doing that and choose to bless. Yes, it will feel really odd at first. But when you notice things changing around you, you will begin to delight in blessing everyone and everything! It positively energizes your life, even your physical body!

We may not have control over what has arrived on the scene – that may have been the result of other seeds planted in the past, but we can choose a holy response to “it” here and now, and we can choose to make those holy responses a habit. Such responses create the future anew! Such responses are God moving through us, so that in blessing we can be blessed!

Did you ever think of it that way?

One wonders what would have happened had Jesus NOT prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”? An unnatural but absolutely supernatural choice at the darkest moment! He chose to bless them with His prayer for forgiveness. It doesn’t get any more noble than that!

The “natural” response – the knee jerk reaction – the anger given a voice every time, is seldom ever going to change anything, except to make it worse, or perpetuate it – although it may be temporarily ego satisfying. (See James 1:20)

Here’s the best guide and reminder on this I can think of: “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)

We can make a prayer – affirmation about it to use and contemplate every day: Let me each day consistently plant the seeds of blessing in all things, all people, all situations, and at all times, for I know that I have been called to bless in order that I may receive a blessing.

Question for contemplation: What are some people or situations where you find yourself consistently rehearsing a litany of grievances, where you could plug in a new response of blessing instead, and make a habit of it – with the Holy Spirit’s help of course?

So, You Want To Feel Better…

No, I’m not Catholic, but the Prayer of St. Francis is well worth meditating on each day for anyone – This is how things really work. Instead of looking to others to make you feel better, be that to another! If you don’t like hearing it from a Christian perspective, then Gandhi said it like this (or so he is quoted) “Be the change that you want to see.” It’s essential perennial Wisdom. It’s “Metaphysics 101”.

The universe operates on a system of sowing and reaping, the opposite of what’s promoted in the cult of self. No seeds, no harvest. Doesn’t matter how much “energy” you throw at it, or thought, or force-effort you give it. No seeds, no harvest – that simple.

So here’s Francis’ prayer. Try it on for size if you dare.

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. 

Where there is hatred, let me sow love; 

where there is injury, pardon; 

where there is doubt, faith; 

where there is despair, hope; 

where there is darkness, light; 

where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, 

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; 

to be understood as to understand; 

to be loved as to love; 

For it is in giving that we receive; 

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 

it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”

Jesus even challenges us to stretch to its radical end – “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48 KJV)

God (“Daddy”, the Father of our spirit, our innermost being) is perfect Love. This is what His Love looks like – the outflow of perpetual grace toward all. This Love gives and puts forth and never looks to its own ways to be satisfied. It forgets that it even has or is a “self”!

No, I’m sure not perfect at that, but the key is awareness of our lack (our spiritual poverty), and then perpetually asking, seeking, and knocking (so as to be filled with the Holy Spirit) that more and more I will look like Daddy, and then – like my Elder Brother Christ Jesus – when they see me, they will see the Father, with the goal in mind “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ“. (Ephesians 4:13 KJV)

Just me, preachin’ to the choir…

If you want to reap, you have to sow.

Proverbially Speaking / Chapter 18 (Words Create)

A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind… A fool’s lips bring strife, And his mouth calls for blows… A fool’s mouth is his ruin, And his lips are the snare of his soul… The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge… Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit“. (Proverbs 18:2,6,15,21 NASB)

This chapter is rich in so many ways; however, the foregoing verses seem to have a common thread – the connections of mind, lips, mouth, ears, and tongue, what the right or unrighteous uses of them reveal about a person, and the outcomes in life of such uses or abuses with words and opinions.

In light of this my attention was drawn to the popularity of electronic social networking, where in so many cases people seem to feel entitled to say anything without pause for consideration of its effects on others, or ultimately ourselves. We have the “freedom” to say whatever we want, without regard to how it makes us look or who it hurts or offends. There is no thoughtfulness to most of the opining, but it’s almost an obsession to be “heard”. It’s somewhat like road rage, but I’d call it maybe “screen rage”, as one may sit in a sort of anonymity and assumed safety behind the “device” and spew all sorts of verbal abuse in some conversation thread. It’s a reactionary way of responding, but usually not thoughtful, caring, or wise.

The question is, where are your manners? Or is that just another outmoded idea you’d like to rant and swear at, as you do the Bible, decency, propriety, and traditional values which frankly have made our world a pleasant place to be in times past, as well as times present where these are observed? Newsflash, pal. You may have the right, to say it (so called freedom of speech), but that doesn’t make what you say necessarily right or polite, let alone enlightening, when speech and writing are over-seasoned with highly overrated so called “colorful metaphors”.

Then there’s the opposite – delighting in understanding (not the mere spewing of opinion coming from one’s own mind) and the acquisition of knowledge. This is for the mind and the ear, and it comes with an implied need for a closed mouth and silence (a receptive attitude), listening rather than opining.

God please grant us the realization that we have two ears and one mouth! How we express ourselves reveals much about us, and whether we like it or not, there’s some “karma” involved in the use of mouth, lips, tongue, and words. Hopefully as the twenty first century rolls itself out, we will transcend the need to reveal our dirty laundry in every conversation, live or electronic, and acquire the self respect and decency to think with consideration before we “speak” or by extension write. Words after all are creative – for good or for ill.

The Walk-In Experience

Yes, this is a bit “off style” for me, and a bit more personal, but maybe this is what’s needed – to “lighten” up some!

No, this is not about woo woo. Relax! But then again, might the reality we’re experiencing these days be just a little too woo woo?

There is little more surreal (a.k.a. woo woo) than the waiting room at the walk-in clinic. Nonetheless, we decided this morning that it was time to just drop in to see what condition our condition was in. Even George admitted that we both ought to voluntarily walk in before they had to carry us in to a setting far more surreal – such as the inside of a hospital… (I’m trying hard not to say, “over my dead body”!) 

Neither of us has been significantly ill with contagion for literally decades, let alone something that seemed to rage on relentlessly, nor both at the same time. So this morning after 4 days of “this”, and the inability of herbs, mega doses of vitamins, rest, and medicinal teas to keep up with the challenge, we decided it was time to go for the big guns. A decision not lightly undertaken.

So there we were. People seated lined up against the walls. Everyone wearing a little yellow mask, including us – for what those were worth. Off came the masks as people sneezed, blew noses, threw the used tissues into their purses, went to the drinking fountain (!), put the mask back on, and then went back to consulting their “info-oracles” (Smart Phones and such.) Sans hand sanitizer… 

Ye gads, who disinfects this place after everyone leaves at night? No, don’t ask that.

No one was talking – except the two of us. It seems these days that the Rule of Silence must apply in the presence of the “iOracles”. We seemed so… loud! So after awhile we basically zipped the lip and… observed.

In my mind’s eye I’m picturing Salvador Dali as he renders a huge painting of this surreal scene. The masked sniffling people, with dark circles under their eyes, lined up in neat little chairs along the walls, staring down at their iOracles, entreating the info demiurge for dubious knowledge, as they peck away at their  electronic “devices” (no longer “just” cellphones). It seemed like either being onboard some sort of alien craft awaiting experimentation, or slipping across some nebulous boundary into an other-dimensional experience.

Dali? No! This one is mine.

The odd thing about this is that just noticing what was going on around me was a stimulant for my imagination, and that in itself began to make me feel better. There is a lot of healing that can take place through imagination, if you can just kind of roll with what’s in front of you. It pulls you out of what George like to call the “molly grubs”, which only exist in spaces of perceived limitation. There is also a sort of quirky humor in it. There’s art. There’s music and lyrics. There’s poetry. There’s a story. There may even be a lesson or two. If we just observe and imagine. 

And you miss all of it when your focus is ever on the iOracle!

No, I’m not making fun of anyone in that room or any other such facility. Hey, I was as sick as the next guy and even now writing this in the semi-recumbent position of my cozy bed. 

But life has often drawn me to the conclusion that you can always turn things upside down, sideways, or maybe even right side up, by just choosing to look at your surroundings in a different way, and especially view it all with a smile. Yes, oh by gosh by golly, in this time of mistletoe and holly, the humor is everywhere! Even in the most unlikely settings.

P.S. The rest of the experience, once we were taken into the exam room, was characterized by some really genuinely caring people! The Nurse and the Nurse Practitioner who cared for us were concerned and professional people, who managed to meld that with a gentle sense of humor. Look out, drab world! There are good folks everywhere – right along with humor and the imagination! And we are here to take you down, drab world – down the road to laughter and lightheartedness. So stand down and prepare to be boarded, as we make it so. Resistance is futile!

(Hey, this cough syrup must be some really great stuff… Chuckling.)

The question arises: might such small experimental experiences turned tail over teacups, by imagination and humor, be good practice runs for bigger drab world glitches up ahead – even to the point of de-energizing and dismantling the drab world entirely? As a friend of mine likes to say, that is ponderable.

I would only add this thought: “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24) The question only remains, how often do we ask for Christ’s joy to be made manifest in situations where drab world seems to dominate?

Originally published on my website:

tags: humor, lighthearted approaches, imagination, creativity, healing, fruit of the spirit

Gratitude For Divine Authority

First of all Happy Thanksgiving Day, dear reader!

On a day when just about everyone is considering what we’re thankful for, I thought I’d explore that a bit in a different way. Today I’m thankful for “Divine Authority”. That idea may seem a little odd at first, but here’s how I see it.

Some people chafe at the idea of divine authority, or even just the word authority. We live in a world in anarchy and defiance (glorified in our essentially “adolescent culture”), so it’s easy to slip into that mindset, especially these days when so many people want to call the shots with their “mortal mind” without reference to or consulting with the “Immortal Mind” in Whom we live, move, and have our being.

Somewhere in that word authority is the idea of an Author, an Originator. So maybe instead of resisting Him, it might be a better idea – after having experienced one life complexity after another, where we just can’t seem to make sense of it – to get to know Who the Author is and what He has written to us through His servants, in order to find out what we’re missing through the anti-authority mindset which we may need to see within us, – something we didn’t even realize we may be harboring.

Why? Because God’s authoritative word is the only real remedy I know for curing anxiety, if it’s put into practice. More people suffer from this today than ever before. Why? I would offer that it’s because there is often an unidentified, resident resistance in them to Divine Authority. (If you are reading this and sensing a reaction and a resistance to it, it may be true for you as well.)

So if I may, I’d like to share something about that idea in a way that maybe you’ve not considered before. For that we’ll visit Philippians 4:6-9 KJV.

“Be careful for nothing (meaning “have no worry about anything”); but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”

God offers His authority here in a unique way. It’s easy to trust God’s “authority” – since God is Infinite Love – Who basically says, “Lay all your cares on Me, and I will replace them with My peace and My presence which surpass all comprehension.” “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

We trade in all our anxiety for the peace of God and the God of peace! What could possibly stand against His presence when it arrives on the scene? Releasing anxiety to the Lord along with copious, unrelenting prayers of gratitude, and elevating our thoughts and attitudes into higher places (including the apostolic examples), is God’s recommended spiritual practice for defeating anxiety!

When our prayers, gratitude, and higher thoughts become the 1st habitual response to life’s seeming no-win situations, instead of thinking or talking or reacting ourselves into a fret fest, something “strange” (because we’re not used to it) and wonderful begins to overtake us when we approach our dilemmas with God’s way: Lasting divine peace along with lasting divine presence overtakes us. But somewhere along the line, we must begin to practice what He shows us here, and that means surrendering to His Way, His authority, of approaching these things, instead of perpetuating our own approaches. That’s the real essence of Divine Authority – pure Love Who desires us to be set free from the scourge of anxiety about anything.

Therefore, why would we resist God’s authority and go speeding off on the Worry Way, when we can surrender to Authority that is pure, infinite unconditional Love and wise counsel?

Personally I cannot think of anything I can be more thankful for today than this invitation into His abiding peace and presence by the Author and Finisher of our faith!

In a topsy turvy world, upside down as it draws near to the devil and resists God, which “is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12), this great old standby passage from Philippians is a sweet way of being reminded to “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” (James 4:7,8)

We’re also drawn to several verses os Jesus’ magnificent teaching on this: “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?…Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?… Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:25, 31, 34)

Let us meditate on these directives from our Lord, take them to heart, and put them into practice!

May your Thanksgiving Day, and every day, be marked by the presence of God, relentless gratitude, sublime thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, and thus the enjoyment of our Lord’s benevolent authority through His grace and peace.

Shadow of Your Former Self

Yes, this expression has its usual meaning for sure, as when someone loses a lot of weight, or when someone is not feeling well, and it shows. Then we may remark that this person looks like a shadow of his or her former self.

However there are spiritual applications, as a play on words, which we can use relating to the “shadows” of what our past represents – the dark things, the hurts, being abandoned, negative events, the blame, the pain, and the drama. Shadows can also be represented by bodily injury and the “pain by which we gain” sympathy and support – long past the time when dependency would be better left behind, when perhaps wholeness has not been encouraged or embraced for whatever reasons – long after physical healing. The shadows of the former self can then become excuses why we “do” or we “don’t”.

Our shadows could be called “Cling-ons”, since they follow us wherever we go, and live to cause trouble and conflict. Shadows thrive on these things.They love the darkness.

Shadows can be “long” at the beginning of the day – in early life when we don’t, for whatever reason, pick up skill sets for making them disappear. Or in the final phases of life when we are aware that the sun is setting. At that time one may be too feeble, sick, lonely, or demented to make the shadows go away – if they have not learned how to do this earlier in life.

So, the question is, has the shadow of the former self been calling the shots for you? Has the old self in spirit and in truth been reckoned dead and buried in Christ Jesus through His cross and resurrection? Or has it been allowed to cling on like a ghost, long dead, haunting your life? Is it still taking its unlawful place as lord and master of the manner, as the former self which covertly forms your attitudes, beliefs, the way you see things, how you approach life, and your relationships with others? If so, it needs to go. It doesn’t belong here now – this usurper of the throne, this shadow of your former self which pretends to be your self former.

How can you give it the boot, that left foot of fellowship? It has no right to you, no business being the director and producer of the show, making a bad actor out of you!

That producer -director position belongs to Someone else, who wished to restore you to spiritual stardom, to your place in among the heavens. That Someone just happens to be “ the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning from Whom comes “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17).

The key fact to chasing away the shadows of your former self is this truth and realization: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is fact in the present!

This is the foundational truth to affirm and declare when the cold specter of the former shadow of yourself comes calling (who also likes to be the shadow former because misery loves company, but can only do so with your permission)!

Get out that word of truth, proclaim it, and live according to it. This gives that former shadow the boot! The fact is, it doesn’t even exist as a viable power in your life. It’s been crucified in Jesus’ cross and it needs to stay dead.

You have been raised up in Him as a new creation, “raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6)

Shadow of the former self, begone! It just doesn’t get any better than this. We are new creations with a whole new view, created and created anew for grace and kindness. WOW!

In the Light of this precious truth there can be no shadow of your former self!

Originally posted here: