Category Archives: Walking with Jesus

The Weakness in Memoir

(A three minute read)

When I write memoir, I engage in a deep review of a dead man’s life, no more, no less. It’s a stroll through the crematorium.

Memoir is a sifting through the ashes of my burned body. It’s as though the molecules rise up and re-form. The fears, demons and oppression of my past re-materialize.

But they can only haunt me if I forget who I am and believe I haven’t changed. If I remember who I am, I can’t be threatened by a pile of ash. If it were to rise up at all it would simply blow away on the wind.

Historians take note: In the world of memoir the past is all, and at the same time, the past is of no effect. My past alone didn’t get me to where I am today. It was God breathing on that past. His redemption of my past makes me who I am today. I am who God says I am, not who I say I am, based on how I feel.

Who I am is much, much more than the sum of my parts.

Back to the ashes. If they rise of themselves they can become nothing. But, when God takes the dust of the ground, He breathes into me the breath of life, and so I live.

Again, the past is all, but the past alone, without that breath, is of no effect. With God’s born-again breath, I live anew, and am set on a narrow path for my own protection. When I veer from that path, it’s because I temporarily rejected my identity (or forgot it).

Momentary captivity to the enemy’s devilish siren song lures me back toward the rocks of self-destruction on which I dashed my fragile craft repeatedly for so many years. But then I get smart, and navigate back out into far deeper waters where I’m safe.

We were born somewhere, you and I, and grew up somewhere. Eventually, we leave home and go our own way, either on the broad highway to destruction, or on that narrow way that Jesus talks about.

Whether we hear His call to the narrow way or not, none of us can afford to stay where we grew up. We have to hit the road. The price we pay for staying at home sitting in the ash heap is much too steep.

Photo by Daria Shevstova on Pexels

Anxiety or rest?

Anxiety? Or Rest?

(A three minute read)

Every apparent trial or setback is an opportunity to see God’s grace in action, if I choose it. Or, it can become a source of anxiety, fear and frustration.

Here’s an example

Less than six weeks after moving to London in 2018, I suddenly could not not not find my wallet. I looked everywhere, twice. When I finally realized I seriously could not find it, I had a choice. The choice was about my point of view, not about what to do.

My mind seems to automatically veer toward a worst case scenario. My wallet ‘is missing’ or ‘has been stolen’ or ‘is lost’. If I declare one of these to be true I kick the door open to fear, anxiety and frustration.

But wait a minute. I knew none of those things for sure, so why decide one of them is true? The only thing I knew with 100% certainty was ‘I can’t locate my wallet.’ Inventing the why of it is useless speculation, which takes me away from the truth.

So let’s forget the why, and stick with the what: I can’t locate my wallet. That gives me two paths. I can abdicate choice and react to this, or I can choose to respond to it.

This only effective choice started with the one thing I knew, ‘I can’t find my wallet.’ The circumstances of my separation from it were an enigma. The reason for not finding it, I didn’t know. The circumstances of me finding it again (if I did), also unknown. A circumstance of me finding it at all, who knows? It was all a mystery.

I’m not naturally comfortable with mystery. I can feel fear from the possibilities of ‘missing’, ‘lost’ and ‘stolen’, so I’m foolish to let them drive my action. Feelings aren’t signposts. They are paint thrown on the signpost so I can’t find the way.

Reaction versus response

When I react to the mystery, I abdicate choice, creating anxiety, fretfulness and stress. Reaction is something without thought or process: the doctor taps the tendon across my knee with a rubber mallet and my foot jerks up.

In reacting, the speculation I dwell on becomes a ‘reason’ or ‘a reasonable explanation’. Even though it may be grim, it gives me the illusion of control. However, the reality remains, and the mystery remains. Nothing is gained.

Choosing to embrace the mystery and declare only the truth (I can’t find it) is to trust God that the matter will work out. It’s a response instead of a reaction, and I can rest more comfortably without an answer.

In this scenario, I rest, and wait. Yes, there’s an answer – God’s answer – but it hasn’t arrived yet. I don’t pretend to have control. I’m under no illusion. And nothing is lost.

By having faith, God’s promises can do their work. 1

The response of faith means I accept that all this will work for my good. In reality, there’s no trouble, and no need to fear. My ID can be replaced. My debit card can be canceled and replaced. Maybe the £30 inside the wallet was found by someone who really needed a meal or a kip, instead of a fix.

The response of faith means I trust that God can use all these circumstances for my benefit (and perhaps the benefit of others), even if I don’t see it at the time. 2

Response is something done in relationship, with thought, care and love. It opens me up to God’s grace, so I can be at peace. Reaction defies grace because there’s no relationship involved. It is brute, visceral and unthinking.

Response invites grace because it opens the heart vulnerably, to the full goodness God wants to pour into my life. This is because I choose to trust Him and rely on Him.

Grace wins out

When I was out of contact with my wallet I became dependent on God’s grace whether I liked it or not. After all, the contents of my wallet – my ID, my permission card to reside in the UK, my transit pass, my bank and credit cards, my US driving license, my cash, the other items – represented all my earthly power. For a while, it was all swept away, leaving me dependent on grace. So why not partner with that grace – go with that flow?

At the highest level, I’m not dependent on money, or government documents. I’m dependent on God to safeguard my true identity and give me provender. He gives me life. He gives me breath. My true identity is in my relationship with Him, not with human agencies.

I may have lost contact with my wallet and all it represents. But, because I have a relationship with the Lord, I myself stood unchanged. What passed for earthly control was gone, but the kingdom of God remained at hand. I made the wise choice and grasped it.

After all, it’s much more enduring than the pieces of plastic and paper I use to temporarily navigate the world. And to me, more real.

My wallet? I still haven’t a clue. But I’m comfortable with the mystery.

1. ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ Hebrews 13:5
2. ‘Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!’ Psalm 139:6 (NLT)

Such a Great Promise

(A two-minute read)

Holy Week looks a little different this year in the midst of Coronavirus Craziness (but we can still make it ‘holy’).

It’s traditional on this day, Maundy Thursday, to read the story in John’s Gospel about Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. Before He does this, we’re told that Jesus knew ‘that the Father had given all things into His hands’ and that ‘He came from God and was going to God.’ (John 13:3)

In other words, the Bible says, Jesus was (and is) the boss of me. Of you. Of everyone. Of everything. So, how did He respond to being made boss? Did He become bossy?

No, he humbled Himself as a servant and washed the filth off His own servants’ feet.

He washed them and He washes us. You and me. And, whenever we choose, we can step into that eternal world where He meets us – in whatever pile of dirt we sit in – to help us out of it. And then, He cleans us up.

But the good news doesn’t stop there.

Jesus also ended a time when rules and regulations were needed to get us close to God. Israel learned the hard way that its law only bred more lawlessness. They failed, but through Jesus, you and I can succeed.

Jesus teaches us that its not what we do that counts. We can’t do anything to earn the Father’s love. God already loves in spite of who we are. That’s what’s important – who we are, and who we’re willing to become.

Self-actualization is a myth and a fraud.

If you want personal growth, true personal growth, you have to turn to the Lord. Our best human tools may change us. But only God can transform us.

We are born more than halfway there.

The Bible says we’re born already knowing God. We know him deep inside, whether we’re aware of it or not. God’s in there, waiting expectantly for you and me to open the doors to our hearts and let Him in.

I challenge you, right now, to stop reading, close your eyes and make a demand of God (even if you don’t believe in Him yet): ‘God – Please reveal yourself to me. I’m ready!’ I know He will eventually answer if you keep listening.

Even if you don’t have the moxie to do that right this moment, I promise you (because I know from my own personal experience) that He stands ready to answer that demand whenever you decide to make it.

As God says often, ‘Don’t be afraid!’

I hope you will do this. Your life will never be the same. It will be better, and richer, and you’ll know His peace – even in the face of others’ mindless fear from Coronavirus Craziness. Best of all, you’ll know His joy.

Because the joy of the Lord is our strength, (Nehemiah 8:10) free for the asking.

Listen to what the prophet Jeremiah wrote about this ‘new covenant’ more than 500 years before Christ was born:

‘“I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’

‘“For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know Me already.” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness and I will never again remember their sins.”’ (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

What an offer.

Best of all, it’s not a Once-in-a-Lifetime offer. It’s a Once-for-Eternity offer. How can we say no to that?